My wife and I have an on-going argument, of sorts, about which things we’re permitted to be angry about.
More often than not, I’m the one that initiates this conversation, and usually it’s because my anger had already been brewing for a while and I’d be seeking an outlet to justify it, that way, I would feel less angry about feeling angry for longer than I needed to be.
Some things, my wife has already blacklisted from my list of things I can be angry about.
1. The Clippers losing.
2. Accidentally breaking stuff.
3. Parallel parking.
4. Bad driving, in general.
5. Playing basketball.
Some mornings, I’m greeted with this this kind of a message in my inbox: “Today, be on the lookout for being angry about your imperfections. This is your ego fixation in action. Notice it and let it go. Understanding the Enneagram“. That particular message is less condemning than some of the others I’ve received. Many tend to take a tone that connotes “Stop being so *** self-righteous. And good luck trying to be perfect, too.”
Apparently, it’s supposed to be ok that my wheels are 12 inches away from the curb, and that I miss 4 out of 5 open layups I take in a game. And somehow, it’s all right that the Clippers do lose, again, as if they hadn’t already lost, enough.
My wife and I have agreed that there are some things that are ok for us to be angry about, like, the world’s injustice being a prime example – granted it’s a convenient catch all category for all things oppressive and marginalizing.
I’ll venture to say that this might be one of those things that actually requires us to be angry. If it doesn’t, then we fail to challenge a systemic status quo that has failed over a billion people on this planet – perpetuating the kind of unacceptable norm such as families living on less than 1 dollar a day. Or women and children getting sold into slavery. Yes, modern-day slavery, the very notion of which would presumably make this man go absolutely insane.
A few weekends ago, I witnessed this sort of righteous anger on display at a conference bringing together modern-day abolitionists learning about slavery in today’s world, and trying to figure out how to eradicate it. To be clear, it was more inspiring than it was angry, blending quite well a pure, do-gooder enthusiasm with the practicality of strategy and partnerships across sectors to come up with a sustainable plan to actually make a difference.
I’m lucky, in a small way, to be a part of the movement already, but there’s much more work to be done. And there’s much work that HAS been done, which I learned that weekend, I will likely, never, ever, be able to do.
The attendees of the conference watched a documentary film by Mimi Charakova called the Price of Sex. It’s a provocative title for “thought-provoking” subject – the inhumane practice of sex trafficking in the world today. But for me to even describe the film as merely thought-provoking would be an injustice to the film itself. It would do little to empower the women who were brave enough to share their harrowing tales of punishment and abuse. And it would be offensive to Mimi Charakova, who has dedicated a decade of her life to uncover the truth about their stories.
Maybe the very idea that people won’t actually do anything about it offends her, angers her, constantly.
She confessed how terribly hard (and dangerous) it was for her to make this film, and how great the work remained before us to keep fighting sex slavery. She, genuinely, implored us who felt so convicted to tell stories as well, to keep learning about theirs – those from the women with whom she needed 10 years to gain their trust, and share the power of their stories.
But what stayed with me most deeply wasn’t what Mimi had said to us. It was the anger written on her face. The anguish weighing on her shoulders. The burden that seemed to have aged her. It was the heaviness of it all that carried over, that made the air in the room dense with emotions of all kinds. I couldn’t even begin to name them.
I don’t know if I should bother naming what those feelings floating around might’ve been. Naming them wouldn’t be enough.
But the anger, the anger that swelled up and out of her, out of the images that we had all witnessed, out of the stories we couldn’t bear to hear – that – that is worth carrying, to the very ends of the Earth.