Defeating Anger’s Takeover

Thoreau found the presence of slavery in Massachusetts depleting his spirit. He could hardly enjoy his woodland walks. He wrote marvelously eloquent essays that display his focused indignation. But anger can be destructive, as he knew.

I’ve found the news cycle’s focus on the petulant and dangerous president-to-be spiritually debilitating.  But what is to be done?

It’s hard to take one’s eyes off a melee happening in the street in front of the house. When brawls break out we can hardly not watch, but we also want to flee. Or perhaps join in, on one side or the other. Or try to break it up. I suspect many of us undergo ever-recycling, energy-depleting flight-fight responses to Trump’s non-stop sensational and gleefully reported fist-fights and brawls.  Like all tough guys craving attention, he loves a fight, and picks them daily. But brawling back is a dead end.

In a personal vein, I asked myself what could break the ugly spell of these brawls. Then I came upon some good news, and knew I had found an answer: find and retain focus on good news. Stuff like this:

  • Ministers and lay citizens are vowing to register as Muslims if a registry is put in place: I find that news calming.
  • My neighbor knows many women through her knitting groups;every one of them is going either to the woman’s march in Washington, or to a local march protesting the inauguration.
  • Women over 60 are knitting pink “pussy caps” in defiance of “pussy-grabber.”
  • Churches are researching how to respond to policies (economic, health-care-related, educational, and anti-immigrant) at the local level by 1) knowing in advance what impacts various Washington-based policies will have locally; 2) mapping out ways to resist or evade changes that have negative impact.
  • There will be a dearth of ‘performers’ for the inauguration: those refusing to perform should be lauded – and we should laud Merrill Streep and others who graciously resist.
  • Proliferation of Xmas-light hearts and small heart posters are all over my  part of Portland — a gentle but strong way to say love trumps hate.
  • Elizabeth Warren: “The people of Massachusetts didn’t send me to Washington to roll over and play dead while Donald Trump and his team of billionaires, bigots, and Wall Street bankers crush the working people of our Commonwealth and this country:. This is no time to quit.”
  •  Republicans –some — are standing apart from Trump’s ill-informed, petulant bellicosity, on one issue or another. Remember their resistance.

Such good news can break the dead-end cycles of impotent anger.

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6 comments on “Defeating Anger’s Takeover

  1. Andrew Brown says:

    I was encouraged to read your words from the other side of the Atlantic where we, too, are beginning to wake up to the realisation that we must develop an ethics of commitment and a politics of resistance.

    • efmooney says:

      Thanks, Andrew. Just ran across these words from Martin Luther King who will be celebrated by many (unfortunately, not all) this coming Monday. He spoke Dec. 5, 1955:

      “This is the glory of America, with all of its faults. This is the glory of our democracy. . . . If we were dropped in the dungeon of a totalitarian regime, we couldn’t do this. But the great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right. . . . And we are not wrong; we are not wrong in what we are doing. . . . If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer that never came down to Earth. If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning. And we are determined . . . to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

  2. Andrew Brown says:

    Thanks for this quote which resonates with me for a reason other than the obvious and powerful content of its message. Right at this moment I’m doing some thinking (that’s turning up in my own Sunday addresses at the Unitarian Church in Cambridge UK) about how it is often not abstract liberal and progressive values, purposes and principles (wonderful thought they may be) that gift us with the deep, motivational passion to commit ourselves to them but, instead, a recognisable, single human face, like the great Dr. King, someone who is DOING them (either right now before us and whether in present fact or memory). It seems to me that Emanuel Levinas says much of worth on this matter that I think would be of great help to us as we all try to figure out how best to develop and nurture the right kind of power that can effectively resist the totalitarian tendencies that, alas, seem to be emerging into the light of day.

  3. efmooney says:

    A very good friend writes: ” We are in tough times, lots of brawls, and the best way to end brawls is to not brawl back in reaction.”

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