To Kvetch or Not to Kvetch…

Baby boomers may remember waiting on line to use the Bell System "PicturePhone" kiosk at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. (Maurice Lubetkin Photo/Used by permission)
Baby boomers may remember waiting on line to use the Bell System "PicturePhone" kiosk at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. (Maurice Lubetkin Photo/Used by permission)

Back in the 1970s when “The Information Age” was introduced and we’d have to learn new lingo to incorporate into our vocabulary, the mid-20th century became characterized as the Computer Age, the Digital Age and/or The New Media age. Within a short time, the era of Breaking News, cell phones and instant live on-the-spot reporting from around the world inundated and surrounded us by up-to-date/in-the-moment coverage of thrilling,  unpleasant and indifferent events that filled our hearts and minds with information. The world rapidly made a monumental shift from the traditional Industrial Revolution to the Technological Revolution.

As baby boomers, we grew up with television being the newest, most exciting invention ever. Our parents could get the local, daily news every night while TV served as the main source for political information. We could watch Band Stand, cartoons and all the latest and funniest sitcoms. TV was publicized to represent the purest and best of America. Remember I Love Lucy when the word “pregnant” wasn’t permitted by the networks? Remember when 1950s moms vacuumed the house in dresses and high heels? Boy, have we come a long way, baby!

Today, anything goes! We are witness to authenticity, realism, blatant language and deeds with memorable images that impact our brains forever. But in the name of technology, this is probably considered progress.

Please note that I’m not implying that we should go back to the 50s, not at all. Nor am I implying that we should cover our kids/grandkids eyes and ears. Because we live in the realm of instant reality coming from cell phones and TV, I do believe our children/grandchildren have a clearer view of the world than we did at their age: A wider scope of the good, bad and the ugly.

The bad news is that some folks have exploited what they see in the here and now to promote their agendas. Many of us get highly frustrated with those who do not see both sides of issues nor are informed enough to make good, objective decisions, which has created divisions amongst us. All of this immediate information affects us daily via a device that is received with a tiny sound that alerts us that new news is at our fingertips, with just a swipe, while our nervous systems get ready to launch a reaction.

Despite the advanced 21st century we live in, I strongly believe young people need to be taught views and opinions from all sides so they have enough information to decide issues for themselves. As elders, we can approach dialogue with them, let them contrast our experiences with theirs. Information is power and hopefully, kids are taught to use power with thought and caution, for the good of all and not just a few. I honestly believe that we baby boomers can be change agents to and for the younger generation.

My 18-year-old granddaughter, who will graduate high school in a few days, engaged in a conversation with her 16 year-old-sister at the dinner table. The younger one was sharing a discussion in her Ethnic Studies class regarding Israelis and Palestinians living in Israel and how she thought the teacher was being Pro-Palestinian. The 18 year-old had the same teacher several years before but because of covid, the remainder of the class and that subject did not get to online learning. As religiously educated teens who have been to Israel, my granddaughters believed the teacher didn’t have all the information to objectively talk about who are Jews and who are Israelis. It was implied that all Israelis are Jews. They knew this is not true.

My older granddaughter was getting angry with the teacher’s lack of correct knowledge. She is fully invested in her Judaism, she is a past regional president of NFTY and Social Action is her major with Jewish Studies as one of her minors when she enters a mid-western university in the Fall. And last week, she won an award for being one of the three top students in her Social Studies class.

With chutzpah and respect, she graciously texted the teacher sharing her concern that not enough information about who is an Israeli and who is a Jew was adequately represented to the class. She explained that to fairly give information about the delicate subject, the history and problems from both sides should be presented.

Too all of our surprise, the teacher responded the very next morning, with: “I am aware of who you are as I remember you from my class and realize your sister is in my class, plus, your Social Studies teacher has mentioned you several times. I would be happy to sit and have a conversation with you.”

I don’t know too many baby boomers, back in the day, who would have confronted a teacher! A time and date was set for the following week for my granddaughter and the teacher to speak. (As of this writing, that meeting has not yet taken place). Kudos to my granddaughter for not just kvetching but for standing up and taking action! I believe she will be a change-maker during her college experience!

Back to kvetching. I have a dear friend who kvetches when it’s too hot outside, when winter lasts too long, when her weekend was filled with too many dinners out, when her long-awaited vacation lasted too long. My impulse is to tell her to make up her mind and stop kvetching, but since she’s not Jewish, she wouldn’t understand kvetching and explaining that all she does is complain, would hurt her feelings. So I suck it up and use my psychology skills to say, “That hot weather is really bothering you,” and “Going out to lovely restaurants with dear friends four days in a row must make you tired of eating.” She once told me, “You are the only person who really listens to me.” What we do for friendship!

My point being is that I’m not sure what good kvetching does, most of the time. In the case of my granddaughter, she used her angst for good. But as we are witness to the horrors of our society today, what can our collection of kvetches do to better the world? I have donated to mass shooting victim’s families, I have donated to Ukrainian funds, I have signed petitions to elect officials I think will help my causes of choice for better legislation, I have used different platforms to write thought pieces that I hope would “woke” some people. But is this enough? What is enough? How can I turn my kvetches into some sort of positive?

I live alone and by now, especially since being home during two years of covid, I am sure the walls and TV are tired of my swearing and kvetching about the inequities in the world. (I only swear at non-real objects when no one is in ear shot! My kids would be aghast if they heard me!) I feel my anger, I scream at my blatant disregard for the really bad people in the world, for events that could have been prevented, and most importantly, for the unnecessary lives lost and the injustices we are forced to face almost on a daily basis. (Please don’t suggest I turn off the TV or my phone, NOT an option for me!) I fear this “new normal” is how life may be the reality as we baby boomers live out our futures.

Though, from a psychological standpoint, kvetching may be a good thing. We know holding in feelings and emotions are detrimental to our health. So the outcry to the inanimate objects may be saving our lives!

Let’s give ourselves permission to be loud and clear, strong and verbal, angry and furious at all that we cannot change and refuse to accept.

Join me: Take a deep breath and let’s KVETCH! The life you save may be your own!

P.S. – My two granddaughters met with the Ethnic Studies teacher and shared with me they were happy that he admitted the information they provided him was helpful to a situation he wasn’t fully aware of in-depth with the historical facts. He stated he appreciated that they came forward and that he will do more research to make his presentation equal for both sides.

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