Protest Suggests Misplaced Outrage

Roger Copeland, Professor of Theater and Dance

To the Editors:

I’ve known the Gibson family for many years and find it very difficult to believe that any of them would engage in the odious practice of racial profiling. I also know that their family-owned business has been hit hard by shoplifters in recent months, and based on newspaper accounts of the Oberlin Police Department’s investigation of this incident, I see no reason to suspect that Allyn Gibson is guilty of anything other than forcefully confronting a shoplifter. Furthermore, the timing of the protest (which began within 48 hours of Tuesday night’s disastrous election returns) suggests a classic case of misplaced outrage. As in: “The realization that Donald J. Trump will become our next President makes me so angry that I need to express my outrage immediately.”

I understand (indeed share) these feelings of disbelief, disorientation and anger. But I’m not willing to scapegoat a small, family-owned business in order to facilitate my own emotional catharsis. In his anti-war masterpiece Mother Courage, Bertolt Brecht makes one of the most useful distinctions in the entire history of social activism. He distinguishes between “short anger” and “long anger,” which, brought to bear on our current circumstance, means “save your anger for Jan. 20. Don’t squander it prematurely for the sake of your own emotional satisfaction.” Only a “long anger” can do justice to the mind-bending fact that Donald Trump will soon become the 45th president of our nation. Join the worldwide protests Jan. 20 and help expose Trump’s “inauguration” for what it really is: the InHOGuration of a racist, sexist, greedy, needy, thin-skinned, narcissistic PIG.

– Roger Copeland
Professor of Theater and Dance