Ditch the anger: Let’s try to listen for a change

We were about a yard apart, her face twisted in anger, my hand banging on the table. She shouted. I hit the table again. Our wine glasses jumped.

The thing is, we’re pretty much on the same side. We’re actually very good friends. Five minutes before, we’d been agreeing over the amazing career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and how devastating it must be for her to see her life’s work eroded.

So what happened? What’s happening to all of us? When did we start to believe that what we think, or know, or think we know, is so important that it must be said, or shouted, at any cost? When did we start to value our opinions so highly that we’re certain everyone should, indeed must, hear them?

Don’t blame it on Trump. Or Elizabeth Warren. Or Obama. Or Hillary. Don’t even blame it on the media, though no industry benefits more from our reckless anger.

Well, he’s doing it, or she’s doing it, or they’re doing it, we whine when confronted with our own twisted fury. Yes, they are, but as my mother, and every other mother, used to say, “If they jump off a bridge, are you going to follow them?”

Evidently the answer is yes.

I’ve lived in New London for only 15 years, and it’s been made clear that this lack of pedigree relegates me to observer status. What I observe, beyond the diversity that I love, beautifully kept gardens, the best public beach in the state, extraordinary Christmas light displays, and a view that is breath-taking, is rage. Literally nothing seems to happen in this city without an outsize and often furious reaction.

High taxes? Definitely, but no one talks about the river and sound view or the diverse schools; no, it’s “no more public housing!” we snarl, or “too many services for the homeless and mentally ill!” Lots of EB workers on the road in the morning and late afternoon? Sure, but what about the fact that EB bailed us out (see high taxes, above) and has brought a bunch of young, smart people into town?

But, no again, it’s “It took me 10 minutes to get out of town this afternoon!”, or “I couldn’t find one single parking space by Green’s Beach!”

A teacher offers an unusual and even questionable lesson in class? Certainly, but do we wait for an explanation of his intention? Nah, we’d just as soon shred each other over which of us knows best about how, and what, to teach kids.

We have an entitlement problem in New London, and it’s got nothing to do with food stamps or low income housing. A vocal number of us suffer from anger entitlement, or more accurately, others suffer from our addiction to rage and deep attachment to our own voices.

In my church, there is much talk about “constructive engagement” and “dialogue.” It sounds great, but I wonder if we might all do better to just shut it for a while? In “The Book of Hope,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama suggest that rage, suffering and fear all result from an excessive focus on ourselves. Their antidote is deliberate and quiet contemplation of others, in the hopes this will lead to empathy and compassion.

We live in a world right now that is ravaged by rage and devastated by divisiveness. We’re drowning in it. Maybe instead of raising the water level by cannon-balling into that roiling ocean, we could sit on the beach and try to understand what kind of pain and fear is motivating all those folks flailing around in the water.

Fortunately, we don’t have far to travel to find the perfect beach.

Marci Alborghetti lives in New London.

Editor's Note: We invite readers to submit commentary. Please email l.howard@theday.com.

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