I think anger can be added to death and taxes as one of the certainties of this life. And yet we have so little training as to how to deal with it.
If you’re a Christina Blasey Ford, you go through a lifelong process of trying to understand how to live with the trauma of being violated, you study psychology to find out how the mind and heart and body are connected and where trauma is stored and what triggers it. It doesn’t heal it entirely and certainly doesn’t make it go away. But then when you are confronted with the story in front of more viewers on TV than the Super Bowl, you can calmly answer questions and let the appropriate tears come forth without being wholly overwhelmed by them.
If you’re a Brett Kavanaugh who has had his unearned privilege handed to him on a silver platter and never had to confront his own failings and mistakes, you have no tools to deal with your anger and you get angry at the wrong things. So in front of the same audience, he whines, he yells, he shouts that he’s innocent, he tap dances clumsily around questions that ask him to look at what actually happened, he’s angry that someone dares interrupt his charmed life of white-boy privilege.
And he’s backed by all of this with the number one tantrum-thrower emotionally- stunted narcissist known, unbelievably, shamefully, as our President. He is an angry man, who like his good-ole-boy buddy, had everything handed to him on a gold platter and kept it going by being mean, selfish, dishonest, by lying, by cheating. What the hell is he angry about? Well, that would be a long story. But meanwhile, look what he does—just lashes out impulsively on tweets to keep the anger and hatred and insult boiling.
And then his three-year-old counterpart who doesn’t want to take a nap and throws a tantrum. What’s her excuse? Well, maybe it has to do with being three and being at the mercy of her emotions and not having the brain capacity yet to calmly and coolly understand the situation. So she screams and pounds her fists and who can blame her? It’s appropriate for her developmental stage. But no excuse in a grown man.
And then the angry rapper? Well, here is someone who indeed has something to be angry about. He’s grown up black in a racist society and simply growing up without getting shot by police or gangs is a victory. He has a thousand stories to back up why he is angry and you or I would feel exactly the same if we lived those stories. So what does he do with his anger? He channels it into rap and simply by the act of having to fit it to a beat and rhyme, often remarkably so, means he’s transforming some of that anger through the vehicle of art. But with some exceptions (and hopefully more and more), it falls short. The lyrics themselves radiate anger and hate, some against groups that deserve it (police in the hood) and some that don’t (women).
And so the tweeter, the rapper and the three-year old napper. None of them are perfect models for dealing with anger. For that, we need to go to Count Basie or Ella Fitzgerald or John Coltrane, consummate musicians who put their anger in the crucible of art and shaped it with their sharp intellects, their practiced techniques, their prodigious imaginations, their soulful feeling and came out the other end of redemption and joy. When Count Basie plays the blues, ain’t nothin’ happier than that!
Perhaps you’re getting angry that I’m still rambling on trying to tie this theme together and at the end, don’t have too much to show for it except that catchy title. Well, go make a piece of art and you’ll feel better.