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Posts Tagged ‘anger’

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a calm spot before a later storm

It always happens at this particular intersection in Somerville. It’s where I  cross the street to make the final leg of my journey home. It is a one way street with two lanes of traffic, a dedicated bike lane, and a complicated long walk signal. Great for me as a pedestrian. Tough on drivers. I have become used to impatient drivers inching into the crosswalk, hoping they can catch a gap in traffic, so they can make a quick right on red. With an exaggerated sigh, I usually walk behind those cars because at least I know the drivers behind them can see me. Hopefully I can cross the street before the light turns green and everybody hits their gas pedals. A familiar sequence of events. That’s almost what happened yesterday.

There were two cars to the left of me blocking the crosswalk. I stepped behind them. But something was odd. There was a gap in traffic. One of the drivers blocking my path could have taken a right on red. Except she was too busy yelling obscenities at the driver of the car next to her. Now, I’m used to the obscenities flung around by Boston area drivers but this woman’s words were different. They stopped me in the middle of the street.

Time slowed. I scanned the front of the screaming woman’s car. There was no body damage. If the person in the other car had tried to go around her to make a right on red (which happens in that intersection), a simple “F*** you!” would have sufficed, and often does at that intersection. But this woman, a brown woman, chose to shout into the other person’s car, and I’m editing just a bit, “You, wetback, go back to your own country!”

And she kept repeating it, with such vociferous pounding anger that was so out of context to whatever fender bender may have happened, that she had silenced the drivers around her. An unusual feat in Boston. Not a car behind her honked. It was just her voice ringing in the air. I could see the muscles of her jaw as she strained to shout these ugly words at a stranger over and over and over again. That African American was no different than the young white men in Charlottesville carrying the tiki torches. No different. Hate is hate.

Then I became angry.

Sad, too, but mostly angry, and I mean really angry.

I wanted to rush up to that woman and say, “What the hell are you doing? What are you, a black Trump? Do you realize if white supremacist leaders could see you now they’d just sit back with a big smile as you display your stupidity? How dare you give into racism. Don’t you know your own history? Have you no respect for yourself? Why put down another human being that you don’t even know?”

In the end, common sense won out. I remembered that I am not 6’5,” simply 5’3″ and I could tell that the woman was a bit bigger than me. And while I remember just enough of my karate training to probably take her down, to what end? Getting physical would not have ended her ignorance or increased her empathy. Both drivers remained in their cars. No children were in danger that I could see. I had to acknowledge that I was standing in the middle of a street, the light about to turn green, with two cars to the left of me and two cars to the right of me. It would not have deescalated the situation for me to move forward … though clearly my first reaction was not to deescalate anything. The only weapon the woman brandished were words, though she did have that car. She could have backed over me. She was that irrationally enraged.

Time resumed its normal course. The light turned green. The two cars sped off. I finished crossing the street, continued my walk home, my thoughts full of disparagement. Phone calls with family and friends calmed me down. They all brought up “ignorance.” Ignorance is no excuse for such behavior. Just as there is no excuse for racism by anyone toward anyone.

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It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who wrote, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”  His words have been in my head a lot this election year as has his following statement:  “Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up … injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

leaves blowing in the wind

I did not begin the morning thinking of Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.  I began the day thankful after learning, via phone calls and emails, that friends and family across the storm zone were all safe and with power.  But then I accidentally read a blog post.  Actually I skimmed it.  I had almost pressed the like button but there was some phrasing that made me pause.  I slowed down and really read the words before me on the screen.  That’s when the beautifully subtle racism and misogyny of the text became clear.  And I became so sad and so angry.

It was like the post became a flaming match that fell upon the kindling of recent stories about the subtleties of race and voter manipulation (let alone outright voting machine tinkering) in this 2012 election, and of my own experiences with the subtle undercurrent of rising racism and class discrimination and watching  good-hearted people not wanting to talk about it.

I thought of the people I’ve sat quietly beside on recent commutes home, as they’ve talked about how they like the look of Romney and Ryan and don’t like Obama’s look, and then they see me and my brown skin and look away quickly.  I was not angry at them or even necessarily offended.  I simply wanted to ask them, what does a “look” have to do with running a country in a chaotic world?

rain upon the window

I will never tell anyone how to vote.  I will simply say to those in this country who are able to vote, please do and do so with an understanding of who and what you are voting for.  Do more than a skim of the text or a superficial look.  That is what I will try to remind myself anyway.  Okay … tomorrow back to calming words and images.  Be well.

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