Anger and Love, Love and Anger

For me, this year has been about anger.

From the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade to the recent murder of Casey Goodson and another as yet unnamed black man in Ohio.

Over 300,000 people in the United States have died over the course of nine months from COVID. A disproportionate number of those were people of color.

Police have been beating, macing and arresting protesters all year.

My students – many of whom don’t believe COVID is serious – have repeatedly gotten COVID and reported long-term impacts.

My uncle died in the spring.

I think that if I start crying, I might never stop. So, I am angry instead.

I am angry that people still believe the way to “fix the police” is by shoving more money at them.

In Ohio, Casey Goodson was murdered on his way home from the dentist. In response, the sheriff’s department received $2.5 million dollars. The lesson here is clearly: “murder a black person and receive more funding.”

The New York Times published a report that claims the NYPD were “unprepared” for the uprising after George Floyd’s murder. But of course, the police were prepared. They did their jobs exactly, because the job of the police is to use force to cow the populace into complacency – to maintain the status quo. “Be good or we’ll shoot you.” Or more often “Be white or we’ll shoot you.”

The police aren’t broken. They are doing exactly what’s on the label. It’s just that “serve and protect” refers to capital and not to human beings.

This is true, too, of our government as a whole. It has been since the creation of the Constitution by white male land-owners dedicated to protecting their money.

In moving to Idaho, I knew I would be isolating myself from my friends and my community. I was prepared for this intellectually is not psychologically. I have felt absolutely useless since moving here. The few protests I attended in the summer were ineffectual at best and damaging at worst. (At the one I attended in Moscow, the organizer, a white man, said “I don’t support defunding the police. I think they need more training.”)

I know that so much of what is needed is simply for me to shut up and send money and I have been, but sending money doesn’t do anything about this anger. Lacking a physical community in which to work has sublimated my rage and forced it inward.

I haven’t written for the past few months because I’ve been too angry for words. Instead, I’ve had a series of violent and disturbing dreams where my sublimated anger duked it out in my subconscious. Needless to say this has disrupted my sleep and made it even more difficult to work towards anything concrete.

When I was a kid, my anger got me into trouble all the time. I was angry because so much of my life seemed out of my control and I directed this anger in all the wrong places – most specifically at my younger brother. This helped nothing and only made me feel guilty and horrible and so for a long time I shunned anger in all its forms and became as passive as possible.

Now as an adult, I’ve learned that anger can help fuel action but only if it doesn’t choke you out first.

Luckily, I have the words of much more intelligent people to guide me back from this anger. bell hooks in her speech “Love as the Practice of Freedom” said, “The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others.”

This is not to say that anger and love are antithetical – they are in fact two sides of one coin. It is because I care about my community that I am angry. It is because I love justice that I am enraged. But it is important for me as an individual to remember why I am angry. I am angry because I am grieving for the people I love.

And in this recognition, I can find my way back to action, back to positive movement and the hope of joining with the community rather than suffering alone.

To be quite honest, I am still sitting with my rage right now. I may do so for a while longer, but simply having the road map back is powerful, and I hope in 2021 that I can use my anger rather than my anger using me.

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