Enraged | Enlightened | Educated | Engaged
Since the November election, I’ve had a lot of time to think, write and rage about the outcome, all in an attempt to reconcile with the unthinkable. Last Saturday I participated in the #WomensMarch in Denver, and for the first time since November, the fog that had consumed me began to lift, if only slightly.
I started this journey enraged and was pretty open about it. Never before in my life has a single Presidential Candidate been as much of a direct threat to lives and welfare people I love. I am a 1/2 black male raised by a single mother, my wife and her family are Muslim, my kids and many of my dearest friends identify as LGBT, and through his campaign rhetoric, Donald Trump took aim at all of them.
This wasn’t like being upset that Alabama didn’t win the National Championship or that the Broncos failed to make the playoffs. This was a deep, deep anger, fueled by fear for the future of our country and a painful realization of realities surrounding race, sexism and culture I had successfully ignored for more than three decades.
There is a battle going on inside of me, like the two wolves in the Cherokee story — a battle between being enraged and being enlightened, with a heavy slant towards being enraged.
Now as a pseudo-practicing Buddhist, I strive for enlightenment whenever possible. I tend to be slow to judgement, rarely rash, and surprisingly quiet on most matters. I look for the best in people, and on some level trust they are good at heart, despite a strong cynical streak at my core. I don’t want my anger to consume this part of me.
As the fog began to lift I remembered watching Van Jones’, interview on the Daily Show in December where he said “we have to have a more nuanced view of people” who voted for Trump. I have tremendous respect for Van, and while part of me was “Come on man!” part of me also knew he was right.
Despite the number of arguments I had gotten into, I was painfully aware of a knowledge gap I had regarding the views of those who supported Trump. But beyond that, I had clear understanding that, without educating myself on the issues, my words would just contribute to the noise and contribute nothing to stop the battle of ignorance.
The #WomensMarch in Denver was the first rally I had been to since 1999, when I attended an anti-gun rally at the state capital after Columbine. Suddenly, in the midst of all the shit I had been feeling, I found some hope. Being in that crowd of men, women, children and dogs, and feeling a determination fueled less by anger or fear, and more by a clear understanding that, while we may not know what the future holds, we will take action, we will take a stand, we will make our voices heard and we are not alone. In that setting we were legion. We were many and it was powerful.
But afterwards I was afraid. The experience had been tangible, and what also lingered after was a sense of “great, over 3 million people world wide marched, but what does that really mean?”
For a while I felt I needed to suppress the fact that I was enraged. I’d apologize for my outbursts to people, avoided situations all together and refused to defriend people out of fear of appearing petty (I’ve gotten over that by the way and a purge is coming). But if I’m to stand for my family, for the women in my life, for my LGBT friends or anyone who needs support, strength or a voice. Whether you are a man, a woman, a child, a Muslim, Hispanic, a refugee or just fucking scared — if I’m to be of any value, there are some things I need to be.
I need to Be Enraged, it’s the only way action is taken. My daughter and I were talking about this earlier. We do not act when we are content, we do not act when we are comfortable, we do not act when we are happy, hell we don’t even act when we are ‘meh.’ I need my rage and I need that rage to burn so hot that sitting by and hoping for the best is not an option.
I need to Be Enlightened to see the nuance in people and issues Van Jones speaks of. I need to be enlightened so that rage and despair doesn’t consume me. I need to be enlightened to be balanced. Being Enlightened doesn’t mean sitting idly by in a lotus position humming. It means I will engage in open and constructive dialog as long as it is reciprocated, and I will call out injustice where I see it and if any line of decency is crossed, I will call it for what it is and I will cut cancer of of my life quickly and ruthlessly.
I need to Be Educated. Now more than ever, when click bait draws our attention to what we think is truth written in headlines without delving any deeper I cannot overstate the need to be educated. I am guilty of reposting an article based on the headline without reading it or even seeing where it is from. But that’s not being educated. That reinforces ignorance, adds to the noise and it doesn’t help. Ignorance will dominate if we do not take personal accountability to first and foremost educate ourselves on the issues.
And finally, I need to Be Engaged. Being Enraged, Enlightened and Educated means nothing if you don’t do anything with it. What possible reason could there be for doing the work of being the first three if you are going to sit on your couch and hope for the best? I’m still feeling out what it means to be Engaged. Maybe it’s lending my voice and my words to causes. Maybe it’s calling, emailing and tweeting my senators so often the next time I’m at an event with them they’ll know my name and the sound of my voice. I don’t know what it is, but I know it’s not sitting back and hoping things will work out. The time for that has passed.
If I can find a positive amongst all of this, it would be that Edmund Burke’s quote will no longer be a set of words in my collection, but rather a reminder, that I will no longer standby and do nothing. I will stay woke. I will take a stand. I will make a difference.