The Angry Activist

While our goal may be to have our resistance emanate from peace and love, we are still human beings in a very difficult juncture for our country, dealing in Trump with an adversary who is extraordinarily hostile and dishonest and dangerous and who has gathered around him other life-threatening people like Pence and Bannon.  So we’re going to get triggered – and the challenge then becomes how to get ourselves back to a zone that is genuinely life-affirming.

Given all that, it is extraordinary that all through the election cycle and the first few weeks of Trump’s administration – until yesterday – I have never gotten really furious at Trump.  Angry, outraged, but never gut-level enraged – until yesterday.

Maybe it snuck up on me because I wasn’t ready for it. I was on a ten-minute break at work (I’m a cashier in a healthy supermarket) and checking my emails on my phone.  It was in this somewhat distracted environment that I read, in the Washington Post, an article about Trump accusing Barack Obama of wire-tapping Trump Tower.  Then, the real killer, he tweeted, “He’s a bad (or sick) man.”

All through the election campaign, I would get angry at Trump for stuff he said to and about Clinton.  I like her, admire her – supported her as a candidate, felt sure she would be a good president.  But I never loved her.  This is maybe why I never got really enraged about his attacks  on her.

Barack I love.  You don’t fuck with my Barack.  I considered changing that word to “mess with my Barack”.  What if there are children reading this?  Not likely.  Mess doesn’t capture it.  There’s something primal about my connection with Barack.  I admire him and his family so greatly that I feel protective of him.  Fuck with him you fuck with me.  So I was pissed. angry-demonstrator-girl

I didn’t have time to integrate this before my ten minutes were over and I was suddenly back in front of customers.  I tried to function, but I was seething.  This is a very liberal town and a very liberal store – you’re usually safe to criticize Trump.  Finally, after about twenty minutes of trying to function but really seething, I looked at the customers in front of me and made a snap judgment that this was a situation where I could get away with venting.

I had a short guy at 2 o’clock – who, looking back on it, really did look like a businessman.  Then, directly ahead of me – the next customer after the short guy – a big tall guy and at 10 o’clock a woman who seemed to be his partner.  I tried to keep some brakes on and ensure my safety.  “Would anybody mind if I vent about politics?”  The tall guy directly in front of me said, “I don’t think that would be safe.”

Now why did I decide that meant “Sure, go ahead”?  I’ll tell you why – because I just plain could not control it any more.  I couldn’t stop myself from venting, so I told myself this did not mean that he was conservative.  Actually he and the short guy both turned out to be conservative and the wife, who seemed very friendly through the whole encounter, never reported.

Actually I could not have been much luckier in my choice of conservative customers.  Neither of them ever showed any signs of getting genuinely angry – they mostly teased me about assuming that conservatives don’t buy healthy food.  I must have recovered pretty well too, because we overall had a very funny encounter.  As the tall guy was leaving, I said “For a conservative, you’re really funny.”

So I got off better than I had a right to, but this was not an example of healthy activism.  And I was still angry.  angry-demonstrator-guyActually the rest of my day was a story about how do you recover from getting really angry in the political wars.  Several things helped me to recover.

  • After the encounter with these three people, when I was still very raw and exposed, I just shut up and swiped groceries for a while.  And breathed.  Here – and really for the remaining five hours of my shift – the simple monotonous physicality of the work was soothing and helped me to get back into balance.
  • During some slow moments, I told one of my colleagues the story of me and the conservative customers.  While I’m usually pretty safe to assume that our customers are liberal, I’m maybe always safe to assume that with my co-workers.  I would be surprised if there is a one of them who is pro-Trump.  This is especially true of the front-end, where I really know these people.  So the co-worker I picked and I had gales of laughs over the story of my losing it with my venting.
  • I made a better choice of a customer to vent with about the news story – and we shared our outrage about Trump.  I discovered that we also shared a genuine love for Obama – and there was something very soothing about sharing at that level.
  • One thing I love about my job is the chance to affirm people.  I make a game of looking for just the right way to appreciate customers.  I leaned into that and it restored a healthy sense of positiveness.
    • “I like your hair.”
    • “What a great hat.”
    • “You have a perfect nose.”
    • “You two put out such a great vibe.  I bet people like being around you.”
    • “These are the most well-behaved children I’ve seen all day.”
  • The question I like to ask people on Friday and Saturday is “What’s something you are looking forward to this weekend?”  That also helped – on a day when I was still, couldn’t shake it, raw and angry – to surround me with positive energy.
  •   That night I went home and. after walking and feeding the dog, spent an hour at my computer doing good positive movement work – making contact with the leader of another resistance group.  I actually kept falling asleep over the email I was writing him, but it soothed me towards sleep.
  • This morning I woke up angry – that’s almost unprecedented for me.  But then I went dancing at 9 a.m. – my Sunday morning routine, with people i like and love – and that was very good for me.
  • This afternoon I got angry at my dog for ignoring my calls for her to come.  She’s an adorable, lovable little four-pound dog and I pretty much never get angry at her.  I’m not over it yet.

It’s a process – recognizing the anger, working with it, releasing it.  If I want to do civil disobedience, I’ll have to get better at it.  If I want to survive this period in our country’s life, I need to learn how to soothe myself.  If I want to be a healthy activist – if I want to really serve the resistance – I need to learn all I can about this.

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