"Babe? Why do you look angry? Is everything ok?" Boyfriend reaches over, turns down the radio with a twist of the dial. "I'm fine." "Are you sure you're not angry?" I notice then the way my jaw is locked, the ridged way I'm sitting ramrod straight in the seat. The fact that I haven't spoken yet since the radio was turned on, and that my hands are folded very very precisely in my lap.
So I stop biting my tongue. The words roll, one right after the other, tripping over themselves in their haste to get out. I glare at the radio and the inane voice still coming out of it, albeit quieter now.
Yes, I am angry. I am very, very angry. I am angry that more than two dozen school children and their teachers were slain just days ago, in a place that is meant to be a sanctuary of learning, discovery, and growth.
I am angry that voices like this one (I jabbed in the direction of the radio with one hand, while the other balled in to a fist on my thigh) and stupid talking heads think it's ok to make it a political issue, or a religious debate.
I am angry people know the killer's name, and his brother's name, and no one seems to know a single victims' name unless they've cut and pasted the list from somewhere on the internet.
I'm angry that people don't realize the lists they're cutting and pasting are in some instance incomplete, inaccurate, or just plain wrong.
I am angry that kids the same age as the ones who fill my classroom when I am home for breaks like this I am now will never again set foot in their own dance studios or martial arts dojos or basketball gyms. I am angry that they will never watch Spongebob Square Pants with the volume too loud or fall down and scrape their knee like your little brother did, Boyfriend, just this afternoon.
I am angry that an entire generation can add a small town in New England to the deep scars of Columbine and Virgina Tech.
I am angry that as a nation grieves and a community weeps and the world watches in horror and sadness, we are quietly deploying men & women - including at least one very well loved friend of ours - to other countries to fight a war I sometimes think people forget we're even in, across far more nations than just Iraq.
I am angry that children were interviewed about horrors no one should have to see and endure while their tears were fresh on their cheeks and anyone with sense could see the shock - and I mean medical shock - in their eyes.
I am angry that people think this is a gun control debate or a mental health debate or a violence-in-the-media-and-entertainment debate. How can you possibly think one solution, one idea, one pathway is the answer to something so huge and shattering?
I am angry that the horror isn't done for these kids, including the ones in the classroom. I am angry they must bare mental and emotional wounds that could in so many ways ruin their lives for no other reason than because they went to school. PTSD? Survivor's Guilt? How do we help babes with these troubles??
There are those saying it is because we kicked God out of our schools He didn't save our children and-why-should-He. That makes me very, very angry.
There is the Westoboro Baptist Church who want to picket the funerals of innocents. That makes me angrier than words can do justice too - how dare they rain further grief on these families and this community? How dare they speak ill of sleeping angels? How dare they call this travesty the will of God? How dare they masquerade as Christians?
I am angry with the world and with myself that this is such a big deal, when six million - six million - 6,000,000 children die every year of starvation alone. That doesn't include those who die of dysenterie, AIDS, malaria, land mines, mining accidents, factory/sweatshop accidents, or in wars/as victims of genocides and hate crimes. The number of playmates that kindergarten class has waiting in Heaven boggles the mind, breaks the heart, and turns the stomach and who, including me, has cried a damn tear over them everyday? How dare these 20 laid low be more precious than those millions? And how can we live in a world where a tragedy this big is a drop in an ocean of cruelty and horror? It makes me very very angry! Yes I am angry!
I am so God damn angry!
I realize now I am close to shouting. The voice on the radio has gone and a jingle for some holiday sale or other comes faintly through the speakers, the windshield wipers a metronome beneath it. I feel the tears that taste like acid curling at the back of my throat and the corners of my eyes and feel the dented half moons I have pressed in to my own palms, my fists bunched so tight the knuckles are white against my skin.
I pause and take a breath, reminding myself of a lesson from my childhood that has become like a mantra to me. "Anger is a secondary emotion. Find what you're really feeling." I let Boyfriend's hand wrap around my much smaller fist - he doesn't say anything, just lays warm and gentle pressure against the balled up physicalization of outrage my hand has become.
I find fear - fear for children I haven't even had. Fear for friends heading to war. Fear for the children I've taught, tutored, and the children I love, fear for the generation raised post-Columbine and post-9/11 and too young to remember these events that will shape their lives. Fear for those with mental health problems, that rather than raise awareness Friday will increase stigmas.
I find sadness, for how can you not want to weep at such senseless loss of life? The helplessness? The sheer brutal madness of it all?
I taste guilt. These were not my children, I don't even have children. I'm not related to the teachers who died heroes. I am not part of the aching, bleeding community. This is not my pain or burden and to have wept the way I have feels self-indulgent. How dare I? There is the guilt, too, of my last point so vehemently raised. There are so many who suffer so much, how dare I pretend to share these 26 family's pain and yet ignore the pain of millions?
Confusion. What do we do? How do we do it?
So yes, God help me, I am angry - so blisteringly angry I think I might melt the damn polar caps myself with my fury.
I know I must release my anger: it is selfish, and indulgent, and gets nothing done. What else to do, dear friends, I am not sure.
I will try to be informed, so that I can be part of conversation and progress. I will pray, and I will listen, and I will learn, and I will work to make this world better - in memory of the 26. And the 6 million. May that number lesson soon.