Dear Editor,

 

confused-man-164x300I was taken aback when reading an opinion page by Chana Shapiro in the October 23, 2013 Atlanta Jewish Times entitled, “A Cause for Concern?” in which Chana asks, “Am I hopelessly out of it?”

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The answer is “yes.” And may I add that there is no better example, Chana, of rudeness, insensitivity and selfishness than your own behavior.

Poor Chana and her fussbudget-in- crime companion are trying to enjoy a meal at neighborhood restaurant (no clues as to the time of day) when children seated nearby are overheard complaining about the ketchup.  And, heaven forbid, the parents are ignoring these “ear-shattering” complaints.

Hold on tight folks, the walls of civilized society are coming crashing down around us.   Not one to turn the other cheek, the Butinsky sisters march over to the hapless family and offer to “help.” Fortunately, the parents mostly likely recognize them for the two curmudgeons that they are and decline this offer (which is really a passive aggressive request for quiet) from two strangers.

Not to be rebuffed, Chana and her companion march over to the proprietor and demand the family of four be evicted. To his credit, he declined.

There is a good reason, Chana, since you are so concerned with sensitivity that one does not behave as you did. We all frequently encounter other family’s social dynamics while eating out, going to movies and standing in the grocery line. What we get is a small glimpse into one family’s struggle in that singular moment.

What is grossly inappropriate is for you to put your judgmental wagging finger in their face. How do you know what that family, or any family for that matter, is facing?

Maybe the parents are numb with worry over a downturn in their financial situation, blind with grief over the loss of a loved one, or maybe they are just bone-tired from working two jobs and struggling to raise their children. Maybe those children are anxious to be home; maybe they sense their parents’ worry or pain.

Maybe fighting over ketchup is just how they are handling their own fears. Or hey, maybe the kids were just tired. The point is, what do you possibly know about these total strangers?

And here’s the real comedy in your piece. Chana and another companion are off to the see the Marco Polo exhibit at the Museum of Natural History when they sandwiched between a school busload of teenagers and a Cheerio-eating toddler and his baby sibling. Ha!

You guessed it: Chana is beside herself that these teenagers are “shouting, running, shadow-boxing and necking.” They are acting like (you guessed it) TEENAGERS!

What great act of disrespect did they show?  They failed to be fascinated by Marco Polo.  Instead of taking copious notes on this historical figure (who I might add was himself a bit of a savage), those teenage hooligans, freed from the bondage of high school, were frolicking and lolly-gagging about to the great consternation of Chana.

Is your own youth, Chana, so far back in the recesses of your mind that you do not remember the sort of wild abandon of teenagers on a field trip?

Or perhaps did you never experience that?  And about the baby and the toddler, did you and your tsk-tsking friend approach the curator of the museum and seek to the throw the mom and toddler out too?  Since you are the self-proclaimed bastion of sensitivity, did you have all the young mothers expelled on your visit?

The truth is, I only stumbled upon this piece because I was looking for the obituary of my dear friend, who died last month at the age of 53. Sixteen years earlier she faced her first bout of cancer. She taught me a great deal about the importance of enjoying every single day and not sweating the small stuff.

If I am overly hard on you, Chana, it is because I am angry. You are privileged to have been given a long life and you seem determined to squander it with your petty bickering and mean-spirited sniping at children and strangers. You are oblivious to the humanity in the world because you can’t see past the end of your own nose.

In my grief, I read over and over Thornton Wilder’s play, “Our Town.” In that play, Emily, who has died in childbirth, returns to see her life on an ordinary day. But she can’t bear to see the way humans squander life.

“Do humans ever realize life while they live it – every, every minute?” Probably not.

Chana you will go back to publishing your whiny op-eds (worriers of the world, unite!).  And the Jewish Times will keep printing them and any other inane piece somebody writes.

For me, I am going to read better works than that. And when I see children or teenagers racing through the museum, my heart will sing.

I had better things to do today than read that article and craft my response. But I did it anyway. Do what you want with it.  The cathartic experience of writing it was worth the cost in my time.

 

Lisa Siegel
Lisa Smith Siegel, Attorney at Law

 

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