There are a lot of messages in our culture about anger.
Basically none of them are good.
“Don’t fight fire with fire,” “hate breeds hate,” and the more recent, “love trumps hate.”
Sure, we get the messages on righteous anger, on passion. But more than anything we’re told that anger is useless at best, invalidating to our cause at worst. In the name of not dancing around my point, I’ll just state my guess as to why this is now.
Anger works, and the people in charge (of whatever power structure we’re fighting) know that. They know that anger, that passion, is what makes change happen, and they don’t want that. So they demonize it.
Or, perhaps, it’s just that anger makes people confront the demons that live within them, and we don’t like that. If someone’s angry at us, either we or they have done something wrong. It’s much easier to say that anger is the demon than to point at anything within ourselves.
The thing is, though? Anger works. Anger works so well. Active, angry passion is what shakes people out of their complacency long enough to learn. It’s what wakes people up to the fact that their actions are not okay. It’s what makes them not make the same mistake in the future.
Passive love and subtlety do almost nothing, save for win over people who are close to our side anyways. But when someone wants you dead, no amount of love will make them change. You could love them with all of your heart and more, and the only one who will change is you. You’ll learn. You’ll learn to be bitter, to be jaded, and that nothing you ever do will work. You’ll learn that you can’t change the world.
That isn’t true, though. It just takes anger. And sure, you can’t yell at someone enough that they’ll start thinking you’re a person. But you can yell at them long enough that they’ll know they can’t get away with verbalizing such beliefs.
And for those in the middle ground? Those who aren’t vested in their belief you’re not human, who just kinda… grew up that way? You might be able to reach them with love, but they may just take your kindness as an indication that your concerns aren’t serious, or your passivity as a message that you’ll continue to tolerate them regardless. After all, if this was serious, wouldn’t you be mad? And yes. If you get angry, they may go ahead and say that you invalidated your own concerns with your emotions– but they will never be able to say you weren’t passionate.
And passionate we must be– should be. Because they do want us dead. They would prefer we had cancer (and to illustrate how insidious this is, I wasn’t even looking for creepy, murdery parents’ books when I found that one). Indeed, many parents of Autistic people make us dead, because it’s much better to be a murderer than have a living child that couldn’t live up to your exceedingly high expectations. Especially with how often a murderer parent faces little more than a slap on the wrist for their crime. Sometimes they want us cured, or never born. We can go back in time to the olden ages of the early 2000s, when the Hear Their Silence rally spread hatred for those of us already living and extended a threat to those yet to be born, with a phone number of 1-877-No-Autism and message of unity around, I don’t know, our graves? You can see some emails around it here and here.
Do note where the anger really stems from, though. Either you call things out so kindly that nobody hears your voice, or you get angry enough that they start shouting back.
And again, the middle ground. The middle ground can be the hardest to reach with kindness, because you’ll approach them kindly, and then they’ll set up a Meeting to Discuss things after the damage is done Kindly, and you’ll discuss with them Kindly and they’ll discuss back Kindly and you’ll have another Kind Meeting but the thing is, at this point the damage was done about a month ago and there’s a good chance you’ve still made no progress at these meetings where you’re allowed no passion, no bite.
But the minute you’re shaking in front of an authority figure, your voice cracking, your eyes blazing in fury, and you tell them outright that what they’re doing is wrong, you get results.
So I’ll continue to be angry. I’ll continue getting results. And I’ll have friends, new activists usually, who will wonder why I’m so angry. Who will insist on trying things their way, the nice way, who want to be friends with everyone so that we can all get along.
I’ll let them, too. Because I had to learn, once, that kindness is moot when someone wants you gone.
I’ve been kicked off of a blog network for calling people out nicely, because those people were my bosses. I learned they’ll find a way to demonize you if they don’t want to hear your message, that they’ll remove you from sight regardless so you might as well take some blood with you.
I’ve learned that asking for written-down-rights to be respected in a psychiatric hospital leads to threats of solitary confinement. I’ve learned that backing down in fear leads to token gestures of goodwill while they still deny you basic personhood. What if I had been a brave child? Taken solitary, screamed and flailed against the walls in anger? I probably would’ve gone on to sue the hospital like I intended. But, the thing about those proper venues of anger– legal suits and such– is that they take energy that a mentally ill 14 year old doesn’t have.
I’ve learned that friends will leave you and groups will ostracize you when you ask them to be nicer about mental illness. I’ve learned that anger can’t change that, actually, but a burning vitriol will shine a light on who your real friends will always be. While, you know, the fake ones kick you in the gut.
So I’ve learned this anger. But the thing is? I shouldn’t have had to. My elder Autistics already learned these lessons on anger and effectiveness. If I had only met them sooner, I could have learned to harness my anger, grow my anger.
Maybe that’s what I’m doing now. I’m no elder, but I’ve been doing this for a while longer than many of the Autistics I know in person. Maybe I just want to write this out so they know why I’m angry, and know that they should be too.
And yes, you have to know how to use your anger. There’s a time and place for everything and nuance to every skill. But you can never learn to wield a weapon that you won’t pick up.