How to survive friendships during the election

“There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.”

Shannon L. Adler


Lose any friendships over a spat on social media? Get so angry with someone or them with you over a political or religious issue that you are no longer on speaking terms with him or her? Regret any Facebook, Twitter or Instagram posts or emails? Well – I have been there – done that. And I can now accept responsibility for my actions. But I am learning – slowly I am learning.

I love Shannon Adler’s take on “a page.” I could easily have used Kenny Roger’s famous lyric on “know when to fold ‘em,” but alas I can’t sing. Each of Shannon’s three options is our choice to make. The trick is in knowing which one is the preferred option at the time. Over the past year, ever since I began writing in this space I have been at loggerheads with one friend I will name Jacob. Jake, like some of my other friends from my recent past have taken issue with my evolved approach to the world, to politics and to religion – I have indeed changed in countless ways and was much more aligned to them and their views than I am now. Many of the social media exchanges between Jake and I became rather acrimonious – and a couple of weeks ago it happened again. To me this one was particularly awkward and uncomfortable, and I did not feel good during the give-and-take. I am sure many of you have been there too. We get caught up in the debate, can’t for the life of us understand someone, least of all a friend, who can become so irrational on a point that seems to us immensely sensible and even objective. And of course, I become the same illogical bloke to him. So the question we face almost on a daily basis it would seem, is what to do about it? Do we fight? Shall we turn the other cheek? Do we focus on “one-upmanship?” Let’s delve into that latter one at bit.

When I fall victim to my ego on social media encounters I believe it is because of time. Time to think. Time to come up with that ever so clever, “I’ll show you” ridiculing statement that not only is directed towards my opponent but to everyone else who may be reading my brilliantly eloquent, irrefutable rejoinder to that outlandish, inane and dense comment I just read “of yours.” But what if we remove time and audience from the mix? I turned to private messaging and suggested to Jacob that we meet to discuss. He quite cheerily and swiftly accepted. The social media exchange – on this topic – ended there.

Sometimes the divisions we face are purely ideological, sometimes they are personal, oftentimes they are centered however, on ego. The distance and sometimes anonymity of social media has many downsides towards human understanding. In fact, we tout the wonderful benefits of social media to shrinking the world and opening doors to common understanding amongst a diverse audience but too often the opposite occurs. What we are witnessing now is that due to the reliance on social media to communicate, we are slowly losing the ability to speak and share ideas one on one.

Though Jake and I disagree on many matters today, we had no issues at all face to face. In fact, meeting over dinner, for the first ninety minutes we discussed everything but our disputes. We talked about his retirement plans and business matters, about women and the dating scene (we are both now single and middle-aged), and we also discussed – no, that was it, just business and women for the first hour and a half. We finally did get around to talking very specifically about the online issue we had. There was no acrimony and in fact the discussion was perfectly respectful. There was no yelling. We both listened attentively to the other. Speaking for myself I learned to better understand his perspective.

Though I am grateful to Jake and I feel emboldened by the actions we took together, I can’t say that it always works out that way.

I had another exchange where it went badly and again I reached out on private messaging to attempt reconciliation to the dilemma. My approach was rebuffed. His public pronouncement against me was condescending and exceptionally judgemental. Upholding hollow religious rituals were once again front and centre in my life but this time it was reminiscent of me looking into a mirror from the past.

We are entering unprecedented times. What is going on south of the Canadian border is to say the least, unbelievable. Though as Canadians we have no horse in the race for the White House, the moral dilemma our America friends face is powerfully drawing us in. Let’s hope that we remember how to properly and respectfully communicate with friends and family. It won’t be easy. And sometimes you’ll have to “fold ‘em.”





Anger and Accolades

“The greatest remedy for anger is delay.”

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Roman statesman


What will become of this week? More violence? More bigotry? More anger? I expect that an endless supply of anger triggers will be reverberating over the airwaves, social media and into our email inboxes all week long. Are you ready for it? How do you expect to react to it? And this week, anger will also be in our everyday lives, as it was last week, the week before last and throughout much of our time on earth – anger was and will be forever present, just waiting for the next trigger to unleash undesirable actions.

I have not attended synagogue much lately, but I chose to go last Saturday morning. Funny how I seem to enjoy going much more when I choose to go instead of when I feel the obligation to go – but that is another story. Our synagogue has an assistant rabbi; a common practise for synagogues of a certain membership dimension, and this past Sabbath service (unbeknownst to me at the time) was to be his last one before most deservingly heading off to lead a congregation of his own in the United States. This young, articulate, passionate, brilliant and soulful communicator left this congregant immensely joyful and uplifted by my choice.

Too often, we hear of negative influences of religion upon the flock. Terms like, blind-faith, non-relevance, archaic or incitement are just a few of the less than stellar descriptions commonly attached to really any of the monotheistic religions. The weekly sermon, whether on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, is the clergy’s opportunity to influence the congregants, with an unimpeded, unidirectional lecture of laws, guidance and observances. Rabbi Eli (not his real name) spoke of the famous incident involving Moses, where out of anger he struck the rock to draw out water. As his punishment, God did not allow Moses to enter the promised land of Israel and instead would live out his remaining days only able to view the land from on top of Mount Nebo. But from this story, Rabbi Eli connected the biblical interpretation to everyday life like I have never heard before and his was anything but unidirectional.

Anger. It was the theme of anger that Rabbi Eli spoke of. And – normal is how he described the emotion of anger. Not a guilt-ridden emotion. Anger is an almost instinctual reaction to a trigger we have encountered. But while the feeling of anger is understandable, he said, acting out our anger is not. That is when he drew me in and I believe the rest of us present in the sanctuary as well. As I wrote last time, we cannot deny what someone feels since that is what he or she is feeling. There is no biblical punishment to simply feel anger. Reacting to anger however is a choice. As a radio personality said recently, “acting out anger never ends well.” Many of us need help in preventing our anger from manifesting itself in tangible or explicit actions. Acknowledging that is step one. For some, that is enough to be able to catch oneself and not allow the anger to present. If self-control is not enough just yet, then please reach out to the multitude of available resources for assistance. Anger has ended relationships of all sorts, careers, one’s self-esteem and sometimes lives.

Sadly, we will be tested more this week. I hope that we can recognize the anger we hold inside ourselves, and heed that warning or trigger that Moses himself was not able to contain. He paid a high price for his unforgiving action. Can we then learn to delay our anger?

I wish that there were more rabbis, priests, imams, ministers, pastors, preachers, vicars or reverends like Rabbi Eli. Even in giving a sermon, Rabbi Eli I know received much of what he gave. In that sense his sermons were not unidirectional. That and more he will take with him to his next assignment and his new congregants have much to gain and to learn from this beautiful religious teacher.

Black Feelings Matter

“The issue isn’t with individual police officers who abuse their power.

The issue is a system that supports police officers who abuse their power.”


I was driving back from a country outing on the beautiful long holiday weekend we had recently. Up ahead on the road I saw police stopping vehicles before being allowed to pass through. “I wonder what’s going on? Maybe a child is lost or missing. Perhaps the road is closed for an accident.” A smiling police officer approaches the driver side of my car and I roll down my window. “Have you been drinking alcohol today?” “No officer,” I replied. “Have a nice day then” she said and that was it.

Not for a moment, nor a split second, did I have any fear or anxiety; that I could potentially be mistaken for a suspect in a crime and wrongfully arrested, that I could be dragged out of my car and beaten, that the police officer might shoot me while sitting in my car and bleed to death. Nope, not a thought at all from any of those hypothetical scenarios entered my carefree holiday mind. But then again, I am a white guy.

We are living in amplified, hyper-sensitized, polarized times. Black Lives Matter or #BLM, and it’s unfair counter – All Lives Matter is causing numerous visceral reactions across the political and social spectrum in the USA and also in here in Canada. I am not sure that it is a case of political correctness run amok but I am beginning to believe the Caucasians amongst us just don’t get it. We are trying to appear fair, understanding and balanced, but we are badly missing the mark. It appears that we are telling #BLM and their supporters that they are wrong to suggest the singularity of perceived injustice is transpiring in their community, and unless we emphasize the totality of the collective human condition, highlighting one group in such a manner is prejudiced toward all others.

No, I believe we are hijacking the symbolism of #BLM and advocating an improvement or modification like All Lives Matter and in some cases dismissing #BLM in its entirety. It is almost analogous to redefining what Holocaust means and applying its use more broadly and thereby watering down its true and accurate representation. I know how apoplectic many fellow Jews become when “Holocaust” is used in a context not related to WWII. “How dare they use the word Holocaust?” Well, I wonder how African-Americans feel when we are attempting to redefine or diminish their own intentions and meaning of #BLM?

I read the quote above, a Facebook post by a friend’s husband in the wake of the death by police of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. One may choose to agree with the statement or not. But reading those words helped me to begin to understand the feelings, frustrations and anger within the Black community, concerns that I couldn’t possibly have when I was stopped by the police on that long weekend trip. How can we tell anyone how he or she should feel or that they are wrong to feel a certain way?  One feels what they feel. That is not up for debate. I believe that our inability to be fully empathetic to the Black experience is perchance unconsciously rooted in our own fear and judgment that we carry with us. Not of the African-American individual, but in the unknowing of who we truly are. The walls preventing us from understanding something or someone dissimilar from ourselves needs a wake-up call in self-awareness in order to begin to tear down these destructive barriers and allow for our individual liberation, freedom and inner peace.

Don’t think you are not like me

“People are pretty much alike. It’s only that our differences are more susceptible to definition than our similarities.” Linda Ellerbee, award winning American journalist.

I was recently watching a late night 9th anniversary episode of Seinfeld where a portion of the show highlighted in rapid-fire succession numerous personal smears, childish insults, mockeries and criticisms – all humorous mind you. Though that season aired eighteen years ago and it was unqualified comedy, I felt I was watching US presidential politics in 2016. Day after day whether it is viewing political theatre, observing and I dare say participating on social media, invective after invective, antagonism after antagonism, we are at one another’s throat with polarized accusations, intolerant viewpoints and abject disrespect for a dissimilar opinion. Sometimes and tragically this had led to deadly violence.

Is it just me or have you also observed this changing social condition? As I have broadened my horizons, invited those in where otherwise I had built-up walls to keep them out, I am beautifully reminded more each day of our similarities than ever before. We are after all, similarly created. The basic building block of who we all are is our DNA. What is increasingly evident to me at least, is the role played by the social construct that is exacerbating not just racial tensions but so too tensions of opinion. It can also be labeled as a state of separateness. People who one might guesstimate to be “like me” or “like you” are locked in a thought battle of intolerance and anger against us. Or as you may have read from visiting here before, the battle is often within us. Us vs. Us. But that is not for this post.

We often mistake this construct as an inherent difference of background, culture and fundamental belief system. But while many may turn to our existential confrontation with Islamic extremism erroneously reassigned into an anti-immigrant backlash witnessed real time across the globe, we can be as indignant towards the former as against and within our own community and within our family as well. Our children, born of our genetic make-up, with like abilities, temperament and failings can be our fiercest critics yet they are most like us if anyone is. Still the battles rage on.

I choose to believe and act in a manner (as often as possible) that underscores our similarities. I do fundamentally believe that you are very much like me and I am very much like you. I remember a speech given by Angelina Jolie a couple of years ago where she ostensibly opined how if not by the quirk of birth, what really makes us that different.

“We are all, everyone in this room, so fortunate. I have never understood why some people are lucky enough to be born with the chance that I had—with this path in life. And why across the world, there’s a woman just like me with the same abilities and the same desires, the same work ethic and love for her family who would most likely make better films and better speeches. Only she sits in a refuge camp, and she has no voice. She worries about what her children will eat, how to keep them safe, and if they’ll ever return home. I don’t know why this is my life and that’s hers.”

As I re-read that quote by this exceptional person, I am pained by the increasing vitriolic debate on gun laws, Republican vs. Democrat (USA), Conservative vs. Liberal (Canada), refugees and immigrants, and the holier than thou proclamations emanating from the nationalistic, protectionist and isolationist corners of where we live, when it is only by an accident of birth that we are here and they are there, or by lessons learned that I think this way and you the other. What if we spent as much energy on looking for the likenesses between people and not the divisions?