I noticed something one day when a major human caused injustice, crises, or disaster happens some people tend to get sad and others tend to get angry. I first noticed this phenomenon after September 11th, 2001 after the US terror attacks. I was 17 years old and sitting in a session with my counselor who I had been seeing for a couple of years for therapy for my mental health issues. The September 11th attacks had just recently happened. She told me her son or nephew, I can’t remember which, was very angry after the attacks and immediately signed up for the military to fight. She then asked me how the attacks had effected me and if I felt a similar sentiment. She asked if I had ever considered joining the military. I told her, which was the truth, I felt very depressed after the attacks and felt sadness for the victims. I then said I mostly felt sad, not angry over the events. As far as the military I told her my grandfather and several of his brothers fought in WWII and my grandfather told me the horrors of war. I said that he wished neither my brother or I would ever have to fight in war. I had spoken which was my true sentiment, I didn’t want to have to ever kill anyone and I didn’t think I could handle the stress of combat. She then told me people respond to crises and hardship in different ways and that some people tend to get angry after certain events and others sad. Later this got me to thinking I noticed this to be true in what I had observed after the attacks how people responded to them. I was in Arizona not in New York so the sadness and anger might have been more subdued than there but I noticed it even in people in Arizona and within myself.
I could not believe what had happened when it first happened. I had dropped out of high school at the time after struggling with major depression and other mental health issues. I was sleeping in, during the morning, as was typical for me in that time in my life. I slept all the time and had no motivation to do hardly anything. I noticed a message was on the answering machine blinking, I must have been woken up by the phone ringing. I figured it was my parents calling to remind me of something or ask me something. It was instead my grandmother. The message went something like this ‘Alan, the United States is under attack. They just flew a plane into the World Trade Center in New York. They are not sure what is going on but some fear more attacks may be coming. Turn on FOX News they are talking about it now. This is serious we are under attack. Call me.’ I was absolutely shocked, I figured it was my grandmother exaggerating as she has a tendency to do. I turned on the news, MSNBC not FOX which is the channel I always watched and sometimes CNN. Sure enough my grandmother was right. The first plane had hit, the second one had not hit yet. When I saw the second plane hit Live I froze and became very worried and my heart sank. I could not believe what I was witnessing with my very eyes, that this was happening here. That this was not a movie or happening overseas but right here, was very discomforting. My stomach began to knot up, my adrenaline was rushing, and my heart was racing. I watched the towers burn and smolder and feared for the worst. I thought of all those people who must have been killed in those attacks and I was very depressed and afraid at the same time. Anger had not came into my heart at all at this point. Days later I was angry to some degree but still sadness and fear were the overwhelming emotions.
Meanwhile I noticed while some were responding to the attacks like me, others seemed angry and wanted to get revenge. They began to make angry statements and say unkind things about Muslims. They wanted to ‘get these guys’ kind of attitude. I too days and weeks later after the event was angry that terrorist and extremist had orchestrated the attacks and were celebrating our pain, but sadness and worry was still the predominate emotions.
I am not sure other than personality differences what causes the difference in responses. Maybe it is the whole warriors vs healers thing, those who want to fight and those who want to help the suffering. The whole fight vs flight thing perhaps plays a role. Perhaps it is goes deeper and is an indication of a person’s heart and values. I think probably it is some of all at that at play. People who get angry at such events can not often understand those who don’t get angry but get sad instead.
I found I tend to get along with people who are led by their hearts than those led by anger in such situations. I tend to understand those better who look deeper at situations and see a fuller picture than those looking superficially at something and only considering a small portion of all there is to consider. There are two types of people those led primarily by their hearts and those primarily led by their heads. An example of both kinds of people; Pope Francis is primarily led by his heart, Prime Minster Netanyahu is primarily led by his head. Pope Francis I have noticed gets sad during major human caused injustices, crises, or disasters, meanwhile during the same events some like Netanyahu get angry. Watch and observe different people and you will find this very much to be true.
With myself it depends on the situation as some personal injustices make me much more angry than sad. For example someone yells in my face and says mean things to me, that is going to make me angry. Someone does that to someone else and I witness it that is still going to make me angry. In fact I tend to get even angrier when the injustice is done against someone I care about or empathize with, than an injustice done against me. However it seems the greater the injustice the more sadness becomes the predominate emotion in me. I am angry at what is happening in Gaza but I am much more sad at the events.
I have been involved in activism involving Syria within six months of the conflict beginning over there. My emotions were all over the map depending on the situation of the day in the reports of the events on the ground. At times I felt sad and hopeless that the Syrian people didn’t stand a chance. At times my anger at Assad, his army, and with extremist elements within the opposition could be described in no other words than wrath. At times I had overwhelming feelings of altruism of wanting to help the refugees and displaced in Syria. In my activism I saw, read about, and heard the worst things I ever have in my life. I was just a witness from afar, and it was sometimes terrible to witness. I can not even fully imagine what it is like to be there and have to live through such things. It was very taxing on the emotions and at times thinking about the situation in Syria was all I could think about.
I stopped liking violent movies after my activism in Syria. Seeing violence in the real world allowed me to see the real human cost and brutality of violence. For example I saw the movie the hunger games and if I wasn’t invited by family members to see it I would have walked out of the theater. I had not known what the movie was about before I saw it. The plot of kids killing kids, after witnessing the aftermath of massacres in Syria including those involving women and children, was actually unsettling to watch even though it wasn’t real. The movies they have today are more violent and brutal than ever and I have little desire to watch such movies. Violence in the real world is no game; it is deadly, ugly, and deeply depressing. I am not at all dissing people who choose to view violent media and as a civil libertarian I have zero desire to ban it. I am just saying, seeing so much violence in my activism caused me to lose a lot a desire to see such media.
There were cases in Syria, that literally brought me to tears in seeing the reports. Some things I have seen regarding Gaza also effected me a lot. I felt ill sometimes, other times very angry, other times deeply depressed. There are somethings that stayed with me as they had such an effect on me. I could tell you a number of stories that happened in Syria years and months ago, like they happened yesterday. In all honesty sometimes I just looked away and did not watch videos other activist had sent me. I had seen enough bloodshed than I could handle. I began to focus instead on the refugee and displaced persons crises. I was not a warrior I could not stop the brutal thugs carrying out such crimes, but as an activist I tried unsuccessfully to convince the US to get militarily involved though I think I did help in some way convince the US government to help the moderate opposition. I think I played some role in getting Assad disarmed of chemical weapons. I think I played some role in getting aid for the refugees. I am not naive, I know my role was limited, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I made some positive difference in Syria. I know some people were hearing me who had some power and influence to some degree or another. I know I was causing my fellow citizens to pay more attention to Syria. I know my friends and fellow activist were doing the same thing.
My friend and fellow activist named Bobby were in it from nearly the beginning and between the two of us I know we helped cause change to happen and the world to pay attention. We had a bit of a falling away from each other after ideological arguments involving deeply held beliefs, but we since have become friends again and are still both involved in activism. It is evidence how friends can have some significant ideological divisions on certain topics and have different personalities, but still remain friends. It is also evidence how ego, emotions, and serious disagreements can cause friends to grow apart and how they can also find a way to become friends again. The key is both parties have to make an effort and find a way to bridge divisions and accept that there will be some significant divisions on certain topics. At the end of the day they still can be friends if they make the effort that is required.
I am still fighting the fight but for my mental health’s sake as my activism was taking a big toll on me emotionally and even physically to some extent; I had to step away from it for a while. I felt I did a lot and had hit a brick wall in my activism so I felt I was no longer able to do much more to help. I was also so discouraged over the way the world has failed to respond to Syria after so long of time spent in activism. It seemed the world would continue ignoring me and other activist and allow Assad and the extremist elements within the opposition to hurt and kill the Syrian people. My heart is still with the Syrian people and moderate Syrian opposition who are fighting for defense of the Syrian people and not ideology. I am at this point just deeply discouraged over what is happening in Syria. It seems the battle will wage on until every good person is forced to flee or is killed, until it is left to a brutal death match between two brutal camps with an ever narrowing moderate opposition as both tyrannical sides kill them off. Until it ends in a brutal death match of the “wicked killing the wicked” as the old saying goes. I hope something drastic changes because that is where I think Syria is heading if the world allows it to continue to go on.
All this then the crises in Egypt with one dictator, being replaced by another, and then another. Then Ukraine with Russia moving back to its old bad ways attempting to re-create its Soviet Union glory which was mostly manufactured propaganda. The many crises in Africa. Now the crises in Israel and Palestine. It is just one example after another of tyrants and extremist along with brutal acts of inhumanity. No I am not angry primarily I am just mostly sad, deeply depressed over the world’s crises would be more accurate. Are we just going to continue to sit down and complain, cry, and pound are fist on the table in anger, or are we going to stand up and take the world towards peace and love? Are we going to allow ourselves to continue to be dominated by tyrants and tyranny or are we going to demand accountability and change? Are we going to be victims or survivors? Are we going to fade away into history or are we going to thrive and have a golden age of enlightenment? The choice is ours, rather we are sad or angry or both. The world is not doomed. It is not destined for destruction, if we don’t allow it. It is not necessary we stay forever divided and fight a continual battle for domination and power, we can find a way to get along. It is not necessary that hatred stays in the human heart, we can love our neighbor. We can tear down the walls in Gaza and the West Bank and find a way for Palestine and Israel to exist together without seeking destruction and domination of the other. Stop just being sad and angry and work towards solutions to the worlds problems. Work on building bridges between peoples not walls. Work on finding peace and love not war and hatred. Lets tear down the walls and use the stones to build roads uniting people.
Alan Curtis Montgomery
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