When I was young (mid teens to early twenties) I was a rageaholic.
Actually, I was addicted to substances and behaviors that only produced misery. The rage was a defense mechanism for my misery and was justified by finding things to blame other people for. I was a victim, especially of people who seemed to want to put a check on my passions. Unfortunately, I often acted out my misery in the form of anger expressed at the people who loved me the most.
I hated my nation, hated my heritage, hated conservatives, made fun of and mocked Christians, and didnt believe in God. I advocated for the liberalization of marijuana, likely largely so I could reinforce the delusion that smoking pot wasn’t ruining my mind and my emotional life. I advocated for a no rules approach to sexuality – as long as both parties were consenting. I thought there was such thing as “consequence-free” sex.
I wanted to rebel against the system, the Patriarchy. I liberally threw around terms like misogyny, homophobia, fascist, nazi, and I just knew that all conservatives were ignorant and uneducated. They were at best people to be pitied, until their political interests seemed to call into question my values – then they were despised. And this took the form of adolescent rage and anger – that could easily turn violent.
I went to protests, I shouted, I cussed, I smoked pot, drank and ridiculed, despised and lamented. Yet, I was the victim. I blamed my rage on other people, it was their fault.
What I didn’t realize is that I was the victim of my own delusion – an imaginary sense of freedom that compensated for my lack of virtue, and lack of principle.
As I have watched the left respond to the Trump victory, inauguration, and administration, it has been incredibly painful and also made me afraid for our country.
I am all for civil and non-violent debate, and I was as surprised as anybody that Donald Trump became the President of the United States. He wasn’t my first choice. He wasn’t my second or third choice either. The way he responds to challenges sometimes reveals a lack of discipline, emotional immaturity, and even a spiritual emptiness. I feel sorry for this when I see it. People are right to challenge him when he acts in a way that is offensive or rash.
Nonetheless, the absolute hysteria from the left, their own lack of balance and proportion in their response, and the alarmist and violent tendencies it displays are deeply troubling to me. It has been a mirror to me of my own past, my own adolescence rage, my own victimhood, and my own self-righteousness. Similar to how I was unwillling to see any good qualities in those I despised and I amplified their every flaw and mistake I see the left doing this with our current president. In the same way I lied to myself to reinforce a delusion that justified my own destructive behavior I see the left doing in their unchecked anger. Sadly this anger is too often in response to an imaginary infringement upon false rights based in harmful notions of freedom. What I see in the political left is unchecked and even violent anger and I know it cannot bare good fruit.
Those who produced the greatest and most positive political and social change of the 20th century did so non-violently: Mahatma Gandhi, MLK Jr., Mother Theresa, Pope John Paul II.
There were also people who caused great social and political change violently: Pol Pot, Stalin, Castro, Mao Zedong. Each violated human dignity and life in ways that undermined and diminished humanity as a whole. Arbitrary and unchecked violence distorts and debases humanity.
When I see the ongoing and incidiary anger of the political left on full display it is deeply troubling. That doesn’t mean I am giving a carte blanche endorsement to the Trump administration or the Republican platform. I find myself at odds with some common features of that platform.
Yet the left has lost sight of the fact that much of governance and policy is compromise and give and take. And sometimes you simply lose a battle. The lack of grace in response to the the loss of political authority is revealing a people who are unrooted morally and spiritually.
There is a legitimate diversity of opinion in approaches to addressing political, social, and moral problems. And what appear to be good and just political or legal solutions can have unforeseen and unintended consequences. Even with those issues where there are absolute moral principles involved – such as the evil of homicide -there is still a legitimate diversity of opinion about how to prevent and punish acts of homicide.
But the violent and often grotesque anger of the left as I have seen it unfold the last few weeks prevents the possibility of this type of recognition, of accepting loss, and working civilly for political and social change in a way that is reflective of human goodness and dignity.