My mother was a first generation American, born in 1940, who grew up in a Brooklyn, NY immigrant neighborhood.
Her parents—like so many millions of others—had risked, and oftentimes lost, everything they had just to make it to America. Here, they could start a new life with unparalleled opportunities.
And while life in this new country was hard, complicated by the fact that so many people came from vastly different backgrounds and cultures all over the globe, Americans were connected by the strong national sense that we are all in this together.
Unlike Cancel Culture today, this diversity of backgrounds didn’t cause division, it created unity.
This allowed America to save the world for freedom during World War II, put a man on the Moon, and to become the envy of the world, the place everyone wanted to live.
Don’t get me wrong, my mother’s generation debated topics fiercely and had vehement disagreements, but debates were conducted with respect, and didn’t impact the things that mattered in life, such as your neighborhood, your job, and social life.
When all was said and done, nearly everyone treated each other with respect and decency, as fellow Americans.
In the 1980 Election, it was my first opportunity to vote; it also happened to be a presidential election. My mother, like her mother before her, was a Democrat. Voting Democrat was a religion for Jews especially in New York. It would be easier to get them to eat pork, than vote Republican.
I was going to vote for Ronald Reagan. The platform that the Republican party stood for was more in line with my way of thinking, especially Reagan’s conservative values.
Going to the polling booth with my mother for the first time was a big thrill. Not once did she ask me who I was voting for. Perhaps she thought I would be voting Democrat and there was nothing to discuss. When we got to the polling booth, I couldn’t hold it in any longer and said, "Ma, I’m voting for Reagan."
Expecting her to try and convince me otherwise, she just smiled and said, "What you do when you pull the curtain is your business. That’s quite all right by me. As long as you vote."
And throughout the years, it was always me trying to win her to my side—each and every election. Not once can I remember her trying to convince me to agree with her. She was above that.
But today, there is a small but vocal and growing minority that sees everything as a zero-sum game.
This group believes that if you don’t agree with the prevailing, accepted viewpoint, you are wrong. No debate required. And since you are wrong—and therefore morally inferior—your viewpoint is not valid, and you must be silenced.
This cancerous mindset not only dissolves every debate and discussion into anger and hate, it’s leading to people losing their jobs, friends and family cutting ties, and an overall stifling of real conversation in America.
This is my first Mother’s Day without my mother, who passed away a few weeks ago. In reflecting on her incredible legacy, I’m reminded of a time when things were different, of ideals that she embodied to the very end.
Growing up, I remember that nearly everyone who came by our house, whether family, neighbor, plumber, or handyman stayed for a cup of coffee and conversation.
Sometimes these conversations lasted for hours, even those with the plumber and handyman. They didn’t stay because my mother talked at them and worked to convince them that her opinions were the best.
These folks stayed because they had a real conversation—she listened, and regardless of their viewpoint, she treated them with respect and kindness.
My mother saw them for who they really were.
The plumber was a fellow American who had a life filled with dreams and challenges, someone who’s personal experience and ideas deserved to be heard. Every time she returned from the grocery store, she shared about a stranger she had met and some personal vignette about their life she had learned in talking with them.
Unlike most of us today, who rush to social media to share our insights and thoughts on every topic under the sun, she didn’t see herself as possessing a unique knowledge and opinion that everyone else must hear about. She was wise enough to listen, to hear others’ stories and experiences.
My mother’s life was not without struggle, including battling and beating cancer, but she didn’t see that as a platform to use. Rather her own struggles gave her empathy to see that everyone around her was carrying burdens or wrestling with their own demons.
Each Saturday afternoon I would stop by her house on my way home from synagogue.
I now long for one more time to visit with mom, and to see her face light up with a warm smile as I walk in the door.
But I also long and pray for the return of her spirit, and the spirit of so many of her generation, that didn’t treat interactions with others as debates and arguments to be won.
Each Mother’s Day our family would gather at mom's house. There was always lunch on the table, laughter echoing throughout the house, and the warmth of mom’s love.
At the end of the visit, we would all gather around to give mom her gift. It didn’t matter what we gave her, her response was always the same: "I love it...so thoughtful."
This year there will be no gathering, no lunch, no laughter—but there will be a gift I can still give.
I can honor her life and legacy by seeing those around me as fellow Americans, to see disagreements as opportunities to listen to a neighbor, to laugh with a friend, and show kindness and respect to a stranger.
It’s a gift that would make all our mothers proud, and bring healing to our nation.
Charles Mizrahi is Editor of Alpha Investor and Host of The Charles Mizrahi Show. Read His Reports - Here.
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