Instead of ignoring the anger, put it to a positive use.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is something very wrong with (and for) many white men in America. They are so damned angry.
It is a phenomenon that is distinctly un-lovable, and yet love may be the most effective response.
As a member of that cohort, I get it: every rule we were taught growing up has changed, every promise that was made has been broken. How we interact with women, privilege and all that it manifested for our fathers, grandfathers and forefathers, and everything it meant in terms of being a man, a provider and protector…. Gone.
The problem is the role of virile alpha male provider/protector is hard-wired into our brain. It is our very definition of “manhood.” Faced with uncertainty and change, the response of circling up protection around what we “know” and responding aggressively against the unknown, is second nature.
Being AGAINST something focuses that energy like a laser, whereas being FOR something diffuses positive energy into an array of options. This is why right-wing talk radio works and attempts at liberal talk radio have failed miserably. Conservatives have bulleted talking points that are relentlessly AGAINST something. Even when they say they are “pro-life,” the focus is so narrow, that it comes down to being AGAINST abortion and nothing more. They’re AGAINST “Obamacare,” but press them for an alternative and you get a look of canine puzzlement. Progressives, meanwhile, want to include everybody and can’t seem to herd the cats. Applied to light, it is almost literally the difference between generating heat and illumination. Negativity feeds on its own energy.
The harder part is seeing what fuels the fire — fear — and responding with compassion and empathy.
The racism we see in America today is inseparable from the broken promise of a “birthright” and privilege, and the scaling back of hopes and expectations as wages decline. As in pre-WWII Germany, racism whispers in the ears of white men, “It’s not your fault you can’t provide for your family, that you’re not going to do as well as your father did; it’s THEIR fault!” and it points it’s bony finger at women who’ve gone to work (“because if you were man enough, she wouldn’t HAVE to work, taking a job away from a man.”), Or at immigrants. Or anyone else who is “different.”
It’s easy to feel bowled over by the laser-focused blast of anger and negativity, or feel the need to match it in kind. The harder part is seeing what fuels the fire — fear — and responding with compassion and empathy.
I get it. Angry white guy is exhausting and distinctly unsympathetic. There is much to hate about hatred, but that can only yield more of the same. If we can bring ourselves to recognize bigotry, gun culture, misogyny and white male rage as merely the outward symptoms of a very real fear, we can meet fear with empathy, compassion and even love.
Would you like to help us shatter stereotypes about men?
Receive stories from The Good Men Project, delivered to your inbox daily or weekly.
Feature Photo: Getty Images.