WASHINGTON, DC—According to a study released Monday by the Hammond Political Research Group, many of the nation's liberals are suffering from a vastly diminished sense of outrage.
"With so many right-wing shams to choose from, it's simply too daunting for the average, left-leaning citizen to maintain a sense of anger," said Rachel Neas, the study's director. "By our estimation, roughly 70 percent of liberals are experiencing some degree of lethargy resulting from a glut of civil-liberties abuses, education funding cuts, and exorbitant military expenditures."
San Francisco's Arthur Flauman is one liberal who has chosen to take a hiatus from his seething rage over Bush Administration policies.
"Every day, my friends send me e-mails exposing Bush's corrupt environmental policies," said Flauman, a member of both the Green Party and the Sierra Club. "I used to spend close to an hour following all the links, and I'd be shocked and outraged by the irreversible damage being done to our land. At some point, though, I got annoyed with the demanding tone of the e-mails. The Clear Skies Initiative is bogus, but I'm not going to forward a six-page e-mail to all my friends—especially one written by a man who signs his name 'Leaf.' Now, if a message's subject line contains the word 'Bush,' it goes straight into the trash."
Neas found that many survey participants who attended protests against the war in Iraq in 2003 could barely summon the energy to read newspaper articles about the subject in 2004.
Portland, OR resident Suzanne Marshal compared herself to an addict, needing increasingly large doses of perceived injustices to achieve a state of anger.
"Even though I know how seriously messed-up the situation is in Iraq, I've became inured to all but the most extreme levels of wrongdoing," Marshal said. "For months, no amount of civilian bombing could get me mad. Then those amazing photos of the tortured Iraqi prisoners hit the streets, and I got that old rush of overwhelming disgust with my government. Then more photos came out, and more officials were implicated, and now—I don't know. It's like a switch in my head turned off again."
Neas said that the danger of fatigue was greater among liberals who regularly seek cause for outrage.
"For a while, I wanted more fuel for the fire, to really get my blood boiling," said Madison, WI resident Dorothy Levine, a reproductive-rights activist and former Howard Dean campaign volunteer. "I read the policy papers on the Brookings web site. I subscribed to The Progressive. I clipped cartoons by Tom Tomorrow and Ted Rall. I listened to NPR all day. But then, it was like, while I was reading Molly Ivins' Bushwhacked, eight more must-read anti-Bush books came out. It was overwhelming. By the time they released Fahrenheit 9/11, I was too exhausted to drag myself to the theater."
"It used to be that I would turn on Pacifica Radio and be incensed at the top of every hour," Levine added. "Now, I could find out that Bush plans to execute every 10th citizen and I'd barely blink an eye, much less raise a finger."
Of the liberals afflicted with fatigue, many said they are still haunted by the specters of their former outrage.
"I can't even look at the back of my Volvo anymore," said one Syracuse, NY liberal who wished to remain anonymous. "My 'Lick Bush' and 'Four More Wars' bumper stickers just remind me of the angry feelings I can't sustain. I still have a MoveOn.org sign hanging up in my cubicle at work, but if someone starts to talk about Cheney, I can't take it. I'm like, 'Yes, we all hate Cheney. He's an evil puppet-master. Yes, Bush is dumb. This is obvious. How many times can we say it? Now, excuse me, will you let me through so I can microwave my burrito?'"