Earlier this week I thought I might blog about the pink overload that’s become October. Then I realized there’s something else that needs to be addressed, something more insidious than breast cancer and longer lasting than any awareness month. It’s anger, which seems so often to boil over into hate.
In 1998, late at night on October 6, Matthew Shepard was tortured and beaten to death for being gay. I saw a picture of him on Wikipedia recently and was startled and heartbroken by how beautiful he was. I bring him up because we must bear witness and should never forget.
Twelve years later, the haters have retreated to the safety of the Internet. On September 22, Rutgers student Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his roommate secretly videotaped him having sex with a man and posted it on the Internet.
This hate is not just directed at gays, and it doesn’t always end in death. At a lesser level, anger seems to be everywhere. You see it on cable news and in the blogosphere; as though he who shouts loudest wins. Doc Rob, who blogs at Musings of a Distractible Mind, wrote a post some months back about how much he enjoys and has learned from the autistic children he treats. Most people reading it could tell it was written with affection and respect. Yet some autism activists reacted as though he said he eats kittens for breakfast, and attempted to hijack his blog.
Just last night, I found out someone was leaving the Twitter community over threats too hateful and vicious to repeat here. The one ray of hope was the people who came to her defense and alerted the rest of us. The Internet makes it so easy to hide behind anonymity and spew garbage from the safety of your keyboard. I guess we should be grateful that even more people don’t do it.
We know about the cowards and haters on the Internet. We know emotions run high with politics, religion and sex. But I was floored yesterday as I read More magazine, which targets women over 40. The editor asked for a cease and desist on “beauty anger.” Apparently, women are bashing the magazine for using celebrities instead of “real” women, alleging said celebrities have had plastic surgery. The editor responded that celebrities sell magazines and that she doesn’t know who’s had work done. She asked that everyone agree to let women age the way they see fit.
There’s an easy solution. Don’t read the magazine, or the blog, or the tweet. Or, here’s a thought; if you disagree, try stating your case. Anyone remember how to do that? When did we reach the point where we think we have the right to attack each other’s choices, or worse, each other?
I know some of you are thinking, “Of course she’s going to take the kumbaya stance; she’s a girl.” So let me point out that same issue of More had a fine essay on female anger by Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness (best book title ever and the short stories it contains are good too). She talked about how the hormonal changes in menopause can make her want to hurt bank tellers for taking too long with her deposit. I know those feelings well. But, like Houston said, you learn to call upon your “observing ego” to sort righteous anger from free-floating rage. Or at least some of us do.
I don’t know if an Anger Awareness Month or Rage for The Cure or even a Use Your Indoor Voice campaign would ever catch on. But we need to do something. A collective deep breath might be a good place to start.