Patriot Too

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I guess my world is very compartmentalized. I have close friends who know
everything about me and what really matters to me, and social friends with whom
I share general commentary on the world, the weather, and whom I treat like
slightly annoying relatives. Mostly I keep the conversation focused on them
because I don’t think they agree with me or even value what increasingly matters
to me. Now, in these troubled times, I think I need to be very clear with everyone
that I have decided to become far more politically involved. I wouldn’t say
become an activist, but I know to some of my colleagues, relatives, and even
social friends, I will be seen as some kind of deranged radical. All this because I
care abut peace and justice. Can you help me educate them about why it matters
for me to be involved? I haven’t gotten past “I’m going crazy that people with
guns and hoods and swastikas are trying to take over my country. All my dead
Holocaust relatives and people who died fighting Hitler are applauding me. I want
you also.”

Patriot Too

Dear Patriot Too:

That’s not a bad way to end, if it comes to that, but it might be a very abrupt way
to begin. A lot depends on what your goal is. If you simply want to break off
contact (harder to do with colleagues and relatives than social friends), sure, go
ahead and truth-blast without regard to what happens next. But if your goal is to
foster dialogue, you might want a softer opening.

Start by focusing on individual relationships. Next time you have a date for a
meal or a movie, bring up the subject of priorities for the year to come. Ask what
your friend is thinking about doing with extra time and energy. Listen, engage,
and then tell them that you’ve decided to be much more socially and even
politically engaged. Explain that you have deep concerns about the way your
country is headed, and that if people of conscience don’t step up to act, and
speak out for the values you hold dear, that they might have fewer opportunities
in the future. As you step out into this new world of greater honesty, you will
probably find new friends to fill in the gaps that the departure of old ones may
leave. But you will also find a strong sense of community among those who
share your values and commitment.