When I was a junior in high school, I ran for senior class President. It was on a whim, really, because I didn't have huge aspirations for myself politically, nor did I have any especially great ideas for improvement at the school. What I did have was a cutting-edge strategy for getting elected: comedy comedy comedy. High school kids really don't care about issues. At least, not as much as they care about laughing. So posters like "Do you like air? So does Alex Waller, vote for him to continue free breathing." and "Vote For Waller To End The Vietnam War" were met with almost universal praise.
Come the day of the election, we gave speeches. My speech waxed hilarious, and included excerpts from the final speech given by Chris Farley at the end of the movie "Tommy Boy." I suggested in my speech that my impending election was the only thing that could prevent the coming invasion of robotic couch potatoes. People rolled in the aisles. I felt victory was at hand.
Unbeknownst to me, two of my competitors had seen blood in the water. After the votes were cast, but before the results were announced, they made a quiet trip to the Principal's office and convinced her to "pool" their votes; they want to be co-Presidents. Later, we were told that because of this the votes for class president had to be recounted: it was now too close to call. I thought quickly, and grabbed another class president candidate and told the Principal that he and I had decided to "pool" our votes, which would guarantee a victory for me, and as he had not been close enough to matter, would guarantee a huge coup for him. The Principal, paragon of fairness...said "no, Alex." Needless to say, I lost the election to those two "co-Presidents."
I still remember the feeling in my gut. My mother would call it "moral anger." Clearly I had been cheated. The after-the-polling shenanigans, combined with the unfairness of not allowing me the same shenanigan rights, had caused a clearly unfair result.
What drives me, all too often, to make long-term judgements about people, is rage. Rage does not fill my life. Rage does not own me. I spend most of my days in a state of permanent bemusement, or perhaps cynicism. Often I force my self into intentional naivete or optimism in order to power through rough times.
But once in a while, I get the rage.
Fortunately, I am not alone. Rage is a cascade effect, when a person's brain has become so overwhelmingly saturated with adrenaline and other hormones, and the situation seems inescapable. In the terms of nature, rage is when we emotionally are asked to choose fight or flight, and boy do we choose fight. It does not surprise me that rage has long-term effects: strong emotions lead to stronger wiring of synaptic pathways in the brain. I cannot possibly name 20 people from my high school class of over 400, but I can easily name the two people who combined votes to win over me in that election. I can describe their faces.
I'm not going to now write about the need for people to try to avoid rage. Or to make it fade quickly when it comes. Rather, I am going to say this: when rage fills you, embrace it. Let it wash over you. Rage lets you know you are alive. Don't try to calm yourself down. Don't try to deny how you feel. Rage proves that you can feel. Now, actively pursuing rage is probably not a good idea. The aftereffects of repetitive rage are pretty hard on the body and mind.
But should I just have rolled over after the election was taken from me? Should Jesus have kept his mouth shut on the Cross, or was his cry of rage "My God, my God why have You forsaken me?!" totally justified? Imagine Jesus calmly and politely asking the moneychangers and sellers of doves to vacate the temple, at their convenience. Rage, like logic and serenity, can be a tool too.
Rage is like that Tanqueray commercial where "Tony Sinclair" says "everything in moderation." True rage, when it comes, is a wonder to behold. But when it comes, it must expend itself in order for its host to recover, and move on.
So have I moved on? Am I still pissed about that inconsequential, stupid election for a pointless position? The fact that I was angry about losing seems laughable now, as both of the co-Presidents had been expelled by the middle of senior year. Which led to another emotion altogether: schadenfreude.