I have been silent, mostly shut down for the last few months. I thought I was depressed and was trying to figure out why. I realize, though, it is because I am angry. I am angry almost to the point of immobility, angry about so many things.
I’m angry that women are brought up to believe that they are second class citizens, that they are taught to think they can’t be leaders, and, when they try (and, God forbid, succeed) they are called bitches. I’m angry that we all think men get better with age but women fade to meaninglessness and invisibility.
I’m angry that, although both have their value, we revere youth over experience, for both men and women (although more so for woman).
I am angry that, to a black man, there is no safe way to interact with police without fear of being murdered. I’m angry that white people, more often than not, not only don’t see that but actively fight to try and prove it is nonsense.
I’m angry that so many of our citizens continuously vote against their own best interest out of a blind devotion to ideology. I’m angry that one political class is consciously fighting to limit the rights of all our citizens in the name of “what’s good for business”, that they are systematically thwarting the rights of so many to voice their opinion with a vote, that they are working to put women back “into their place” and to prove that science is bad because it sometimes blames businesses for the sins they commit. I’m angry that we have turned back the clock to the 1930s, when workers had no rights, were routinely abused and often killed by their employers without consequence.
I’m angry that we have now, somehow, come to believe that it is persecution to not let people discriminate, as long as that discrimination is from “deeply held beliefs”. Unless you are a Muslim. Or an American Indian. Or a woman.
I think our citizens should have the right to own guns, but that debate has been narrowed down to only two possibilities; 1) that everyone give up their arms or 2) that everyone carry guns and that everyone has the right, no the duty, to use them whenever they see fit. Unless you are a Muslim. Or African America. Or American Indian.
I’m angry that we have a war on drugs when all evidence and research confirms it doesn’t and never has worked, that the best way to handle drug abuse is to consider it a medical issue rather than a criminal one.
I’m angry that the United States of America is called “the Land of the Free” when we have more people per capita in prison than almost any other nation, and that so large a percentage of those incarcerated are people of color. I’m angry that we keep privatizing our prisons to the point where it is economically advantageous to incarcerate more and more people to the point where judges are being paid to find people guilty no matter what the evidence.
I am angry that we are removing funding to education, to infrastructure, to the arts when a society without art is a dead society. Closer to home, I am angry that I seem to have lost my sense of humor, that I have not come close to fulfilling or realizing my dreams. I’m angry that almost everyone I have turned to for advice has advised me to put them aside and pursue a different path, and that I let them convince me.
I’m angry at many of the choices I’ve made over the last 50 years in terms of health, relationships, friendships and art. We all make bad choices, or at least ineffective ones, but I know what mine were so they seem very real to me.
I am angry that my best friend has advanced stage cancer, that almost every treatment he has been given, operation he has gone through and advice he has heard has been an utter failure, including three bungled operations. I’m thrilled that his chemo seems to be making his masses shrink, but angry that the treatments are taking so much out of him.
I’m angry that cancer is so prevalent in our land. That we have believed it when food companies say their additives and processes are benign. Angry that the water, air and even dirt are being fouled by companies who have no consciences, even though they are considered people, and that the people who run them have completely subsumed their own consciences to the corporation.
I’m not angry that companies and corporations make money, that’s what they’re there for. I am angry that they now hold the same rights as people, such as the right to free speech and religious affiliation, but not the same responsibilities as people, such as paying taxes and obeying environmental laws, and that they have an overwhelming say in the direction and focus of governments. I am angry that our democracy is now almost entirely an oligarchy, if it was ever anything else.
I am angry that, whenever I open social media, I am barraged with thoughtless screeds (on both sides of the political divide, but mostly from those on the Right) that have little or no basis in reality, that black people who riot are called “Thugs” and criminals even by black leaders, but white people who do are called “men”, that there are still people who believe President Obama was born in Kenya and is trying to establish a Caliphate when his actions and policies are less radical than either Regan or Clinton.
There is so much that I am angry about that I could never list everything. If I had written this yesterday or waited for tomorrow, it would be an almost completely different list. Mostly, I am angry because I have become resigned to it all, because the fight has left me. I have always believed in the innate goodness of mankind, in the possibility of transformation, but as I near my sixtieth birthday, I see no possibility of change.
In the last few days, as I let myself finally think about all this, as I let my anger come to the surface and be expressed, to let it feed upon itself, I started to remember some things.
I remember that it is always darkest before dawn (at least figuratively); that the dying of an old way of being has violent and powerful death throes and when we focus on them rather than the light that is shining through the violence, we give those throes more power and make it harder for them to end.
I remember that this is the classroom, that the things we experience in this life, throughout this life until the moment we die, are simply the lessons we need to learn. I remember that the choices we have made, the experiences we have had and those we have avoided, have made us who we are and we have no way of knowing the ultimate consequences if we had made other choices.
I remember that there is no Eden, that there has always been and will always be conflict between the old and new, that what was once brand new and revolutionary will always become old and entrenched, and that there will be people who cleave to the old and those who put energy into the new and sometimes the old will win and sometimes the new, and that neither, by itself, is better than the other. I remember that, when we move back and watch from a greater distance, with less investment and involvement, we can see that humans are being human, that we all are innately good, no matter what ideology we cling to, fight for or dig in to defend.
I remember that any step can be the start of a new journey, a new direction, and often, going through intense emotion can put us on that new path. I remember that I am the only one who can give meaning to the events I witness and I can choose what that meaning is.
I remember that, mostly, I’m a good guy, that many people love me and many more at least like me, and that those who don’t have their own issues to deal with just like the rest of us. I remember that I have entertained, educated and influenced a lot of people, many that I don’t even know, and I can continue to do that.
The anger is still there, still burning, but I remember that I can make that anger mean something, whatever something I choose it to mean. This essay is the first evidence of that choice. I suspect there will be more in the very near future.