Outrage fatigue


Recently a neighbor of mine asked how I was doing. Sighing, I responded, “I think I have COVID fatigue. The months and months of confinement, uncertainty, bad news, and fear have worn me down, and I don’t have much energy or enthusiasm,” I told him. “It might not be COVID,” he responded. “Maybe you’re like me and have outrage fatigue.” Because so many bad things are happening every day, he said, he and his wife were shutting out the news as much as they could, to keep from shutting down completely.
My neighbor is not a doctor, but I think he diagnosed my problem perfectly: I have both COVID fatigue and outrage fatigue. And perhaps some of you suffer from this dual affliction as well.

COVID fatigue is easy to define and understand, because we have been locked down for nearly 20 months. Ennui is the most common sign.
As for outrage fatigue, I suspect that it is confined to active Democrats, Independents, and old-style (i.e., pre-Trump) Republicans. To figure out if you are suffering from it, just ask yourself how you respond to any of these news stories: the rising death toll among the unvaccinated; COVID’s disparate impact on the poor and minorities; anti-vaxxers; the media’s distorted coverage of anti-vaxxers; Republican-led efforts to restrict the votes of people of color; Gov. Ron DeSantis’ insistence on keeping Florida “open”; the Texas abortion law; South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s sending her state’s National Guard to monitor the Texas/Mexico border; Florida Sen. Mario Rubio’s daily Biblical platitudes; Maine Sen. Susan Collins’ regular expressions of “concern”; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to negotiate with Democrats on anything; the GOP’s refusal to condemn the Jan. 6 insurrection; or anything coming from Trump or his sons.
If your internal temperature rises, your dander is up, and you have to force yourself to calm down, you already have outrage fatigue, or soon will.
The outrageous ones have a distinct advantage, because they are largely single-issue folks who don’t get tired, and seem to be focused on making us angry and impotent. They know how to push our buttons, and have been doing it long enough to put us on the sidelines. I think they must wake up every morning pumped to defend the Jan. 6 insurrectionists, or to protest mask mandates, or to work to suppress Democratic votes, or whatever their cause happens to be.
Unfortunately, most of us care about all of these issues. And because we have a limited capacity for outrage, that’s putting our country at risk, as I see it. We care, and right now it hurts to care — but if we shut down and let the outrage triumph, we stand to lose our country to these quasi/neo/actual fascists.
Turning off the news may work for my neighbor, but if we all were to adopt that strategy, the bad guys would win. I think we have to pick our issues, focus on two or three, and trust that others on our side will take care of the rest.
I hope some of you will decide to focus on what’s happening in public education all across the country, because public schools are in the eye of this hurricane, and their survival is threatened. Radical conservatives have always hated the notion of public education, and COVID-19 has offered them numerous opportunities to undercut the enterprise.

For example, Republican legislators in most states have introduced some form of voucher or tax credit, ostensibly to give public dollars to parents to spend on education as they see fit. Of course, the amount isn’t enough to cover private school tuition, so the benefit would go to families whose children are already in private school, and to families who can almost afford it already. Left behind would be the poor and those with disabling conditions, i.e., the children who are most expensive to educate. “Many scholars and observers have raised concerns over the equity impacts of pandemic-era private schooling trends, with the situation in San Francisco providing a stark example: A year after schools first closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the one-third of students in the city enrolled in private school — disproportionately high-income or white, or both — by and large have the option to attend school in-person, full-time. Meanwhile, public school students — disproportionately low-income or students of color, or both — remain in full-time online instruction.”
In some places, it has become downright dangerous to serve on a local school board. Organized rabble-rousers are focusing on school boards that are considering mask mandates, often attending and disrupting meetings, and threatening violence. In some instances, protestors have surrounded board members’ homes, chanting threats. As the Guardian reported recently, “U.S. school board meetings have become battlegrounds for culture wars this year, as schools debated how to resume in-person classes amid the pandemic. Parents have disrupted meetings, refused to wear masks, and threatened school board members. A school board in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, that was considering a temporary mask mandate canceled its meeting last week after a crowd of 200 protesters surrounded the building, banged on doors, and shouted at police.”
Want more examples? The News & Observer newspaper of Raleigh, N.C., compiled a list: 

  • One person was arrested at a school board meeting in Palm Beach County, Fla., in August when he refused to sit down in a room reserved for unmasked people after getting several warnings. Attendees were upset the school board was considering filing legal action over not being allowed by the state to mandate masks. 
  • Police physically carried out a seated woman from a school board meeting in San Antonio, Texas, in August. The woman had taken off her mask, and refused to put it on or leave the room. 
  • Protesters shouted, “We will not comply!” when they were asked to mask up at a Louisiana State Board of Education meeting in August. The protest led to the meeting being adjourned, with protesters shouting “Traitors” and “Recall.” 
  • Anti-mask demonstrators heckled and threatened doctors and nurses who were leaving a school board meeting in Williamson County, Tenn., in August. 
  • A parent ripped off a teacher’s face mask in Austin, Texas, days before the first day of school in August. 
  • One person was arrested after a large crowd disrupted a school board meeting in Loudoun County, Va. Protesters were upset about critical race theory and a board policy affirming rights for transgender students. 
  • A Sunday school teacher was arrested after refusing to wear a mask at a New Hampshire school board meeting.
  • Charges were filed against 11 people who disrupted a school board meeting in Utah in May by shouting anti-mask messages. 

This situation has gotten so bad that the National School Boards Association asked President Biden to intervene. “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat,” reads the letter signed by NSBA President Viola M. Garcia and NSBA interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven. “The National School Boards Association respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation.”
Teachers are horribly stressed, as are parents. Kids need to be with each other — that’s a critical part of growing up — but they need to feel and be safe.
So if you want to control your own outrage fatigue and at the same time be a force for good, please support your local public school system, its students and teachers, and its leadership. Stay safe … but also stay active!


Retired journalist John Merrow, a two-time winner of the Peabody Award, lives in


  1. The last entitlement is ”I am entitled to be offended and outraged” If one is looking through the prizm of a conservative we can offer a list of all the things that are happening in this country that outrages us. It is all about who’s ox is being gored. By the way if people are increasingly putting their kids in private school or home schooling what does that tell you about public schools? Education in this country is in decline and has been for thirty years and if you continue teaching CRT and wokeism and transgender equity and climate change and all the rest of the social justice stuff it will continue.

    • Andy– no surprise that you are offended by concept of “social justice”. You are white and wealthy after all.

      • … and an evangelical Christian who would like to violate the rights of all school children and our United States Constitution by allowing Christian proselytizers into our public schools.

      • Interesting that a person has a different set of concerns and makes no personal attack but the ubiquitous Keller and Diez come out of the woodwork and attack a thought they dont like. Then there is Nunes who defines the word ”projection” from a clinical perspective. Keep trying girls and boys–you wont silence me.

        • Don- I’m just focusing on the facts at hand- nowhere does Andrew suggest Christian proselytizing in school. I’m not going to dig through old posts. It’s ok to criticize points people make but not ones they don’t.

          • It is also okay for us to criticize Engelman for their previous remarks (and reactionary ideology) even if you are unwilling to dig through old posts.

          • Alex, are you against “social justice stuff’, too? What one writes– 2 days prior or 2 days after commenting — is all part of an ongoing dialogue. Not only do facts and thoughts not come in a vacuum or out of thin air, you also have zero authority to determine what is okay to include in this conversation. Nice try at controlling, though.

          • Alex: Except I’ve been privy to discussions by teachers and others in Education. Yes, Education recognizes some are difficult students, whether because of social reasons (example: a co-ed environment) or the parents are incapable or unwilling to put it the necessary time to raise a child. “Unable to study in a public school environment” is a polite reason used.

            A rope or cord put around the neck of another does not have to be a noose to be a hate crime. But while it may have been innocent play by children (which I doubt), the defense of it here by adults is not.

    • Parents putting their kids in private school or home schooling isn’t a condemnation of public schools, it’s because their precious darling and/or the parents themselves haven’t the social maturity for a public school education.

      • Neil, that is a genuinely bizarre and off-base assumption , there are many reasons parents might choose a private school from their children, I highly doubt yours is at the top of the list. Alexis, this may surprise you but I am not an apologist or defender of Andrew, simply somebody who is asking people to please base their arguments on evidence and not emotion. Can you cite a single instance where Andrew suggested proselytizing Christianity in public schools? If so, I will concede the point. If not, then people are making Straw Man arguments, which is an immature and undignified way to exchange ideas.

        • To those of us who have been on the internet for more than a hot minute, it is the teary-eyed sods squealing about straw men that seem undignified. Sorry that I had to be the one to tell you. Search their post history if it interests you, it’s all there.

          • Alex: Not knowing what you’re talking about AND whining and digging your heels in about it, is silly. You’ve been told by a few folks where and when and by whom the proselytizing-in-schools supposition took place. Look it up. Then you may concede your losing point.

          • The “ Go Look It Up” line has been used by conspiracy quacks who refuse to provide credible evidence for their POVs(anti-vaccine, Covid a hoax, Hillary’s Arkansas body count, etc.), as if telling people to look up a bunch of shoddy YouTube videos is the same as proving solid evidence. If Andrew does propose proselytizing Christianity in public schools he is a blowhard with little regard for church-state separation. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned enough to think that the burden of proof to supply evidence falls on the person making the accusation. Jackie’s strategy of belligerent pontificating and then crying sexism when called on it is stale and intellectually bankrupt.

          • Oh dear, Alex. I literally meant ‘look it up’ because the proof you seek– and have been told about by several different people– is there in black and white. What a silly thing to whine about.

            I could enable your unenviable stubbornness and quote the ‘blowhard’ supposition here, but it’s good for you Alex to be mature, stop whining, and let go of the fact that I noticed your fondness for misogynistic buzzwords. I will make it easier for you, though. Click on the search feature at the top righthand corner of this page. Type in SHIVA, and then click on the first article that appears in your search. Scroll down to the comments and read ENGELMAN’s response to Katherine Scott, who, by the way, consistently stands up for antivax conspiracy theories. Do you need proof of that, too, or can you read for yourself? ENGELMAN’s comment is really there. All you have to do is read it. I do hope your anger passes soon, but of course, that’s up to you and how long you wish to stubbornly hold onto being wrong while blaming me for it, lol. “Belligerent pontificating” is a good one, though.

  2. According to Andrew, we should stick with teaching about George Washington’s wooden teeth and that cherry tree episode, the greatness of Richard Nixon, and drum into their little heads America’s standing as the greatest country in the world!
    An eternal indicator of how old one is getting, is the perception that the world as you knew it is going to hell in a handbag, (along with the painful awareness that it’s passing you by). Yes, we’ve lost a lot in the past 20 years. Good manners being near the top of the list but we’ve also shed some blinders, and they’re not going to go back on. Trying to understand, and care about the “other,” is never a bad thing. Teaching true, documented history, equity for all, and “all the rest of the social justice stuff;” is that really such a bad thing? If you truly see it as so, please explain how. Unless you mean just bad for those like-minded as yourself.

    • Bullseye, Dana. Manners have completely disappeared in this pandemic. I am exposed to it every day at work, six days a week. Along with “I won’t buy produce from Mexico because it’s a dirty, filthy country” types. Guess it’ll be potatoes all winter for them.

  3. While I agree with John on almost everything he says, I wonder where this idea that “we have been locked down for nearly 20 months ” comes from ?

  4. Where to begin? Well, schools do not teach Critical Race Theory; law schools do, and maybe other graduate schools and perhaps some college courses. But not K-12. What exactly is “wokeism” anyway, and how would one teach it?
    As for climate change, that seems to be happening in front of our eyes and so should be a subject of inquiry at the very least.

    • While there is no specific class in K-12 named CRT, the substance of CRT is being taught big time. CRT admonishes all white people for being oppressors while classifying all Black people as hopelessly oppressed victims. ”The NEA itself admits that it teaches all the elements of CRT and more in K-12 National Education Association (NEA) appears to have accepted the conservative framing of CRT: namely, that it’s not merely confined to academia but is in fact also being taught in K-12 schools. And the NEA thinks this is a good thing that should be defended.” ”NEA will also provide a study “that critiques empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society.” Mr Merrow you could look it up or get Keller to do so. I have been to the high schools in a large metropolitan city and heard the nonsense.

      • Liberals, you need to accept that some of what Andrew says is true, as difficult as that may be to swallow. From the NEA’s own website: “We Need to Teach the Truth About Systemic Racism, Say Educators-
        Despite a legislative push to ban critical race theory, educators are committed to helping students examine the systems in which we all work and live, and help build a better future for everyone.” How one feels about this is another thing; some might think it’s wonderful, others not so. But to dismiss Andrew’s assertion that elements of CRT is being encouraged in public education is absurd.

        • Andrew: Do you know why many POC live in low-income city neighborhoods? What economic opportunities were available to both whites and POC after the Emancipation Proclamation? Did POC have access to education and jobs that paid white’s definition of a living wage? I sincerely advise against arguing inner-city crime because that’s the predominate economy America has allowed them.

        • Alex systemic racism is one race enslaving another.
          The system was put in place by our Founding Fathers.
          Like it or not.

        • The goal is make people understand what got them many of the benefits we have today. To start, acknowledge us white folk didn’t do it all ourselves. We profited off the labor and lives of others. At least we should give sufficient education and opportunity for them to use that schooling to enter the workforce and earn a living.

        • It interesting that they say it isnt taught in K-12 as if that is a good defense but they themselves want it to be taught and see nothing wrong with it. Why refute something which you applaud? Hilary and her crowd used to say ”abortion should be safe legal and rare” but why should it be rare it there is nothing wrong with it?. Same with CRT, why protest its not taught while you want it taught.

          • Abortion should be rare.
            It would be rare if guys had to walk around with a basketball in the bottom of their belly that they will have to push out a very small opening, that or slice the bottom of their belly open.
            When guys get pregnant they can bang their lips about abortion, with some authority. .

        • “Critical race theory” is just shorthand for the value-judgment “stuff that cultural conservatives disagree with”. Anything the portrays an unflattering view of America during any point in her history is CRT, according to these people. It’s just the latest in a long line of moral panics from the John Birch wing of the Republican party.

      • Andrew put some names to your accusations!
        Have ever been in an Island school?
        Know any Island school teachers?

        “I have been to the high schools in a large metropolitan city and heard the nonsense.”
        Which high schools in which large metropolitan cities?
        Source of CRT study materials?
        Names of teachers teaching CRT?
        Are you sure you are not confusing CRT with stolen elections?
        The evidence seems to be so similar.

  5. Yes…we liberals have outrage fatigue but if you ask me (I know you didn’t but I’m gonna tell you anyway) we don’t spend nearly enough on public education. You can’t provide excellent educations without money…full stop. My outrage fatigue is based on the fact that the pandemic has shown us just how ignorant and selfish a good portion of our fellow Americans are. I am just plain sad.

    • Carolyn, with respect, paying teachers more will not improve their ability to cure students of nascent cultural conservatism or an attraction to conspiracy theories. Students get a taste for these things at home, mostly from their parents, community, and whatever books they read. No amount of dollars put into a teacher’s pocket will enhance that teacher’s ability to “cure” a student of those things. Nor do we encourage teachers to address hot button political issues, and any who do so without circumspection will quickly land in hot water. Teachers and school districts surely need more funding (especially in rural districts or those where all of the money and advantaged students have been channeled to charter schools) but please don’t imagine that it can move the dial on ideology.

      • Maybe not but it sure would help. And I didn’t mean just teacher salaries…school supplies, physical plants, excursion opportunities would all help. Making sure children have food was a good start.

        • What pricier textbooks will teach kids not to have the same political affiliation as their parents? Not the ones approved by the state of Texas, which has tremendous influence on their contents. Please, give children as much food as they want or need, and do it over the objections of the local school board if needs be (it’s happened) but I don’t see how that will stop the Party Of Mammon from being what it is, or the fools that vote for it from being what they are. How many potted plants (if that is what you meant) does it take to teach little Jimmy not to say a racist word, if he hears it at home every day? I apologize for being brusque, but I think the problem requires more imagination than just making the budget bigger.

      • Generally speaking you get what you pay for,if you are lucky. .
        Teaching is the lowest paying profession requiring a degree.

  6. “Woke” is used as a term of derision directed at people who have ventured outside their comfortable little bubble, learned something about the suffering of others and decided to speak up. The far-right apparently thinks its a bad thing to have compassion and empathy for others, while proclaiming how Christian they are.

    • I’m not far right. I’m not Christian. I don’t live in a bubble. But “woke” cultural is not for me and most able minded Americans.

  7. “One person was arrested after a large crowd disrupted a school board meeting in Loudoun County, Va. Protesters were upset about critical race theory and a board policy affirming rights for transgender students.”

    If you’re referring to Scott Smith, this isn’t a fair, thorough, or honest summary. His daughter, a minor, was raped. Parents and protesters in Loudoun County are worried about two separate incidents of sexual assault by one teen and a deplorable response from those in charge. The circumstances of the first assault have been reported in a misleading way at times. I don’t condone that, but a brutal rape occurred on school grounds all the same. When the focus of an op-ed is compassion and the survival of our public schools, it strikes me as glaringly wrong and slanted to omit any mention of a child who was sodomized, especially while talking around her specific case. Both student victims in Loudoun should be priority.

    • I have re-read my comment several times and do not understand why it wasn’t posted. The only thing I can assume is that it’s because I used the term sodomy to describe the first assault.

      If that’s the issue, it’s the legally appropriate word, not my subjective opinion or choice of vocabulary. Verifiable facts are still allowed, right? The student was charged with forcible sodomy.

      “…the May 28 incident — which the sheriff’s office on Wednesday said consisted of two counts of forcible sodomy…”


      A judge recently determined there is sufficient evidence to support this, which in juvenile court means the standard has been met. This is no longer just an allegation.


      I never mentioned gender, so that can’t be the problem. To be clear, the rapist is not, to my knowledge, trans. He didn’t gain access to the bathroom because he was wearing a skirt.

      But to say that we should be concerned about compassion and the future of our schools while pointedly talking around a rape and its aftermath is beyond wrong. What’s more important than two sexual assaults, one alleged and one proven, on minors? This deserves to be discussed without partisan dishonesty or spin from anybody, and yet that’s all I’m seeing. Just like with the Chilmark camp incident, victimized children and their safety are what should matter most. That seems to be a very unpopular take. It used to be a given in most circles.

  8. Then there’s the health of our planet, the blatant lies fed to & believed by the poorly educated, flight attendants being punched & our worry about the health and safety of our children and grandchildren.

Comments are closed.