The United States of Anger

flag-in-mirror

Them!

It feels good to blame “Them”. Those people. The ones over there. It’s their fault. They are the ones that did this to us. If only they weren’t so damn stupid (not us), or ignorant (not us), or misinformed (no, no, not us), we wouldn’t be in this dire situation.

No. We’d be in a different situation with someone else (not us) saying, “Them. Those people. The ones over there. It’s their fault.”

We are staring into a mirror and like someone with a serious case of body dysmorphic disorder we recoil in horror at the image we see within the glass. It mocks us with its reverse gestures. We shout. It shouts. We raise a hand. It raises a hand. We bash on the glass only to discover that like that of the glass ceiling above us it cannot be broken.

So much rage.

I have never known rage to amount to anything but destructive and pointless annihilation. We all know what rage can do to us, and we have all experienced it within our personal spheres. Perhaps it is the rage of a parent, or sibling, or good friend, who tears down the walls of kinship, compassion, and trust. Or perhaps it is our own rage, twisting us in its grip. Have we not all at some point arisen from a moment of abject fury to stare in shock and regret at the destruction we have inflicted on those around us?

It turns out we are all angry. Not just them. Those people. The ones over there. But all of us. Angry at the loss of something we struggle to define. Greatness? Dignity? Decency? Call it what you will, it is something definitively American that we know to have been lost. This week, year, decade? How did we not notice as this integral part of America slipped away?

I am still grappling with what this all means, and what our collective future holds. This country is not what I hoped it was. Most things in life aren’t, and my sadness and disappointment are great. I cannot barricade myself behind my disbelief, however. Any moral high ground I thought I had has evaporated. Instead, I must look this turn of events squarely in the eyes. There is no going back. What is lost is gone forever.

There is a tradition in Judaism after a death. During the mourning period, known as Shiva, the mirrors of a household are covered. This enables those within the home to grieve without having to witness their own reflection, lest they become self-conscious. Such a period of uncensored emotional outpouring is and important first step toward healing.

Perhaps for all our sakes we should keep our mirrors covered for a moment. Those that need to grieve must do so, albeit within reason. Judaism provides one week of unhindered mourning. Seven days and that’s it. Seven days and on you go. Seven days and back to life and all that needs doing.

When we do look in the mirrors again, hopefully we will see that it is merely us peering back, not some maniacal lunatic who wishes us harm. Sure, we’re full of flaws and contradictions, but we are also strong and resilient. We do not let anger get the better of us. We do not succumb to rage. We will recover and find our footing again. And while we can never go back to who we were we can start working towards who we would like to become.

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