“Righteous anger is usually not about oneself. It is about those whom one sees being harmed and whom one wants to help,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “in short, righteous anger is a tool of justice, a scythe of compassion, more than a reactive emotion. Although it may have its roots deep in our flight-or-fight desire to protect those in our family or group who are threatened, it is a chosen response and not simply an uncontrollable reaction. And it is not about one’s own besieged self-image, or one’s feeling of separation, but of one’s collective responsibility, and one’s feeling of deep, empowering connection.” – His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams, “The Book of Joy,” 2016.
Ponder on righteous anger for a moment. We have seen unjustified anger resulting in the premeditated murder of 17 lives: 14 students and three teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, once considered one of the safest cities in the U.S.
No longer, since the angry emotions of one student, were unleashed using an AR-15 assault rifle. This student — to remain unnamed — in this article, has been reported to the school authorities and the police 39 times. His adoptive mother, until her death last year, had difficulties with him and authorities were called to her home. News reports now say he had been caught “shooting at a neighbor’s chickens, siccing his dogs on a neighbor’s pigs, stealing mail, vandalizing property, peeking in a neighbor’s windows, and trying to steal a neighbor’s bike.”
But how should we teach our children when they are angry?
I watched one evening as a toddler was being picked up by her dad. Instead of getting to the car, she stood with her back to him on the front lawn. Her dad, quite sensitive to her, stopped walking and said, “Are you upset? Did you not want to come home yet?” The toddler moved her head to signal yes. He then said, “You can come back tomorrow and resume your play. But for now, we have to go home.” It was a beautiful conversation of recognizing this toddler’s needs for play and for her to consider that it is now the hour to come home. He waited for awhile until the toddler moved on her own. She then ran to the car, much more willing, to come home.
How many times do we rush our children and grandchildren to meet our own needs that we sometimes forget that they too need our respect for what it is they are doing?
I watched the same toddler again one evening being picked up by her mother. She ran to her and hugged her a couple of times, so excited about seeing her. She sat down at the dining table and asked her about her day at school, the classmates she liked, and what they did together. It made for a quick “check-in,” mother to daughter. The toddler then got ready to go home. Mom, through the check-in conversations, created an atmosphere of excitement for the toddler to come home and play with her dad.
Do you remember Mr. Rogers on PBS Television? Do you recall watching these programs with messages of self-restraint embedded in songs that teach peace in one’s heart? Would it not help all of us if we teach our children the words of this song, excerpted below?
“What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
And nothing you do seems very right?
What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?
It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:
I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish.
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.” – Fred M. Rogers
Recall Watergate? This is described by Kathleen Graham, the publisher of the Washington Post as: “I believe Watergate was an unprecedented use of power and authority from an administration with a passion for secrecy and deception and an astounding lack of regard for the normal constraints of democratic politics. To my mind, the whole thing was a very real perversion of the democratic system – from firing people who were good Republicans but who might have disagreed with Nixon in the slightest, to the wiretappings, to the breaking and entering of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office, to the myriad dirty tricks, to the attempts to discredit and curb the media. It was a conspiracy not of greed but of arrogance and fear by men who came to equate their own political well-being with the nation’s very survival and security.”
She distinguishes the paranoia of Nixon with the realities at that time: “In the end, Nixon was his own worst enemy. The Post had no enemies list; the president did. Nixon came to regard the Post as incurably liberal and antiadministration. In fact, the Post supported a great many of his policies and programs, but his paranoia, his hatred of the press, his scheming, all contributed to bringing him down – helped along by the appropriate constitutional processes, including the grand juries, courts and Congress. Woodward and Bernstein were critical figures in seeing that the truth was eventually told, but others were at least as important: Judge Sirica; Senator Sam Ervin and the Senate Watergate Committee; Special Prosecutors Cox and Jaworski; the House Impeachment Committee under Representative Peter Rodino. The Post was an important part—but only a part—of the Watergate story.”
CNN recently reported: “A federal grand jury indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities, charging them with crimes relating to interference in the 2016 presidential election. The charges included conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The alleged crimes stem from Russia’s wide-ranging operation to use social media to interfere in the election, sow political discord, and help candidate Donald Trump defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.”
What do we do now with our righteous anger?
The NY Times’ Thomas Friedman issued a code-red warning to U.S. democracy and identified it to be the occupant of the White House. He is described as someone who does not easily get scared and who is quite sober in his opinion-editorial articles.
Since Monday, January 19, President’s Day, when he wrote his OP-ED, he was quoted as saying by CNN: “‘Our democracy is in serious danger,’ he wrote in the opening line. ‘President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.’ There was something about his last paragraph, in particular, that struck a chord. ‘This is code red,’ he wrote. ‘The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.’ Thirty-six hours later, it is still No. 1 on the site’s ‘most emailed articles’ list. It is also No.1 on the site’s ‘most shared articles on Facebook’ list. There have been more than 2,700 comments so far. ‘That’s a personal record,’ Friedman told CNN.”
We may not be journalists, but we can emulate how to process our righteous anger and even show our children how to have peace in our hearts. How do we now help the children of Parkland, Florida process their righteous anger in experiencing the tragedy of losing 17 in their midst — 14 students and three teachers? What should we tell our children and grandchildren? Should we join them in the upcoming marches and advocate for gun control reforms in legislation? Should we not look into this issue and not glorify the National Rifle Association’s mission and instead put in the forefront — the collective American mission of protecting our children’s lives?
Peace begins with each of us. It is how we take care of our hearts, open to inspiration from others’ fine examples. It is how we process our righteous anger – not by fueling it more with hatred and bigotry towards others — but instead, seeking truth and prospects of changes from progressive details of our collective American history by reading about courageous folks, e.g. Katherine Graham, a woman publisher thrust in this position, following the death of her husband, Phil. She could have succumbed to her own grief and depression, instead, she stood up for her country’s welfare and published the Pentagon papers. It is how we take care of our bodies; instead of nursing its aches and pains, to keep it in movement and motion and finally, assist others to reach their life’s goals.
At the church I go to, I watch a family with three young sons, two in elementary school and one in middle school. I have seen the children some Sunday mornings, still yawning and wanting to sleep in the church pews. Their nurturing mother would hug them and simply explain the behaviors she wants to see from them at church.
Last Sunday, I watched how the eldest sang solo while leading the congregation in singing. The youngest sang with the children’s choir and was quite enthusiastic in the front row. The middle boy sat by his mom as he was sick, coughing. It was a beautiful scene to see this family together that Sunday: attending mass, praising and worshipping God, and an added bonus, singing as their father played the piano and at times, sang as well.
We cannot afford to live in isolation, we must stay connected with one another and take care of each other, as if we are one big family in America!
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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 10 years. She also contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Costa Rica, Mexico and over 22 national parks in the US, in her pursuit of love for nature and the arts.