Empathy

This rhetoric is so much more poisonous than I ever could have dreamed. I just… I can’t do it. I am trying and trying to look at their side of this, and I am trying so fucking hard to understand. Every time, I just burst into tears because I’m apparently incapable of understanding. (So people calling me a crybaby for speaking up right now? Yeah. I am a crybaby. Thanks for the trauma, y’all. Didn’t have enough before this.)

I feel like in a lot of ways, we’re really seeing who people are. And it’s not even just about excusing racism, sexism, etc. It goes so much deeper than that. Our society, by and large, is comprised of people who put themselves above the greater good — because generally, we’re taught that we’re on our own. People who ask for help are criticized and denigrated. “Well, if *I* can do this, so can they…!”

So a lot of it, in my opinion, comes from these cultural expectations. We internalize a lot of it without even thinking about it, and we have to fight to get back out. And it isn’t easy. You have to want to do it, for whatever reason. I’m not going to say this is true of everyone, but I don’t think it’s rare. Sometimes it’s because of your own situation — race, orientation, etc. Or a loved one’s. Or maybe just that you aren’t okay with people being treated poorly, and it gives you the motivation to step up. I don’t know.

Point is, at the end of the day, it comes down to empathy. Prejudice comes down to (again, in my opinion) a) the inability to relate to people who are different and/or b) the need to put others down to raise yourself up. And that’s problematic for a multitude of reasons.

To be able to support someone who so flippantly talked about grabbing a woman by her pussy, who has several cases pending against him, demonstrates a lack of empathy — because honestly, of the women I’ve really gotten to know, the percentage of those who haven’t been assaulted in some way is quite low. He could have given a real apology instead of a non-apology. He could have said, I didn’t do this, but hey, isn’t this a great time to put a spotlight on sexual assault? He threatened to sue these women, said that they just wanted their ten/fifteen/whatever minutes of fame when they were dragged through hell for speaking up.

To be able to defend someone who has the full support of the KKK *and is unwilling to denounce them* demonstrates a lack of empathy. (It’s not necessarily that the KKK is supporting them — okay, it is, but let’s say for the sake of argument it isn’t because I see people saying he can’t help who supports him *bullshit* — but it’s that he hasn’t spoken out against their practices. In fact, he’s gone and appointed a white supremacist to an important position. Hate crimes have skyrocketed, and many are saying liberals are making it up or are staging them or that it’s always been this way (terrible argument, btw).

To be able to condone his positions on immigrants when our country has such a long history of welcoming immigrants and so many people are desperately seeking asylum or what they think will be better lives demonstrates a lack of empathy. Fear tactics have become so normal that people are quick to use them. I saw a straight white guy say he’s afraid for his life because terrorists might pull him out of his car and kill him — but he thinks it’s stupid for us to be afraid. What are the odds of him being attacked by terrorists versus the odds of minorities being attacked by their own countrymen?

To be able to get past the fact that there are notable similarities to Hitler, that people are trying to silence those speaking out against Trump (especially when those very people never shut up about Obama), that minorities and friends of minorities and for fuck’s sake, GOOD PEOPLE, are terrified, that he refuses to denounce violence in his name, that he hasn’t paid his taxes in years but criticizes impoverished people for not paying them, that he’s spent all this time spreading hatred and vitriol…

I’m so sorry to say it, but I personally am having a hard time keeping people like that in my life. I can’t teach empathy. I can’t teach compassion. Not at this point in time, when I’m angry and hurt and afraid. Yes, I want to fight like hell and help them to see the problem so we can change it together. But I can’t say I want them close to me.

And honestly? A lot of supposed Christians are supporting this hate speech, this vitriol, and it’s like they’ve forgotten that their savior advocated kindness and compassion, that he condemned judging because it’s their God’s place to do so, that he advocated on behalf of the poor and the persecuted… Because they see themselves as being persecuted and under attack for being unable to impose their beliefs on other people.

In the end, I think that’s the problem. Because all my life, I remember being taught to sit down and shut up. To keep my opinions to myself. Oh, he doesn’t know any better. Oh, she wouldn’t listen anyway. Oh, he’s old and set in his ways. Oh, if he found out you went to a dance with a black guy, he’d have a heart attack (true story). And our fear tells me that I’m probably not too far off on at least one facet — because if we believed people were empathetic to our plight, we wouldn’t be afraid of being attacked.

Being called hateful, intolerant, unwilling to listen to others’ beliefs, arrogant, selfish, unimportant, delusional, a fuck-up — all things I’ve been called lately — when I speak up is something I’m having to get used to. I don’t like it.

Okay, so tl;dr version: People who are able to support Trump lack empathy. I can try to teach that to them by educating them, and I will try. But when it comes down to it, I’m not optimistic in my chances. People have to want to change. And honestly, I’m not sure what to do about that. In the end, I think we have to decide if we want to try to teach them or if explaining and letting them go sends a more powerful message.

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