ideology, compassion, self

Telling people like trump and Fox News to go to hell is defensible; their actions are inhumane and purposefully so. But their supporters and viewers? Tens of millions of Americans who have nothing to gain and so much to lose – they can go to hell? This is a difficult question.

People are sharing this little nugget from trump’s press secretary today:

“The President has said unmistakably that he wants schools to open … and when he says ‘open’ he means open and full, kids being able to attend each and every day at their school. The science should not stand in the way of this.”

This statement is dumber than a bag of hammers, of course, and this particular person deserves to be mocked and humiliated. (She went on to claim that the science supports putting hundreds of kids and adults in close proximity on a daily basis, which the science absolutely does not support). Despite her claim, she is not sharing a science-based message. Instead, she’s spreading a message that is part of a political agenda, and the result of political ineptitude (at best) that has killed 140,000 and counting. This is her job: she’s a paid spokesperson whose duty it is to repeat whatever crap issues from trump’s mouth.

She can go to hell.

She can take Fox News with her and all the rest of those who are making money off the political divisiveness their careers depend on. But the millions of Americans who listen to her, to the president, to Fox News and all the rest: Am I telling them to go to hell as well?

Hooboy, that’s a tough question. We have people whose response to being asked or told to wear a mask is to turn to violence. We have people willfully ignoring science, including doctors and other professionals who otherwise have no trouble with science (unless it’s climate science, of course). We have Georgia Gov Brian Kemp watching Covid-19 rage through his state and forbidding local mask ordinances. Or Alabama Gov Kay Ivey repeating trump’s messaging – until it’s too late and her state is a full-on hotbed.

Lots of bad people doing lots of bad things for lots of bad reasons. I have no problem telling Kemp or Texas Gov Greg Abbott to go to hell. Or the dude pulling a gun on a store clerk who is simply obeying corporate instructions by insisting that a mask be worn in the store. Just like all those white people calling the cops on black people for doing normal stuff while black: they can go to hell.

But then the word “compassion” comes to mind, and I grow uncertain. If I stop and think of how damaged trump was by his childhood and how that damage was exacerbated by wealth and privilege, I can feel compassion for the pathetic person inside his skin. What an awful existence he is enduring. He could have been a happy, free person but he never really had a chance. There are no excuses for the awful stuff he does as president (or being a rapist, or his persecution of the Central Park 6), of course; he doesn’t have to lock little kids in cages or ignore a global pandemic out of spite.

But the 30-40% of people who approve and support him: Are they all horrible people who deserve nothing more than “go to hell”? I know that’s how a lot of people feel, and I understand that thinking. But again: compassion.

My choice is what kind of person I will be, not what others will be. Me, and only me. I have to decide what my relationship to others is, including strangers around the country who are behaving in ways I do not agree with.

Do I hate them?

Do I rage at them?

Do I pity them condescendingly?

Or do I empathize and allow compassion a foothold?

Yea, I telegraphed my answer.

This is my choice: I will seek to practice compassion towards even those who are behaving so horribly. trump and his mouthpiece and Tucker Carlson and all the rest can go to hell; how can I empathize with people who choose willingly to subvert their own humanity to ideology, self-aggrandizement, wealth, and owning the libs?

But their supporters, viewers, and other enablers: Jesus God, I wish they’d wise up. I wish they’d let go of their hate, their fear, their anger. But the fact that they are acting on hate, fear, and anger means I must empathize and I must attempt to respond with compassion. If I don’t, it’s not them who suffers; it’s me. My refusal to empathize means I feed on the same negativity that infects them. Empathy may run into a wall; I am unlikely to really understand why they think and feel as they do, but that’s not the point.

Empathy and compassion are a journey I walk, for myself.

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