'GOAD RAGE': MR. USE IS NOT IMMUNE
by Adam Abraham
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
SAN DIEGO -- Some people take a measure of pride in it, as if it were a "badge." Twisted husbands intimidate their families with it. Frazzled wives, following the impulses of a dissociative state, endanger their children because of it. Urban motorists, terrorists, anarchists and even presidents "play" a deadly game because of it.
We're talking about rage; a silent, invisible, and insidious state of mind. If states of consciousness were a family, rage would be the "first born" of fear.
It is a four-letter word connected to behaviors that often go hand-in-hand with sadness, sorrow, anger, and regret.
Rage can affect people of all walks of life. It can be embraced by "evil men" and "holy men" who, in the name of both Allah and God, are willing to kill unsuspecting people, "pre-emptively." Though they may sit at opposite ends of the table of conflict, neither will see their actions as evil. Both will see their cause as righteous, and serving a "higher good."
In the wake of the terrible events of September 11, 2001, rage has spent some "quality time" with the President of the United States who, should the courtship continue, will move to unilaterally send armed forces to Iraq to take down the government and its president, Saddam Hussein. They will do this because Mr. Bush fears what Iraq might do to us. Sounds unbelievable, but it is true.
Rage is neither about Allah, nor God. However, it is about fear. Funk & Wagnall's Standard Dictionary defines rage, in part, thusly: n. 1. Violent anger; wrath; fury. 2. Any great violence or intensity.
While it is a state of mind, rage also incites extremely high, negative judgment and active condemnation against individuals, groups, or nations that are perceived-rightly or otherwise-to be one's "enemy". You could argue, "But Iraq is our enemy. They want to destroy us!"
We are Iraq's enemy, because Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi people, and much of the fundamentalist Islamic world, think we are. Iraq isn't our enemy unless we likewise believe they can destroy us (they can't), and treat them as though they can.
Acting in rage will, in effect, give Iraq far more power than it really has, which is what President Bush seems bent on doing. While rage has likely been present in every conflict throughout history, today it has become "chic" in some political circles to wax confidently about war, generally by men who wear suits with suspenders and shirts and ties, and know that, due to their age or social position, they will not be called upon to risk their lives.
Their rage is concealed behind jokes and testosterone-influenced braggadocio about the "lessons we're gonna teach them for messin' with us." As this Teflon-coated, fully expensed, carefully polished and manicured rage becomes a trend, the very foundations of freedom that the American People blithely take for granted, are placed at risk. Freedom is only as wonderful as its brightest beacon.
If the light of freedom dims in America, it will affect our health, wealth, and well-being as individuals, our communities as well as our society. America's "dimming down" - for the good that we were no longer able, or are now disinclined to do - would negatively impact nations around the world, rich and poor. Some people may curse America and the freedom that Americans enjoy, but our freedom is a profound blessing. both to those who see it with appreciation, and to those who curse it with envy.
Until now, it has become commonplace for us to pay close attention to enraged behavior in certain groups of people. For example, behavioral scientists have coined the term "black rage" to explain the disproportionate amount of violence, crime, and under-achievement that had become commonplace in certain sectors of predominantly black communities.
With the characterization, subscribers to the idea try to add this form of dangerous behavior into the spectrum of plausible norms for all black people, when rage is not "normal" behavior for anyone. Then there was "road rage" to explain the disturbing rash of bad behavior on our highways when exhibited by otherwise "good" people. "Air rage" emerged, as hassled, and often drunken passengers took boorish behavior to new levels, not to mention heights, of insanity while endangering many lives. An now, in the wake of the September 11 disasters, President Bush may be the charter member in a new club: "goad rage."
I'm coining the President's irrational war Jones as "goad rage" because his eagerness to send troops to Baghdad is, in essence, the effect of goading, or intentional provocation into violent action. In successfully carrying off the 9/11 disasters, the terrorists expected us to show our faces as "hell raisers," and we did.
Yet, it appears that we're no closer to (1) knowing who is really responsible, (2) bringing them to justice, or (3) making sure that the reasons for the terrorist attacks have been examined thoroughly, and where possible, changed so that the reason, and consequently, the threat, no longer exists.
In order for the third factor to happen, some conversations are in order between the opposing parties, not conflagration. We have grown "comfortable" in the opinion that terrorists hate us "just because we're us". There may be some truth to that, but hatred doesn't exist in a vacuum, except where there is no willingness to change.
If we maintain the conditions that hatred is based on by not examining it and not being willing to make mutually beneficial changes, then it will indeed continue. Under the current mindset, the only apparent workable "solution" to the problem of terrorism is to destroy the terrorists. But this only serves to bear out the "truth" of their accusations about us. Thereby, the circle of contention remains unbroken.
The President's and the nation's righteous indignation over the events surrounding and following the September 11 attacks have resulted thus far in the wasting of one already "wasted" country: Afghanistan. While we liberated the Afghani people from the totalitarian repression of the ruling Taliban sect, no light has yet been shed as to who was really responsible for the attacks.
The likelihood of further terrorist attacks is generally perceived to be greater today than it was a year ago. Is this threat of terrorist attacks in the U.S. greater because the event actually happened? Or is it because there has been no appreciable gesture of change in diplomatic relations that would lessen the possibility? War in response to war perpetuates war as a plausible response. When we claim to want and stand for peace, then war must become yesterday's way.
With Afghanistan "behind us," and our thirst for vengeance still unquenched (as it never will be), the President has vowed to spare no cost to take his "War on Terrorism" wherever it leads. After much debate, the U.S. Senate (October 10, 2002) joined the House of Representatives to give congressional approval to a resolution authorizing President Bush to wage war if necessary to disarm Iraq.
This action should read well in the rhetoric books, but I don't believe it will play out well in real life. Whether anyone acknowledges it, the cost of innocent lives, on both sides of the conflict, are incalculable. Statistics that cite overwhelming "kill ratios" in our favor will not extinguish that light in our minds that know there must be a better way to go about achieving our ends. I'm not against justice. It simply doesn't have to be as "messy" as we're making it.
A true war against terrorism should begin by renouncing its use as a means to the ends that we are seeking. Yet, our President and all his men and women are still trying to convince the American people that we must send killing forces to Iraq before Saddam Hussein takes steps to kill some of us.
The President's people are also trying to reassure us that the government can protect us by having enough smallpox vaccine available to inoculate every American citizen. just in case those terrorists succeed in their mission. This plan reveals that the United States is leaving foreign policies-that currently fuel the rage of fanatics-unchanged. To the Bush administration, any innocent people lost in the conflict-theirs and ours-are just collateral damage.
Dear Mr. President, the increased likelihood of needing smallpox vaccine as a price of staying the current course is not a reassuring piece of information to me. What would be reassuring is if you put your saber tongue down and opened a dialogue with Mr. Hussein. In that talk, you mutually agree that you've changed your minds about whatever harm you may have thought about doing to each other. It would be reassuring to me if you affirmed that Mr. Hussein is reasonable enough to be reasoned with (even if you believe that he is not), like a fellow human being. Set the example that you want to achieve!
Sure, Saddam Hussein used nerve gas on his countrymen (the Kurds) during the Iran-Iraq war, as your saber rattling supporters like to say. But tell me, who supplied the nerve gas to Iraq? Who built many of the facilities that he uses today? He used to be "our man" (or boy) in that part of the world. We were certainly able to talk to him when he was our "friend." He was just as ruthless then as he is now. So who really "flipped?" If we had the capacity to reassess and change our policies then, then we can likewise do it now. However, let's do something different than kill, bomb, and destroy. Enough already!
I'll admit that dialogue with "the enemy" before or instead of doing battle is not conventional diplomatic policy, but rage, and the war that it spawns, is not the best lead solution either: courage is. the courage to try something different that achieves the least harm and best ends for both sides. Being outside the "normal" range of constructive or humane behavior, rage does not make such ends possible. Its "advantages" are temporary at best.
It would be an error to automatically assume that because a person is black (or brown, or any color), he or she will play the "rage card" when placed in stressful situations. Although we are rarely surprised when someone does, it is still best to see it as a behavioral exception, rather than the rule. We are shocked at the recent and currently unsolved wave of random sniper killings in the Washington, D.C. area by what appears to be a lone terrorist because it goes "against the grain" of human nature. War is simply this same form of terrorism with advance notice. The President should not be so eager to scratch that "itch."
In this, a stressful situation of the highest order, it would be a grave error to believe that, because the President is "the Chief Executive," he above being goaded, and acting out of rage. or that the actions he sets in motion from a place of rage, are "right." Human decency tells us that they are not.
The problem with the President is compounded because many pundits and opinion makers share his belief that we can "win" a war in Iraq; even speculating that it would be "short and sweet." The question is; if we follow Mr. Bush's lead and decimate yet another country, which will be the next country that we simply must go after? What other serums will the government invite (or try to require) us to ingest or have injected in order to make us "feel safe?"
The proclivity to indulge rage is all one needs to get an individual-or a nation-into trouble over and over again. In fact, such individuals will tend to create trouble in all shapes and sizes. On the other hand, with courage, he or she can search for a constructive Way amid the many destructive ones that will be presented, and choose the course that brings the largest benefit to the greatest number.
"Goad rage" moves a president to tell other world leaders that he is willing to act on his own if the United Nations doesn't fall in line with his agenda. He then plays into the hands of fascists, fundamentalists and totalitarian leaders that take issue with individual freedom and collective wealth, and would like nothing more than to "bring us down" a few notches. Courage would bring forth in the President the poise, respect, courtesy, kindness, honor, and sincerity, to maintain our freedom and help others learn to enjoy its fruits in their lands.
The wisest warriors know that through battle, no one actually "wins." It takes courage to see the dynamics of a battle brewing and take actions to avert it before it starts. It takes courage to build bridges of cooperation and trust where rage maintains contentiousness and distrust. There will always be something in life to get righteously enraged about. Whatever we do, the events of September 11th 2001 are now a case-in-point that will never be forgotten.
However, the legacy of 9/11 should not be in the length or intensity of the wars that we waged in the wake of those tragic events. What would be truly remarkable would be the peace and prosperity that people on both sides of the issue decided to create together, from that point on. Like war, rage is not transformational.
Therefore, it should not be looked upon as a viable "end" unto itself. It should not be something we can be "goaded" into. Though rage can indeed bring about change, it cannot bring about peace.
Let us not be seduced by the allure of goad rage, for it is a bottomless pit of unrequited ambition where something wonderful is lost for many people-without ever really knowing or experiencing what it is.
Adam Abraham is a freelance writer based in San Diego.