Tuesday, April 04, 2006

In Praise of Being Angry!

Don't Push Me
'Cuz I'm Close To The Edge,
I'm Tryin' Not To
Lose My Head...
(Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five)
Have you ever had reason to celebrate being angry? Strange question, isn't it? Just weeks ago, I was celebrating tulips (On A Lighter Note), while simultaneously struggling with an overwhelming anger growing within me. It was so intense that I dared not write for fear of what might sprew forth. Yet, as strange as it may sound, I can honestly say that I've never been so happy to be angry. That's right, happy (in an angry kind of way, of course). I think my anger scared some folks, so much so that I'm wondering if anger has become socially unacceptable?

Perhaps anger has gone the way of it's cousin, the once acceptable emotional rite called mourning. You might not know this, but in some circles it has become a cultural and religious faux pas to actually mourn the passing of a loved one. If mourning, in all of its emotional outpouring, is socially taboo, then surely anger is too volatile and a candidate for cultural extinction... right? May I put a seven-year old on the witness stand?
I've witnessed firsthand anger gone awry. The date was April 4, 1968. My eldest sister, MJ, treated me to my first musical - Fiddler On The Roof. To this day, I still sing, "If I Were A Rich Man..." with all the gusto of the main character, Tevye the Milkman. When we emerged from the auditorium, my hometown of Washington, DC, was ablaze. While Tevye was bemoaning his lot in life, someone had taken the life of Civil Rights Leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., and in doing so unleashed a wrath of Old Testament proportions.
I thought I knew anger. For instance, I was really angry when Big Head Glo from across the street broke all of my Crayola crayons. But, this anger was different. It draped the sky in a haze of mourning gray, punctuated by random showers of glowing embers. This anger had a different look too - not like my "why you break my crayon" stare, but an enraged, defiant "I'm mad as hell and not gonna take this SH*T no more!" glare. And this anger required rifle-toting troops from the National Guard and the U.S. Marine Corps to squash it. As for me, I really was angry at Big Head Glo, but I ain't gonna shoot her over no crayons! I guess I wasn't mature enough to understand grown-up anger.
Fast-forward - I'm all grown up and (drum roll please)... Anger-Proof. That's right, A.P. baby - yeah, that's me! The DC Riots revealed how devastatingly destructive anger can be. I really can't praise or embrace anything that destructive. Besides, by the time I hit the workforce, I discovered that society rewards those sophisticated enough to be Anger-Proof.

The No-Nonsense Guide to Anger-Proofing
First, take the anger... suppress it... rationalize it. Let the anger slide off your Teflon-coated, Power of Positive Thinking backside. Feel that? No? Great... you're almost there! Now be warned - repeated exposure to anger is hazardous to Teflon. In the likely event anger makes direct contact with your mettle, don't panic. Do what any well-rewarded, highly-rational, Anger-Proofed Sophisticate would do - execute a system override as if your magnificent God-temple was created by IBM. You don't need this stress and you sure don't want to risk becoming one of those bitter folks consumed by anger. Don't worry - just override your system.
Disclaimer: Override known to induce mild trauma such as:
(warning: system unstable)
(warning: back-up now)
(system failure)
Ok, I didn't say it was foolproof. It does require spiritual paralysis to be effective. Or, is it the suppressing, rationalizing and crashing that makes one zombie-like? Either way, this is a recipe for a stroke and not worthy of my praise. So, is there any form of anger worthy of praise?
Yes, indeed! I have demonstrated that anger is combustible when ignored, sickening when suppressed and crippling when allowed to fester. However, anger is our natural defibrillator, shocking life into emotionally-comatose souls. It is an excellent warning system, notifying us when something is amiss and requires our immediate attention. If you can still get angry, then know that at the very least, you're alive and capable of emotions like empathy, compassion, indignation, etc. Show me someone willing to embrace these emotional powerhouses, and I'll show you someone who is destined to change the course of their life, their home, their community and our world at-large. I know you're out there. I can feel you. So today, let's celebrate you and your ability to transform anger into a propellant to accomplish the unthinkable!
- I praise the anger that propels people - ordinary folks like you and me - from empathy to action.
- I praise that son/brother/friend angry enough to defy fear while sending an unmistakable message to the resident jerk by vowing, "You will NOT raise your hand against my mother/sister/friend ever again... or else."
- I praise that worker angry enough to say with conviction, "you will NOT disrespect nor devalue my contribution in the workplace." And no, you will not go postal in the process.
- I praise the anger surrounding parents and children in chaos. Don't let your logic rule or fool you. The anger is proof positive that the love still exist. But, it warns us that everybody's talking, but nobody's really listening.
- I praise the anger that made "CRASH" one of the most profound films in recent years. Can we ever again question just how interdependent we really are?
- I'm praising the anger that won't take NO for an answer. To my ambassadors of R&B - independent to the core, talented to death and uncompromising flag bearers of our rich legacy, thank you for telling the music industry, Hell No! Thank you Gordon Chambers, Ledisi, Eric Roberson, Terisa Griffin, Chinua Hawk, Will Wheaton, Ronee Martin and all of the R&B artist around the world dedicated to advancing the legacy.
- Lastly, I'm praising my anger - fueled by those dedicated to manipulating policy and distorting images - especially as it relates to defining who I am as a person, who we are as a people, and the awesome beauty of humankind. It is my contempt for your agenda that I wake up happily angry, singing "If I Were A Rich Man," all the while transforming this anger into a powerful Love Gone Wild.
I've gotta go, but not before I thank Amille, Sharon, Whoyaworkinfor and Sista X, Ph.D. for your counsel and caring. Yes, I vented mightily, but I listened even more.
Now, if anyone should inquire as to who is the angriest man you know, you tell them That Johnson Boy, that's who!

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