America is addicted to outrage. Is there a cure?

Outrage seems strenuous enough, but in truth it is a lazy habit—spontaneous, fatuous and naive. Organizing a lynch mob is easier—with a surer, immediate and dramatic reward—than conducting a fair trial, which requires the brains and patience of an adult. (The inner terror of Trumpians is that Robert Mueller is a grown-up with brains and patience.) Outrage presents itself as an assertion of conscience, but in practice it mostly bypasses conscience and judgment, and goes straight to self-righteous rage, by way of self-pity.

Outrage may be justified, of course, and redress long overdue. Just as a dose of morphine may be appropriate to help a patient in extreme pain, so with outrage. But like morphine, outrage is widely abused—and addictive. It may wind up becoming frivolous or fraudulent, as in all those “triggers” and “microaggressions.”

Is outrage now an American entitlement, and a permanent state of mind? Black Americans are more entitled to outrage than most, their grievances embedded in history. Are Asian-Americans entitled to be outraged? Some are making that case in their lawsuit over Harvard’s admissions practices—an argument that, in turn, collides with the counterclaims of African-American outrage. Are gay people entitled to be outraged? Are women entitled to be outraged? Who isn’t entitled to be outraged? (White men?)