Exactly how truculent, pugnacious and belligerent do I want to be? Even those words sound unappealing, so my natural inclination would be to answer, “Very little.” In fact, I have spent years working on the character traits that Ruchi Koval describes in her book, Soul Construction: Shape Your Character Using 8 Timeless Steps from the Jewish Practice of Mussar, many of which have to do with stepping away from quarrels and trying to soothe contentious situations.
But, as always, life isn’t so simple. In the hope that their examples would strengthen my own spine, I have also spent years reading books and absorbing stories of heroes who refused to hide in the shadows when they saw wrong being promoted around them. It would be lovely if standing up for what is right could be done in only delicate, tactful ways, but that often isn’t the case.
What should I do? Last week, I wrote in my Musing about dropping memberships and canceling subscriptions when organizations tried to ensnare me in their woke virtue-signaling. In the comment section, John asked if his wife should make more of a point of declaring her values in a venue that theoretically should be free of politics. The question only arises because those with values dissimilar to her are doing so. There is a saying in ancient Jewish wisdom that translates as, “Silence is similar to agreement.” If his wife doesn’t showcase her beliefs while others do, does her silence signal acquiescence?
I enjoy the luxury of knowing that I will not alienate close family members or lose my job because I express my opinions. That is a gift that I don’t take for granted. I can’t compare myself to those in high-risk situations. What I can do, and have done, is to choose to be more provocative and to stop hiding behind anonymity when I am outside my Happy Warrior bubble. So, I deliberately use my real name rather than a cutesy pseudonym when I comment on various columns where my views are not necessarily those of the host or readers. And I comment more frequently than feels natural. For someone like me who values privacy, it is not comfortable.
For the past few years, I have participated in an online chat related to a medical issue. The whole purpose of this app is to be supportive, both with information and empathy. While 99% of the group is female, other than that it is probably the most diverse group I know. The women span every age, location, income, race, religion, nationality, and education level. My assumption is that we fall about evenly on both sides of the political divide, as any random assortment of Americans would, but politics has no place in our discussions. That guardrail fell for one evening after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. A few women clearly were overwrought and emotional and posted their feelings using vivid and over-the-top language. Most of the regulars stayed silent, one woman pushed back, and the topic moved to the shared issues that are the reason women show up in the first place. I wasn’t on the chat that night, so I did not have to decide what to do. Silence from those who celebrated the Dobbs’ decision prevented the comments from turning into an argument. The topic quickly passed and harmony was salvaged. Yet, my guess is that one side of the debate was more reluctant to speak than the other side was, leaving the impression that the group as a whole was skewed to one side.
What would I have done had I logged on that night? What would have been the correct thing to do? I am not sure.
What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this Susan’s Musings post.
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