I’m so angry right now. I can’t believe all of the violence that we’re seeing/experiencing. I was driving in my car the other night when I heard that the Senate voted against restricting gun rights for suspected terrorists. I started pounding on the steering wheel. Suspected terrorists?!
This problem seems so big and yet so simple. Not only do I not know how to change the course that our country is on, I don’t know how to keep from letting my anger and sadness get the best of me.
At a Loss
Dear At a Loss,
I hear ya, man. I feel like our country is literally at a place called Loss. We are losing our humanity, our empathy, our inalienable rights to live as equals. I have spent much of the past week angry, weepy, and trying to catch my breath.
Anger is a bitch. Loss is a thug. And when they get together to make a music video, it can be so enticing to sing the chorus over and over again without hearing the actual words. But here they are: YOU CAN CHANGE THIS.
Here are some of the changes YOU and everyone can do. Some of these may sound repetitive, corny, or daunting. You can do them all in order, pick one at random, or grab a partner and make it a team effort. Wear a jaunty hat or use a crazy accent. You can also throw these suggestions into the air like confetti or stuff them down the toilet. But know that they are always available to you. And someone’s got to start doing this work, because those damn senators aren’t.
I compiled this list from a bunch of great writers and friends who have been responding to the recent carnage much more eloquently than I. Please, if you have other suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
1. SPELL IT OUT TO YOUR LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS
Listen, I hate the phone. Would use a carrier pigeon if I could. But:
a) I’m a fish and
b) pigeons are notoriously biased.
So the phone it is. You can find out exactly who is representing you by going to www.commoncause.org and then start calling your government officials one by one. Tell them about your anger, grief, and confusion. Remind them that you elected them to make America a safe place to live again. This is the most direct way to affect governmental change.
As Nicholas Kristof wrote just after the attacks last week, “We routinely construct policies that reduce the toll of deadly products around us. That’s what we do with cars (driver’s licenses, seatbelts, guardrails). It’s what we do with swimming pools (fences, childproof gates, pool covers). It’s what we do with toy guns (orange tips). It’s what we should do with real guns.”
2. ORDER SOME DAISIES
And send them to the last person you fought with.
OK, that was my ex. Because laughter is vital at a time like this, too. I love how this woman who goes by “Katherine” lists the ways we can treat these hate crimes as a call to arms for spreading love, peace, and random acts of kindness.
Other ideas for jumping on the peace train?
* Compliment a stranger on her hair.
* Whistle your favorite new Adele song while waiting for the train.
* Pay it forward for the guy behind you at the café—especially if he looks Muslim.
* Get a bunch of index cards and write kind phrases on them:
We are in this together.
You are loved.
Today is great because of you.
Leave them on park benches, subway seats, windshields and condiment baskets.
3. CONNECT WITH YOUR GURUS
One of my close friends who grew up in Texas and now lives in L.A. wrote to me last Wednesday. She asked me to join Everytown for Gun Safety, a coalition of citizens and leaders who are determined to end gun violence. It’s easy to do, and you can participate as much or as little as you want. As my friend wisely wrote:
“I am not anti-gun, but I believe we could follow Australia’s lead and outlaw assault weapons—which they did in 1996 after their first and, I believe, only mass shooting. It won’t stop all violence, but maybe it will limit these mass casualties. That’s something.”
Reading her words made me think about another friend whose honesty and integrity I admire. She lives in Newtown, Connecticut. Yup, that Newtown. I asked her how she was doing and what she thought we could do. She wrote back:
“That morning that the children and teachers were murdered is engraved in my soul. Every day I try to shake off the numbness when I learn of the latest massacre… life goes on amidst constant anarchy and everybody is too busy worrying about stupid shit to care about all the real shit or feel anything… I am frustrated and want to change things by singing songs and carrying signs but I think we might need to work hard with Hillary and make gun laws a mandate of her election.”
4. START OVER
Figuratively and literally. There will be different accounts of why these people did what they did and how they were indoctrinated or ate only after sundown or used Listerine on a semi-regular basis. Those “facts” and “motives” are not the kind of information we need to pass back and forth. The Department of Homeland Security has better tools and algorithms for understanding or parsing that out.
What we can do while this investigation is happening is get back to the basics:
* Plant a tree in honor of those who were killed.
* Make a grateful list when you wake up and/or when you lay down.
* Talk to your loved ones about what they do when they feel angry. Also when they feel happy, scared, tired, or confused. We all need to brush up on this emotional intelligence.
Just yesterday, my 5-year-old picked up an el-shaped twig and told me it was a gun. Then it was an ice blaster that saved the forest people. Then it changed back into a powerless twig that he didn’t need because what he really wanted was to rush up the twisty slide and drink a juice box in one urgent gulp.
At a Loss, I leave you with this image because I think we humans are capable of anything—violence, revenge, adoration, wild hope, hunger.
So what can you do with your overwhelming anger and sadness?
Honor them. Pound and rage with them.
And then recognize that they can be—they MUST BE—powerful tools of change.
With love and schmaltz,