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On the Value of Anger

Friday, November 11, 2016 11:02
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I’m going to write a really long thing, and I’m pretty sure everyone in America is going to disagree with me for this, but I think it needs to be said. It’s also rambly. Also, this post has NOTHING to do with books, so if you don’t care about/are sick of politics, feel free to move along.


When I was first married, I managed some campus computer labs. It was a quiet night, snowy outside, most of the students were gone and I was done studying, just passing time. This lady walked in, wrapped in a thick coat and carrying a really heavy backpack. She came up to my desk and said, “You’ll think I’m a silly girl, but I need help with my computer.”

I spent the next few hours with her, helping her doggedly type out her paper, helping her format, showing her the basics of Word, and while I did this, we talked. She was a refugee from Uganda. The war in that country had torn it apart, and her family had died. She, at the age of ten or thereabouts, was captured by a warlord. She got away, obviously, and eventually wound up in that school, on that night.

We talked a lot about the people that helped her, rehabilitated her, the things that had to happen in order for her to turn from being that girl owned by a warlord to the young woman sitting typing out a paper in a university. We talked about how much action was required to change a situation, and how much determination, not just by the individual herself, but by society as a whole.

I have never been a person who likes to sit idly by. Talking to her, in some ways, fundamentally changed my perspective on the world and my place in it. A week later I announced to my husband that I was doing a book drive. I gathered together about 1500 school books, and a few hundred dollars in donations, and I shipped them off to schools in a few different African nations, schools for girls. Education will change the world.

You see, what talking to her made me realize is the fact that we, people, save each other. We make our messes, and we have to clean them up. We have to help our fellow man in order to survive. I fundamentally, in the core of my soul, believe that this world will succeed or fail based on our actions, both yours and mine.

I believe in action. I believe in getting my hands dirty and making a change, being the difference. I believe that we can rise above our challenges by actually rising above them, by refusing to be tethered by circumstance or situation, by not letting “power” and those who think they have it, cow us. Entire civil rights movements were formed this way. People’s lives have been fundamentally altered this way, a young girl got away from a warlord in this way.

There are a lot of tensions right now. A lot. And I feel them all. I am hurt, angry, terrified. I am so many things that it’s hard to put a name on them all, and I’ve addressed it on my various social media platforms so I won’t go into it again here. But I’m trying to keep that in mind. In the future that we are about to enter, our fellow man will need our help and service now, more than ever before. I urge people to be civil servants, to help where help is needed, to give what you can afford to give, to lend help to those marginalized communities, and never forget that by helping someone else, you are helping yourself, and your world as well. Doing this is letting everyone know that the government might not forget you, might marginalize you, might feel like your rights are something that should be bartered because they know better, but we never will. We won’t forget you. We won’t let you fade away and become forgotten. We, the people, will stand up for you. You fit with us, because you are us. Power and authority only goes so far.

It is a small thing, but it is a way to fight, and it is powerful. It creates ripples. It births change.

This morning I was catching up on podcasts. I’m a practicing Buddhist (though I lose the path occasionally, I always come back to it) and today’s Dharma talks were about three things: Anger, uncertainty, and change. Very applicable for how I’m feeling right now. These three topics were exactly what I needed to hear for the current social situation.

There is a very real power with anger, and I think anger is a valid thing to feel. It should be felt. I’m absolutely furious, I’m so furious I’m aching inside, burning from it. But I think there is a way to feel that anger, and channel it into good means. The fundamental question I’ve been asking myself is, How am I improving the world I live in? How can I improve it? How can I take all of this stuff eating at me inside, and try to make it into something better for my family, my community, my future? How can I take my anger, and create with it?

If I was starving, and someone found me and they had food in their hand, I wouldn’t want them to stand next to me and rant and shout about how horrible it is that I’m starving. I’d want them to give me that food. In a broader scope, I think that’s what we need to keep in mind right now. We need to be angry. We should be angry. We need to let our concerns and voices be heard, and damn it, we need to stand up and refuse to sit down. We need to defend what we believe in, but we need to remember that actions speak louder than words, and if we band together, we can change the world through those actions. We have the power to do that.

People are so incredibly powerful.

The violence that has erupted makes me sick. I don’t care what side of the line people are on, there is no excuse for violence. Period. I am saddened, anguished that our country has divided so deeply that smashing and burning buildings is the answer some people seek. I’m upset that racism has spread so rampantly and hungrily. We are better than this. People are better than this, and we need to rise above it. Neither side is innocent.

I will never stand on the side of violence, or bigotry, regardless of the politics behind it. We are more than this. This is not a discourse, this is not an exchange of ideas, this is not progress.

I refuse to live in a world of fear, and that fear is coming from both sides. A man just won a powerful office based on a campaign of fear, and now the other side is afraid for their rights, their health, their lives. Fear is everywhere. It’s a bomb just waiting to go off. It’s a virus that spreads and infects everyone it touches. I can’t live in a life where I’m just waiting for the government to come and haul my loved ones away. I refuse to give anyone that much power over me.

But I can act. I can stand up, and say, “This is not okay. I won’t stand for it. I will do everything in my power to keep you safe.” And then I can act.

I don’t have the answers, and I won’t pretend to, but I do think an Us vs. Them dialogue is a huge part of what got us into this mess. The truth is, a gigantic chunk of America felt (and feels) left out of their own country, and they are reacting. Right or wrong, that’s the heart of it. Now, we can either yell at them and call them fools, or we can try to understand why they feel that way and what pushed them to this point. What pushed us, the other side, to this point? We are coming at things from other directions, and dialogue and discourse is essential to move us forward and bridge the gap that is dividing our society.

Progress, any kind of progress, stops when we stop seeing the other side as people, when we stop seeing disagreements as learning opportunities. It stops when we think burning our way through a city is a viable option, rather than listening in an effort of finding common ground, and acting in service to those who feel like they have been forgotten, regardless of their personal ideals. Progress is forgotten when we forget that helping you, helps me, which in turn helps us.

I am scared. I am sad. I feel homeless in my own country. I am worried about the violence. I am an outsider looking in. I don’t agree with anything happening. I don’t like it. I have felt sick for days.

But I’m trying. I’m trying really hard. This is the world I woke up to, and I am fighting it in my own way. I’m doing service with my daughter, volunteering to make the world a better place, acting as a safety net where I can, and speaking out when I can. I’m writing letters to Very Important People. I’m trying to stay in touch with the disabled community and various organizations affiliated with us to help where I can in that regard. I’m also talking to the people I disagree with. I do disagree with them, but they are people, and they are just as upset as I am (though for different reasons). We are two sides of the same coin, and I am trying to understand that, because understanding them, and understanding where they are coming from is helping me understand how we got to be in this situation.

At the end of the day, I am creating a world that my children will inherit, and I cannot, and will not forget that.

Because I fundamentally believe, in the core of my soul, that we can save each other. We are the only ones who can make this work. The power is in our hands. It truly is, because we are powerful, incredible creatures. We are people, and people can move mountains. But this will only happen if we stop fighting and start talking; if we use our anger and turn it into something productive. We need to see a world we can all live in, and then work together to create it. No more Us vs. Them. This is about all of us.

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