Anger is a powerful force for change.
That’s what Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach told me yesterday. Well, me and a room full of a few hundred people.
It was a message gratefully received, because good Lord am I angry. I have anger to spare.
The world seems to be on fire — literally, in the case of the UN climate change report — and I am irate. It feels sometimes like anger is impotence, like I am screaming, both mentally and physically, into a void of indifference. Like nothing I can do will change the problems I see all around me.
But sometimes you just need a reminder: your anger is justified, it is not useless, and with it you can change the goddamn world.
We live in a society that values men over women. This is a BIG PROBLEM. It’s a problem that fuels my rage. This problem makes me the Hulk, a rage monster of superhuman size that just wants to smash everything. Every single thing.
I have spoken to men in the last few weeks who quite easily give a man the benefit of the doubt when accused of sexual assault, but refuse to see that in doing so, they deny the woman accusing him that same benefit. I have spoken to men who say they “believe” that the woman was a victim, but that they don’t believe she knows who her assaulter was even though she says she knows it with 100% certainty. These men are fools enough not to be able to see that those two things are mutually exclusive: you cannot believe the woman if you don’t believe the woman. MEN WHO SAY THESE THINGS ARE SEXIST AND MISOGYNISTIC AND I CANNOT FIX THEIR BRAINS AND THAT MAKES ME FULL OF RAGE.
I have spoken to women in the last few weeks who say things like “what was she wearing? what did she expect would happen going off with teenage boys who were drinking?” in reference to a woman being sexually assaulted. WOMEN WHO SAY THESE THINGS ARE BRAINWASHED BY A PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY AND I CANNOT FIX THEIR BRAINS AND THAT MAKES ME FULL OF RAGE.
So instead I turn around and I look at my family to make sure I am raising a generation that knows freaking better. That I have a daughter who knows that she even if she were to walk naked and drunk down Broadway, no one has the right to touch her without her consent because her body is her body. That I have sons who understand that they must respect every. other. body. on. earth. and keep their hands to themselves and that no means no and that they will always, always be the only ones responsible for their actions and nothing anyone else says or wears or does will excuse them if they act wrong. That I have children who know that not all other children will have been taught these things and that it might be up to my children to tell their peers if the things their peers say or do are not okay.
I cannot fix the broken people who believe that victims are to blame for the actions of assaulters, but I can make goddamn sure that my own children will be better than that.
(And I can vote out every last representative who doesn’t support the Equal Rights Amendment, who gives the benefit of the doubt to assaulters instead of victims, and who doesn’t actively and overtly call out and work against the misogyny and sexism inherent in the system. My kids aren’t old enough to vote yet, so they can’t do this. This is my job.)
The world is facing catastrophic climate change in the next decade. This is a BIG PROBLEM– maybe the biggest of all because if we don’t fix this one, the rest won’t matter. Bridget and I were talking about the UN report on climate change and I told her that it said we basically have until 2030 to reverse the course of doom we’re currently on, and even then we can only do it with massive wholesale societal changes worldwide. In 2030 she’ll be 26 years old. This is her life we’re talking about saving, and the lives of her brothers. The lives of any grandchildren I ever hope to have. It seems insurmountable and the reality of it brings a huge heaving wave of anxiety and hopelessness and rage up in my body that I can taste.
But thank god for the sense and rationality of my daughter, who said the best thing to do is just start: we examine what OUR family can do to change any habits we have that might make even the most infinitesimal difference. And then we mention to our friends what we’re doing and maybe they make a few small changes. And maybe it adds up. We start small and we scale. She is smarter than me and maybe a bit naive, but her response gives me a chance to breathe.
(We also vote out every last candidate who doesn’t include as a foundation of their electoral platform a larger-scale plan to address the very real threat we face. But Bridget can’t do that; she’s only 14. That part is my job.)
We live in a country where nearly 100 people die every single day as the result of gun violence. We live in a country with a population of 300M people and an estimated 393M guns in circulation. There are more civilian-owned guns than people in the United States. We live in a country where my children do lockdown drills during school and tell me that they stand near the red dot on the floor because, as Owen says, it’s the place least visible from windows and doors so the shooter wouldn’t have a good line of sight to shoot them, and Quinn adds in that they have to be really, really quiet when they stand there so a shooter can’t hear them. My imagination plays pictures in my mind of bullets ripping through the bodies of my babies in their classrooms and I have to leave the room to take deep breaths and wipe the tears off my cheeks before I continue our conversation.
That there are people who believe that their right to own any weapon they choose supersedes my children’s right to LIVE IN SAFETY fills me with enough blind rage that I know I should never own a firearm myself. So I joined Mom’s Demand Action and I will go to meetings and stand in the State House and host events teaching people how we can respect the second amendment and still create a safer place to live for every person.
(And I will vote out every single elected official who doesn’t have an F-rating from the NRA, and who doesn’t support common sense gun laws that would mean my children don’t have to stand on a red dot and wait to be shot in school. My kids can’t do this yet, but I will do it. And everyone I know will know I am doing it and will know that if they aren’t also doing it, I believe they are actively putting my children in daily danger.)
Since I can remember, I have looked around and wondered why other people weren’t as bothered as I am by the problems all around us. Why everyone isn’t constantly enraged too. I have no memory of not feeling like this and I have absolutely no ability to turn it off. I learned to hide it in order to operate like a normal human in an abnormal world, but all that does is push my rage down inside, it doesn’t extinguish it. I don’t have anxiety over small things, but I have massive anxiety over the big things: the societal problems, the global issues. The things I’m least able to change. I swallowed my rage for decades in order to not seem like a crazy person. But the state of the world has made me realize, along with the thoughtful and inspirational words I hear from women and men who want to create change: my anger is my power. And it’s time to use it.