On Anger, in Sadness
I am angry. I want to howl, to rage, to hit an old-timey cowboy over the head with a chair. Someone blew a hole in my memories yesterday, desecrating an event that represents the purity of competition and international cooperation, and marking my "other hometown" as a target once again. I don't live in Boston anymore, but the bombing at the Boston Marathon struck home as deeply as if I were still walking those streets. I used to watch the marathon from that very corner, and now I'm pissed.
You've heard of anger, right? It's fear's brawnier twin, the aggressive half of the fight-or-flight instinct. It fills the veins with adrenaline and the muscles with blood, ready to pound any threat into the ground. It also focuses the mind, the better to identify and outsmart any predator. When we are angry, we become the human equivalent of a heat-seeking missile; our mission: seek out and destroy the target.
Of course, that's the problem with my anger right now: I have no target. None of us do. We want someone to blame, and our anger wants to see that person's hide stretched out on the gold roof of the Capitol Building. In fact, I'm not sure that would even be enough. I want a shot at him first, just for five minutes, then someone else can have a turn. When we're all done, then they can have his hide for an awning.
Did I mention that I was pissed?
People will tell you that you shouldn't be angry, that it's not healthy. They will tell you that you shouldn't be angry at whoever did this, but that you should feel sorry for them or try to see things from their point of view. These murderers felt justified in what they did, they had good reasons for it, so all getting angry does is give you ulcers. They will tell you that reasonable people don't get angry, because anger is a primitive emotion that has no place in civilized society.
I say they're wrong.
When good people see a heinous act, anger is an appropriate response. In fact, it's a righteous response. Getting angry at the murder of innocents shows that you understand the difference between good and evil. Explaining it away as a reasoned response to some political situation shows that you have murdered your own conscience on the altar of intellect. In the face of evil, I recommend a good old-fashioned, heart-pumping, fist-shaking rage.
It's what we do with our anger that differentiates us. When the missile is armed and ready to fire, which target will you choose? In the absence of a perpetrator, will you invent a target, a political straw man to beat on for your own purposes? Will you let that anger leak out on your friends, colleagues, and loved ones? Will you go out and find someone who looks like the kind of person who would do this sort of thing and beat the crap out of him? Or will you put that focus and energy to better use?
Now that your mind is focused, what will you set it on? Now that your muscles are strong, what load will you carry?
I want to scream and cry. I want to punch holes in things and destroy private property. I want five minutes, just five minutes, alone with a self-righteous bomber so that I can show him the error of his ways. Instead, I choose to turn toward the light. I choose to love my family fiercely, to protect them from hate, to teach them to love, and to give them the tools to know the difference between the two. I choose to use this energy to make the world better, to focus on the problems before me and provide solutions, to seek opportunities to love and laugh, to fill this world with joy. In so doing, I strike the hardest blow that I can against hate, against fear, and against evil. Just try and stop me.
I am madder than hell, and I will not take this lying down.