The next four years require vigilance, not white-hot rage
If you’re wary about our collective future, get on the bus. You’ve got a lot of company.
But you don’t have to be hopping mad to get your ticket punched. Anger demands energy, and some of us are running a little short right now.
Unhinged fury is what got us in this fix. According to the never-ending autopsy of the November election, it was white anger, rural anger, “ordinary” person anger (with, perhaps, an assist from Vladamir Putin, the merriest prankster on the planet) that fueled the rise of the most improbable president in U.S. history.
This suggests that blind rage does not lead us to make our best decisions.
Yet a lot of us on the (approximate) half of the field that voted The Other Way feel compelled to parade a white-hot anger of our own. The mediasphere is full of righteous rage from people who disinvited relatives from holiday gatherings, un-friended Facebook pals, dropped golfing buddies or quit their book clubs in a surgical removal of Trump voters from their lives.
It’s our turn to be angry. After a decade of being railed against as “elites,” socialists, leftists, P.C. lockstep-marching Beltway insiders, we can snap the leash off a slavering outrage of our own.
I understand this, because there’s a lot to be worried about: potential reversal of hard-earned rights for women, immigrants and minorities; an executive cadre of pampered billionaires entirely devoid of empathy for Americans who work at lousy-paying jobs or can’t afford decent medical care; the bizarre and juvenile communiques with the outside world by Twitter fiat. Trust me, I’m worried, too.
This isn’t to say we can’t, or shouldn’t speak our minds. Meryl Streep’s impassioned address during Sunday’s Golden Globes show has its critics, but she spoke out of dismay, not hatred (nevertheless provoking a response which, by now, is as predictable as poking an angry badger with a stick).
But I can’t work up a constant boiler-full of percolating rage. I’m too tired, too distracted.
One, because I’m spent: We have had a scary, life-threatening emergency illness at our house. On a purely personal level, I just haven’t had the energy that fury requires.
But also, because we cannot continue to equate disagreement with hatred. As a bigmouth newspaper columnist, my political leanings are no secret.
I have had a great deal of support in recent weeks from people who didn’t ask about that stuff, who didn’t care. The medical personnel who saved my husband’s life; the people who used to live down the street who left a miniature Christmas tree at my front door; the across-the-street neighbors who quietly came over and swept the accumulated leaves out of my driveway, the hundreds of readers who sent kind messages — none of them asked who I voted for, and I didn’t ask them, either.
We just can’t afford a competition over who’s the angriest. There is too much else to do — maintaining accountability, making sensible arguments, safeguarding civility and basic rights. And, yes, behaving with human decency to one another.
It’s hard to do that while you’re screaming and slinging drool.
Political considerations are important. They define the society we live in, and the kind of people we want to be. But when they become more important than our obligations as friends, relatives and neighbors, we’re in trouble.
If political affiliations become the most important connections in our lives, then we’re defeating our own most basic goal as Americans: to peacefully coexist in a pluralistic society.
There are too many places on our troubled planet that differences of religion, race, or belief cannot be tolerated without repressive hatred, killing hatred.
Yes, it’s our turn on the outside. Our turn to be vigilant, passionate, earnest, concerned — and often, like Streep, dismayed.
Can we do it without the toxic contamination of unfettered rage? I hope so.
Jacquielynn Floyd is a columnist with the Dallas Morning News. Readers may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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