Am I right or am I right? (Oops!)

This from Viktor E. Frankl, who taught that human life is motivated not by sex or power or wealth or even safety, but by an ongoing search for meaning:

Freedom, however, is not the last word.  Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth.  Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness.  In fact freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.  that is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.

I buy this.

Yesterday, 9/11/2010, while a great number of people gathered at the site of the World Trade Center to mourn the loss nine years ago of those 2752 killed in the attack, several other groups of Americans rallied at that same location to push political and religious agendas.  Each group believed unshakably in it’s own rightness.  Each group believed unshakably that it was appropriate to use this day and place of national mourning to further it’s own beliefs and desires without regard for the space and moment in which it was doing so.  Appropriateness hell!  It had the right!

During the weeks before all this various folks of my acquaintance had demanded–yes! demanded–that I take a stand for or against the building of an Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan.  Some required I be true to the memory of those lost at the World Trade Center; some that I be true to the Constitution.  Each clearly had decided what my answer should have been, and each was ready to argue until I agreed with him or her should I have dared not to do so from the outset.  For me to say I hadn’t chosen sides yet or that I didn’t care wouldn’t cut it.  I had to be with ’em or I was agin’ ’em.

Church and state may be legally separated in the United States.  Not so with religion and politics.  There is a sadness for me in what is happening right now around this mix.  As a Jew I  am too well aware of the stereotyping and book burnings used by the Nazis to feed anti-Semitism before rounding up my people and sending them off to the concentration camps and crematoria.  (Frankl, quoted above, was a survivor of three years so imprisoned.  His family did not survive.)  Being old enough to have participated in the Civil Rights demonstrations of the 1960’s and to hold a clear memory of what came before and after, I  have seen a great many political attitudes labeled “right,” only to be replaced regularly with something even “righter.”

So long as I’ve the right to [fill in the blank], then I’ve got that right to do it.

This is America, and I’ve got the right to [fill in the blank.]

If I don’t have a right to [fill in the blank], but I know it is the right thing, then I do have the right to do it.

I know who’s right! and I’ll be damned well happy to let  you know just who that someone is!

Perhaps the problem is ultimately with the concept of being right.  9/11/2010 falls between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the period when the Jews traditionally come to grips with our misbehaviors over the last twelve months.  This provides an opportunity make appropriate apologies to those we’ve offended and to learn more about ourselves.  this increases our chances of getting into heaven and doing better in the future.  I’ve discovered that–not unlike others–I am at my most offensive and obnoxious and, yes, hurtful, when convinced that I am right. Perhaps noticing and keeping this attitude in check will restrict such behavior in the future, but for right now:

To all I have  bullied or offended or hurt, I apologize.


Published in: on September 12, 2010 at 6:29 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. you’re getting to look like your wife Bobbie in the way you tilt your head
    stop crinkling up your forehead and you’ll never need botox.
    Goldberg, why torture yourself about the ruins of history, none of it’s your fault and we’ve all suffered enough to deserve to get old and forgetful with impunity and still be loved. I’m so lonely out here, no job, no boyfriend since 10/24/03.
    denial still the powerful tool that enables me to hope for a better tomorrow. had you not dropped me from FB you’d see ‎”Leshana tova tekatev v’etachetem – May you be inscribed for a good year!” on my home page. Peace.


  2. your such a bully! love this post. you have seen so much and there is always change and new ideas, movements ect. best to be responsible. thanks for this. bill


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