“Should” I be Angry?

Should I be angry?

I found myself thinking that this morning as I laughed my way down SE Lincoln Street. A few people in an oncoming car had tapped their horn, all friendly-like as though maybe I knew them, as I’d biked by. The driver had a giant grin on his face, which is the first thing I noticed. I smiled too–instinct–and sort of halfway waved (did I know these people?) before I realized that the smiley dude was flipping me off. I’m pretty sure. A smile and the bird.

That’s how I found myself laughing my way down the street, wondering why a car full of strangers had so happily flipped me off. I mean, this guy’s grin had been gigantic. How I was supposed to interpret that ridiculous incongruity? I imagined them in their car: had they premeditated this to see how some random passer-by like me would react? Had I been part of a controlled social experiment? Were they wondering why I’d waved back to them even as they flipped me off?

I was pretty confused, and very amused. But then I wondered. Should I be angry?

It’s a phrase that came up not too long ago when a friend was telling me and James about her boss. Her boss isn’t very nice to her. In fact, it sounds like she says some pretty rude things. But our friend, one of the most chipper women I know, laughs it off. “People tell me I should be upset,” she told us, “but I actually think it’s kind of funny.”

That idea of “should.” Should she be upset. Should I be angry. It’s such a weird way of invalidating your real feelings–who’s to say when someone should or shouldn’t be angry? According to which objective scale of anger-inducement? And especially in my friend’s case, when she’s perfectly happy: why would anyone want to convince her that she should be anything but?

It may be that there’s a time and a place and a need for appropriately-expressed anger–if nothing else, simply to let another person know that what they do could potentially have negative impact on others. As an educator, I’m keenly aware of letting people know how their actions may affect others in often unintended ways. And to make that point, maybe sometimes it’s worth it to express anger (or whatever) even if you’re not feeling it. I don’t know.

But to tell someone who’s actually quite happy that they should be angry? That seems a little silly to me. If I’m not angry, I’m not sure if whether I should be angry is a helpful question.

Though that being said, what the heck were those people in the car doing??:)

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