"Don't get angry, vote." Why can't I do both?
I knew October 6th was going to be tough. After weeks of angry protest, outrage, and a less than competent investigation by the FBI, the Senate’s final vote would take place that Saturday. It was assumed that the vote would fall along party lines, and that despite Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s incredibly moving testimony and accusations from two additional named women, alleged sexual predator Brett Kavanaugh would become a Supreme Court justice.
As an act of self care, I strictly avoided Twitter, Facebook, and all media that would accost me with news about the confirmation. There was no use in following it. It would only make me more upset. So I slept in. I did some writing. I shopped for decorations for my daughter’s upcoming Girl Scout event. I watched movies with my kids and husband. But once the news was official, nothing—not even family movie night—could distract me from my dread. Knowing it was going to happen was devastating and infuriating, but knowing that it actually happened is an entirely different emotional experience.
In a final vote of of 50 to 48, the United States Senate confirmed Kavanaugh. And, in doing so, they tilted the highest court in America—a court that should be impartial— indisputably towards the right. I’m worried about what this means for women and reproductive rights. I’m scared for the state of our already damaged health care system. I have anxiety for the LBGTQ community who are still fighting for legal protections. I know that this will mean bad things for communities of color—the same communities already victimized by our biased system.
But more than anything else, I am angry as hell.
I’m angry that survivors continue to be disbelieved. I’m angry that there is no shortage of conservative judges, yet the Trump administration rammed this extremely questionable nominee through confirmation. I’m angry that Kavanaugh will not only impact my generation, but my daughter’s generation. I’m just plain angry.
And I’m not alone. After the confirmation, Twitter exploded into a frenzy of angry voices, all expressing their rage, disbelief, and disgust. As Kavanaugh raised his hand to be sworn in—possibly the same hand he allegedly used to silence Dr. Ford during the assault—a thunderous gathering of protesters stood outside Supreme Court’s doors. They made sure that Kavanaugh—and all those complicit in his judicial placement—couldn’t hide from their anger.
It makes sense to be mad over the total chaos and injustice of our situation. But surprisingly, not everyone feels that the catharsis of anger is helpful. Calls of “Don’t be mad, vote!” have flooded social media. While this is a well meaning attempt to convey the need to mobilize and vote in upcoming midterm elections, it’s missing a key point.
We can be angry AND we can vote. In fact, acting on that anger may be the only way we can accomplish our goals.
A recent Pew poll noted that 59 percent of Republicans feel more enthusiastic about the upcoming midterms after the Kavanaugh hearings. Conservatives might be excited by that number, but statistics for progressive voters are even more impressive. Democrats polled in the same study were found to be 67 percent more enthusiastic—double the numbers from 2010 and 2014.
The difference between now and the last two midterm elections lies in the increasingly unjust society we find ourselves in. Our fight for social equality in this country has been endless, and huge victories won under President Obama’s leadership made it seem like the world was becoming more understanding, even if it happened slowly and with difficulty.
We never anticipated the 2016 presidential election or the despicable behavior from this administration and its supporters. But now, every week, our unjust society introduces a new low for us to plummet to. We should no longer be surprised—but we should be angry.
Those who dismiss or ridicule our anger don’t understand urgency. Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court means we are in a continued fight for our lives. Our feelings don’t need to be policed, and suggesting that our anger is unnecessary is an attempt to invalidate the feelings of thousands of women and marginalized people. It’s also a very noticeable attempt at gaslighting us, and it isn’t useful: We don’t need to be “above” the fray. We must be actively in the midst of the struggle in order to create change. We can vote while actively calling out the flaws in our “democracy.” Anger is a necessary weapon for progress.
Has the nomination and confirmation of Kavanaugh irreparably split our country? I would argue that it’s been split since way, way, way before Justice Kennedy’s retirement.
It has been broken since the very beginning of our Republic—since the day our very first laws devaluing and subjugating women, immigrants, the poor, people of color, and any non-white Christian men were written.
This injustice has reminded us where we really stand in this society, and has reminded us that our anger is our power. And I’m never going to feel powerless again.