Cookie Schwaeber-Issan

The Blueprint To Our Demise

We’ve all heard the saying, “Live and Let Live.”  It basically means that while your cup of tea may not be someone else’s, let them, nonetheless, drink their cup of tea just as you drink yours. It’s also a nice way of recognizing and respecting one another’s diversity of opinion without judgment, prejudice or hostility.

Any society which lives by that creed will enjoy a healthy, tolerant and well-functioning atmosphere where everyone feels valued and regarded.  Conversely, a society which deliberately seeks to create divisions among its citizens, as we’re seeing today, will only reap an environment that promotes alienation, estrangement and discord – a sure blueprint for the demise of humanity.

None of this is new, and even though everyone knows that divisions cause distrust and always lead to exclusion, it’s been the direction in which we’ve been swiftly heading, as a species, especially over the last ten years.  Although divisiveness has usually been more prevalent in the area of politics, today it has made its way into personal positions regarding health, culture, education, religion and just about every aspect of daily life including the family.   Yes, the family!

An American broadcast recently showed the children of Trump supporters ratting out their parents, to law enforcement, for having been present at last year’s January rally in Washington, D.C.  It didn’t matter if their parents had just peacefully attended.  The kids were hailed for being willing to squeal, and the television commentators couldn’t have been more delighted with the split caused to those families.

Today’s sharp polarization of our society, through the means of divisiveness, is so ubiquitous that it’s getting more and more challenging to remain friends with those who don’t share your every viewpoint.  Gone are the days when good friends could debate the merits of opposing issues and take it all in good stride.  These days, even approaching certain subjects can pose such a fiery threat that you are told, in advance, not to go there.  The fear is that any discussion, containing the slightest bit of controversy, will likely end whatever good will has cemented the friendship throughout the years.

When it comes to family, though, that’s even more of a minefield, because it’s a bit easier to ditch friends than it is to turn your back on those who share your bloodlines. Yet, many of us have already suffered the loss of once close relatives who, due to our particular viewpoints or choices, have cut off the relationship simply because that person is suddenly seen as being unworthy in their eyes. For them, the rejection was a necessary part of maintaining their own sense of integrity and virtue, even though it came at the price of exiling a once beloved family member.

It’s gotten to the point where each group prefers to live in its own little bubble for fear of being confronted by another way of looking at an issue – almost as if to do so will contaminate their way of thinking.  Consequently, rejection of certain individuals has become vital in order to maintain a specific narrative in which someone is heavily invested.

The problem is that these divisions are breeding suspicion and fear against one another, something which is antithetical to working in cooperation and harmony for the good of our species.

If we were to take a quick look at mankind’s greatest accomplishments, we would discover that when nations worked together in order to defeat tyranny and the threat of world domination, everyone won.  When skillful teams of scientists and medical experts put their heads together, in order to come up with life-saving cures and technology, it ended up being for the betterment of humanity.  When the sharing of vital information contributed to thwarting terror attacks, as law enforcement worked together, whole populations were protected.

We are actually at our best and strongest when we accept one another, work together to accomplish good and listen to differing points of view.  If no one person possesses all wisdom and all truth, and given the fact that we are all prone to error, why should we not be willing to have our point of view challenged and carefully examined?

Circumstances change, and what worked 20 years ago might benefit from needed modification and reform today.  Yet it seems that the lack of humility leads to the inability to be open to the ideas and thoughts of others, and that’s become a real problem. However, there is a solution.  The best way to bring others around to a different viewpoint, is by cultivating the ability to first listen to their opinion, because as you listen, you may actually be able to incorporate some chunks of wisdom from them which could help to create a more superior persuasion, one which may even end up benefitting a larger majority rather than your own little like-minded group.

It’s important to note that one who ignites the flames of division is lacking all understanding as to the great harm and damage that will ensue from pitting people against people, race against race, religion against religion and all the other differences which make each of us unique, a marvel and a credit to our Creator!

Regrettably, those perpetrating division among us do not celebrate our individuality but rather display great disdain for any who dare to think independently.  It hasn’t always been that way, and, perhaps, that makes it all the more disturbing for those of us who are a bit older as we watch this disturbing breakdown of society that more resembles tribal factions.

Without the desire to work together, live together and tolerate one another in harmony, we will only reap the worst of our fallen nature.  The cycle of endlessly searching for faults to criticize or lurking in suspicion and accusation towards one another, will only result in crushing whoever is perceived to be unworthy or substandard while those who do so revel in their own sense of virtue.

Ironically, there is never an end to this, because the impulse to put down others never seems to be satisfied.  In the end, it is, unquestionably, the blueprint to our demise.

So as tough as it is, we must fight with all our might to reject these ugly tendencies which come from our base capabilities.  Yes, history has shown that we are able to sink to the deepest levels.  It is only by realistically seeing who we are and what we can become, absent G-d’s grace and mercy that we are able to reject the kind of narcissistic superiority which causes us to think that we are the sole arbiters of goodness, justice, right thinking, equity and sound judgment as it relates to our fellow man.

The sooner we recognize our own vulnerabilities, the more likely we will be to stop passing judgment on one another and stop the divisiveness which threatens our very existence.

As a friend of mine so aptly put it, may the dominant variant, this year, be one of love, tolerance and forbearance of others, coupled with a healthy dose of humility and self-awareness, all towards the goal of diverse human acceptance.  It certainly beats tribalism any way you slice it.

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.