Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hell Hath No Fury, Part I

This is my mother:

In the sixties, working for the Civil Rights Movement, assigned to sit in at a segregated lunch counter. A person behind the counter informed her that the restaurant didn't serve niggers. My mother looked him in the eye and responded, "I didn't ask for a nigger. I asked for a hot dog."

This is my father:

Also very involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and having more desire in his heart to attend the March on Washington led by Martin Luther King than money in his pocket. So he and his friends walked to the march. From Baltimore.

When these are your parents, when you are the biological soup of righteous entitlement and dogged determination, well...you are going to lose your temper a little bit when people piss you off.

My mother was, after the lunch counter incident, encouraged to work more behind the scenes. Given the goal of non violent change, movement leaders thought, wisely, that she may not be the personality to send into the Woolworth's after a Coke. My problem is that I'm not reporting to anyone for my causes. I hear something stupid, something bred by hate, and there's no one to send me to the bleachers where I can avoid reacting strongly and causing counter-anger. I probably need to work on this.

Tonight I was so stunned by a comment I read that my blood went cold. My muscles contracted and my jaw set. I was flush with anger. I was, and as I write this still am, really, really mad. It's an emotion that usually hits me with a staggering blow, knocking the breath out of me and my feet from under me. Then it begins to seep away, and the questions begin. Did I overreact? Should I have waited for the anger to pass? Should I have said or done something differently?

By the time my anger is gone - it usually passes from white hot to almost completely dormant before an hour strikes - I may or may not have left some bubbling hatred of my own in my wake. The tongue I work really hard to control when I'm not angry gets away from me (and enlists my typing fingers as co-conspirators). I definitely need to work on this.

I don't know if I have a point or a witty end to tonight's post. I'll have to come back.

1 comment:

Two Shorten the Road said...

"My mother looked him in the eye and responded, "I didn't ask for a nigger. I asked for a hot dog." "

I love that she said that. As the Irish say, she's a woman after my own heart.