I’ve been thinking a lot about anger lately — righteous anger; spilling-over-the-top you are such total crud anger; you don’t deserve to be called a member of the human race anger; and what do you have in your ears, elephant turds, anger.
The level of rage in our national discourse seems to have hit a new low, or high, depending on how you use your statistics. Name-calling seems to be the preferred method of campaigning and “discussion” — although we can’t really use that term, can we, because to “discuss” means to listen to, and I simply don’t see a lot of listening going on.
The thing that I find most dismaying about this pathetic level of discourse is that it is toxic to my mental health. I read The New York Times online every morning, preferably before my morning prayers, because after reading the news I need some serious trash-taking-out by the grace of God. I’ll read about the lies Romney is telling about Obama’s tweaking of welfare grants to the states. My blood pressure spikes. I drum my fingers on my keyboard, not a good idea, and mutter, “How can he say that? Doesn’t he have a conscience?”
In the college office where my husband works, there is a wonderful, funny African-American woman who will, at times in a conversation that is taking an unbelievable turn, say, “Stop your lyin’!” I’d like to say that to the offensively aggressive and self-righteous politicians, on both sides of the debate. Perhaps hiring a small airplane with a plastic banner streaming out behind would serve to alert the populace that we are tired of self-serving lies and tired of anger, which infects us all.
And, of course, we don’t just find this in political discourse; check into any Catholic blog and you will find words being hurled about like stones, accusing people of not being “true Catholics,” or “faithful enough,” etc., etc. I’m sure you know what I mean. It’s depressing.
Do you think Jesus got depressed by all the bad news? Romans being bullies, children malnourished, epileptics unhealed, temple priests laying heavy burdens on the Jews? I can’t imagine Jesus being depressed. Angry, yes, and there is good evidence in the Gospels of his anger against people who perverted his Father’s word, about the misuse of the Temple, and more. But depression implies helplessness and powerlessness, and I don’t think that was part of Jesus’ core or his mission.
I suspect that what I have to do — to preserve my mental health — is to give it up to God: all of my anger, my dismay at what we have come to as a country, all of my righteous indignation at the lies being thrown about. Give it up to God. Lay it at the foot of the cross, as a priest friend used to tell me to do with my worries about my family. Let God take it up. She’s good at burdens.
So, the next time I actually think that a very small and localized tornado would be a good way of ridding the world of people who lie for political gain, I need to put my head down (possibly falling to my knees might help?), pray for forgiveness and say, “Honey, you take this on. You know what to do with the lies and the self-righteousness. I surely don’t.” Then, a few hearty amens, perhaps a cup of strong coffee and a piece of Belgian chocolate, and I’ll be good to go — to be an ambassador for God without the clanking weight of my own righteous anger.