Tag Archives: rage

Look Back in Anger


Laurie and Debbie say:

It’s been 48 hours or so since the Capitol Building was cleared of domestic terrorists. Thanks to curfews and other factors, we have been spared much of the immediate violent fallout that could have occurred: Black churches and synagogues in DC and other cities suffered no serious harm, and no violent street protests appear to have made much headway.

The voices of our political “leaders” and our self-appointed pundits are loud and constant. All of them are prepared to tell us what the right punishment is for Donald Trump, what the DC police did or didn’t do that they should or shouldn’t have done, who should suffer consequences (and what consequences), etc. Most important, they all want to tell us what’s going to happen next–something no one knows.

We’d rather look at what did happen and offer some thoughts about why.

Even though many women participated in the rampage, and even though the Proud Boys are uncommonly diverse (and uncommonly proud of it) for an all-male far-right neofascist organization, this was basically an explosion of enraged white men. The Proud Boys were by no means the only instigators of Wednesday’s violence.

What are they angry about?

At base, they are angry because they are losing the privilege they believe is their birthright. In the last forty years, they and their fathers have lost a lot of power over women. In the last sixty years, they and their fathers and grandfathers had the opportunity to see what might happen if Black people actually made gains in education, employment, and affluence. They have always been told that they are the only people who deserve status, of wealth, and of power.

Watching what you have been told is your unquestioned birthright slip away from you will make you angry. This anger, by definition, has to be unexamined, because examining it can make it disappear: examined loss of privilege can result in a greater understanding of what you have that other people don’t, and what might be productively shared.

Add the election of Donald Trump to that pile of kindling, and you get a rage bonfire. Trump is a perfect example of the man born with everything and is constantly enraged because he doesn’t believe he has ever had enough, and — say what you like about his intelligence in other contexts — he is uncannily good at speaking to the unexamined rage, inflaming it, and directing it. This explains much about the last four years in the United States.

So he becomes not just a leader and an instigator, but a father and almost a deity to people who feel that he understands them when no one else does. He takes an entrenched American habit of expressing our anger outside our borders and brings it home to lay at the feet of his admirers. Then he loses an election. And, true to form for people whose ascendancy is unchallengeable, he refuses to admit that he lost. He marshals all his incendiary skills to inflame the only people who could conceivably save him …

… and they storm the U.S. Capitol. This is historically unprecedented, and happens in our very visual, news-in-your-eyeballs world. The people who hate, despise, and fear Trump react as if this mob of terrorists, armed with AK-47s, Molotov cocktails, and pipe bombs, has stormed our own houses. And we respond with two emotions: fear and our own rage.

Fear makes it harder to examine rage. Rage, by its nature, resists examination. If it cannot be expressed, it strives to be denied. Nonetheless, quieting our fear and examining our rage is what we must do. Anger denied is powerless; anger expressed without examination is purely destructive. We need only to look to real leaders like Stacey Abrams and Rev. William Barber to see what happens when anger is acknowledged, contained, and directed. Examined anger is effective. And effectiveness, above all else, is what we need right now.

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What Health Care System?

Debbie says:

A close friend of mine is significantly disabled. Among other things, he cannot get out of bed in the morning or back into bed at night without help. For a number of years now, he’s had a lovely woman as his morning attendant. I’ve met her a few times, and easily seen why she’s so valuable to my friend and his household.

She is almost precisely the model of what we claim we want from our citizens in this country: she is hard-working, church-going, and law-abiding. She is also warm, considerate, and thoughtful. When my friend was in the hospital last year, she brought him a Spiderman poster, even though she doesn’t give a damn about Spiderman and probably doesn’t have much of an idea of who the character is. She knows who my friend is, though, after years of getting him out of bed and doing personal tasks for him and household tasks for his family, and she got him something that mattered to him, not to her.

She has health insurance, because the disabled community lobbied so hard to get health insurance for the attendants. And, oh yes, she’s African-American.

Right about the time my friend was in the hospital, she started having very troublesome pain. She’s been in and out of the hospital a couple of times for it, always with unclear diagnoses. My friend and the people around him have continued to feel throughout that time that she wasn’t getting adequate care, and that diagnosis was perfectly possible.

Well, now she’s diagnosed. End-stage terminal cancer; hospice immediately and death to follow soon. I have no way of knowing if it would have been terminal if they’d found it last year, but I sure know that early diagnosis hugely improves cancer prognosis.

Once again. She’s employed (or was until her pain got too bad). She’s insured. She’s noticeably younger than I am. She’s responsible. But, it seems, no one has any responsibility for her.

If we throw people like her out with the trash, no one has any excuse for being surprised when the “trash” washes back up over us and drowns us.