Channeling my rage

It’s not hard to be angry these days. Look around. There’s plenty to be upset about.
Since watching the news unfold on November 8, I’ve kind of been in a haze. I honestly can’t believe Donald Trump is actually the president. There are just so many bad things happening politically I can’t take it all in. And it’s only been one week since the inauguration.

I feel like I literally can’t process reality. I don’t want to watch or read the news, but I can’t stop watching and reading the news. Seems like we are stuck in some sort of Groundhog Day-style tsunami that just keeps hitting us over and over and over again. I need a break.

It’s been difficult for me to express my feelings accurately because I just get so wound up about it. Right now, I’ve probably got about five different blog posts started but not finished. Once I start writing, my head feels like it’s going to start spinning around and fly off. I keep getting stuck. A sort of mental numbness sets in, and I end up staring at the screen blankly for a while before giving up.

Since public education is a very important issue for me, this new reality has me feeling very nervous and angry about the future of public education. Nervous because it seems Trump wants to destroy public education. And angry because he nominated Betsy DeVos to help him do exactly that as the next Secretary of Education. There is probably no one more unqualified to be SOE than she is. And the outcry against her nomination has been strong and loud, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference to my own Senator, Lamar Alexander. He conveniently ignores all the voices around him telling him he’s wrong about DeVos and lets his voicemail fill up so he can’t be reached. It’s incredibly frustrating.

***

One reason I’ve felt so angry is because I feel hopeless, like I can’t do anything about it. But once you figure out who exactly you’re mad at, then you can start getting stuff done. But it’s hard sometimes to figure that out. Who is to blame?

As a (former) teacher, there’s plenty of frustration. One of the schools where I taught had a paper problem. As in, there was not enough printer paper. Sadly, this is a common problem for teachers. Cuz you know, teachers make a lot of copies. A lot. Anyway, my principal had had enough one day when we wouldn’t stop making copies, so he took all the remaining paper into his office. We had to go see him when we wanted paper. And it wasn’t simple, like I need a ream of paperOf course! Here you go! No. It was an interrogation. I need a ream of paper. For what? How many pieces do you need? Why do you need to make copies of this? And then, he’d grab approximately the amount of paper you need. And if you needed 56 pieces of paper but only received 52 pieces? Oh well. This was beyond frustrating. Many teachers added computer paper to their already lengthy school supply shopping list just to avoid having to explain every little thing to the paper nazi principal. I hated going to see him about paper.

But when I think about it now, I wonder if I was mad at the wrong person. He didn’t control how much paper we were alloted from the school district. He was coming up with a solution – albeit a crappy one – for how to deal with the fact that we didn’t have enough money for paper. And who controlled that, exactly? Because that is where our anger should have been directed.

Anger without action is just complaining. And complaining leads nowhere. Action means that you can channel that rage or anger into an actual solution. But it requires a thorough understanding of the problem. It requires objectivity. And when you’re pissed off at something, being objective can be a real challenge.

If you’re mad as a teacher about budget cuts, who is responsible? Why did those decisions get made? What can be done about it? How? Who do you talk to?

Now go bigger. As a parent, I’m upset that there is so much emphasis on test scores. Who do I talk to? What can be done?

Figuring out who to talk to is complicated sometimes. Is this a problem that stems from the classroom level? Talk to the teacher. Is this a school policy? Talk to the principal. But bigger issues aren’t so simple. Is this a district policy? Talk to the district… but who exactly?

Or is this a state law? Talk to the state lawmakers, starting with your local representative. Is this a national law? Talk to your members of Congress, if you can. Find groups that support and fight for the same cause(s) you do, and join them.

The bigger the problem, the harder it can be to reach someone or to find out exactly how to get done what you’d like to get done. But our voices matter.

This is what makes advocacy and activism so challenging. It’s easy to complain about what is wrong. I can do that for hours on end if given the opportunity. But it’s hard to take the next step and ask So what do we do to fix this? And it’s even harder to follow through with that.

***

Since the new year began, I’ve slowly started to feel inspired about taking action. Like maybe there’s some hope to temper my anger and feelings of hopelessness about everything that’s happening.

I read the Indivisible guide. Then I heard about the Women’s March in Washington and wanted to go but couldn’t make the trip to DC. But Nashville was having a Sister March, so I made plans to go. I was already part of several statewide educational advocacy groups, and we started organizing for the upcoming legislative session here in Tennessee.

Slowly but surely, I was working through my anger and starting to take action. It felt good.

My first protest sign

Then, on January 20, after I listened to Trump’s speech and was disgusted, I made my protest sign to take to the Women’s March in Nashville the next day. I’d never participated in an event like this, but I knew I had to be a part of it.

With at least 15,000 other people in Nashville, I marched with friends and allies. For the first time in months, I felt hope. Inspiration. Joy, even. To be honest, I felt proud to be an American as I marched. I looked around and saw people coming together because they love this country and want to see us united around American ideals of equality, justice, and freedom. It was beautiful.

And yet there are those who still don’t understand why millions around the world marched that day. Here’s a beautifully-written explanation (thanks to a Facebook post crediting Rabbi Toba Schaller):

To those who are confused or surprised about why millions of people showed up to protest. . .

Women are marching because our children deserve a secretary of education that cares about education.

Women are marching because our family and friends deserve healthcare. Did you know that before the ACA, newborns in the NICU would hit their lifetime caps on health insurance coverage? That’s right, babies who had never felt the sun on their skin could no longer get health insurance.

Women are marching because domestic violence crisis centers and after school programs deserve funding.

Women are marching because we deserve clean air, clean water, and national parks.

Women are marching because we believe the children protected by the DREAM act deserve to be here and they deserve to live with their parents, not in orphanages and foster homes.

And most of all, women are marching because we have the right to. The right to protest and speak out against our government is the first amendment. That’s right, #1! It is one of our most fundamental American rights.

Saying that we’re whining, throwing temper tantrums, or that we’re immature, or that we need to get over it will not stop us. It will not stop us from fighting for you. And we are fighting for you because you deserve these rights too.

We’re not marching because Trump won.

We’re marching because he wants to take all of the things that we hold dear away. All of the things that we’ve been fighting for for generations.

And we’re not giving up easily.

Anyone who thinks we’re marching because we lost just simply isn’t listening. We’re fighting because we refuse to lose more.

– Rabbi Toba Schaller

Then, yesterday, at Senator Lamar Alexander’s office in Nashville, hundreds of people showed up in the cold to protest the DeVos nomination (see here, here, and here as well). Again, I felt the same hope and inspiration I had at the Women’s March.

Just tonight, my neighbor invited me over so we could write out our postcards to our very own Tennessee Senators. We had no problem expressing our frustration to them.

I’m not alone in my anger and frustration and fear. There are millions of people who feel the same way. And the further we get into a Trump presidency, the more visible the path for resistance becomes.

That anger will get turned into action and will fuel us for the next four years.

Americans are rising up. We are standing up against alternative facts, hatred, intolerance, and injustice. We are determined not to let evil win. We will resist. We will overcome.

Onward.

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