A commentary on commentaries

By Rachael Rifkin
Staff Writer

I kept trying to figure out what bothered me so much about the Dec. 25, 2009 commentary “The First Christmas Gift” by staff writer Nick Diamantides. There’s the obvious– I’m a Jew and we don’t believe in telling God that we “want to receive Christ” as our Lord and Savior. Prosthelytizing, whether it’s being inflicted on us or we’re doing the inflicting, is considered a big no-no. No, if you want to be a Jew, you’ve got to work for it. There’s a whole process to go through. Which is probably why we are always in danger of dying out, well, besides those other pesky reasons, like intermarriage, apathy, and the after-effects of God (G-d) knows how many attempts to kill us.
But forget about the whole Jewish thing for a minute (as an unobservant, leaning-towards-agnostic Jew, I usually do). Let’s even bypass the idea that a newspaper isn’t necessarily the proper forum to try to convert someone, because in the end, this commentary tried to do what all commentaries try to do– persuade the reader to agree with them. No more, no less, really.
I think what bothers me is that the commentary was too much like other commentaries– quick to behave as if the reader has been converted to the writer’s side (i.e. “If you wish to receive God’s gift for you, all you need to do is ask…”). And when I say quick, I mean anytime before the last sentence or two. What’s the rush, commentators? Believe me, you need to use all the space you can get to convince me to change my opinion about something that I made up my mind about years ago.
Here’s a hint, commentators: If the subject is new, or addressed in a new way, it’s going to be a lot easier to sway me. I’m talking a well-presented argument that addresses both sides of the issue before coming to a conclusion that clearly delineates the benefits of that argument, while still recognizing that when two sides can’t agree, there is no perfect answer.
On the other hand, since commentaries don’t necessarily require a thorough argument nowadays, I can, without a segue, rhyme, or reason, tell you some things I believe you should do while you’re alive. And all without a religion to back me up.
Be nice to people. Look at the big picture, and try to find solutions that benefit the whole. Figure out what makes you happy and do it (unless, that thing is killing, or something). Be nice (it definitely bears saying again).
And if you can swing it, be happy and enjoy yourself, not only this holiday season, but throughout the entire year. But if you don’t want to, that’s okay too. It’s not my job to convince you.

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