Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Anger and Newtown

I don’t know what to say about the Newtown shooting.  As someone interested in peace, nonviolence, language, and their interconnectedness, I think there’s a lot to be said. But coming up with what that might be is another thing altogether.

Most viscerally, I just find myself angry. Not so much at the predictable parade of conmen, Pharisees, and paranoids who tell us that we need more guns or God or (preferably) both in schools to make things right. They’re just wind-up toys doing what they do.  (I will say, in passing, that I think Sacha Baron Cohen has topped himself with his latest character “Representative Louie Gomert, Republican of Texas,” a masterstroke of satirical social commentary.)

Evolution of a satirist?

I’m not even mad at the shooter. Maybe I should be, but I’m not.  He’s beyond anger at this point, and clearly was disturbed to a degree we cannot fathom.

I do get frustrated with those who I think should know better.  The mom with whom I am (or was) “friends” on Facebook who approvingly reposts a screed about how none of this would happen if parents would just “beat the s*** out of weird withdrawn ungrateful f**ks” like they did back in the good ol’ days.  The parents who think they are protecting their family by bringing guns into their house when statistics show that, regardless of type of gun or storage, a gun is 43 times more likely to kill someone in the house than any intruder.  Those who in arguing for this or that approach to understanding what happened insist on using sloppy thinking, relying on false dilemmas and strawmen.  

But most of all, I get angry at myself.  Angry for being angry.  Angry for gleefully unfriending authors of idiotic posts on Facebook.  Angry at the satisfaction I get in giving the rhetorical back of my hand to nincompoops online with their half-baked theology or social policy.  Angry for allowing myself to become misanthropic.  Angry for allowing myself the grim pleasure of seeing my misanthropy confirmed by the unending parade of ignorance and hate available to us 24/7 through the magic of cable news, talk radio, and the interwebs.  Angry for not fully putting to use the skills I’ve learned from reading folks like Thich Nhat Hanh, Johan Galtung, Marshall Rosenberg, and many others who have helped me begin cobbling together way of thinking about what truly peaceful/nonviolent thinking and communication might look like and be practiced.

And just to add an extra level of perversity that comes with the academic’s love of “going meta,” I get angry at myself for being angry at myself for being angry.  (I’ll wait while you diagram that last sentence to see if it actually says anything.   Done?  Okay!)  After all, why *shoudn’t* I be angry at all these people for all these reasons?  Wouldn’t there be something wrong with me if I weren’t?  And this, inevitably, leads to more self-recrimination, and the lovely cycle continues.

Today, I’m doing my semi-annual “cleaning of the office” after semester’s end.  To keep my brain occupied, I like to play audio or video in the background as I’m sorting and organizing.  Today, one of the things I chose was a “TED Talk” about nonviolence.  The speaker noted that anger can actually be positive, but only if it is channeled correctly.  And this means never at a fellow human being.  One can get angry at things or situations.  That can be appropriate and even helpful.  Becoming furious with people, however, does not have any practical benefit.

Maybe that’s one lesson to be gained from all this.  Be angry at guns.  Get furious with the enculturation of boys to be violent.  Get pissed off at a social system that spends untold billions on criminal incarceration, but comparatively little on helping those with mental or emotional problems, particularly children.  Rage at the power of fear to warp common sense.

But let’s try not to get angry with each other.  Or ourselves, for that matter.  Yes, people say and do all sorts of stupid things, even evil things, but ultimately they do them out of basic human emotions and needs.  The need to feel safe. To feel affirmed. To make sense of a chaotic world. To protect our sense of self. To be loved. 

I’m going to try that approach.  I’ll probably fail.  But I’ll do my best to not get angry with myself when that happens. Instead, I’ll just get up and try again.


1 comment:

  1. Anger is a moral response. But the exacting measure of our humanity is how we wield and transmute it - the legacy we give it in the world. ~ Krista Tippett