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Anger management - Joel Hall

For the last few months, it seems, the country has been consumed in an orgy of anger.

I can't think of a time in my life, in which so many people at the same time, have acted poorly after letting their emotions get out of control.

September has probably been the angriest month on record. The latest incident I can think of happened on Sept. 15, the morning after a National Football League game, in which the Buffalo Bills lost, by one point, to the New England Patriots. Bills Cornerback Leodis McKelvin fumbled a kickoff return late in the game that led directly to the team's loss.

In addition to having to suffer defeat, McKelvin woke up the next morning to find that his front lawn had been trashed by unruly fans. The rage usually left on the field, and in the stands after a game, was brought uncomfortably close to his doorstep.

The night before the Bills' ill-fated game with the Patriots, Kanye West was on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards (or rather on somebody else's stage), making a fool of himself. As Taylor Swift, a 19-year-old country-pop singer was getting ready to accept her award for "Best Female Video," an upset West took the stage, grabbed the microphone out of Swift's hands, and basically told the audience that Beyoncé Knowles deserved Swift's award more than she did.

Knowles coincidentally won the award for "Video of the Year" and ceded her time to shine to Swift, who hadn't had a chance to finish her acceptance speech. It's not the first time West has acted like a jerk, but definitely one of the worst times.

The night before West's outburst, tennis player Serena Williams was at the U.S. Open tennis tournament threatening to shove a ball down the throat of a line judge, who had made a somewhat bad call. Her outburst was sprinkled with expletives that earned her a penalty, and ultimately cost her the match.

Probably the most documented angry outburst this month was the "You lie!" comment made by U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) on Sept. 9, during a speech President Barack Obama made during a joint session of Congress. Rather than acting like members of Congress involved in the business of our country, some representatives chose to make homemade protest signs and carry on as if they were at a health-care town hall meeting. Wilson's breech of decorum was the nightcap on an evening of people acting badly.

The amount of bad behavior expressed this month by people, particularly those in high places, has been startling. It is startling because if these people - with all of their fame, fortune, and success - are letting their anger get the best of them, what is happening to all the other Americans who don't have nearly as much to lose?

Perhaps, the rage can be traced to the recent rise of firebrand commentators like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Lou Dobbs, who make millions of dollars playing on the fears of the impressionable, or the people who get paid to react to them like Arianna Huffington and Keith Olbermann.

Perhaps, the nation's economic crisis or the health-care debate is to blame, or maybe its new technologies such as Twitter that let people blurt random thoughts into the cosmos, no matter how asinine. Whatever the reason, America needs to take a deep breath and get a hold of itself.

The country has been through a lot in the last year, but Americans can still count their blessings. We live in the freest country on earth, and despite our flaws, America is still a place so many others strive to be.

I hope that despite the great changes taking place in this country right now, Americans will continue to carry themselves in a way that people in other countries would want to emulate.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.