The Tepid Left and Righteous Anger

I originally posted this piece on Righteous Anger.

The concepts of “bipartisanship” and “reaching across the aisle” are exercises in failure. I remember reading an article in Counterpunch or ZNet several years back, around the time when the Tea Party first started taking hold. It talked about how the Left in the U.S. is tepid, while the Right is rabid. It discussed how you win hearts and minds through righteous anger, not a “let’s be friends with the other side” approach. (And you don’t often find the Right wanting to “reach across the aisle”, anyway. They use their own “righteous” anger and moral outrage to gain support on a large scale.) I firmly believe that is true. You need to have the logical parts of your argument shored up. The facts need to be in a row. However, facts alone don’t get things done, because people are usually moved to act when they see something they believe is beyond the pale. Spectacle. Anger. Visibility. Those things get things done.

The reason the Left is viewed as “tepid” in the U.S. is that most of the Left is invisible. Those of us who use moral outrage as a central tenant of our beliefs are invisible. What is left behind is the bow-and-scrape Liberal, the one who uses the word “progressive” to hide the fact that there really isn’t much progress happening. The one who only cares that there’s a Democrat in the White House, not that this Democrat is doing deeds every bit as evil as any Republican.  It’s time for those of us on the Left to stand up, to get angry, and to be every bit as rabid as the right.

What is righteous anger?

This is a slightly updated version of a Facebook status update I posted a few days ago.  I strongly believe that the bigotries of homophobia and misogyny are intertwined; two faces of the same monster.  They are also two of the issues that anger me the most.

As far as the post itself, I’ve put in paragraph breaks, and added formatting that FB doesn’t have.  I also added a paragraph towards the end that I had in my comments section.  This is the post that inspired this blog, so I thought it was a good place to start.  So, here it is…

Righteous anger: that which comes from experiencing and watching others experience injustice and abuse. Where does mine come from, and why do I refuse to let it go?

My righteous anger towards homophobes comes from watching men I love being attacked–physically, emotionally, and verbally. It comes from the stories told by men I love. The stories of being beaten by groups of straight guys. Stories of being robbed and shot in the head outside a gay bookstore. That night, several other men died. The man I love was left with pellets in his head from the shotgun used to shoot him. I’ve felt them with my own hand. Stories of nasty words like “faggot” being thrown at them by the parents of their friends. To think that’s the least of the abuse.

My righteous anger about gay marriage and adoption rights comes from missing my brother’s wedding. It was in Montreal, because he couldn’t marry the man he loves in the U.S. It comes from seeing someone important to me leaving this state, partly because she can’t adopt her son in Arizona.

My righteous anger about sexual assault and abuse comes from my stories and those of so many women I love. Stories of a man I knew in my bed when I was 13. My body shaking so hard. I’ve never felt so out of control. Him making fun of me because of it. Locking my door every night after that whenever I knew he was in the house, and him having the fucking nerve to knock. The same guy using physical violence to try to intimidate another friend when she said she would no longer have sex with him.

It’s the story of my best friend, at the age of 14, walking home from school. Being raped, beaten and left for dead. She took me to that place one day. She’s long dead, but that memory still lives with me. Her attacker stalked her for weeks after finding out she survived, and the cops refused to help. Her stepfather had to track him down.

It comes from the story one of my friends from my teen years in group therapy. At the age of 15, she was gang-raped by five guys. No one ever punished for it, except her. Years of drug use, unhappiness, feeling at a loss. Children given birth to, but given up because she could not be a proper mother.  And she knew it.

It’s from the story of someone else I love being coerced into sex with an adult, because he threatened to rape someone she loved if she did not. She complied, and he raped her loved one anyway.

It’s from the story of an older woman I only met a couple of times.  She was beaten by her husband for years.  One of his favorite ways to torment her was to demand oral sex.  While she performed, he would stick pencils or toothbrushes into her ears.  If she didn’t do it “right”, he would jab them into her ears.  Yes, she had permanent damage from that.

That’s where righteous anger comes from. And that’s why it is righteous.