If I were to express an overwhelming feeling I have felt these days, I would have to pick anger. It is one of the prevalent feelings in my life these days, perhaps the most prevalent. I don’t think I am alone in this. But I would love to be able to be self-congratulatory and say that my anger is about something external to me, the many injustices and stupidities we see around these days. I would love to say I am angry at 45 for deflecting attention from his failures and instead targeting immigrants, taking the opportunity to continue to dismantle environmental protections or reproductive and LGBTQ rights, ranting about journalists and state governors, rousing his base to put public health in jeopardy, disbursing checks with his fucking name, holding daily press briefings that make less and less sense….I could go on and on. It do get angry when I see the staggering and unequal mortality rates for BIPOCs, the gun-toting, confederate-flag-flying “liberate [insert name of state]” rallies, the conditions in our overcrowded prisons, the increased insecurity (ha!) of refugees, of domestic violence victims, of transgender people, of cancer patients having to go for treatment in COVID-19-infested hospitals, of unionized and non-unionized (hence even less protected) employees at the university that pays my salary….I could go on and on here too.
Sure, I get angry at all these instances of structural violence and/or foolishness. But my anger is also more narcissistic. I feel angry about being in forced social isolation, I feel angry about the state of my retirement account, I feel anger toward people close to me who chose to disregard my warnings and expertise about the gravity of the situation and made foolish decisions that affected me, I feel anger at stupid Twitter bots/DJT supporters (I never know which is which) that infect my social media. I feel anger about things that, honestly, do not matter at the end. I am, I know, disproportionately privileged – through no merit of mine – in this society. And this anger I feel at the small things in my life that are not going the way I planned or would have liked is unexplainable, unjustifiable.
And yet, I am angry about all of this. I have spent hours asking myself why. I wish I could say that anger masks feelings of frustration, impotence, and sadness. This pandemic has exposed the fault lines of all sorts of violences embedded in this neoliberal system more than anything else in my life – even more dramatically than climate change and, certainly for most of us in the privileged north, more dramatically than ‘foreign’ wars. Their magnitude feels now so out of my control, out of anybody’s control, really – even, to a degree, out of the control of those who control global and national politics and economies. Those who – ultimately – are responsible for bringing us here, and I include myself in that network of responsibilities. And while in this situation I have a small glimpse of what it must feel like to live a precarious life, a life in constant insecurity, a life of unremitting existential threats, I know I am spared, though I am responsible.
Maybe I am angry at myself.