February 27, 2020

Unrealistic Musings for 2020

This is the column I was hoping to publish at the beginning of the year but which kept getting interrupted by news events:

With 2019 behind us, what can we look forward to in 2020? Realistically, I’m thinking more of the same, only worse. If you haven’t heard, there’s a presidential election looming in November, so you can be sure that as we get closer to E-Day, partisan tensions will escalate, millions of nerves will fray and outrage and anger will be triggered.

We will continue to abhor those who don’t vote like us, to “cancel” each other on social media and reject those with whom we disagree. Of course, that’s assuming we ever meet someone with whom we disagree. As things stand, most of us are pretty content hanging out only with folks who think like us — and why not? It feels good!

Given this reality, what can a lonesome dreamer like me contribute in his first column of 2020? What can I say that will put a rosy spin on these chaotic and divisive times we are in?

What can I say that will put a rosy spin on these chaotic and divisive times we are in?

Well, I can be unabashedly unrealistic.

Let’s start, naturally, with President Donald Trump. My unrealistic wish for 2020? No more talking about Trump at the Shabbat table. Politics in general tends to be boring and repetitive, and it doesn’t go very well with food. Food is enhanced by great conversation, like that new book you can’t put down, or that fascinating story you read in your local Jewish paper (hint, hint), or that comedy special on Netflix that had you in stitches or that Torah class that lit up your soul.

So much of our life and happiness, in fact, revolves around conversation in one form or another. My wish for 2020 is that we will make a concerted effort to watch the words that come out of our mouths and our digital devices. I don’t just mean being sensitive and avoiding hurtful language — that’s a given.

I mean something more ambitious: Let’s make our conversations more interesting. I’m speaking to myself here as much as anyone. I want to find better stories to tell, ask more engaging questions, give my undivided attention to whomever I speak to. I try but often fail. I want to succeed more in 2020.

I also want to meet more people who are not like me. For example, I’d like to attend a Trump rally and maybe get to know some of his fans. Whenever I see clips of those rallies on YouTube, I can’t help thinking about how this crowd is so different from the community I’m used to.

It’s highly unlikely I’ll make it to one of his rallies (too many of my friends would disown me), but remember, this column is about the unrealistic. I’m tired of being realistic. It dulls the senses.

Politics in general tends to be boring and repetitive, and it doesn’t go very well with food. Food is enhanced by great conversation.

I want to write a one-man show I can perform at the Pico Playhouse and kick it off with the Sephardic Yom Kippur prayer I sang for Michael Jackson 20 years ago when he asked me to sing my favorite melody. The show would touch on my Jewish journey from Casablanca to Pico, and include a montage of selected columns with lots of cool images and music.

Unrealistic? You bet. I barely have time to write my weekly column, edit the paper, do my podcasts, run the website, keep up with the news, pitch donors and deal with five kids. And who’s to say I could pull off a one-man show even if I had the time? It’s a whole other skill set.

In any case, it’s liberating to be unrealistic, even if just for one column. I get to dream about all kinds of stuff, like starting a daily broadcast on YouTube where I can share my musings about anything and everything and answer viewer questions. Another wonderful pipe dream.

I can dream, also, about big and important things, like no more anti-Semitism, an actual government in Israel and the Journal winning a Pulitzer. What else? Oh, I don’t know — maybe a year where Jews stop tearing one another apart over politics and do more listening than fighting? I know, that’s not unrealistic, that’s delusional, but it’s fun to mention it.

So, what is your unrealistic wish list for 2020? Don’t be shy, think big. The beauty is that even if none of it ever happens, you can always say, “Hey, that wasn’t realistic.”

And if I bump into you at some event and we start talking, let me know how well I’m conversing and listening — and please don’t run if I tell you about a Trump rally.

Happy 2020.