April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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I don’t generally discuss politics; not only in my articles, but in real life. I feel it’s a waste of time, as no one in power has asked my opinion recently (that being the past 40 years or so). However, I will discuss things that come across my radar screen unintentionally because I figure it was knowledge given to me by God to do something with.

Recently, I was in a hotel and the newscaster on the television in the lobby was reporting that Ken Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co., resigned from President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council. This decision came in the wake of a hate crime and the president’s comments, which many people felt did not go far enough in condemning the white nationalists whose rally turned deadly when an individual drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person.

(The president did acknowledge it was a hate crime, and condemned everyone who was violent, yet drew more fire than did another world leader who, when a Jewish grocery store in France was bombed on an Erev Shabbos, denounced the act of hurting people “just walking into a deli,” but I digress.)

Mr. Frazier is not the first person to resign from the council or other advisory boards in protest of things the president said or opinions and values he expressed. And that is what got me thinking.

The photo I saw showed Mr. Frazier sitting to the president’s immediate left at a previous meeting. Others who’ve resigned, like Elon Musk, had similarly close relationships with him. Here are people who have the ability to have a conversation with the person with whom they disagree, but, because he does not agree with their opinions and maintains his own, they choose to end the discussion permanently.

In an act of righteous martyrdom, people say, “I cannot, in good conscience, remain in that group. I must take a stand for what I believe in.” But they haven’t.

Instead, what they’ve done is taken the easy and often the popular way out. They choose not to persevere and hope to make their case in the future, but rather to vilify the president and not have to strive or work to effect change. Instead of changing his mind, it only serves to further convince him that he is right and that the protester is wrong.

What if Mr. Frazier had stayed on the council? What if, at the next meeting, he said, “Mr. President, I respect you greatly, and value your views. I’d like to share my perspective on a different topic as an African-American so you can understand how some members of the public feel and incorporate this firsthand knowledge into your policies.” Would the president have been more or less likely to be open to the perspective had it been offered in that way?

We know that after the resignation President Trump made a mocking comment about Mr. Frazier now being able to focus on lowering drug prices. The move didn’t seem to make him rethink his position at all. We can only assume that continuing the relationship on other bases and opening dialogue on the point of contention couldn’t fare any worse and would likely do better.

All too often, this happens in our everyday life. We disagree with someone. Usually it’s someone we care about. At some point, when they disagree with our position, we take offense and decide to “wash our hands” of it. “There’s no point speaking to you anymore,” we say. We give up.

We haven’t taken a stand, but turned and run.

If it was really important to us, we’d stay engaged in the relationship and try other means to get our points across. If one, rachmana litzlan, has a child who doesn’t want to live the way they were raised, how do you think the child will respond to being thrown out? To having the relationship severed like the pharma boss did with the president? Would you really be surprised if it turned out the same way, with mockery and the feeling that this is proof they were right all along?

Do you think staging a protest at a business will make the owner change and do things the way you want, or will it convince him further that you don’t care about his well-being? Even if he feels threatened and does make changes, do you think you accomplished your goal of “bringing him around”? On the contrary; you’ve convinced him that you’re crazy and he’s right.

If we truly believe in our principles, then when faced with adversity, the way to make a stand is to sit down, maybe share a cup of coffee and some warm words, and never, ever, close the lines of communication.

What inspires you? I want to hear! Email [email protected].

By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz



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