The Goddess Speaks

By Nadine Kam

Tuesday, May 4, 1999

Getting a grip
on all the rage

I'M Asian. I'm a woman. And I'm ANGRY!"

This is the opening salvo of a friend's drama in progress. We talk about it with a mixture of conviction and bemusement, and invent other beings who likely share the sentiment.

"I'm a white man. I'm losing my hair. And I'm ANGRY!"

"I'm a model. I broke a nail. And I'm ANGRY!"

"I'm gay. My lover is dead. And I'm ANGRY!"

Playing the game is easy because there is no shortage of anger in the world. In the aftermath of the Colorado killings that left 13 dead at the hands of two angry teens, I wonder why people are having trouble understanding such rage exists. Murder happens every day. The only thing different about this one was its scale.

Maybe I'm just more volatile than the next person, but I can't imagine that a person can go through life without experiencing murderous rage, or imagining the possibility of exacting revenge on a wrong-doer. In theaters, entire audiences hoot when a bad guy gets pummeled. Vigilante themes are popular on TV. The more chicken-hearted will wish for magic powers that would cause a tree to fall on the car of a rapist, or inflict a zit attack on a rival.

What stops most of us from getting even in the long run is that we've been socialized to believe in options other than mayhem. The part of our brain that rationalizes tells us things will get better, and if they don't we'd still be more comfy in a modest home than a prison cell.

YET, emotions can obliterate logic. I look around the office and wonder, could that feminist in the next cubicle go on a rampage? Could that mild-mannered Kokua Line woman go berserk one day and shoot us all? I hear she's a wiz at "Doom."

As for me, yes, I'm Asian, I'm a woman and I'm angry. Most of the time I don't even realize it. But the sentiment is there. Just the other day I was trapped in the News Building elevator with two Caucasian men, asking in that tone usually reserved for very young children, "And what do you do here?"

"I'm an editor," I said flatly.

"Oh, an intern! That's great!"

I corrected them, but I don't know why I bothered. They heard exactly what they wanted to hear. In a white man's world, I AM an intern, and will always be an intern struggling to get ahead in an unfair race. If I allowed myself to dwell upon this sort of dig all the time, the anger would take over my life.

But I tend to favor the constructive over the destructive. In spite of my second-class citizen status as an Asian-American female, I'm still considered to be fairly "empowered." I am free to challenge the establishment with words. I have the know-how to navigate "the system" without crashing into too many obstacles.

The two Colorado killers obviously had no safe, creative outlet for their rage, and no voice, other than the barrel of a gun. The sooner we can admit to rage and inequity, the sooner we can stop trying to place blame and asking pointless "How?" and "Why?" questions. The question we should be asking is, "What am I going to do to help?"

For my part, I have taken misguided young adults, ages 18 to 20, into my home in hope of steering them toward "education and gainful employment" as "the way." It's a challenge considering two of them got blacklisted from a fast-food restaurant chain and one had learned from her family how to be a public assistance cheat.

It's hard to save the world, but if everyone had an encouraging word for one kid, troubled or not, maybe we could prevent other Littletons.

Nadine Kam is features editor.

The Goddess Speaks runs every Tuesday
and is a column by and about women, our strengths, weaknesses,
quirks and quandaries. If you have something to say, write it and
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