I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME

Anger is a Gift

My friend Grant Chastain is on a roll and unleashing his honest emotion. I’m reprinting his Facebook post for those who don’t follow him or care to be on Facebook anymore.

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It’s temporarily quiet, and I’m talking in terms of milliseconds, when Zack de la Rocha whispers four words in my ears — ‘Anger is a gift’ — and I pull my truck out into the already-sparse traffic of Chandler, Arizona, with music blaring as loudly as the speakers will allow. Music that, incidentally, no one but myself is around to hear.

There’s hardly anyone on the streets right now, at 7:30pm. Arizona Governor Ducey has declared a curfew that will begin at 8:00. People are shuffling off to their homes, unsure of what that means. Specific language in the edict has basically ensured that anyone with a basic need can still be out — unless, of course, you plan to protest. Those Americans will no longer be allowed on the streets in a half-hour. It’s hot at this hour, still over 110 degrees, and relatively tranquil-looking at first glance.

Calm like a bomb, Rage Against the Machine would (and did) once say.

It’s 7:30pm and I am heading back to the grocery store, which I will soon discover has been picked over very thoroughly — as bad as it was during the initial days of COVID-19. But this time, it’s not a pandemic or a fear of missing out on essential goods that has caused the shortage. It’s a fear, and a deep-seated one — and a reasonable goddamn one — that things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.

If you were one of the ones that cleaned out the Fry’s grocery store at Rural & Ray Road on Sunday night… congratulations. You may be an asshole, or you may be an ally, but you’ve at least grasped that this situation is a little different this time around.

Phoenix, Arizona is about a zillion miles away from the depiction of Bedford-Stuyvesant we remember in Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing,” but there’s one lesson we all took away from that film when we came here, and that is this:

Anger plus injustice plus high temperatures is a recipe for a DEEP BOIL. It rages, just underneath everyone’s skin, and doesn’t easily recede. We are all angrier when it’s 110 degrees. And it’s not helped by the sneaking notion that — again, in the words of Zack — “some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses.”

I’m not black, or Latin, or any color that is most commonly on the end of direct police attention. I’m in very little danger of being profiled. But I am angry. And anger, as Zack told me in 1992 in the song “Freedom,” is a gift.

It’s a gift, because it means you can still differentiate right from wrong, even when the people on the receiving end of oppression don’t look like you.

It’s a gift, because you can think back to the first time you heard those words, that song, and realize that very little has changed from a systemic standpoint in the nearly 30 years since you heard it.

It’s a gift, because it means you have an outlet to scream from the street corners and rooftops that shit needs to change. That you won’t accept white supremacy in any form, fashion, venue or occupation. That you will demand more from the people in charge of our safety and security, by demanding that those principles be upheld for ALL PEOPLE, regardless of their color. Even if our President does nothing about it, and calls the tiki-torch KKK from Charlotteville “fine people.” Even as he classifies anti-fascism — a tenet that everyone from your great-grandfathers, who went to war to put an end to that ethos — a “domestic terrorism entity.”

Anger is a gift… but like all gifts? It has a price tag.

The price you will pay is that you’ll be forced to come to some uncomfortable truths about the situation. That the reason we are in this situation right now doesn’t begin and end with George Floyd. Not really.

It’s not about Armaud Arbery being shot by two vigilante good-ol-boys, who were simply dispatching some good-old-fashioned-Southern-justice on the poor guy. It’s also not about the fact that none of us might have never known about the situation unless video evidence was released, after the district attorney had initially decided not to file charges against his murderers.

It’s not about Breonna Taylor, a dedicated award-winning EMT who was shot and killed while sleeping in her home in the commission of a no-knock botched police raid meant to be sent to a completely different home, and of a man that was (at the time) already in police custody. It’s also not about her live-in boyfriend, who now faces charges for shooting at the policemen that invaded their space in the dead of night without warning.

It’s not about Freddie Gray, or Sam Dubose, or Philando Castile. Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin. It’s not about any one of those men.
It’s not about Ferguson, or Minneapolis, or Cleveland, or Charlottesville, or Atlanta.

It’s not about NWA telling us about it in 1988, and again in an award-winning film in 2015. It’s not about Jay Z telling us about getting pulled over for doing 55 in a 54. It’s not about Ice T getting more static over a song called “Cop Killer” than actual COPS that are KILLERS get 25 years later. It’s not about KRS-One telling us that there’s a lot of similarity between overseers and officers.

It’s not about police agencies feeding you the same old horseshit about how body-cameras aren’t feasible since “the NFL has cameras on every angle of a game and there are still uncertainties,” as one Texas sheriff good-ol’-boy was quoted.

It’s about all of it. Every last bit.

This country has been built on a rock-solid bed of “let’s move on” when the answers are multi-faceted, or we can’t seem to agree on a single answer to solve the problem. We love it when the answers to the Jeopardy questions are easy. We don’t listen to men like Colin Kaepernick when he suggests that, hey, maybe it might be nice to stop policemen from killing people, and maybe kneeling during the anthem might be a way to bring some attention to the larger problem. Instead, our President calls him a bum on Twitter, and we decide that maybe since we haven’t seen any black men getting profiled as we’ve been intently paying attention during the Bears/Packers commercial break, maybe Kaepernick isn’t 100% correct. So we do nothing, until the next tragedy occurs.

I’m imploring you to keep your anger warm. It’s a fragile flame, but if we are to demand more… we need to surround it with our hands, and keep it crackling.
Your anger will keep you motivated to require more from those you entrusted to keep you safe. Your protest will keep the microscope on the situation. This is the gift that we have, but we will only have it for as long as the motivation for change lasts.

Participate in this if you can. Donate if you cannot. If you cannot donate money… donate your visibility so others can keep their own flames going. Demand more. Do not let your attention recede.

Anger is your gift.

Use it.