I’ve hit the rage stage of sheltering in. I stomp around the neighborhood, my cheap, old scarf over my nose and mouth like some kind of demented outlaw from Forever 21, and think about how angry I am.
I’m, first and foremost, angry that I live in a country that somehow elected such a wildly unfit, flawed human to be president. A man who has no clue about the limits of his own knowledge, and surrounds himself with other men who also appear to be deeply deluded about all that they do not know. I’ve read that, when this wave of infection has fully crashed to shore, we will likely find that nearly 90,000 Americans are dead--dads and daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, as real as yours and mine.
If our leadership had acted sooner, the vast majority of those could have been prevented. Peak hubris has wrought bottomless grief.
I’m so angry that our country’s electorate continues to be obsessed with candidates’ charisma rather than their capabilities. What I wouldn’t give, at this very moment, for a really focused, deeply comprehensive president, the kind who knows that asking questions and admitting the limits of your own knowledge is the ultimate sign of confidence. Make her boring as hell, I don’t care. Just make her relentless about the facts and unafraid to state them, regardless of her approval ratings. Make her the kind of leader who tells people what they don’t want to hear because she knows it will save their lives.
I’m angry that, when the dust clears, it is people of color who will have lost the most. Jobs, homes, family members, their very lives. Our federal government is refusing to release data by racial breakdown, but some cities are rightfully keeping track and finding that the majority of those dying from COVID-19 are black folks.
I’m angry that my kid doesn’t ever get to sit in Ms. Walsh’s kindergarten classroom again. And worse, that this has already become normal to her.
I’m angry that some of her schoolmates never had enough food to eat and now really don’t. I’m angry that they were already underserved by the public school system, and now they will fall even further behind. I’m angry that white parents, with a few exceptions, are thinking more about how to effectively homeschool their already obscenely enriched children rather than fix these structural inequities.
I’m angry that we pretend like the gig workers who deliver our dinner are brave when really they are desperate by design, disenfranchised by a morally bankrupt economy. Now, not just disenfranchised, but endangered--their very lives on the line for our fish tacos and convenience.
I’m angry that I don’t get to hug my friends for months on end, that I have to do calls in my car where we talk about how fried we are, how much we long for solitude and social life in equal measure. I’m angry that I’m grateful for these calls, when really they are so inadequate. I’m angry that the day lasts for 40 hours and the moment after my kids go to bed seems to last for five minutes. I cannot be the 10 people I want to be in those five minutes.
I’m angry that I have to avoid my neighbors, that I can’t pick up my favorite one-year-old who lives across the courtyard, that she has already forgotten to even reach her arms up to me when she sees me. I’m angry that our children have learned so fast to stay away from aunties and one another. They don’t even ask to go on playgrounds anymore. Kids don’t ask to go on playgrounds. It’s not tragedy on par with the real deaths that are happening, and the lonely grief associated with those deaths, but it is its own kind of death. Death of a way of being young and free in the world. Maybe they’ll recover some version of it, but it will never be the same.
My wise friend and neighbor says that rage is “depression’s energetic sister.” Perhaps this is all leading to that...my black hole of sadness over how the world has changed. And yes, I know there are a million potential silver linings, but that is not this essay. That is not this stage, this feeling. This place is dark and real and we need to make room for it, too.
For now, I rage. And think about the most critical lesson to teach my daughters in this moment. It’s not to be found on any app or Zoom link. It’s about leadership. Where it is showing up: the principal of her school, our governor (thank God), the artists teaching online, the nurses in our own community. And where it is gravely missing.
May they never be fooled by hollow charisma and blathering bravado. May they always choose and embody the kind of leadership that knows limits and fierce love.