I feel like I was born screaming “It’s not fair!” It is written in my DNA, can be found in the center of my bones. I am the daughter of a man who spent many years making sure those accused got the trial they are entitled to. He was simply making sure that the system worked like it was supposed to, making sure things were fair.
One of my earliest memories, the first time I can remember feeling shame, I was slung over my mother’s shoulder as she escorted me out of the J.C. Penney and into the car to calm down. I was too old at this point to be throwing a raging fit, but I simply could not contain it. Strangers stared and I yelled at them too. I wanted a dress my mother did not approve of, and her dismissal of my desires was simply not fair.
This was not the first nor last of my fits. As I grew I learned to contain my rage. My age grew and so did my perspective and I began to refine my sense of justice. What started with fury about the ways people were not fair to me has grown into an indignation against things that disenfranchise others. Inside, I am still screaming “it’s not fair.”
I have passed this rage on to my daughters. Not even two, my youngest flings herself at my feet, pounds her fists into the dust beneath her. If I dare move, if I do not hold court and hear her rage, she follows me to wherever I have wandered and starts all over again. Priscilla demands to be heard.
At the roller derby, (When your husband studies the rhetoric of gender and performance, roller derby is research.) Rilla decided that the demands that she not stick her chubby fingers in the sharp opening of my Coke can was simply not fair. She threw herself on the ground, arching her back, the rage turning her face as red as the can. You know your kid is throwing an epic fit when she is too loud for the roller derby.
I took her flailing body and pulled her into the bathroom. I deposited her safely on the floor and waited for the screaming to subside. I had already tried distracting, deterring, delighting. At this point she just wanted to scream.
An amazing thing happened on the dirty floor of the bathroom I was letting my child press her forehead against. Every single woman who walked into the bathroom affirmed my girl’s rage. Priscilla demands to be heard, so she kept moving herself so that the women entering the bathroom would have to literally step over her screaming body. They did happily, told her she would make a great roller girl, and told me I was doing a good job too, not giving into this tiny terror. Even when it isn’t fair, there are some things you just are not allowed to do.
I had this thought in the bathroom at the roller derby: wouldn’t it be great if the church were a safe place for my kid to learn how and why to rage.
Somewhere along the way I learned to silence the scream with in me, it’s not fair. I learned it was something to be ashamed of. I learned to replace it with “it’s fine, I am sure it will be fine” even when it wasn’t. I am grateful for the parents who did not allow me to scream every time I felt that something wasn’t fair. I am grateful for the lesson that not everything is worth raging against. But somewhere along the way, when I was taught to be cautious with those feelings, I heard that I shouldn’t feel them at all.
I feel like I was born screaming, “It isn’t fair!” I feel like it is written in my DNA. I am learning that sometimes now is the time and this is the place to shout those words. I am learning to not turn off those feelings, but funnel them into a stream that is pointed and powerful. This is not fair. You can find the message scrawled deep in my bones.
Over the years I have turned to writing letters when I see an injustice. I have written school administrations, newspapers, companies, and others. I smile when I hear my children say in response to an injustice “we have got to write a letter!”. Two out of the three have taken up this on their own. I have tried to teach them if they want to rage about something then they need to be willing to do something about it.
Rage is a beginning point – doing something effective in response to the injustice which caused the rage is tricky. Not enough productive activities for girls at the elementary school? I led scout troops. Poor education in urban schools? I taught English in a 2 year college with an urban demographic. Squashing rage, deflecting rage, ignoring rage caused by injustice? No. Directing rage? Yes.
I agree. Rage in itself accomplishes little. Only if we channel that rage in ways you mention can we do something worthwhile.
I love this. So much.