Taking the High Road

Unlike the year 2024, which still has that new car smell, the Jewish year 5784 is more than a quarter way done. Yet, a piece of advice from that Jewish celebration is resonating with me: Be the tail of a lion rather than the head of a fox. Phrased in less poetic language, this recommends surrounding oneself with those who are greater than you.

This week I received lessons from two admirable women. One, whom I am proud to call a friend, has poured her heart and soul into helping a foster child who desperately needs her love and attention. Meanwhile, the officious government bureaucrats who have oversight power over this child remain wedded to their own ideas of what should be done, adamantly refusing to look at the specific youngster involved and how he is flourishing under my friend’s care.

Years ago, while wandering the stacks in our regional library, I came across a charming book depicting a couple who welcomed foster children into their home in the 1950s. Their city’s rules decreed that foster children have a room of their own, a ‘perk’ that the children who joined their family viewed as a punishment. These foster children joyously shared bedrooms with the family’s birth children, and when a social worker visit was scheduled, everyone ran around moving beds and belongings.

My friend’s case is not resolved so simply. The burdens that the officials place on her are onerous. The negative vibes they beam at her are unpleasant. This week, the latest piece of wisdom I learned from her (one of many she has modeled over the years) is based on her struggle to view the bureaucrats with compassion rather than dislike. They are handicapped by their inability to see outside the narrow box in which they have been trained and immersed. She feels sorry for them rather than angry at them.

This magnanimity is shared by the protagonist of the second of my stories. Since she has no idea who I am and since I have never met her, Abigail Shrier does not fall into the friend category – yet. Nonetheless, I admire her work and her willingness to speak the truth regardless of the consequences or who might react angrily. While I eagerly await her book Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up, and appreciate her previous very important book Irreversible Damage, it was her New Year’s blog post that chastised me.

For years, Abigail has observed, written, and acted against the damaging consequences of the progressive Left. Like many of us, she is watching as a number of liberals who were blind over the past decades wake up as a specific issue forces itself into their vision. It might be women being chased out of sports and children being mutilated, the celebration of anti-white racism, or the despicable inability of college presidents to condemn calls to murder Jews. Whatever the specific spur, suddenly enlightenment is striking some who didn’t realize the evil of ideas that they inadvertently supported and had a hand in strengthening, in the past.

These ‘stars dropping from the eyes’ moments frustrate many of us. They do not come with apologies to those of us who were branded as racist, xenophobic, sexist, etc., etc., for years, sometimes facing personal attacks and economic consequences. They do not come with an acknowledgment of gratitude to those who saw further down the road years ago and have been actively fighting bad ideas and movements. Sometimes, they are focused on one issue only, and the newly converted still reveals contempt for the views of those of us who see a bigger picture.

The natural, human response is to want to shout out, “I’ve been telling you this for years!” It is to hold a certain amount of resentment for the latecomers who, after all, have been part of the problem. Abigail’s post urged us to keep an eye on the finish line and take the high road. If warriors, many prominent, articulate, and with resources are joining the fight, shouldn’t we warmly welcome them? Yes.

So, while I have never made a New Year’s resolution, perhaps I will do so this year. Can I follow these women’s examples and be a bigger person? Too much is at stake to take refuge in pettiness.

This Musing is dedicated in memory of Edna Malkamo, age 45, who was killed by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023, as she drove home after a night shift as a therapist. Her husband and three children, ages 11, 14, and 15 survive her. Born in Ethiopia, she moved to Israel in 1991.

And with prayers for the safe return of all the kidnapped hostages and among them Yoram Metzger, age 80.

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