How To Be Decent In A Time of Rage: The Lion and The Rat

Sculpture by Tom Otterness

We’ve been degraded again in the U.S. I’m enraged by yet more setbacks for women, immigrants, people of color, the environment, civility; to name a few imperiled categories.How can I stop being so angry?

I offer this bit of 17th century insight not to explain current circumstances (which you’ve no doubt dissected endlessly by now), but to suggest how we might proceed as decent humans in the face of such discouraging headlines.

We must be kind to everyone, as much as possible. We often need those who are smaller than ourselves.

A stunned rat was pulled out of the ground in the paws of a lion. The king of the animals, on this occasion, demonstrated who he was and gave the rat back his life.  

This good deed was not lost. Would anyone have believed that a lion would need anything from a rat? And yet, as the lion was leaving the forest, he was caught in a hunting net. His roars could not undo the filaments. Sir Rat came running and got to work with his teeth. Once he’d chewed through one of the strings, the whole net fell away.

Patience and time achieve more than force or rage.

My rage, primarily against privileged white men, surprises me with its raw energy. I’m not quite at the stage of violent fantasy that a friend of mine is. She said, “Sometimes I literally just want to rip a man’s head off.” Still, I liked when I read that in answer to the question, “What would you change if you could?” Roxane Gay suggested a year of male silence (the quote was part of the 200 Women exhibit).

I don’t want to ignore or repress my anger. I also don’t want to become a slave to my anger. I don’t want to let it take over my life. After all, if I’m enraged, then I’m unhappy, and then I’m losing twice. Once by being a woman who hasn’t had the same advantages and has had to pay the unacknowledged taxes of being a woman. A second time by letting anger eat away at my insides.

Right now men seem to be the lions and a cadre of them are not showing mercy. But there are many other men who want to be helpful. Our women’s work is to chew through the (sometimes invisible) filaments, which bind them and our society to traditions and mores and behaviors that do not serve either of us. We have to speak up about our experiences. We have to support one another. We have to model female strength for the girls and boys in our lives.

Men won’t always be the lions. Let’s help them escape the nets of their own making. And then we need to be ready to wield our power with grace.

May we use our time wisely and with patience.

 

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