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Quit Kvetching and Do Something

By Harvey Gotliffe

NOWADAYS, there seems to be an inordinate amount of kvetching (outrageous complaining) about most everything, and it emanates from all directions and political stripes. Complaining is an inalienable right, and while some of it is legitimate in a world with so many inequities and accompanying narishkeit (nonsense), some people make excessive griping their forte. They waste their time and energy and alienate others by kvetching instead of trying to make positive changes in their own lives and to the condition of the world.

Kvetching has permeated our political discourse, from D.C., where each party complains about the other's actions or lack of action, to Santa Cruz, where "anarchists" grouse about capitalistic business people and demand their right to rearrange society to their liking, business people kvetch about the homeless and the pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian kvetchers attack each other with published unbalanced barbs without making any effort to engage in any rational face-to-face discussion.

It's legitimate to kvetch and even shout, but when all sides are doing so at the same time, no one listens, no one hears and nothing is accomplished. Perhaps it takes an individual who has endured an unwanted hell to learn how to avoid kvetching and try to do something positive.

Holocaust survivors and former Japanese-American internees have legitimate reasons to kvetch, but the many I have worked with over the past 10 years have discarded kvetching and try to do good with their own deeds, leaving complaining to others.

Adam Cintz, a survivor of Auschwitz, where he lost his 8-year-old son to the fiery furnaces, is looking forward to celebrating his 100th birthday on July 1. He recently learned that he had cancer of the esophagus and said, "It's no big deal." A month earlier he spoke to hundreds of high school students telling them his story and inspiring them to do good in their lives. He's hoping to be healthy enough to speak to students again. A few years ago he received a patent for a magnified lighted reading stand that enables people with restricted vision to enjoy reading and learning. He also created a simple device that allows people with severe arthritis to easily button up their shirt or blouse. He donates all of the proceeds from sales to an area Holocaust group.

Eighty-seven-year-old Jimi Yamaichi has not let his wrongful internment at the Tule Lake concentration camp stifle him, and his tireless efforts have contributed to the designation of his forced home from 1943 to 1946 in Northern California as a National Monument. At July 4th weekend pilgrimages there, he helps educate both younger Japanese-Americans and Caucasians about what can happen when the Constitution is abandoned. Jimi still sees discrimination in subtle ways and picks his times to speak out. He defended innocent Muslims after 9/11 and was honored for his actions with the Courage Award from the Council on American Islamic Relations. Under his supervision, San Jose's new Japanese American Museum will include an almost barren barracks room he built similar to the one he and his family once lived in. Like Adam, Jimi also tries to inspire students and others to not let the negative actions of some get in the way of doing good themselves.

Adam and Jimi work to resolve problems in an unobtrusive manner and try to accomplish something positive with their actions. They don't have the time to waste kvetching.

Harvey Gotliffe is a Santa Cruz–based writer. He is the editor and publisher of the Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator and its blog at:


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