A colleague asked me what I thought of the protests, the violence, the looting. I know he was sincere in his logical thinking about these things. He could not understand what it accomplishes. Why people do it.
He has not had a lifetime of frustration, hurt, and heartache that has festered into a seething anger, which many of the oppressed, the marginalized and the outright discriminated against carry in their psyches from day to day.
I hope he never experiences the “why“. It is a burden to carry it, it is like a loaded gun always with you.
I hold my anger from nearly 63 years of bigotry, harassment, and hatred. Some years it has been better, enough to give me hope that our culture is becoming something better – and other years that hope is dashed. I could recite a litany of actions over the years – from being spit on, to being pulled over because I don’t look like I belong in a neighborhood, to being shouted at to go “back to my own country” (I was born here, and am a citizen), pushed and shoved, and called a variety of epithets (none of them even close to being accurate).
Like many others who are different in some way, I carry it, and it sometimes surprises me by surfacing as an irrational fear or worse – by trying to manifest as the behavior I abhor – tempting me to hate, belittle, focus on differences and mock them. But I refuse to become like those who have planted the seeds of anger in me. I will not tend that particular plant in the garden of my soul.
I hold my anger, to keep it in check. I know it sits very close to the surface. I know it especially when there is outrage and the protests get triggered to chaos. I know it is there as I fear for those I know – the husbands, wives, and children of people who share these experiences.
I know in my heart of hearts that the violence and chaos will not solve anything, that it hurts more innocent lives who will have the seeds of hatred sown in them if they did not have them already. I know it will only create more of what we protest against.
I also know, it calls to me. Seductively promising a release, promising satisfaction; if only I would break something, shed some blood, hit something/someone, if only I would join in the mob – then the anger would be unleashed, then it promises to go away…
But I know it would not really go away. It will be coupled with a strong ally – guilt. And then I would carry two burdens.
No. I choose to hold my anger. I try not to feed it or nurture it. I refuse to become like those who planted the seeds with their hatred and ignorance. After all, this is my understanding of free will… you get to choose. I get to choose. Not always the circumstances, but how I will respond to those circumstances.
And so I choose to hold my anger, not because I cannot put it down, but in case I may need it someday. Anger can make you brave sometimes…and I want to be able to be brave if and when I choose to act. And choice is the key.