The spittle and sweat flying off the Republican National Convention could fill a swimming pool, and it won't be that much different at the DNC.
Tuning in and listening to Trump and Hillary talk is a big deal. You're kind of a sub-par American if you don't. But listening to average folks in the auditoriums talk is maybe a bigger deal, because it hints at where we're at as a people.
On NPR, they interviewed an older dude, a Republican delegate from Florida. The delegate was seen dancing in the aisles when there was "finally" talk from the stage of sending Hillary to prison. He was just slightly sheepish about the dancing. He knows his neighbors in his Florida housing development accuse him of being an "angry old man."
"I'll admit it," he said, sort of proudly. "I am an angry old man."
What's up with all this anger? It's natural to be pretty mad about some things. It's natural to be mad that you're not as rich or secure as you want to be. It's natural to be mad that the climate is changing. It's even natural to be mad that you don't have a job while immigrants who are breaking a law do, that solar companies are thriving while your coal mine is closing.
But this older man was mad about the strangest things.
Out of all the things in the world to be mad about, the RNC delegates seemed most mad about an event from 2012 in which a bunch of pissed-off Muslims killed four state department employees in Libya.
Of course, it's natural to be pretty mad about that. Those Muslims are assholes.
It's even natural to be mad at Secretary of State Clinton about that, if you think she didn't provide adequate security, and if you think she tried to cover something up about it. That's a dick move.
But what doesn't seem natural is to be this mad for this long. This was four people, in Africa, four years ago. It's not natural to call a woman a traitor because she didn't act perfectly. It's not natural to chant "Lock her up!" and call for her to be killed.
Of course, there's always been anger in politics and everywhere, and politicians have always used it to their advantage. But there seems like more anger than usual. An unnatural amount.
Dear older angry people: maybe you should check that anger. See if anyone is stirring up your anger for their own reasons.
The most obvious anger-stirrers are the bombastic talk radio hosts. They rage for three hours a day about how your country is being taken, that a vast conspiracy exists to allow foreign agents and Muslim-lovers to infiltrate the government and weaken us.
But notice how, actually — they don't rage and spit for three straight hours. They rage only for ten minutes at a time. Then they somehow pull themselves out of their froth to play commercials that sell things, things aimed at people who are afraid — Lifelock to secure your computer, ADT to secure your home, gold to secure your finances. Whatever your anger or fear, they'll sell you something to make you feel calm and secure.
Making people angry so you can make money is just using people. It's just selfishness.
And, look, it's not just the Republicans.
Left-wing anger-stirrers go on radio and spread fear that climate change will wreck your lawn and the big banks will steal your money — for ten minutes — and then play commercials for the new Prius and the local credit union.
Again, there are things to be afraid of and mad about. More pissed-off Muslims are gonna kill more Americans, and more immigrants will take more jobs, and the climate will change more, and it'll be too hot for comfort, and the big banks are gonna screw more little people out of more pensions.
But doesn't self-honesty demand that we admit that some of what we're mad about is actually nobody's fault?
"I think people feel the frustration that things used to be simpler," Oklahoma Senator James Lankford told Bloomberg News. Lankford said Americans remember when starting a business and getting health insurance was less complicated. "People basically want time back, and they want things not to be so difficult in every area of their life… They may not know the source, they just feel it."
That's a good distillation: "People basically want time back."
It's hard to accept that certain things just aren't coming back. Even if your daddy taught you that men should be men and women should be women, it's never again going to be cool to say gays and lesbians should shut up or that transgendered people should stick with their birth sex.
Again, this "Get Off My Lawn and Be a Man, You Fairies" nostalgic talk is mostly on the political right, but not entirely.
Even if your daddy was a peacenik who taught you that all religions are equal and teach love equally, it's harder and harder to keep that value, too.
Left-wingers want time back — just a different time. They don't want the structure and traditionalism of the 1950s. They want the freewheeling hippie days of 1967, when everybody loved everybody in a freelove daisy flower dream. That was a dream of unity and racial and religious harmony that that can feel more distant every day, disrupted by pissed-off Muslims and pissed-off white cops and pissed-off black cop killers who won't cooperate in their dream of peace. The summer of love will probably never happen again.
In both cases, your daddy's way of thinking is probably never coming back.
Politics is often derailed by the misperception that what bothers people are the specific percentages of trade deficits allowed by the Trans Pacific Partnership or the exact ratio of black people to white people admitted to the University of Texas law school.
What really bothers people is stuff we don't normally say out loud — that Hillary is a ballbuster and Trump has a gold tower he doesn't deserve and Millennials are entitled little shitstains and Baby Boomers are lazy self-centered bums — and that not everyone else agrees that those things are true.
We're mad at forces so much larger than any political party, any policy, any person.
We're mad at the relentless march of time. We're mad because we're older than we want to be, because our knees hurt and our backs are sore. Because our favorite band isn't making music anymore, our favorite singer died. We're mad because we missed out on that job opportunity or screwed up that relationship.
We're mad at nature. Which is, oddly, natural. But it's also up to our intelligent parts to see how absurd that is.