Now Is the Summer of Our Discontent

August sets the high water mark for national crankiness

By Sara K. Smith
|  Monday, Aug 17, 2009  |  Updated 11:00 PM CDT
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Obama Family Vacations in Photos: Martha's Vineyard

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This gentleman pretty much encapsulates the American mood this month.

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In a normal year, people relax in August. They go on picnics by the lake and sleep in late on Saturdays and spend their Sunday evenings putting aloe vera on their sunburnt shoulders. It is a month for beers and sunshine.

But not this year, and not this August! Is there something going on, astrologically, to cause the incredibly foul mood infecting the nation? Is our collective Saturn in reverse?

Because never have so many people turned into such incorrigible crankypantses so quickly. From the birthers to the Blue Dogs, from the Whole Foods boycotters to the healthcare reform opponents, everybody's got a bone to pick and they are not being polite about it. Add in residual resentment from the Gates/Crowly Beergate Arrest Summit and hot debate over a convicted animal abuser's return to professional football, and you have a potent stew of a bad mood that could lead to who knows what by Labor Day.

Folks are on edge. They're writing extremely intemperate letters to the editor. They're arguing over everything, calling people vicious names, and accusing the other side of being hostile to reasoned argument -- while viciously name-calling. You know things are weird when people start carrying firearms to health care rallies, when conservatives start pledging to patronize the organic grocer Whole Foods, and liberals fantasize openly about what creatively violent death might best suit Michael Vick.

Did the Northeast's incredibly wet spring leave people with water on the brain? Are the wretched drought and endless string of triple-digit temperatures in Texas making people a little stir-crazy?

Should civilization survive until September, we might all have to take a deep breath and say we're sorry to the dozens, if not thousands, of people we offended in August. Or perhaps we'll experience the saving grace of a collective bout of amnesia, and it will be as if August never happened. One thing is for certain: this month can't end soon enough.

Climatologist and behavioral economist Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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