Lately, I’ve felt this gut ripping anger. It starts building slowly and eventually piles up. I feel it boiling through my heart and mind. It is toxic and poisonous, all anger is. I can feel it creep up and whisper violent thoughts into my ears. It flushes across my face and makes me want to howl and scream. It enrages me.
I’ve tried to keep the anger at bay. I breathe deeply and expel it from my body. I can’t let it keep eating at me, or I will lose to that anger. It is powerful. It is blind. It is ignorant. It is infectious. It has already consumed so many people. If I let it take me, I just add to that epidemic. I become just another howler monkey spreading the toxic rage. I become a contributor to the downfall of humanity.
For a long while now, I’ve noticed an increasingly dangerous divide in the people around me. It is a mirror of the same divide that is happening across my entire nation. These are not politicians, lobbyists, or talking heads, though. These are the friends and family that I love. I love and respect all of them, and I know that once upon a time, they loved and respected each other, as well.
Then, the anger and rage took them. The ignorance. The Hate.
I think I know what is causing it. In the unforgettably wise words of Master Yoda, “Fear leads to Anger.”
Everyone is afraid.
Not everyone can express why they are afraid, but we all are. All of us. We all have our own personal fears.
For me, it is a combination of completely hallucinatory mental constructs and a deep-seeded, overpowering need for respect. I am desperately afraid that I am unworthy of respect and at the same time yearn for that respect more than anything in the world.
I am afraid that I will die alone. I am afraid that I really am insignificant. I am afraid that in the face of the rage and hatred I see around me, I am powerless. I am afraid that I will spend the rest of my life watching the ideas and hopes that I cherish die.
Some of the people I love are afraid that the way of life they know, the way of life that stables them in a chaotic world is dying. They are afraid that everything they know is going to be lost. They are afraid they are losing their culture, their identity. They might be right.
Some of the people I love are afraid that who they are, the way they were born, makes them a cast-off. They are afraid that they will never be allowed to have a life of normalcy simply by virtue of who they are. They are afraid that they will never be able to live the life they were raised to want. They want families. They want a home in the suburbs to raise their kids. They want the American dream. They are afraid that they will never be able to achieve that because of who and what they are.
Some of the people I love are just afraid. Their fear is unnamed. They see the world as an angry, dark place that is coming for them. They fear an unknowable future. They are afraid of the ripples in the pond with each stone thrown in. It is forever changed and they are afraid of that change.
Years ago, I was playing a video game with my older brother. There are choices you get to make at the beginning of the game based on your personality and how you want to play. One of the choices is a shield. It represents a desire to protect and defend everyone and everything you love. When I picked the shield, my brother, Josh, turned to me and said, “I knew you’d pick that. You’re one of those people.”
I am one of those people.
My biggest wish is to protect the people I love. I want to shelter them from their fear. I want to stand between them and the anger and rage. I want to be brave in the face of overwhelming hate. I want to be their shield.
I’m not a great shield. I’m soft. I’m squishy. I’m meaty. I am more afraid now than I have ever been before. I’m no one’s guardian angel.
So, I go looking for the real shields. I look for the real guardians of society. I look for wisdom, strength, valor and truth. I look for those that can move beyond their own preconceptions and move past their own anger. I search for the ones that have taken the burden of enlightenment on themselves.
I seek to learn to be a better version of me.
I get disheartened when I see the people I love attacking each other over ideology. I hate when I see someone I love assume that someone else I love is less than them because of a notion, an idea.
I hear about how our society is collapsing. I read people who are much smarter than myself blame one issue or another. I watch where people turn to find guidance and hope. I get an excited elation when they find a positive, re-enforcing force of hope and joy and a twisted convulsion when it seems they’ve only found more anger and fear.
I’m not a great man. I’m not a world leader. I’m not a scholar. I’m not enlightened. I’m not even particularly smart.
I can’t make decisions for anyone but myself.
The decision I am making for me seems simple and comes from somewhere deep inside me.
I’m not going to fuel fear or anger. I refuse to be used to create conflict and hate. I believe that this world can and should be better. I believe that there is a reason humanity continues to grow and learn. We are becoming better.
From now on, instead of letting my fear, anger and outrage take control of my words, I’m going to ask myself why I am afraid. I’m going to ask myself why someone else might be afraid and angry.
Words are a double-edged sword. I’ve spent my life filled with fear and anger, sharpening and honing the edge of the sword facing my enemy. I have always used words as a weapon.
Now, I intend to dedicate myself to learning to use the other edge. I intend to use those words to cut through the fear, anger and hate to find the truth.
I’m not a great man. I’m a pretty crappy one, actually. I don’t think I will always remember to find the truth behind the anger. I don’t think I’ll always be effective.
But I will always try. That is the best any of us can really do.