What I’ve Learned About Outrage
There’s a lot to be outraged about. But when my anger is visited on people close to me, something needs to change.
One boy followed me. I was peeved and shouted at him to stop, at which point he called me a fucking bitch. I lost it again, and started shouting at him and the bemused boys around him, asking how they could be friends with racists. This was obviously an ill-judged move. Kids of that age were not going to turn on each other, and yelling at them didn’t make me feel more mature.
I took off angrily and caught up at the next light with the other adult cyclist, who’d managed to pass through the group of kids amidst the confusion. I was outraged at him, and outraged at the boys. It was a familiar feeling.
I understand the communal venting and sharing effect of lots of people expressing similar feelings in different outlets—it helps to establish a community of shared opinion and a groundswell for change. Besides, talking doesn’t need to be productive to be worthwhile. But at some point, this starts to feel almost like a perverse aesthetic enjoyment in wallowing for its own sake. Of course the latest immigration policy is a travesty. Obviously the president’s most recent tweet is sickening. Repeated viewing and sharing of traumatic details aren’t always necessary for understanding. I’ve already heard about the deeply disturbing habit of the latest news anchor exposed for sexual assault; I don’t need to go over and over it in ghoulish detail.
I have to be okay with not being able to participate in every conversation about a Twitter-based provocation. I have to recognize the habit I have of turning feelings of helplessness (my mother had been recently diagnosed with cancer) into outrage at others (the boys in the tunnel).
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I whisper to my great-grandmother a burden I’d like lifted, one she might take to the next world with her.