Today many of us tuned into MSNBC to see the Florida shooter in Court, who with head bowed, averting his eyes from the camera, no AR 15 in sight, looked like any other kid.
He is reported to be suffering with awareness of his actions, remorse, and is on suicide watch. How his manifest affliction of rage fell through the FBI’s net is the province of pundits.
This and other things set me thinking about rage today. I saw it again in the eyes of someone with an AR15 standing in front of a dead elephant, squinting proudly at the camera as if he had engaged in a fair fight with an elusive and deadly prey.
I have seen it in the faces of people like Rose McGowan yelling thru the #MeToo megaphone. What is #MeToo at its most vocal, but collective rage, women feeding on the rage of the victim or she who experiences herself as a victim and whose rage we excuse as we do no other in our society when she tells us about her abuse at the hands of a man or men.
I see it in the “tweets” of the sitting President in the wake of the Mueller indictment of thirteen Russians for trying to fix the U.S. election. Trump’s rage is mixed with the impotence of the charlatan who knows he is guilty and trumpets, pardon the pun, that he isn’t.
I once had a lover who had been a Clemson grad and Navy Seal, who broke his neck coming off a diving board. He took a lot of Percocet and one night before a tryst, he said to me that he needed to clean his gun and that if he could kill something, he’d feel much better. I’m sorry to report that I didn’t run in the opposite direction, didn’t pull my heart out of that oven until months later.
I wish I weren’t acquainted with rage, but I am. In fact, it is my nemesis. I have it at my puppies when they wake me up barking furiously to be uncrated and let outside. I have it when I think I’ve been screwed over, rejected, dissed, or shamed.
My own rage has origins in what a therapist of mine called “core betrayal.” When we look to others for love, depend on them to love and nurture us, we are vulnerable. When they hurt us then with words or blows or absence or neglect when we need them as ungrown beings, it is as if we have been dealt a direct blow to the heart, the most tender part of us. Then the avenging lioness emerges, extending her claws, refining the prowess of getting even.
Some of us hide our rage from ourselves or project it onto others or drink and drug, shoot up or get laid–anything to get away from the roiling, boiling pain that makes us feel limitless shame and terror.
I have blogged about this before–tracing this toxic vein in my psyche back to literal physical fights with my own mother, when I began to go after her when she hurt me, or when she was abusing my father.
The domestic violence people say that rage is about power and control. I think that it is about feeling powerless and out of control, unable to stop, change or eliminate a great and deep stressor within us that drives us and puts us on the run from the Other– or worse, toward him, armed with put-downs and a knife.
It is what renders us broken children within seemingly put together adults; it drives war, using bombs and napalm to flay the skin from and torch the huts of an entire people.
Indubitably, rage drove the Florida shooter to take out seventeen people the other day. It beggars belief, to behold this pale kid with his shock of dark hair who looks as though he could live next door.
Some people say that only God can save us, but it seems to me that we must save ourselves; we must confront the inner perpetrator and engage her and ask her what happened to her, comfort her and then we must have the courage to seek out help, before we shoot another human being or slit our own wrists.
Once upon a dark day I did that very thing, in a hot brandy-blackout, to punish myself for giving an ultimatum to someone to leave his wife or else.
I am responsible for my rage–it is not your job to diagnose or fix me. This is what being an adult means. It means restraining and taming the inner demon who would bring the whole world down around her, so lonely and empty is she.
The last thing someone spiritually and emotionally sick with rage should have is a gun. It is the very last thing– especially that gun, that status symbol of 2nd Amendment extremists who wilfully self-arm and then walk around with a gunstock showing–in the supermarket, or the hardware store.
Those of us unwilling or unable to develop a time out button and to apply the many alternatives to raining down bruises upon a partner or a pet should be prepared to be locked up, restrained, locked out, until we have the tools with which to coexist with our fellows and to love and accept them.
Not, my friends, until then. Not one minute before.