Cookie Schwaeber-Issan

There Are Certain Things I’m Just Never Going to Do

My philosophy in life has always been – if it makes sense, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t.

So, there are certain things I’m just never going to do. If the light is red on a one-way street, but there are absolutely no cars in sight, I’m not going to wait for the light to turn green in order to cross. If COVID ever comes back, in a way that necessitates indoor masking, I am never going to walk alone outside with a mask covering my face. These things just don’t make sense to me!

Another thing, I’m not going to do is change my values, my principles and my opinions, which have carefully and thoughtfully been formed over a lifetime, just because they do not comport with today’s ever-changing societal norms, positions and ideas. And why should I?

Why do I need to conform to the opinions of others who have decided to embrace new definitions of gender, racism, words, speech, decency, marriage and so much more? Most of us base our values on our faith, family upbringing, education and other societal influences which we have determined to be good and virtuous. So, are we obligated to change and be swept away with the current of public opinion? Is there such a thing as a shelf life or expiration date for opinions and values?

Apparently, there is, according to some, because if your positions include the lack of acceptance of a particular lifestyle, life choice or political stand, you will immediately be labeled a “phobe” of some type, indicating that you possess some kind of erratic fear which then renders you a bigot, intolerant or just a bad person in general.

The one way to get around that is to never express your opinions. Play it safe, make no waves, go along to get along. But that kind of deliberate silence is the result of an intimidation which has successfully gotten you to calculate the steep price of just giving an opinion, something which is quite different from being a full-fledged activist.

Saying that you don’t agree with something, these days, can land you in hot water.  It can cause your friends or even your family to look at you in a less admirable way, and it can earn you a reputation which, although unjustified, will frame you in a way that greatly alters the person you know yourself to be.

This is the world in which we live these days. It’s a world where you dare not attempt to offer an opposing viewpoint on most campuses. It’s a world where you dare not express a traditional opinion, and it’s a world which, rather than celebrate a host of positions, admonishes you to accept the prevailing societal one – whether or not it works for you.

Sadly, no one has to censor us, because we are, day by day, agreeing to censor ourselves just by way of personal survival. It’s actually amazing, when you think about it, how we are doing the work of those who have decided that life, as it was, was simply too problematic to continue without some drastic changes. The same individuals who hate a society which has drawn its inspiration from faith, family and freedom has succeeded in making it impossible, for those who do still revere those principles, to audibly express those ideals which they believe to be the pillars of a sane and well-functioning world.

It’s incomprehensible that it’s come to this, because as Abraham Lincoln famously said, “A House Divided Cannot Stand”, and he must have understood that well when he quoted that biblical passage, knowing that slavery was bitterly dividing the nation. He instinctively knew that no good could come out of such a deep split which threatened the unity of a country called the “United” States of America.

Today, the divide has grown deeper yet, because it no longer is limited to one country. Here in Israel, we are a deeply divided people, and nothing could display that in a greater way than the last five elections which, although producing short-lived government coalitions, has failed to unite us in a meaningful way as fellow Jews and citizens of the only democratic nation in the Middle East.

Now, as a new government is poised to be established and installed, already, many are concerned that their country will be pulled, by force, into one direction – one which affirms and maintains a certain expression of Jewish life, Jewish thought and Jewish observance.

While some may cheer those decisions, what about the ones who won’t? Will they, too, be silenced for fear of going against the prevailing position? After all, when one group has total power and total control, what happens to any dissent? The weaponized labels come out, causing the divide to grow even deeper.

But there is an antidote to all of this. It’s called, “Stand-Your Ground.” Actually, a law in the State of Florida, it “allows those who feel a reasonable threat of death or bodily injury to ‘meet force with force’ rather than retreat, similar to the ‘Castle Doctrine,’ laws which assert that a person does not need to retreat if their home is attacked.”  (

Likewise, you have the right and the means to speak your piece, to guard your beliefs and to freely, just like anyone else, take a position. Who knows, maybe yours is the better one! To do so, does not obligate others to embrace it, believe it or accept it. It just means that we all have equal rights, and that includes the ability to think differently and express those thoughts.

The question is whether or not we will allow ourselves to continue to live within that freedom. If we become too intimidated by others and capitulate to their new norms and new definitions, it is only us – we, ourselves, who have chosen to annihilate our freedom to express our opinions in favor of living within the confines of a specific narrative.

Not only is that wrong, but it doesn’t make any sense, because it affords only one side to be heard. In the end, we all have to decide whether or not there are “certain things we’re just never going to do.” The preservation of our values, principles, opinions and viewpoints should be on the top of that list!

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.
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