Indignation: anger caused by something that is unfair or wrong.
Righteous indignation: retribution, retributive justice; anger and contempt combined with a feeling that it is one's right to feel that way; anger without guilt.
Dignity: the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.
I know I'm in good company since the election, feeling anger over the outcome. I would even go so far as to claim righteous indignation, and that's where I need to check myself.
Indignation is important. When we see or experience injustice, cruelty, and blatant wrongdoing, we need to take a stand, speak up, demand solutions. Sometimes that means prosecuting and imprisoning, but other times it may be as simple as an apology and behavioral change. Our country is based on our ability to call one another on our errors and on our ability to try harder and do better. Our system believes we all have goodness and potential and the ability to grow and change.
Righteous indignation takes all that a little too far. It ignores our own part in a problem. It lays blame without offering solutions or compromise. It adds to divisiveness. It doesn't require any constructive action. I think when I choose righteous indignation, I may be choosing the lazier path.
When we feel conflict and observe injustice, we have to remember that our power to effect change lies entirely within ourselves. Throwing tantrums and blaming others achieves nothing. Our responsibility is to stop, think, and adjust our own actions to facilitate societal growth.
I would love to say that Trump represents everything that's wrong with this country, but that's irresponsible. Trump is a consequence of what's wrong with this country. I don't like the man, I have no respect for him, and I'm embarrassed that our country's role in the international community has gone from benevolent powerful leader to insensitive bully. Trump has a fundamental inability to care about people, and that defies our identity as a nation, an identity that it was already pretty tough to maintain.
But I can't afford to sit back and bash Trump and say it's not my fault. It IS my fault, and it's yours, and we have to change our own behavior to keep this from getting any worse. I consider myself an activist, but I don't always know who all my elected representatives are. I don't go to many government meetings. I write a few letters, but that's not enough anymore. We have to start putting our backs behind our convictions. It's time to get involved.
This is the time, more than ever, to read up on our government representatives. It's not OK to sit back and think if we elected someone in our own party, everything should be fine. We have to follow the path of each piece of legislation. We have to research who is putting money into each fight. We have to know the voting records of our representatives -- federal, state, and local -- and we have to let them know when we support them and when we take issue with their opinions.
Indignation, when it is an active stance against injustice, a hard-working commitment to effecting change, is a positive and important part of our society. But when it becomes self-righteous, violent, blaming without accepting complicity, it only makes wrong worse. To preserve the dignity of one another, to create a more perfect union, we the people have to act. We cannot afford to simply claim that we the people are free. We the people have to own, nurture, build, and fight for our freedom. Being we the people is not a gift. It's a privilege that requires maintenance, vigilance, and work.
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Susie Snortum is passionate about improving society's compassion for meeting basic human needs -- food, shelter, clean water, and dignity.