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Doers and schleppers

March 3, 2017

After leaving the practice of law, I joined a company that re-developed surplus or under-utilized corporate property. On the first day of my new career, my new boss, an amazingly creative genius named Howard P. Hoffman, called me into his office to give me the “rules of the road.” He told me that what I was about to do was as different from practicing law as brain surgery is from sitting in a tree. He said that if something turned out wrong as a result of something I did, there would be no adverse ramifications from him, but that if something went wrong because I didn’t do something, I would be out the door so fast that my eyes would cross and my ears would ring. His absolute rule was “when in doubt, do something.” This was a lesson that I took to heart, not only in my professional career, but in every aspect of my life.


In my experience, 99.99 percent of human beings on this planet react to the actions of the remaining .01 percent. It is that .01 percent who make everything happen. It is that .01 percent who are responsible for all the good (and all the bad) that we do.


As we go through life, it is not too difficult to tell the “shleppers” (the 99.99 percent) from the rest. The shleppers wait for someone else to do something. They react to the molecules that are put into motion by those who act. This fact is true not only of individuals, but of whole nations as well. Some countries (e.g., Switzerland, France) are shleppers. They react to things. Some countries (e.g., Nazi Germany, Iran) are malignant “doers” who force others to react to the evil that they set in motion. A very few nations are actors for good. They make things happen for the benefit, not only of themselves, but for mankind as well. I count the United States among that elite. However, the nation that sets wheels in motion more than most others is the state of Israel.


Not enough people are aware of the fact that Israel, a country of only six million people, leads the world in medical science, having developed and continuing to develop new treatments for cancer, for Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injuries, among others. Nor are they aware of the fact that Israel leads in producing technological breakthroughs, making it easier for those who suffer from paralyzing injuries to deal with and overcome them.


Not enough people are aware of the entrepreneurial ferment in Israel that is producing products and services that not only fill the needs of consumers worldwide, but which aid entrepreneurs all over the world in furthering their own enterprises.


Not enough people are aware of the enormous amount of aid that Israel provides to those in the third world who are in dire need of assistance in increasing their agricultural output, including solving the heretofore insoluble problem of lack of water. Or of the fact that Israel is generally one of the first to respond to disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis, providing field hospitals that have become the model for other nations.


In all these cases and more, Israel steps up to the plate and makes things happen, like no other nation on earth. This has been a Jewish characteristic since the days of the Exodus. The sages tell us that when Moses and the children of Israel reached the Sea of Reeds, just ahead of Pharaoh’s pursuing armies, they were told that G-d would part the waters, enabling them to pass through on dry land, saving them from disaster. However, the waters didn’t part immediately and the people grew restive and afraid. They stood there not knowing what to do until the head of the tribe of Judah, Nachshon ben Aminadav, stepped into the water. He kept going, walking without hesitation until the water reached his nostrils. Only then did the waters part, enabling the rest of the people to follow him through to safety.


From this incident, we learn two major lessons. First, when you do something, you must commit to it 100 percent — no temporizing, no half measures. When Nachshon stepped into the water, he was totally committed. Second, when faced with a dilemma, DO SOMETHING! Don’t stand there with your thumb in the proverbial dark place. ACT!


Since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the people of the world have begun to realize that their impression of the Jew as someone who hunkers down, trying to stay out of sight waiting for someone to hit him, is a false one necessitated by the Jew’s subservient position in a hostile culture. They are coming to realize that the true nature of the Jewish people is embodied in the lesson of Nachshon ben Aminadav. Jews lead; they don’t follow (which explains the impossibly awful state of Israeli politics — Israel has six million leaders).


This is a lesson that each and every one of us would do well to absorb (although I don’t recommend Israeli politics as an example for anyone). If we are presented with a threat, we cannot wait for someone to protect us and those we love (in most cases the police are at least five to ten minutes away). It is up to us to stand up and defend ourselves and our loved ones. That is the reason for the Second Amendment. Our prescient forefathers expected us to do something, not rely on some amorphous “other” to do it.


The story of Todd Beamer and the others on United Airlines flight 93 is a perfect example. It is true that they perished when their flight went down in Shanksville on September 11th, but their actions prevented that airplane from slamming into what many think was the intended target, the U.S. Capitol. When presented with an existential threat, Todd Beamer and his fellow heroes did something. They didn’t wait for something to happen. They MADE something happen. The result of their action — of “just doing it” — was that they prevented even greater carnage from occurring.

America began as a nation of “doers.” They stood up and revolted against a sovereign who mistreated them. They refused to accept it; they didn’t sit back and permit themselves to be abused. They took to heart the slogan coined by Brig. Gen. Christopher Gadsden of Charleston:  “Don’t Tread On Me” … and they acted accordingly. They stood up and “did something.”

I was beginning to believe that we Americans had lost that trait. I had begun to believe that our national character had deteriorated and that we had become a nation of shleppers, who meekly accepted whatever was thrown at us and who were satisfied with “leading from behind.” But then we rebelled.


On November 8, 2016, we proved that we are still a nation that refuses to swallow garbage. We demonstrated to the world and to the miserable leftists who had so little respect for us, that we could and would DO something! We threw them the hell out! We understood that if we didn’t make a radical change, we would be flushed down the toilet of history. So, we acted. We voted for an imperfect unknown because the alternative was completely unacceptable. Instead of sitting on our butts, we decided to do something!


The result, in the first days of the new administration, has been a dizzying whirl of activity, with the leftists finding themselves helpless in the dust, not knowing what to do other then rant and riot. The result is obstruction and an unremitting spate of whining. It now remains for the Republicans in Congress to step up to the plate and take the legislative initiative to repeal and replace Obamacare and to revise the tax code in order to set the table for an explosion in the American economy. If they don’t take positive action — if the Congressional majority doesn’t DO SOMETHING — the revolution that we voters began will fail and we will know whom to blame.


Stuart Kaufman is a retired lawyer, investment banker and businessman. He relocated from New York to Mount Pleasant in 2012. A friend recently told him that he has been a South Carolinian all of his life ... but he just didn’t know it.


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