Hope, Anger, Courage
After yet another of the worst weeks of my life, I’m feeling battered and overwhelmed as usual yet something new is being added to the mixed-up mix. It took me a while to figure out that what’s new is a new kind of hope. I was recently reminded of a quote from Augustine of Hippo:
“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
That is the kind of hope I can feel moving in my being right now. I may never have been quite this angry before, partly because I’ve never been as enormously, electrically aware of the way rich old mostly white guys enjoy abusing their power and privileges. Their malignant glee in harming people they scorn radiates true evil as well as short sighted stupidity. It’s becoming clear as various members of the current regime spill their revolting confessions that causing harm to innocent people and to the earth is a deliberate policy of this regime. Keeping progressives upset day after day, month after month, year after year is an effective tactic. It leaves us weary and overwhelmed, since responding to so many damaging, malicious actions dilutes our ability to act.
A New Anger
As a different kind of anger develops in me, I’m realizing that my previous angers have been immature and crippled. I hadn’t really believed that I have true agency, a real ability to affect outcomes and bring about positive change. As the Me Too movement continues to expose countless instances of sexual abuse, millions of women are coming to terms with our own experiences. Speaking truth and being heard, acknowledged, and honored begins a deep healing that can unleash our chained up power. It’s disconcerting to realize that if I wasn’t the one who put those chains in place, I’ve been the one who replaced them many, many times. As I’ve pondered my own past, I am seeing with new, clear eyes how I grew up blind to my own power. Indeed, having rarely seen power used benignly, I resented and feared all power, including my own.
I’ll be turning 67 next month, an age that has traditionally been considered well past the power point. Ironically, I’m feeling stronger, clearer, and wiser than ever before. I’m also more compassionate, even as I’m becoming angrier by the day. Perhaps it’s that balance that makes this new anger feel more potent; I no longer experience myself as a helpless victim. Uncovering seemingly endless memories is both painful and enriching. Allowing hurtful, ugly, humiliating memories to have their moment in the sun of my own loving acknowledgement and acceptance is surprisingly healing because I feel myself gaining the power I set aside so many times.
Identify The Resistance
A recent NYT Op-Ed by Michelle Alexander entitled ‘We Are Not The Resistance’ points out that members of the current regime are doing all they can to stall and stop and frustrate the revolutionary America that wants everyone to enjoy freedom, liberty and social and economic justice. Resistance movements are usually small and covert, working in stealth against unjust regimes. Today in America, an unjust regime is working in plain sight against our country and the American people, against the world and all people of conscience and goodwill. Most Americans genuinely want to participate in the America Alexander posits; “A new nation is struggling to be born, a multiracial, multiethnic, multifaith, egalitarian democracy in which every life and every voice truly matters.”
We can’t build that nation together unless we ARE together. Remember? A house divided cannot stand. A nation divided cannot stand. Part of what makes us so vulnerable to takeover is the erosion of community in small towns and cities alike. If we are ever to find reconciliation as a nation, we all have to help mend the rifts and divisions that are splintering us into ever smaller groups. Remember, that’s deliberate; tribalism is as divisive as community is unifying. Our most powerful protest may be to refuse to be polarized, choosing instead to connect and reconnect, reweaving social rents and tears with the strong cords of community.
Courage To Change
Though Courage is Anger’s sister, she is not necessarily angry herself. It’s difficult to create positive change when anger is our favorite tool, and anger is stoked by failure, not success. Most humans change most readily when they feel loved and supported. My inner Sister Courage is cheerful and helpful, friendly and positive, and implacably committed to finding constructive, inclusive ways to move forward. Yes, that’s also difficult, but Sister Courage and Sister Change are both recharged by success, not failure.
As Martin Luther King assured us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Sister Courage refuses to take the slippery slide into darkness and despair. Today I’m holding her hand and walking out of my own shadows into the light of truthful day. It’s painful but it’s worth it; wounds that fester in darkness can heal when exposed to light and air.
All over the world, women who have experienced abuse make up a majority of every population (and always have). Right now, it’s tempting to feel that speaking out isn’t an effective tool for making change, since our anguished cries are falling on deliberately deaf ears. That’s not new, but in fact, what’s happening IS new; as women speak out, our sisterhood is uniting us. As we all speak out, decent, compassionate, kind men are uniting as well. When we join in universal community, our deepest desire is not for revenge but for reconciliation that leads us all out of the cesspool of patriarchy into a better future. Not perfect. But better.
Thank you Ann. It is so hard to deal with this. We are not old enough to have lived through the McCarthy era, but this country has survived before and good will triumph in the end. Right now, I feel that the most constructive thing I can do is make sure people are registered to vote and get out there and do it! Other people have other ways of “doing something” and as long as it is with love and an open heart, that is good. I live in a community that is fairly right wing. But, there is still a lot of room for doing good, helping others, and focusing on making our communities strong. I may never convince anybody to vote my way, but at least I have left the world a better place around me. If we all do this, the divisiveness will melt away.
Thank you from an 80 year old who was never equipped with the tools to deal with abuse. We were taught to be submissive. I can guarantee you there are millions of us out there who have been abused but we never told anyone because of the shame and the fact that it was something you just didn’t do. You lived with it and tried to get on with your life. But, and I would like Susan Collins to know this, you NEVER forget the face and name (if you knew it) of the person who abused you. You may not remember the exact date but you will remember that face for the rest of your life. I am sickened by what has happened to our country under this administration but take great pride in the resistance it has subsequently birthed. We will overcome if we do not weaken and lose our focus.
Patricia, you are absolutely right about remembering exactly who our abusers are; those faces are burned into our memories. And yes, millions of women never told anyone and millions of women told and were ignored, denied, rebuffed, shamed and blamed. Now we are not accepting that anymore. This slap in our faces is making all people of conscience willing to speak up and willing to support each other. It’s about time.
Wow you said what I could not articulate. Would you mind if I shared on social media if I attribute your name? Thanks so much. Love your garden sensibility and your philosophy.
Sure, best way to share is to post the link to the blog (the specific post) on your social media platform. Glad it spoke to you too!
Wonderful and powerful words! This personally resonates with me because I too find that as I grow older I am growing and learning and feel more invigorated than ever before. One thing that I find missing though is the acknowledgement that the white men that are in power are put there by many many white women, our sisters and mothers and aunties and friends. I am beginning to realize that I am complicit in the atrocities that I see if I do not speak to my family, friends and aquaintences. It is hard for me to get ahead of the apathy that tells me to do nothing because it’s too big of a task or my voice won’t matter or the consequences of speaking out will harm me in some way. But I have to and I think we all do. Thank you for writing your truth, it is inspiring.
Thank you for this wonderful blog on “the light!” We all need reminding that this is how we see our way forward and to do something that will have a positive affect in these sad times.
I forwarded it onto my daughters and sisters along with some dear friends.
Thank you for saying it beautifully.
Oh Ann, I’ve loved your writing since I picked up a copy of your first book many years ago. You continue to amaze me with your gift and this post is simply gorgeous! Reconciliation and rebuilding community are, indeed the next steps toward healing.
Anne, Just read this piece on light today and thought, “Ann is writing her own form of literature for all of us who feel a similar despair. ” I then ran across this quote from Susan Sontag ‘s notes from 1965 on literature that somehow seemed something I should share with you (undated loose sheets, 1965): John Dewey — ‘The ultimate function of literature is to appreciate the world, sometimes indignantly, sometimes sorrowfully, but best of all to praise when it is luckily possible.’ I do feel you lead us to find the things to praise, always, while accompanying us along the rockier portions of the path. Thank you sharing your thoughts so generously, dear friend.