The Downside of Anger
There’s a lot of Trump-rage out there now.
Rage over his utter failure on Covid-19.
Rage over how he’s destroying the economy.
Rage over his blatant bigotry at a time when the world is demanding racial justice and equality.
Rage over the panic he’s sowing in parents, teachers, and children over whether and when they can safely return to school.
Hell, I was enraged when I saw a headline about how Trump was going to throw out the first pitch at my beloved Yankee Stadium on August 15th, until I read the story and found out it was FAKE NEWS.
There’s a lot to be angry about when it comes to the president. And that anger over everything from the fact that he’s a science-averse dumbass who should’ve and, more important, could’ve quelled this virus months ago to his pathological jealousy of Dr. Anthony Fauci is a thousand percent warranted.
But here’s the question I pose to those who want Trump gone: In this stakes-never-higher moment is that anger useful?
In other words, as understandable and justified as the outrage is — will it get us where we want to go? As we close in on the most important election in U.S. history, is rage our best tactic?
For example, a New York Times story from two days ago reported that, “while protests in many places subsided after a few weeks, Portland, Ore., has been holding demonstrations every night since May 29.”
The next day, the Times reported that protestors had returned to the streets in Oakland, Seattle, and elsewhere, “galvanized in part by the deployment of federal agents” in Portland.
Later in the story: “President Trump has seized on the scenes of national unrest — statues toppled and windows smashed — to build a law-and-order message for his re-election campaign, spending more than $26 million on television ads depicting a lawless dystopia of empty police stations and 911 answering services that he argues might be left in a nation headed by his Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr.”
Now, anyone with a brain knows that Trump’s fear-mongering narrative is bogus and the majority of the protestors have been peaceful.
But at such a crucial political time, when the president is well on his way to destroying himself, I have to ask whether we should get out of his way.
If those of us who are counting the seconds until we no longer have to deal with that tawny nightmare should resist even giving him the opportunity to gather images or evidence that help him push this nutty vision in which he warns that if Biden is elected “anarchists” and “crazy people” on the radical left will destroy “your neighborhood and your American Dream”?
Or, as Mister Señor Love Daddy says in “Do The Right Thing,” do we need to “take a chill and cool that shit out”?
We need to cool that shit out.
We need to take a chill and play the long game, which isn’t really that long. Just until November.
President Obama did it. Remember, in 2008, when in order to get elected, he had to pretend he didn’t support gay marriage “as a Christian”?
According to a 2015 book by former Obama top adviser David Axelrod that stance was a calculated misdirection. A temporary wrong in service of an enduring right. Sure, the lie was awful for a variety reasons, but would you rather Obama had lost and we had Sarah Palin sitting shotgun?
And even though it took seven more years, the Supreme Court did declare same-same Marriage Legal in all 50 States.
That’s the long game.
As difficult as it may be, the left has to take a page from the most chill president in American history and do a little pretending. Or, if you’d prefer, “scream inside your heart” like Covid-era roller coaster riders have been asked to do in Japanese amusement parks.
Just for now. Just for three more months, everybody needs to be cool.
Please don’t misunderstand. I absolutely recognize that people who have suffered the brutality of centuries-old racism and racist systems should not have to wait one more moment for justice and equality. And that those who have lost their jobs, homes, or loved ones to coronavirus should not have to wait one more moment for politicians in this country to give them the relief, hope, and compassion they undoubtedly deserve.
I’m not saying we need to make like everything’s fine and there’s no more work to be done. Not by a long-shot. But there does come a point, often an extremely painful, difficult point, at which emotion — in this case, anger — must be set aside in the short term for the long-term good.
That is by no means to say give up the fight, be any less passionate, devoted, or vocal. Hell, no. It just means that as with any battle, you can’t rage, cry, or cancel your way to a win.
You have to come up with and implement an actual strategy.
The strategy for the left in this moment should be to use its collective anger wisely, judiciously, and purposefully rather than let it be used against us.
We need to make our one and only collective focus getting Biden elected and then we can get back to business.
The business of enacting an effective public health response to Covid-19.
The business of reviving the economy.
The business of achieving racial justice.
The business of restoring “normal” life for parents, teachers, and children.
The business of making sure Trump never tosses out any pitches at Yankee Stadium.
And yes, that may require some serious patience, tongue-biting, and restraint. But if we can wave goodbye to Trump this fall won’t it have been worth it?