Monday, November 07, 2016


I'm not the kind of guy who says things like, I want to take every opportunity and use it as a learning experience. I'm not that insightful. On the contrary. I'm fairly superficial. For example, today I am wearing a multi-colored polka dot shirt. If that doesn't say "lacking substance," I don't know what does.

But that being said, on the day before the election, I'd like to take a moment or two to reflect on what I've learned about people in the last year or so. Or in other words, I'd like to take this opportunity and use it a learning experience.

It's been a fairly enlightening year and in many ways, it's also been a frightening one. Of all the things I've learned about my friends, acquaintances and strangers, I realize foremost that social media has almost inadvertently made us all exponentially more passionate about the things we know and feel. Because it's encouraged all of us to be more articulate. And articulation is the catalyst for unearthing intensity.

Being passionate is good. It's just what's done with that passion...that's where it gets iffy.

FEELINGS: This isn't some profound thought here, but I've noticed both sides of the argument using "I feel" as the prelude for citing inaccuracies. I've been guilty of this as well which is why in the last few months, any time I've felt compelled to say "I feel" when discussing the election, I've made every attempt to either turn that feeling into fact or give it enough substance that it's not irresponsible to say it.

It's probably too late to reverse the cultural degradation of fact, but I know, personally speaking, that I'll try less to presume based on my feelings. As hard as that may be.

[Incidentally, when you debate with facts as opposed to arguing about feelings, opposing sides tend to get less offended and/or less hostile]

CONFLICT; RELATIONSHIPS: This is a tough one and it's one I've been thinking about for a lot of the time throughout this whole fiasco. What happens when I find out people I like and hold in high regard are actually ideologically opposed to what I believe in? What happens when I start wondering whether we share any of the same core values? What happens when I start asking questions about someone's character? Is that judgmental? Is that unfair?

I am certainly guilty of unfollowing people on Facebook and I would assume there are those who have unfollowed me as well. I'm okay with that. And I can't help consider that my rabbi encouraged his congregants a few months back to reach across the aisle and share dialogue with the "opposition" but I'm finding it hard to even want to do so. Like, I have zero interest right now. Because doing so is exhausting. Attempting to have a discussion with someone interested in solely venting their feelings (see above) is rarely productive.

Last night, Shana and I lamented on how Facebook has become this fraught place, while we'd rather use it to share good news, family photos and (for me) updates on superhero movies. But it's become a revealing indicator of character and values. A outlet for faulty liberalism or vitriolic conservatism. Intolerance and, in a few instances, spiteful aggression.

It's hard to look at people the same when they say a man like Trump is for their best interests. It's hard to value the friendship of someone who lacks the dignity and respect to engage in civil political discourse. I have seen many people on my social periphery who have shown their worst selves completely unaware of the reverberations. I'm still not sure what to do with all that information. Still processing it. But it's heavy stuff, man.

OUTLOOK: Gosh, how does one maintain a positive outlook on things when he or she is told the country is a mess, that a lot of people hate Jews, and that everyone is corrupt and bad? It's not easy, but no matter how challenging it's become, I'm trying my damnedest to remain a hopeful idealist.

The logic behind my optimism (or naïveté, according to some) is that I believe that no matter how intelligent you are--I'm talking a hypothetical Mensa, here--you are still susceptible to the media. No one is immune. It's an inarguable fact. Trust me here. I do this for a living--make people believe in things which in my instance is nothing more than a product.

It's in the media's best interest to amplify everything because amplification means crisis and crisis means viewership. If they keep telling us how awful things are, you'll eventually believe they are awful. But you'll also want to keep watching just in case things get better or even more awful. All media outlets benefit from that fear. It's unfortunate but they're all in the business of fear mongering, some to a lesser degree than others (but nobody does it better than Fox News--I need a stiff drink after just watching five minutes of it. Heck, I'm googling architectural plans for underground bunkers).

This is not to say that things are not bad. They are bad. Oh, I know they're bad. But they're not quite apocalyptical. Again, it could be naïveté, but I embrace that warm enveloping blanket. Because as a parent, I'd rather expose my children to hope and idealism than indoctrinate them with toxic fear.

ENTITLEMENT: We've become a very entitled nation. I've become a very entitled guy.

And I think that's the reason for a lot of divisiveness. From how I see it, we hate Obamacare because it makes things expensive for us. But what about all the people who can't afford their own healthcare? Some of us are a religious people and therefore, the rest of the country should be subjected to our belief system when it comes to gay marriage and abortion. So, let's regress on all our social progress and make that into an actual platform selling point.
We want to read all of those 33,000 Hillary Clinton emails and, well, why can't we? Maybe it's because we're not privy to all of it. But why not? Aren't we privy to everything?
We're not? Then put her in jail.

If you want to tell me that this country has fallen apart, perhaps you could focus on the aspect of unity and collective concern for one another. The "I" has taken place of the "We, the people."

As an Orthodox Jew, this resonates with me. I have chosen a lifestyle for myself but cannot and should expect others to be subjected to my choices. It's selfish and inconsiderate. Ultimately, as an American, I want to see this country as a place of mutual respect for another. Which is why I tend to lean liberally and this election has reinforced that perspective.

LIVING IN AMERICA: Which brings me to my next point. I love Israel and as a Jew, I value it immensely. No one has the right to doubt that. But I do not understand when it becomes the singular issue. I don't relate to it. Without going into the candidates' policies, I have concluded that since I live here with my wife and children, there is way more to consider than the relationship we have with Israel. That's my prerogative.

But what makes me uncomfortable is how our relationship is being used--yes, being used--by Jewish people and politicians opportunistically. In some instances, without merit. Just the other day, someone posted about support for a local New Jersey politician who is "a friend of Israel." Mind you, this is a local politician who will has zero relevance to foreign policy. It felt like a ruse. As if your civic duty to research on overall policy wasn't necessary because of that key phrase: "friend of Israel."

I challenge myself to consider more than just that, and I think I've so far succeeded in that. And I challenge others to maintain their love for Israel but to consider the larger platform as well. Right now, we live in America--sure, that could change, and good luck to you. Sincerely--but there's a fringe but growing acceptance of anti-Semitism. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we look at this country as a rental, and not as our home. [I'm not suggesting you not see Israel as a home]. It sends the wrong message that we're not invested. It reinforces the wrong supposition that we're just a people of opportunists.

I love living in America. I feel lucky to be here and not in, say, France or England or Turkey or South Africa. And so I want to show that appreciation by valuing America and what it has to offer. That, in this instance, happens to be an overall consideration of its future.

THE THINGS I'VE LEARNED: I'm only started to process it all here. I'm sure more insights will come to mind in the next week or two as the healing commences.

Some friends think that healing won't come and it will just get worse in the next four years. Who knows? I do know however that I have control over myself and how I think and feel. And that's what I'm starting with. By taking everything I've heard, felt and seen and contemplating on it in an effort to better myself as a person, as a Jew, and as an American.

Call it a learning experience.