Lack of empathy is ripping us apart
I have a friend without much money who is at this very moment fighting to keep his 11 day-old infant in the hospital when the doctor wants to do a discharge, even though they can’t determine the cause of a major problem and there is serious risk of brain damage if not carefully monitored. And right now, my friend’s night — going back and forth to the hospital, pleading with insurance people, reaching out to friends on Facebook seeking medical advice, not sleeping, feeling a fear most of us can’t even fathom — HIS night is pure horror. Right now, this PERSON whom I know, is frantically focusing his entire energy on saving his newborn.
I’m not being political just for the sake of being political with this post. I am not a congressperson who stands to gain any cheap points by sharing a heart-wrenching anxiety playing out in real time for a friend — for a fellow HUMAN BEING. Politics should serve the people, and it is precisely these lost in the darkness moments of those we know PERSONALLY that should inform our COLLECTIVE vision. This friend and this moment is a more useful example and time to talk about how badly we’re failing our fellow Americans in so many important ways.
We have an empathy crisis in this country. Our fierce sense of independence and entitlement allows us to effectively shut off suffering for anyone but “our own.” We ALL know tragedy, hurt, struggle; we have all, at one point or another, collapsed to our knees and screamed and sobbed at the same time for the sake of someone we cared about with all our heart.
And yet we fail, again, and again, and again, and again, to project that empathy outward into the world we see in front of us. We’ve let corporate lobbyists buy our system, rig our healthcare — the very structure that should sustain us. We’ve allowed our elected leaders — grown men and women acting like tyrant toddlers — to systematically oppress people based on their own medieval interpretations of sexuality, science, and gender norms.
And they are playing with peoples’ lives as if they are pawns in a game of chess, all in a stupid and endless scheme to get another two fucking years of power and money, over and over and over again.
And we keep cracking jokes about how pathetically dysfunctional our system is. And we keep joking, “‘Murica!” as if humorously acknowledging the STUPID at least somehow lets us escape the responsibility for fixing this shit. Even the most empathetic among us have been resigned to throwing their hands in the air and declaring, “what can I do? It’s not like anything I do makes any difference whatsoever.” Cynicism leads to two roads: apathy and discord, and hence we turn on one another.
So we ALL toss our hands in the air and sigh and wait for our turn to fall to our knees and sob and cling to hope that our means and our resources will be large enough to carry us through the storm.
But for many of us they won’t be.
And I wish for one goddamned moment we could just remember that somewhere (in this case, Dixon, CA), a real human being like you and me, is fighting for his son.
Then hold that thought for a person you have never met (yet I guarantee you is real), and step into the political circle with passion and empathy for all.