Anger management lesson from a Sicilian may seem like an oxymoron but I ask that you give it a shot.
My parents lived in Sicily, immigrated to Saint Louis, where I was born shortly thereafter. I’ve always had my feet in two worlds as my Sicilian culture and my American upbringing are so intertwined. I always thought it was Pop (who passed away about a year ago) who brought the traditional Sicilian anger to the table, as this was a cultural thing – Italian men of that generation were somewhat chauvinistic and prone to temper outbursts. At least my Dad was before he had heart attacks and mellowed.
Turns out, Mom has some anger issues too. This little 4- foot, 8-inch, 85 year-old Sicilian mom is in need of an intervention. You see, since Pop died, she lives at home alone, and watches too much cable news. Her mind is sharp, so when she hears the baloney that litters all cable news outlets, she gets very angry.
It wasn’t always this way. It used to be she would get mad at her kids, not the TV, and throw the wooden cooking spoon at us. Now, my siblings have had to go in and remove the cooking spoons from her house for fear of her busting the television.
So I call her on the phone to discuss these problems: “Mom, what’s bothering you?” She responds with her adorable accent, “Oh, one day he says this, one day that, one day the news reports this, then that. I’m getting a little irritated.” I can almost see her hand gestures as she speaks. The Italians in my family talk with their hands.
Of course, she’s talking about President Trump. I learned this myself in anger management counseling and it has come in handy at times, like when I had a compulsive liar for a supervisor once who would say one thing one day and the opposite the next and swear both were true. Our old work group determined that if his lips were moving, he was lying.
I shared this with Mom. It seemed to help. Then, as now, it’s so much easier to assume the worst from some, unfortunately. The contradictions, the bragging, the provocations – if you expect it and train yourself to not react, you’ll keep your sanity and control your anger. These types lose the benefit of the doubt that as a courtesy we give to people of a normal disposition.
Now, instead of reacting to each day’s statements and the media’s “breaking news,” we wait until the next day and it’s all changed. I wish the cable networks would learn this too. They report his every comment, 24/7, non-stop.
But here’s the quandary with that. Some want to berate the media as fake news for this overreporting of Trump’s every move and tweet. I’d say the correct disorder would be to call the news obsessive, not fake. If he said it, it’s not fake. But while they report on some provocative tweet or another, thousands are dying in Syria. Did you know Turkey is about to enter the Syrian war more aggressively, intending to wipe out the Kurds, who fought for us against ISIS? Of course not, because we obsess about a new breaking news story each hour – the latest tweet.
The media needs an anger management lesson because they are being provoked to respond to everything he does, says and tweets. It makes 24/7 news look ridiculous, and it’s getting Mom very angry. Your anger management lesson: Ignore the provocation, focus on what matters.
Now I’m not a liberal, not a Democrat, certainly not an “elitist,” and I would be more than happy to judge Trump on his policies rather than his rhetoric, but could he please stop irritating my Mom (and millions like her) and start acting presidential? As a 61-year old white male, I have a lot of friends who voted for Trump and want to stick up for him but I ask why stick up for bad behavior?
It’s like my Dad trying to stick up for Mussolini. My father used to say the reason Italians supported Mussolini is because he made the trains run on time. Siding with Hitler and starting a war was OK because the trains were punctual. And the reason behind accepting all of Trump’s bad behavior is because the stock market is doing well. Wasn’t the stock market doing well in 2006 too?
Do we never learn our lessons? What goes up must come down. Not Mom and me. We’re learning to stay balanced.
Sal Moretti is a retired City superintendent, an Air Force veteran, and co-chair of the KC Homeless Collaborative. The opinions expressed are his own.