On Outrage

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” So I was admonished by a bumper sticker belonging to a twenty-year-old Toyota sedan on a recent morning amble. My parents never allowed bumper stickers on their cars; they worried it would harm the vehicle’s trade-in value. I’ve avoided them too, but for the same reason that I never got a tattoo: I was always sure I’d regret it.

In fact, I despise bumper stickers, except when I’m amused by them, but in this particular instance I was not amused. I nonetheless asked myself: “Am I outraged?” The answer, I’m afraid, was, “No, I’m not especially outraged at the moment.” Immediately the sledgehammer of bumper-sticker logic brought home the conclusion that I was not, alas, paying attention.

Perhaps I pay attention to the wrong things. The trouble is that there is so much one might pay attention to, and so little attention that one lone mortal can spend. After my encounter with the righteous bumper sticker I tried to pay very strict attention to the weather, to several birds, and to the rhododendron in a neighbor’s front garden, but I failed in every case to be outraged.


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