“I just don’t want to be angry for the next four years…” my husband responds to my ranting. I’ve spent a good part of the ride swirling with shaking fists and an elevated voice. “Well I do want to be angry,” I shoot back, “and you should too.” We spend the next ten minutes in tense silence above the sound of the road rolling beneath our car, the air punctuated by the squealing windshield wipers against cold glass. Dirty snow is pushed up against the sides of two-lane road. We’re late to church.
I am heartbroken. My heart breaks for those who have been marginalized, cast away and stepped on. My heart breaks for our black brothers and sisters, our homeless, our Muslim families, our women, our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters who reach our borders seeking asylum. For those misunderstood, those stereotyped and limited by society. Those whose lives have been taken and contorted into a narrative that pits us against them.
This year, I feel this heartbreak blossom into anger. Why does this happen, how is this perpetuated, why is this system so broken? What can I do? The recent political events in our nation have been, in a generous term, a catalyst. Many of us are alert, equipped and most notably, angry.
I used to think anger was a bad thing. I thought it was a part of the emotional spectrum we shouldn’t touch or look at. But, in the last year, I’ve been seeing the beauty that anger embodies. Anger pulls us up by our bones, shakes us of our apathy and focuses us. Anger gives us the courage to protect what we love, to stand up for what we believe in. I understand now why anger is love activated.
When my blood pressure finally begins to drop, I try to understand where my husband is coming from. Fortunately, I love him enough to remember that he’s compassionate, smart, level-headed and gentle — even when our political leanings are different. I put a pot of water on and place a bundle of red peony in the center. Turning off the heat, I watch steam dance on the surface of the darkening water. I sit down and drink in the aroma; I follow the warmth on my tongue, down to my throat and into my stomach. It is quietly sweet, carefully robust.
Taking time to reflect, I know what my husband means when he says he doesn’t want to stay angry. We have all at one point or the other experienced a sort of fatigue that comes from the emotional ranting that reverberates across our respective social media feeds. Within the first month of 2017, there have been countless news articles and videos and marches and boycotts… there is a lot to be fired up about. And for good reason. Our nation is divided, disappointed and outraged. If this is just the beginning, how can this be sustainable?
I pour my husband a glass of Red Peony and set it on his desk. On his screen is a video of recent news reports explaining the recent ban regarding refugees and Muslims. He turns to me and says, “I’m so mad… this isn’t right.” I respond with a sigh.
I’m still learning, and I’m far from the answer… but I am starting to see the importance of a delicate balance with anger. If left unbridled, anger quickly escalates to blind rage and shouting matches that perpetuate brokenness. Alternatively, if we stifle anger, it’s easy to become deaf to the cries of injustice.
I’m not a lawyer or a politician… I’m just a woman who works at a tech company in a small town in PA. Many times, I feel paralyzed and frustrated. I have all these emotions, but I can’t go stand at airports or march in a big city. I don’t know much about policy or politics… But, I do have a voice and I have internet. With a quick search, there are countless resources online from people who are knowledgeable of these things. I can learn how to support local government, reach out to representatives, find ways to give what I can. Recently, I found out that many companies will match their employee’s charitable donations (so cool!) Talk to people, take time to listen.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
- Heidi Kwon