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Emails to my Therapist

What to Do With My Rage?

Dear Nicholas, I’m talking about my own– my rage. Tonight when I got the news that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, my mind–which could have been lingering on “what a heroic woman, thank you for all you’ve done!” instead went almost instantly to elaborate imaginings of what the Supreme Court without her could do to take away women’s rights.

My rights. At that moment, I wasn’t thinking of anyone else’s.

These imaginings then moved to self-defense and revenge against anyone who tried to abridge my rights.

I was mostly silent about my feelings at first. Bob, who was upset, said, “You’re taking this well.”

I said, “No. I am not.”

I did tell him then in my remarkably undemonstrative way about my fury. The fact that I simply have no impulse to scream and yell means nothing.  I felt hot-faced and hard-muscled with rage. I won’t burden you with the vengeful fantasies that ensued.

One could argue that I was and am making up things to be mad about, getting mad about things that haven’t happened. What I fear will happen to the court might not, so why get mad in advance, unless there’s some way I can usefully channel that anger.

Such as: I should work harder for my causes and candidates? Give more money?

My blood pressure usually runs very low. I don’t think it’s low right now.

I’ve always leaned in the pacifist direction. Not feeling pacific right now.

I’m being careful and measured in writing this, trying to be fully honest and at the same time rational. Even so it might be a mistake to post anything while I’m in this mood. Bob, who hasn’t yet read any of it, says from across the room that maybe it would be good to sleep on it.

I paused and went to Youtube to listen again to author James Baldwin speaking with civility and in rage about the treatment of his race. This took some of the steam out of my own anger; he was talking about four hundred years of ill-treatment ranging from unfair to unspeakable. On this occasion, all I’m doing is getting mad about something that might happen.

I’ve long been thinking that people need a way to cope with and defuse the desire for revenge. I was in Varanasi, India, for three months, researching my novel Sister India, when violence broke out between Hindus and Muslims. Each violent act seemed to beget another; and I could understand that: the impulse to hit back. I began to think that people need some public formal  recognition of injury; perhaps that could help to defuse the need to hit back harder.  I have no idea how to design such a thing, but there won’t be peace on earth without some way to make constructive use of anger and to ease the hunger for revenge.

I want to escape this feeling of fury–and yet do so without lapsing comfortably into my quiet private pursuits without taking some useful action. Already I can feel the writing of this starting to calm me. Does writing a blog post count as taking action or does it only serve to calm me down? This post isn’t going to change the coming make-up of the Supreme Court.

When I think of spending my time on activism, which I don’t enjoy, I always want to ask: but is this approach the one that will work?  The lack of a reliable answer is no excuse for doing nothing.








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  • Robert Braxton
    September 19, 2020 at 2:01 pm Reply

    my Shero

    • Peggy Payne
      September 19, 2020 at 2:29 pm Reply

      Mine, too, Bob. One of them…

    • September 22, 2020 at 2:23 pm Reply

      Bob, I’m with you and Peggy on the “Shero” (a new term for me, which I looked up: “shero
      /ˈSHirō,ˈSHērō/ noun informal
      a woman admired or idealized for her courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities; a heroine. “what an amazing experience to be able to meet your shero”).
      It is looking to me more and more like Trump intends to steal this election by whatever means he can dispose of. Do you have the same sense?
      And thanks again for coming to Moristotle & Co. and leaving a comment on yesterday’s post. I came back here (to Peggy’s blog) today because I was prompted by your comment. (I wanted to acknowledge it here, where you found prompt to visit me.)

      • Peggy Payne
        September 22, 2020 at 2:30 pm Reply

        Thanks, Morris

        • September 22, 2020 at 2:54 pm Reply

          My pleasure! Thanks for all you do, Peggy.

  • Marcie
    September 19, 2020 at 2:23 pm Reply

    The best way we can honor her is to boldly step up and carry forward her work, to participate in the democratic process and fight for what is right for humanity and the Earth.

    • Peggy Payne
      September 19, 2020 at 2:29 pm Reply

      I agree, Marcie. And I natter and delay over how to best do that, though I do write letters, emails, etc., make some contributions. Way too little, though. Need to step up more.

  • Kenju
    September 19, 2020 at 3:08 pm Reply

    I think many of us feel just as you have described. I surely do. I’ve been moved to donate in this campaign, as in no other. Now, I think I’ll donate to the woman running against
    Moscow Mitch in Ky. I hope Kentucky comes to its senses and realizes what a liability he is.

    • Peggy Payne
      September 19, 2020 at 4:01 pm Reply

      I suspect that today and the next few days are going to bring a spike in donations all over the place, Kenju. So many people so agitated and unsettled.

  • John Cheek
    September 19, 2020 at 3:36 pm Reply

    Thank you Peggy. It’s just one more thing in this terrible year. I am between rage and deep grief!

    • Peggy Payne
      September 19, 2020 at 3:59 pm Reply

      Does singing help you, John?

  • Alice Sawa
    September 19, 2020 at 5:06 pm Reply

    I live with a man who is very republican and arguing about the election just made us both hateful within our relationship of 50 years. We agreed not to talk politics and it is very difficult. RBG dying has hurt us all to the core and I am very thankful that my adult children and I feel the hurt together and keep me sane.Please VOTE because we need it more than ever….we are in trouble.

    • Peggy Payne
      September 19, 2020 at 5:15 pm Reply

      That must be so difficult, Alice. I’ve often thought in these last few years how hard it must be when the polarization is within the family as well as the country. It leaves no escape from it. Not talking about it does seem like the only way. My mother was seeing a man for over twenty years who was Republican to her Democrat. They never once discussed anything political. I would find that hard, but it worked. It helped, I think, that he was strong on civil rights from way back; a really good guy in so many ways. I wish you well with your situation; fifty years is huge.

    • September 19, 2020 at 6:43 pm Reply

      Good choice, not to discuss politics – I don’t think our responsibility for our own choices and actions needs to include inflammatory discussions that harm our most important relationships. This is a choice, a core belief I value above both being “Right”, & having to convince anyone else I’m right, which seems kinda self-righteous to me.

    • September 21, 2020 at 4:54 pm Reply

      Alice, my wife and I have been married for even longer than you and your “very republican” husband, and I know that I could NOT have remained married to her if SHE were “very republican” – or her with me if the tables were reversed. It hurts me to try to imagine what you have had to endure (for maybe most of those 50 years?). Neither of us has voted for a Republican (however good a person he or she seemed to be) since the foundation of Move On, during the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

      • Peggy Payne
        September 21, 2020 at 5:02 pm Reply

        Moristotle, At first I thought you were referring to my husband and then I noted the absence of a comma after wife. Pretty funny!

        • September 21, 2020 at 6:12 pm Reply

          By the way, are your comments automatically italicized because you are the blog’s owner, or do you have to use tags to achieve that? I am tagging this sentence to see whether IT can be italicized under my direction.

          • Morris Dean
            September 21, 2020 at 6:13 pm Reply

            My tags seem to have been discarded and ignored….

          • Peggy Payne
            September 21, 2020 at 6:16 pm Reply

            I don’t know about the italics or the tags, Morris.

      • September 21, 2020 at 6:10 pm Reply

        Peggy, my comment was indented under Alice’s, so I assumed that it would be clear she was the “Alice” I was addressing. I agree: your momentary misinterpretation WAS pretty funny!

        • Morris Dean
          September 21, 2020 at 7:03 pm Reply

          I can see by the staggering of these comments that I haven’t caught on quite yet what instance of “Reply” I should be clicking on. The Blogger platform I use for Moristotle & Co. allows simple HTML coding in its comment boxes. I can emphasize words, for example (that is, via italics, bold, or underlining), and I can code links to websites. I am going to leave an html address here now as an experiment, to see whether YOUR platform AUTOMATICALLY turns it into a link (mine does not; I have to include the HTML coding to make that happen).

          • Peggy Payne
            September 21, 2020 at 9:44 pm Reply

            I think that the platforms have different programs for the blogger and for commenters, Morris– I’ve noticed that when trying to comment on other people’s blogs sometimes.

  • September 19, 2020 at 7:12 pm Reply

    Strong post Peggy – I hope there’ll be 1] enough re-election pressure on enough Republican senators , and/ or 2] enough Republican senators who support leaving this choice up to the next president to postpone confirmation hearings/confirmation of whoever the current president nominates for the Supreme Court until after our next president is inaugurated. Seems to me that the rights of oppressed minorities will unfortunately always be a complex matter, requiring extended debate and enforced legislation. And the political pendulum swings inevitably, maddingly, back and forth.

    • Peggy Payne
      September 19, 2020 at 7:55 pm Reply

      Thanks, Bob. May your strategies work!

  • Lee Grohse
    September 20, 2020 at 3:32 am Reply

    Rage seems pretty reasonable, given the situation. I responded to RBG’s death with despondency because I think it is pretty inevitable there will be a rush to a conservative appointment. I have despaired of there being any people of conscience stepping up to do the right thing. Each person I talked to today had some strong reaction to her death and was having to work hard at what to do with it. I do know that your rage will subside and my despondency will lift. What I am most aware of now is that a lot of us are feeling worn down from coping with this slow motion national train wreck. I remind myself that I am cautiously optimistic about the upcoming election and will go with that for now.

    • Peggy Payne
      September 20, 2020 at 2:55 pm Reply

      I share your cautious optimism, Lee. And the anger is energizing. I’ve at least passed the miserable peak of it and trust that your despondency is on the way out if not gone.

  • Therese Wilson
    September 20, 2020 at 11:15 am Reply

    Thanks for your blog, Peggy. I certainly relate! But I think that RBG would want us to take some action to help insure that her Supreme Court seat is not given to a Trump appointee who will tilt the court for generations. My suggestion is for all of us to call our own Senators and tell them they need to vote NO on any Trump appointee. Trusting the Republicans to do the right thing does not work because they are for scorched earth policies. Especially Mitch McConnell! Then, after calling our own Senators, please also call Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Chuck Grassley and Mitt Romney–possibly even Lindsey Graham though he is not reliable. And tell them all (or leave messages, even if you’re not a constituent in that state) that they need to be consistent–remember Mitch did not allow Merrick Garland to even be interviewed by the Senate, much less voted on. They deeply dishonored Barack Obama, saying it was because it was an election year–and it was NINE MONTHS before an election! Now it’s not even 9 weeks till the election and Trump and McConnell want to fill RBG’s seat–they are dishonoring her! This is WRONG! All we need are 4 Republicans to stand up with some integrity and grant RBG’s dying wish–let the people of the US choose their next President and then let the winner choose the next Supreme Court justice. We have to do our part. Put your rage into action! Thank you.

    • Peggy Payne
      September 20, 2020 at 2:39 pm Reply

      I agree, Therese, and thanks for this list of out-of-state senators to call. Do calls tend to be more effective than emails or letters? I think I’ll do a little research on the differences.

  • Therese Wilson
    September 20, 2020 at 3:41 pm Reply

    Peggy– I think that calls tend to be more powerful because they are more immediate, more “in your face.” It’s easy to ignore an email or letter. I believe each Senator has a secretary or assistant or aide who answers all calls and who catalogues all calls and then reports to the Senator those numbers. All these senators (especially the ones who are up for re-election in Nov.) are desperate for votes–so obviously if you ARE a constituent of that senator, your call will mean more to him or her. But even if you aren’t, senators are often pretty concerned about how they appear to the voters and journalists of the country, so I think they want to know what people think. What I usually do is write my comment out ahead of time, so I’m very clear when I make my phonecalls. Slightly different comments for each individual senator, for example, Susan Collins of Maine has said she would not vote for a new justice until Jan. 2021 when the election is over, but she has waffled so many times and been threatened by Trump, that she ends up voting his way. Will she stick to her own ethics here or will she be swayed again? Many are voting against her in Maine in Nov. because she has waffled so many times and let Trump and other Republicans sway her. Will she stick to her guns this time? That’s what I’m going to ask when I call. Not that you (or I) talk directly to a Senator–but the aide records what is said and relays that to the Senator. Thanks for listening and taking action.

    • Peggy Payne
      September 20, 2020 at 4:00 pm Reply

      Thank you, Therese! This is very helpful; your detailed info and preparation are impressive.

  • Therese Wilson
    September 21, 2020 at 4:57 pm Reply

    Thanks, Peggy–glad to help. One more message here re: RBG–if everyone can text RBG to 50409 (takes just a minute) this contacts your own state senators to vote NO on any Trump and McConnell right wing appointee. If people in every state contact their senators by text (they read texts) to say NO on Trump jamming through a right wing judge who not only will dishonor RBG but will most certainly help the Supreme Court abolish the Affordable Care Act (take away health insurance for hundreds of thousands of Americans during a pandemic!) among other things, then maybe the Senate will get enough Republican senators (we just need FOUR!) to go along with all the Democratic Senators to vote NO on an unqualified and radical right wing judge that does not reflect what the American people want. Thank you!

    • Peggy Payne
      September 21, 2020 at 5:04 pm Reply

      This is terrifically helpful, Therese. Thanks. I’ll spread the word further.

  • Therese Wilson
    September 21, 2020 at 6:14 pm Reply

    Thanks so much, Peggy!

    • Peggy Payne
      September 21, 2020 at 6:17 pm Reply

      Thanks to you, Therese!

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