In the past few months, I’ve seen the phrase “love in the time of coronavirus” a few times, and I always hope that those who use it know where it comes from: the novel Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. Because of coronavirus, life feels to me more like the title of his other famous novel: One Hundred Years of Solitude.
But seriously: I’m feeling a good bit of anger in addition to love. I identify as a White cisgender woman, so I acknowledge my privilege, but I still feel angry because of the racist mess of the United States and every single White person in it. I also feel angry because of the fossil-fuel-driven mess we are in, known as global warming. I am angry because Exxon has known since the 1970s what was happening. I’m angry at the early attempts to discredit voting by mail and at all the other strategies that some folks are working on to challenge the presidential election results if they lose.
I’m angry because of all the unnecessary suffering that coronavirus is causing, and because so much of it could have been avoided by effective leadership in the United States. I’m angry that so many are suffering because of lost jobs, shuttered businesses, the threat of eviction, the wrongheaded healthcare insurance industry, frustration with distance learning, loneliness, and plain old fear. I miss my family. I miss my friends. It hurts.
I’m angry about racism, and about the staggering number of Black killings that were hidden from public view until cell phone cameras changed that. I’m angry about White people who turn away from learning about racism and the part we play in perpetuating it and its far-reaching effects.
So this isn’t anger in a time of coronavirus; it is anger in the time of a total freaking mess. And anger is one of the tools we’re using to get out of it.
Showing anger is a risky thing to do. It triggers backlash, and the angry people (depending on race and/or gender) get denounced as “thugs,” “terrorists,” “bitches,” or even “bullies.” But in the words of the immortal Elton John, “Without love I’d have no anger / I wouldn’t believe in the right to stand here.”
Knowing that this is true helps me a lot. In addition, I recently read this about anger from none other than Mohandas Gandhi: “We should not be ashamed of anger. It’s a very good and a very powerful thing that motivates us. But what we need to be ashamed of is the way we abuse it.”
Now I feel like I’ve gotten somewhere. I know that anger can come from love and can be righteous. I know that it can be used judiciously or abusively. It’s my responsibility to be careful, mindful, and prayerful as I use it.
And finally, I have to accept other people’s anger if I am going to lay claim to my own. It’s okay. I know I can do it. This comes from being willing to do it. I know anger is there, it’s valid, and its expression is really important to this total, beautiful, freaking mess of being alive. I thank God—as I often do—that I have been given this chance to live, to be part of Creation, and to learn how to be God’s hands in the world, even just a little bit. One last quotation, this time from the honey-tongued Cat Stevens: “It ain’t never too late / To learn about love.” I think that learning about love and learning about anger are going to go together in this time.