My fiance and I boiled down the entire issue of the political sphere to empathy. Liberals don’t understand conservatives, and conservatives don’t understand liberals. That is, of course, the essence and reason for two different groups. If we all understood each other, would we become the same? Maybe. But, I’m not talking about complete understanding. I can’t even fully empathize with someone like my fiance. At the least, though, we should be able to have minimal empathy, i.e., “ I can conceptualize why you voted for Hillary/Donald.” It’s a choice, though. And an uncomfortable one. If I want to hold confidence in my position, I will resist empathy, just because it naturally undermines some (not all!) of the confidence that I am right. But it is possible to still believe that I am right and understand part of why my interlocutor disagrees.
Empathy is a muscle that must be exercised. I don’t exercise my body in general, so I can easily see why someone wouldn’t exercise their own mind. It’s easy to still say “I don’t have time for that.” If we all didn’t exercise our bodies, we would probably strain the health system too much.
It’s not like you can just say “Be empathetic!” and it just happens. It takes some work and some world shattering. Casey taught me empathy. Casey was an atheist who I became good friend with through my fiance. At the time we became friends, I was a hardline conservative Catholic. He was more progressive. Thing was, he was patient. He didn’t even need to be empathetic himself. He was patient with my rants and saw through that there should be still friendship on the other side. When I finally learned this lesson, we had little time before he tragically passed away in a plane accident. That was all about five years ago.
During the Obama administration, I was concerned with the lack of empathy the President and liberals were showing Catholics. Especially in the abortion area. Empathy should allow a anti-abortionist the clarity to see why a woman would choose abortion. It should allow the pro-choicer insight as to why many men and women think abortion is murder. See, none of this implies anyone has to change their opinion! Well, while Obama was a much gentler man than Trump, I sensed a lack of empathy with those that he disagreed with. When the Tea Party erupted, it was the “We Exist” of cranky, old white america. (“We Exist” being the Arcade Fire song).
Now we have Trump, who not only denies actual facts but also the existence of so many people. But this all to me just seems repetitive. The irony is that people refuse to exercise empathy even when its easier. Check out your friends list, read the posts of the people that disagree with you! Instead, this gives us cause to be even less empathetic. Maybe it’s all been too much at once. It was possible fifteen years ago for someone to just get their newspaper and hold their narrow view. Now, everyone is familiar with the term “transgender” not because there are many of these people, but because our interconnected world has given them a strong and resounding “We Exist.” That’s not a moral statement. That’s just a statement of how fast our world has moved.
And thus we reach an empathy of the people who cannot empathize. Anger and harm cause people to become resistant to each other. All this social change — it’s a bit much. Something that rattles older, slower-moving people. And the young, they rush it, they don’t think about the consequences and they have no empathy either. Now the cycle is spiraling out of control with Trump, and people are happy with it. All the stereotypes people have fallen into have been reinforced. The need for empathy continues to be ignored. And people live blissfully ignorant. Hopefully, it doesn’t collapse.