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"Good Morning, Mr. Indignation"



Authors as Published

The poet, songwriter and singer Paul Simon released a new collection in May entitled Seven Psalms. In that album, performed as a single piece, Simon, the winner of, among other major awards, the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center Honors, reflected on a number of abiding questions including one of vital concern and applicability to our current national politics. In his piece My Professional Opinion, Simon observed:

Good morning, Mr. Indignation
Looks like you haven't slept all night
In my professional opinion
Go back to bed and turn off your light.
I'm not a doctor or a preacher
I've no particular guiding star
In my professional opinion
I'm no more satisfied than you are.
So what in the world are we whispering for?
Everyone's naked, there's nothing to hide
Gonna carry my grievances down to the shore
Wash them away in the tumbling tide.1

        This song’s insight is important in understanding the nihilism into which a share of the GOP has lately fallen, especially among its so-called Freedom Caucus, who appear to be working diligently daily to destroy democratic governance.2 In My Professional Opinion Simon wryly noted that one may either nurture indignation and let it take over your psyche as you loathe real and imagined foes or recall that such concerns are the inevitable product of human interaction and understand such differences in the context of that reality and metaphorically “go back to bed.”3 That is, one may energetically cultivate insults and grievances or instead let them “wash away in the tumbling tide.”4 The incessant Trump and Republican lie that any American is contemptible who does not accept their fast-changing claims about their latest purported grievance(s), all of which may be subsumed in the contention that equality is a threat because the undeserving are seeking to gain benefits and take from their betters, is a fresh example of an old tradition in the United States of elites working diligently to encourage hatred in the name of securing their power and privileged social position. 

        This said, animus and anger once unleashed are powerful emotions and I am not pollyannish nor gainsaying that fact. Neither is easily overcome and in the present case that reality is exacerbated by the fact that they are in major part the constructed product of one political party’s studied and continuing efforts to divide Americans on the basis of claims rooted in inequality and bigotry. Much Republican rhetoric and political strategy today can be understood in these terms including book banning, voter suppression initiatives, ongoing efforts to undermine the rule of law and education at all levels and perhaps most especially, the recently launched effort to find reasons for impeaching President Biden, on no grounds whatsoever. Or, as Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX) aptly put it on Fox, “We don't have the evidence now, but we may find it later."5 The point of that search is not about genuine issues, but instead to persuade partisans and other Americans that these false assertions suggest that Biden is “actually” worse than the unfairly targeted former president and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump whose alleged unlawful behavior is thereby mitigated, if not explained away, as so much political persecution.

        This example of projection exemplifies how the party is seeking to wield a massive lie to construct indignation among possible supporters and to distract attention from Trump’s alleged corruption and wrongdoing. While the impeachment inquiry may be the GOP’s most patently absurd recent claim that assertion must be set alongside the moral and political bankruptcy implicit in that Party’s willingness to damage the U.S. and global economies by reneging on its pact regarding federal spending and its similar breathtaking lies concerning the country’s alleged “socialism,” the Internal Revenue Service and the nation’s taxation system, immigration policy and the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

        In this regard, even those often depicted as relative moderates in the Party have much for which to answer. Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah), for example, recently announced his retirement at the end of his present term amidst reports that a new biography would reveal him as deeply contemptuous of many of his GOP colleagues because of their cowardly willingness to lie concerning the outcome of the 2020 election particularly, in order to undermine President Biden and to protect Donald Trump from multiple indictments of wrongdoing.6 Nonetheless, it should be recalled that Romney made “othering” the supposedly undeserving a centerpiece of his presidential campaign in 2012 as he labeled millions of Americans “takers.” That stance echoes the current Republican Party mantra that blacks, Hispanics, the poor and many other groups should not be permitted full citizen standing and that any efforts to ensure them that dignity and equality should be met with self-righteous fury.7 In short, the current Republican trope of manufactured indignation in the name of fear of losing a supposed hierarchical birthright is not the product of Donald Trump’s GOP alone.

        In Trail of Volcanoes on the Seven Psalms album, Simon offered a second major observation that can be applied to our current politics and especially the degraded state of the Republican party in the same:

When I was young
I carried my guitar
Down to the crossroads
And over the seas
Now those old roads
Are a trail of volcanoes
Exploding with refugees.
It seems to me
We're all walking down
The same road
To wherever it ends.
The pity is
The damage that's done
Leaves so little time
For amends.8

        In that song-poem Simon suggested that all humans confront unanswerable questions concerning the meaning of their existence and whether this life is the only one they will know. He reminded his listeners that, in this sense, all of humankind may be seen as “on the same road” and that the pain, sorrow and injustice we inflict on one another along that path on whatever grounds, in the present case imagined grievances concocted to assure power for a specific elite, may result in damage that may never be remediated. The GOP is today testing whether it can obtain/retain power by demanding acquiescence to obvious lies and seeking to make those assertions palatable by declaring they are justified on the basis of a constructed indignation against a supposed univalent cultural elite and millions of Americans “taking” from voters unjustifiably via governance. As the Party has pressed these claims it has openly stoked fascist tropes of violence, antisemitism, racism and nationalism based on the imperative of protecting the status of a supposedly superior group—white Christians and especially white Christian men. As the Party has ever more directly embraced a racist social hierarchy it has shown itself willing to support tyrants (e.g. Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orbán), embrace manifest lies and foment hatred.

        The resulting damage to the legitimacy of governance and to social trust and bonds amidst our nation’s pluralistic population has already been high. What is more, the GOP has gone beyond rhetoric to limiting the rights and freedoms by law of targeted individuals, including immigrants and refugees, gay men and women, women and people of color. These initiatives, like the Party’s lies concerning the 2020 election, the January 6 insurrection and impeachment, among many others, have resulted in untold costs to those targeted and more importantly to the idea of nation, the only imaginary that unites all Americans and the conception that describes its sovereignty. The costs inflicted along that “same road,” as Simon has reminded, are already vast. Put differently, the damage and suffering now being imposed daily by Republican extremism and support for bigotry and social oppression in the name of power are already very high and the injustice imposed on those injured may not soon be reparable.

        All of this is to point up that our nation now stands at a crossroads and our democratic way of life and the norms that sustain the rule of law that underpin it are under active attack by the Republican Party. Whether Americans will preserve their polity in the national election in 2024 and if they do, whether the current GOP and its supporters will accept that ballot result under what looks set to be Donald Trump’s continuing dominance, remains an open question as this is written. Hate, after all, is an elemental force. I take solace in the fact that history has suggested that love and devotion to freedom can be its match and more.


1 Simon. “In My Professional Opinion,” Seven Psalms Lyrics.

2 Hulse, Carl. “The Wrecking Ball Caucus: How the Far Right Brought Washington to Its Knees,” The New York Times, September 23, 2023,, Accessed September 23, 22023. 

3 Simon. “In My Professional Opinion,” Seven Psalms Lyrics.

4 Simon. “In my Professional Opinion,” Seven Psalms Lyrics.

5 Venegas, Natalie. “Republican Admits GOP Doesn’t Have Evidence Joe Biden was Bribed,” Newsweek, September 17, 2023,, Accessed September 18, 2023. 

6 Blake, Aaron. “‘You sell yourself so cheap?’ Romney’s stark indictment of GOP cowardice,” The Washington Post, September 14, 2023,, Accessed September 20, 2023. 

7 Klein, Ezra. “Romney’s theory of the ‘taker class,’ and why it matters,” The Washington Post, September 17, 2012,, Accessed September 22, 2023. 

8 Simon. “Trail of Volcanoes,” Seven Psalms Lyrics

Publication Date

September 25, 2023