**A Post by Shifra**
[Friday, March 1st, is the year anniversary of Andrew’s passing.]
I suppose I should tell you, right off the bat, that I never actually met Andrew Breitbart.
And, truth be told, for a long time, I did not pay much attention to him.
But, one day, several years ago, I saw a short video of Andrew, confronting a hostile crowd.
And then I realized, for the first time, how absolutely extraordinary he was.
I want to tell you what I saw in Andrew.
But to do so, I will first tell you an incident that happened twenty-seven years ago.
That was the year of my clinical internship, at a NYC hospital, in an inpatient psychiatric unit. My clinical supervisor was Dr. T., a well-known Manhattan psychoanalyst. (Dr. T. was a real Freudian; at staff meetings, whenever I would crack a joke, everyone would laugh, except Dr. T — he would just look at me. I had the distinct feeling that he was “analyzing” my jokes. I was tempted to tell him, “Hey, Dr. T., sometimes a joke is just a joke,” but I was afraid he would analyze that as well.)
One day, I got a message from Dr. T. “I am starting a new inpatient group. You will be my co-leader. Monday morning, 11:00. Don’t be late.”
Although I have never been a big fan of group therapy, the nurses on the unit assured me, “You are so lucky Dr. T. chose you. It will be an amazing experience.”
And so, at precisely 11:00 on Monday morning (if I had been a few minutes late, Dr. T. might have analyzed my “resistance” to group therapy) I took a seat in the group therapy room, where the chairs had been arranged in a circle. Some of the patients shuffled in on their own. Some were gently “dragged” in by the nurses.
And then, in walked Charlie, the “terror” of the unit.
Charlie was loud and obnoxious. He seemed to delight in irritating the staff. Which he did quite well, it seemed, pretty much non-stop.
Charlie looked around the room, and he sat down. Then, just to make sure everyone was watching, he grunted loudly, and proceeded to take off his shoes and socks. Then, he stuck his bare feet out, into the center of the circle.
The room erupted in laughter and shouts of “ewwww!!!”
I was upset. I thought, “The group hadn’t even started yet (but of course it had; a newbie’s mistake) and it’s already chaotic.”
I looked at Dr. T. He did not look upset. He did not look amused. He just looked at Charlie.
“Charlie,” said Dr. T. “put your socks and shoes back on.”
“No!” he shouted.
Dr. T. repeated his request, in a calm voice.
“Charlie, put your socks and shoes back on. N-o-w!”
Charlie looked thrilled.
“NO!” he shouted at Dr. T. “IF YOU DON’T MIND, I NEED TO AIR MY FEET!”
Without missing a beat, Dr. T. responded:
“Charlie, we are here to air our feelings, *not* our feet.”
“Great,” I thought. “Dr. T had walked right into a power struggle with Charlie. We will spend the next hour trying to get him to put on his socks and shoes.”
But here’s what happened:
Charlie looked stunned.
Then he quietly put his socks and shoes on.
Dr. T. introduced himself, and me, to the group. He explained that we would be meeting every day at this time, and he encouraged people to talk about why they had been hospitalized.
He then turned to one of the patients:
“Mary,” he asked, “please tell us what brought you to the hospital.”
“Ok,” I thought, “Dr. T. is ‘losing it.’” Mary had not said a word for the week she had already been on the unit. She had a blank stare, and seemed very “out of it.” I thought maybe she was deaf.
To my utter astonishment, Mary actually spoke.
“I’m in the hospital because of my legs.”
“Your legs?” asked Dr. T.
“Yes, I can’t walk.”
“But, Mary, I saw you walk into the room. And, this is a psychiatric unit, not an orthopedic unit.”
“Yes,” I know,” she said. “What I meant was: I have trouble ‘functioning’ in the outside world. Here, I feel safe.”
Several other patients spoke. Including Charlie, who talked about how he hated feeling “dead” on the meds he was supposed to take, but when he did not take his meds, he would have manic episodes, which made him feel totally out of control.
An interesting hour, indeed.
Now I want to tell you about Andrew. Here is the clip I watched, several years ago.
At first, I thought, “This Breitbart guy is nuts. Why in the world would he wade into a hostile crowd?”
But something quite amazing happened. At 6:01, one of the protestors apologizes to Andrew. And then, at 7:00, a woman finally acknowledges what Andrew had wanted to hear.
What made these two protestors speak to Andrew so openly? Or, an even better question:
What was it about Andrew that made them open up to him?
It has been said that Andrew loved a good fight. (Unlike many of us, including me, who find these confrontations upsetting and stomach-churning.)
But I think it was more than that.
I think it was that although Andrew hated the Left for their lies and hypocrisy, it was never personal. I think he appreciated, and respected, our shared humanity.
And that is what drew these two individuals to Andrew. Much like the patients in Dr. T’s group, they understood that although they were being challenged, it was not about being personally attacked. It was about seeking truth.
I am so sorry that I will never meet Andrew Breitbart.
I would have loved to talk to him.
And I think he would have loved the story about Charlie and the inpatient unit.
I can almost imagine Andrew throwing his head back and laughing.
It is now a year since Andrew’s passing.
And I know that he was adopted and raised by a Jewish family.
According to Jewish tradition, the first anniversary of a person’s death is an important spiritual event.
‘Y’hee zichro baruch’ – May his memory be blessed.