It struck me recently that all those conservatives-making-fun-of-liberal terms like “virtue signaling,” “social justice warrior,” “woke,” “politically correct,” “bleeding heart,” “treehugger,” “gutmensch”…all have one thing in common.
A lack of empathy.
I care about others. About my planet. About voting rights for all.
I get the knee-jerk impulse to try to Make America Great Again, a greatness I’ve imagined in a self-righteous past that never truly existed. I get the impulse to make fun of “woke” or “trans” or say “love it or leave it” or “true Americans.” That impulse feels good in the way bullying feels good—it feels like power. It feels like certainty, in an uncertain, changing world.
It feels good to blame “other.”
And yet, when we’re done blaming, our struggles remain unchanged. And we have separated ourselves from caring for others, from learning about facts (like, say, how Democratic governments have consistently, successfully reduced abortions, not GOP ones) (or climate crisis being bad for $$$, too) (or how immigrants have made this country truly Great).
And we’re not all wrong, of course.
But joy, and community, a functioning society, safe schools, healthy children…all of this comes from caring most and first about others and facts, not investing in a selfishness that fails even to lead to personal happiness.
I’m not a crazy partisan hater but when one party wants to pick on trans people and make choices for women and prevent health care and ignore indeed fuel climate crisis and allow children to work and get rid of regulations on rail lines and banking instead of, say, fixing an electric grid or allowing secure voting or sharing facts about an insurrection etc (I’m sure you can add a few)…the choice ain’t hard.
Relephant quote on the importance of empathy to decency:
“In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.”
~ Captain G. M. Gilbert, the Army psychologist assigned to watching the defendants at the Nuremberg trials