For Heather Heyer

Unite The Right. 


“Unite” is the wrong word. Actually, so are “The” and “Right”.

I’ve got nothing against uniting — my homeland can certainly benefit from a bit of unity. But the atmosphere in the USA is growing more fractious by the moment, which leads to my problem with the “The”. THE Right no longer exists. The Republican party is increasingly divided, breaking into jagged pieces, losing its moorings. And as for “Right” —  “Unite The Right” isn’t about uniting Republicans or Conservatives. It’s about uniting hatred and rage. 

By the time we reach adulthood, we all carry plenty of valid hatred and rage. Life can be harsh, unfair, hurtful. Pain rarely hits when you’re standing on sturdy ground, surrounded by support, plenty of lead-time to prepare. The unexpected, for better or for worse, lurks around every corner. Our challenge is figuring out how to channel our personal hatred and rage in a productive direction.

I spent my first 18 years growing up in liberal Hollywood. I lived most of my adult life in the liberal Bay Area of Northern California. I moved to Chapel Hill, a liberal enclave in North Carolina. As a far-left Democrat, all of that suited me just fine. Then the fates intervened. I spent the 2016-2017 academic year, including the presidential election, in Little Rock, Arkansas. When Donald Trump won, I was baffled. I had no clue how to figure out what had happened. Then I realized I was living in the perfect place to gain some insight. Although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in Little Rock, my temporary home was filled with Build The Wall signs and Make America Great Again bumper stickers. So I turned to my community — in line at the market, filling our cars — and asked if they would help me understand.

During the campaign, I was deeply concerned by Donald Trump’s rage. His hatred leaked out of every pore. I assumed that people voted for him in spite of his rage and hatred. But I was wrong. “He’ll fight for me” was a phrase I heard over and over. After feeling “ignored” and “invisible” for so long, people believed they had finally found a candidate who would hit hard, bare fisted, no rules, ready to throw a punch as a first resort. Donald Trump’s rage and hatred inspired their confidence. In the words of one voter, “No bullshit. No political crap. Just — wham!”

In my years as a therapist, before my second career as a writer, I worked with anger issues in several treatments. A healthy range of anger covers a spectrum, just like any other emotion. Anger can take various forms: mild annoyance, intellectual disagreement, yelling fury, violent rush, murderous rage. Donald Trump’s anger spanned only a limited range: loud to deafening, furious to vicious, brawling to warring. When someone carries an immense, overflowing need to fight — without a healthy range — then specific issues lose meaning. Donald Trump wasn’t fighting for causes; he was fighting because he carried an insatiable hunger to fight. 

As long as he’s our president, the fight will never end, because his rage is a bottomless pit. Rage and hatred in themselves were — and still are — his platform. Worse, a dangerous trend has taken root. People have reacted as though Donald Trump legitimized their own extreme forms of rage and hatred. Too many who had held their rage and hatred in check now feel free to unleash the beast. Case in point: Unite The Right.

This weekend, Unite The Right is having a rally in Washington, D.C., and I’m deeply concerned. I’m afraid that hatred and rage will run rampant. I’m flooded with memories of the news coverage of roughly a year ago, when Unite The Right held a rally in Charlottesville, VA— a rage-and-hate-fest which left damage and death in its wake. 

I hope that this time, folks keep in mind that the First Amendment grants the right of the people (not violently but rather) peaceably to assemble. I hope Heather Heyer, killed in Charlottesville, will always be remembered as a voice guiding us toward decency. I hope that going forward, at all rallies, across partisan lines, people will be safe. 

From everything I’ve read about Heather Heyer, I’m certain she’d hope for the same.

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