Did I Make You Cry?

What can someone say that would make you cry? I’m not talking about hearing a sad story or getting bad news. I’m asking if another person stating a point of view you don’t share, or politely and innocently mentioning something to which you are sensitive, would cause you to burst out in loud, angry, and hurt tears.

This is a very roundabout way to introduce the topic I am actually writing about, but I think you’ll see why I’m taking such a circuitous route. I thought of this question while listening to Bari Weiss’ Honestly podcast, where she interviewed a Portland State University professor who resigned after recognizing that he was expected to indoctrinate his students into mindless agreement rather than teach them how to think. He mentioned a student whose reaction to something he said (that he considered innocuous) was to burst into tears and flee the classroom.

His story reminded me of a guest at our Shabbat table one Friday night a while back, who reacted in the same way to something I said. I don’t remember if she came back after sheltering in the bathroom or if she stayed away for the whole meal, but I do remember finding her reaction very odd. My offensive statement? This guest had asked where our children went to school and I responded that we homeschooled. That completely unnerved this retired public-school teacher.

I admit that if someone cursed at me or harangued me, I might start crying. But I can’t think of an opinion someone could innocently express that would make me cry furious tears. Do they reveal an admiration for Joe Biden? I disagree with them, but I’m not going to cry and run. Do they make a case for abortion or gun control that is in opposition to mine? I’d be interested in a conversation. What if someone, not as a provocateur, but in innocence, called Israel an apartheid state or mentioned that they read that the Holocaust never happened? I’d see that as all the more reason to engage. Depending on the circumstances, some statements could make me secretly roll my eyes or discourage a friendship. But for words to provoke angry hysterics? I just don’t see that being my reaction to civil discourse.

All this is to explain that I am choosing to write about a decision I made in spite of knowing that in today’s climate some reader could react very emotionally. I’m aware that my words might lead to an outburst of angry emotion. However, I am not interested in suppressing my ideas. So here goes:

A few years back, I faced a medical challenge that, thank God, is behind me. Recently, I was approached to participate in a study about my experience. My first inclination was to accept. Information from patients can be incredibly useful in modifying and improving medical care.

However, when I clicked on the link to find out more, I discovered that the study seemed set up to explore the different experiences of white and black women when coping with this medical challenge. The more I thought about it, the more unenthusiastic I became.

There certainly can be treatment variables based on gender, race, ethnicity and more. Anesthesiologists have told me that those with red hair need a different level of anesthesia. If you dye your hair brown but are really a redhead, your doctor needs to know. Individuals from different places and backgrounds can be more prone to certain diseases. Again, that information is important to a doctor. All that is based on factual observation and studies.

From reading the information about the survey, I got the impression that the purpose of this particular study was less research and more a desire to prove that white and black women fare differently because of racism. I saw it as a tentacle of the insistence in woke society today on equity rather than equality. What do I mean? I am extremely grateful that I did not face some of the challenges that other people with my diagnosis do. Much of this was due to my support team: a loving husband, dedicated children, generous friends, financial resources and a strong community and faith. I thank God that the culture in which I was raised led me to live my life in a way that made all these factors highly probable.

Women who never had a husband or who are widowed or divorced certainly face a more difficult time than I did. If one’s children are struggling and not able to be supportive, challenging times will be tougher. One’s personal and children’s situations might be because of instances over which neither you nor they had control. It also might be an outflow of the culture in which you live. Financial struggles definitely give one fewer options when dealing with illness as does lack of community. My guess is that single women without mature and responsible children, who are not part of healthy communities and who lack financial resources, do less well than happily married women with supportive children and communities and some savings. There are white women and black women in both categories. If the numbers skew more for one race than the other that isn’t de facto proof of racism being the cause of different outcomes. Society would do better to explore what factors lead to personal and financial success and educate people to do better rather than promoting victimhood. It is well worth going back and revealing what legislation and cultural changes (whether advanced sincerely in good faith, or foolishly, or despicably introduced despite understanding the terrible results that would ensue) lead to singleness, poverty, and isolation.

My final decision was not to participate in the study. I am interested in helping improve outcomes, not in promoting division and resentment. Actually, I think medicine is pretty clear that bodies filled with anger and bitterness deal less well with illness, so if the study is looking for what I think it is, it may end up causing more harm than good.

Could I be wrong? Yes, and that is why I’m writing this Musing, in the hopes of having a calm and measured discussion.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments on this Susan’s Musings article.
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