Anger, Love, and Daring Acts of Compassion After Charlottesville

Anger, Love, and Daring Acts of Compassion After Charlottesville

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, many are responding with anger toward those who tote the symbols and rhetoric of hate.

Why I’m Angry

Seeing swastikas and Nazis all over the internet makes me irate. It is deeply painful, and it’s exhausting. That alone feels like an assault.

Seeing the confederate flag openly waved and other confederate symbols publicly displayed is detestable.

The racist, antisemitic, and misogynist slurs spewed by white supremacists at the rally in Charlottesville are infuriating.

The violence that resulted in injury and death are abhorrent, as is the continuing incitement of hatred by this vocal minority.

Appropriate Anger

Reacting to these events with anger makes sense. It’s appropriate. It’s a good sign.

The question is what do we do with that emotion. Anger can be the motivator for righteous behavior. Anger can fuel daring acts of love and compassion.

Those who have organized peaceful marches for equality have expressed anger. Underneath peaceful protest, you will find anger at injustice. And you will find evolved consciousness that channels anger into constructive and compassionate action.

I imagine that Ilya Paliok, the man who hid my great uncles during the Holocaust, must have felt anger–enough anger that he was willing to put himself at great risk to do what was right, enough disdain for the insanity of  Nazi Germany to engage in a prolonged and perilous strategy to save two young men previously hardly known to him.

My great uncles were angry that their parents and friends were being transported to their deaths at Auschwitz and they could do nothing to save them. They were angry that all they could do was hide while German warplanes passed overhead to the front only 70 km away.

And many of us–the majority of Americans, I hope–are angry, furious, incensed–that the symbols and rhetoric of that brutal regime are being toted around by white supermacists. And we’re angry that they’re using these ugly images and words to bolster their racist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynist agenda.

Anger is Not Hate

After seeing a few statements on the internet condemning anger toward Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, I need to set something straight: Anger is not hate. To equate the two concepts is to ignore a long and painful history.

And it is to subtly equate an appropriate response to the worst of human behavior with that very behavior. It’s like the president’s phrase condemning hatred “on all sides.”

Anger toward injustice is not the same as the bigotry that caused the injustice. Anger and understanding are not mutually exclusive. You can act angrily in the name of peace.

Anger is not violence, and anger is not hate. It is fuel. The question is what will we do with this fuel?

Will we try to stuff down our anger with platitudes, or will use it to boost our courage as we act righteously for love? Anger denied is anger that turns violent. “Don’t be angry” sounds a lot like “Be quiet” and “Sit down.”

Love and Anger

Great leaders like Ghandi and Martin Luther King gave us tools that we know are more powerful and more lasting than violence. Those tools are the result of both love and anger.

So, please don’t ask us to stop being angry at Nazis and white supremacists. Instead, please listen and understand.

Read and hear the incredible stories of survival through prejudice, discrimination, and violence. And listen to the accounts of those who throughout history and across continents did not survive brutal regimes and institutions.

Understand how the oppressed rise and survive against crushing odds through incredible effort, intelligence, spirit, love, and righteous anger.

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My Great Uncle Stefan
My Great Uncle Stefan