Much like pride, everyone is prone to moments of anger. And just as people talk about “good” pride and “bad” pride, so do they talk about anger. The phrase “righteous anger” is often used when people feel that they are justified in their anger, and they tend to see it in the same category as when they are proud of a job well done - these are good uses of anger and pride.
The problem arises when one’s “righteous anger” is actually not righteous at all and is merely an outpouring of “bad” pride. We humans have a tendency to self-deception and that can have terrible consequences for ourselves and for those who happen to get in the way of our not-so-righteous anger.
Every time someone is filled with so much anger that they become enraged there is the danger of that wrath becoming violent. A clear example of this type of rage has, since May 2nd, gripped our nation’s capital and has brought division to an already divided country. On that day the news organization Politico printed an “exclusive” story with the title: “Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows.”
Thus began a series of illegal actions that would be deemed justified because of the “righteous anger” of those involved. The leak of this exclusive story most probably came from one of the clerks of one of the dissenting Supreme Court justices who certainly must have felt justified in committing a crime that could end their legal career.
Once this draft entered the public domain there were those who were so enraged at the possibility of the Court overturning Roe v. Wade and giving the power over the issue of abortion to the states that they felt justified in threatening the homes, families, and lives of the “anti-choice” justices. On June 8th a man with a gun and a knife was arrested outside the home of Justice Kavanaugh. The logic is clear - no Kavanaugh, no majority to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Pride’s logical conclusion is violence, and that violence is filtered through delusional self-righteous anger. Pride tells people that their cause is always the correct cause and that everything and anything must be done to achieve lasting victory in their cause. For the past 50 years there have been sporadic anti-life acts of violence by supposedly “pro-life” proponents who have felt that their just cause gave them the right to kill abortionists or bomb “clinics”.
They were not only completely wrong, but they did great harm to the cause that they were supposedly supporting.
This issue is the most divisive in American society since that of slavery in the 1800s. Both sides appeal to the “American values” of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as the framework for their beliefs. We may, should things escalate in the upcoming weeks, be on the verge of another Civil War. We should not be surprised if this does happen. A majority of Americans only know a world of Roe v. Wade, a world where when you have a “problem” your first inclination is to solve it with violence. The threats are already there - overturn Roe v. Wade and feel our wrath.
The day after the assasination of Martin Luther King, Jr., there was a talk given at the Cleveland City Club by Robert Kennedy. The night before, Kennedy spoke to an African American crowd at a rally in Indianapolis where he gave what may be the greatest ad hoc speech in the history of this nation. His speech saved that city from violence, rioting, and deaths.
At the City Club - a speech that you can watch online - Kennedy said this about the violence that killed King and the violence that killed his brother John: “Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by his assassin's bullet. No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero, and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people.”
The antidote to this violence is forgiveness - one of the most difficult of virtues. How can we forgive THEM? They want to take away my right to do what I want to with my own body. They want to take away the rights of unborn, innocent children. THEY!
Near the end of his talk Kennedy gave the solution to the problem of THEY and THEM:
We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men…We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge. Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanish it with a program, nor with a resolution. But we can perhaps remember - even if only for a time - that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life…Surely this bond….can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again.
We need to heed these words, words that seem more relevant today than they were even in those dark days of 1968. We need to transform “righteous” anger into “righteous” forgiveness, but first we need to rid ourselves of the demonic delusion that divides us from them and proposes that violence is the path to justice and freedom.