Today someone told me she thought the country is heading for martial law. I agreed we could be. It is one of my fears. Why else a Presidential alert text system, it whispers.
But she thought martial law would be a good thing, to arrest a bunch of people and “clean things up.” She was almost giddy.
Practicing what I preach about not giving advice to those who don’t want to hear it, I said, “Ok then,” and moved on to the next topic. Yet I am angry and worried about the political situation in this country. How can I worry about politics like a mensch?
Worry is a disconnect between what is and “what might be.” We worry about things we can’t control, like how our boss or friend will react to a request we make. And more often than not, worry prevents us from being our best self.
However, we need to remember that worry is a soul trait, which means that not enough worry is just as bad as too much. Just like some anger is ok, some worry is ok too. Righteous anger can drive us to take action to fix an injustice. In a similar way, we should try to practice righteous worry when it comes to politics. Given that those in power are acting in a way counter to my values, this is one of those times when some worry is ok.
If I want to worry about politics like a mensch, what should I do?
I should take action. Which brings us to this week’s Mussar practice.
****Here’s the Mussar Practice***
Read Less. Do More. I notice myself obsessively reading articles about the state of the election. I try not to, and find myself looking for articles about politics that don’t mention particular politicians by name. What a complete and total waste of time. I don’t even bother to rationalize this to myself. All it does is stoke my worry, or allay it for five minutes. It doesn’t change anything.
As Shammai taught, “Make your Torah fixed, say little and do much, and receive every person with a pleasant countenance.” (Pirkei Avot 1:15).
- The first part suggests that we set a fixed time for our political action. If you are worried about the election, put time on your calendar to do something about it.
- Second, say little and do much means stop complaining, and start taking action.
- The third part, receive every person with a pleasant countenance is a direct challenge to people who complain or troll incessantly on social media. It does no good to blame the “Bernie or bust” people, to rail against the president, or against Democrats. That kind of activity only divides us further, and does nothing to change who has power in this country.
Shammai’s teaching is an Enthusiasm Mussar practice. Judaism is a religion of action, and Enthusiasm is the soul trait that helps us take action with energy and purpose. Right now, when I feel that heaviness and concern about what is happening, and what might happen, I need to draw on Enthusiasm to get me going.
Each and every one of us has what it takes to be a Mensch. Sometimes we need some inspiration to step into our best selves, and not give in to fear, worry, or despair. Maybe you can get that from a friend or relative, maybe from our ancestor Abraham who used to “run to do good” or maybe from a fictional not very menchy character like Bluto in Animal House.
What matters is getting people to vote. Period. As a Mussar practitioner, you need to start with you self. Click here to take the pledge to vote, and access resources to help in close races across the country.
Please share encouragement, resources and links below.
My own political views are heartfelt, and not a secret. If you disagree, I hope we can stay civil with me and in relationship. While we will not litigate the issues here, you are free to share election resources to support any reasonable candidate or party below.