Everything can be used
except what is wasteful
(you will need
to remember this when you are accused of destruction.)
--Audre Lorde, 1984
In perusing MyDD.com last night, I found myself thinking a lot about Audre Lorde's famous essay "The Uses of Anger." Written twenty-four years ago, her words seem prophetic for this historical moment, and I lay in bed wondering what Lorde--as a "black, lesbian feminist" (in her own words)--would have thought of this moment in history.
And, yes, it is very difficult to stand still and to listen to another. . . voice delineate an agony I do not share, or one to which I myself have contributed.
I cannot hide my anger to spare your guilt, nor hurt feelings, nor answering anger; for to do so insults and trivializes all our efforts. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one's own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.
In this speech, Lorde was castigating feminism for its racism, and, at the same time, castigating the civil rights movement for its sexism.
Last night, I saw several posters on MyDD.com say they'd rather not vote at all than vote for Obama. Maybe they're plants--part of Rush Limbaugh's "Operation: Chaos" or infiltrators from right-wing blogs. Maybe they're just going through the stages of denial, though I've always been mildly puzzled by peoples' irrational attachments to a specific candidate rather than commitment to a set of principles. On the radio, I heard a few putative Clinton supporters say something similar today. And, of course, we all saw the Screaming Woman Saturday at the RBC Meeting, a portrait of irrational anger.
But anger expressed and translated into action in the service of our vision and our future is a liberating and strengthening act of clarification, for it is in the painful process of this translation that we identify who are our allies with whom we have grave differences, and who are our genuine enemies.
Focused with precision, it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change. And when I speak of change, I do not mean a simple switch of positions or a temporary lessening of tensions, nor the ability to smile or feel good. I am speaking of a basic and radical alteration in those assumptions underlining our lives.
We cannot allow our fear of anger to deflect us nor seduce us into settling for anything less than the hard work of excavating honesty; we must be quite serious about the choice of this topic and the angers entwined within it because, rest assured, our opponents are quite serious about their hatred of us and of what we are trying to do here. (all emphases mine)
Preach it, sister!
To those angry Clinton supporters I was speaking of above, take that anger and translate it into action. Barack Obama and his supporters are not your enemies. Focus on who are your allies with whom you have differences, and who are you genuine enemies.
--all quotes from Audre Lorde, "The Uses of Anger," Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, 1984