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Going Against the Grain

Going Against the Grain

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Mark Twain said: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

Most of us would like to imagine a world with no disputes, where there are no clashing opinions getting in the way of our nation’s forward march toward its goals. However, it is humankind’s ability to develop different ideas, voice a variety of opinions and toss them back that makes this world a beautiful and diverse place.


It’s Dec. 1, 1955. You are sitting calmly on the bus, waiting for the last of the passengers to board. As the last passenger gets on, you hear a commotion coming from the colored section of the bus. You turn to get a good look, and you see that your driver, James Blake, is ordering a black woman to stand and give up her seat for a white man. The black woman refuses to stand as you, and your fellow passengers watch in shock. A few minutes later, policemen board the bus, and remove and arrest the woman, enforcing the Jim Crow laws.

You have just witnessed Rosa Parks in one of the most famous protests against segregation in history.

In 1955, in Montgomery, Ala., almost nobody questioned that a black person had fewer rights than a white person. And when Rosa Parks took a stand—and remained seated—she risked everything to challenge mainstream beliefs.

Not everyone needs to be the next Rosa Parks. But know that going against the grain isn’t only valid if you risk everything you have and get arrested or physically hurt for your cause. The opportunity to stand up against the mainstream is handed to us each and every day.


It is today. You and your friends gather during recess, catching up on class politics. Soon, everyone is giggling and making fun of what that girl did yesterday.

Here’s your chance: Do you believe in being accepted and being seen as cool? Or do you believe in standing up for someone who cannot defend herself? A simple “That’s enough” or “Would you say that to her face?” will make your friends think twice. Guess what? You’ve just made a difference.

Standing up against the mainstream isn’t just about going against what society believes to be true. Looking into the face of one person and staying true to yourself requires tremendous courage as well.


Korach was a man who had an entire parshah named after him as a result of his actions. That sounds like the ultimate reward for someone who stands up against a mainstream injustice. But Korach failed in his mission. How was he different than Rosa Parks, who seemingly had the same goal in mind: to bring awareness to what society was blindly following, to create upheaval and change? Why did Korach fail so miserably?

Korach yearned for attention. His way of earning it was to hurt others, destroy reputations and try to get others to join him in his attack. His underlying reason for his actions was to push himself up on a pedestal, to be known as the one who fought back. And so, he failed. He had nothing solid to fall back when his motives were questioned.

There are plenty of people who have stood up against the mainstream, hoping for the limelight.It’s actually quite popular. You can gain enemies in the process, but everyone needs a couple of enemies to be really cool. It’s fun to stand out. The attention is on you, and everyone is waiting to hear what you have to say.

Standing up against the mainstream is not about being a celebrity. It’s not about the attention, the friends, the enemies and the popularity points you get. It is about what you believe in. It is about understanding the risks and consequences of speaking up, and doing it anyway. It is about belief in change and hope in a better world. It is all about others, and nothing about yourself. To stand up against the mainstream is to bring your thoughts to the table in the hope that society will come out of its haze to evaluate its actions. It isn’t about wading in the stream; it’s about cutting it off mid-flow, facing the world and telling it what you think.

You want respect? Emulate Rebbetzin Chana, who smuggled her husband’s sefarim (holy books) out of Communist Russia. Or Sarah Schenirer, who decided to open schools for young women when Jewish education for girls was unheard of. Follow in the footsteps of Yehuda HaMaccabi or the millions of Jews who have died for the sake of heaven, or that girl in your class who always stands up for other people. These people didn’t take a stand for themselves. They weren’t trying to be cool or popular. They knew the potential cost of fighting back, yet did it anyway.

The entire world will constantly be trying to get you to fit into a mold. You’ll be expected to keep on silently marching, your arms limp at your sides. When you feel the chains closing in on you, when you feel yourself disappearing behind a mask of society, when the stream starts to overflow and drown you, that is when to stand up for yourself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you into something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

When the world looks up and sees that you are full of true conviction and self-respect, it will, in turn, respect you. It may take time for others to follow the unexpected twist in the stream, but they will grow to respect it. As long as you let them know that you are strong and comfortable in your own skin, they will listen to you. They may not agree. But your job is to make sure that you agree with the essence of your own self. Focus on your goal and march on forward. You may walk alone at first, but your stream will soon be filled with those who respect your opinion and share it.


Walk on!

Born and bred in the beautiful state of New Hampshire, Etti Krinsky has always been writing something. She blogs about her world at This Public Diary and dreams of making a positive difference in the world one day.
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Hanna Athens June 21, 2017

Thank you so much for your essay. It spoke to my heart.

I never swayed from the truth even when I was turned away for observing my Torah's values. Reply

Yoel USA July 5, 2016

Good essay! Reply

chana rose July 4, 2016

powerful! This is so eloquently put, and the point is thoughtful and powerful! Walk on, Etti! You are making a difference. Reply

Geoffrey Lombard Durham,N.H. June 20, 2015

True to "Jewish" thinking!! Mazel Tov, Etti !! Trust and respect come to us by being true to ourselves in spite of the consequences. A leader does not and will not stand down while an injustice is perpetrated on an individual or group.
Justice and truth for our fellow man are what our Jewish leaders stood for and often given their last full measure in order to achieve victory for justice and truth!!

Shalom Reply

Raymond Bastarache NB. Canada June 16, 2015

stand up...G-d is Merciful Moses stood up and save the day, when G-d would of destroyed those stiff neck Israelites, in the wilderness after time and time again of hearing of their murmurings....Moses! let me alone, so I can rid of these complainers and start over with you and make you a great Nation ..... LORD, if you destroy these, your people...Blot my name from your Book.. beside, this, the Egyptians will say because their G-d was not able take them through this great wilderness? ....end result.... the Lord hearken unto Moses and stayed His Hand from destroying his people..........we need leaders to intercede on our behalf. Shalom. Reply

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