There’s been a lot of talk recently about ‘empathy’ in politics. Several very prominent politicians have made notable changes in their positions specifically on gun control, health care and gay rights based on what they each call a new found ‘empathy’. In all these cases they claim that their new feeling for others came about from the personal suffering of a relative; a loved one; someone closed to them. In short, they had never been able to identify before until the issue came home to them.
I want to submit to you, dear reader, that such is not true empathy and whether or not I agreed with their new position, they have immediately and permanently lost my vote. In fact, such change of heart is nothing better then the same old bullshit tribalism that humans have been struggling to rise up from since the time of Abraham. God has been calling us to put something larger ahead of ourselves and our ‘tribe’. So far, we’re not getting very far.
If you suddenly develop a new respect for gay people because your daughter is gay, or you change your position on health care because your dear grandmother needs her Medicare, or you decide that gun control is not a bad idea because you had a loved one shot? None of those is ‘empathy’. And I would never vote for a guy who changed his vote that way.
What you want? A guy who came into the job, pre-equipped with empathy for people he –doesn’t- know! A guy who is willing to walk a mile in the moccasins of someone with whom he has zippo in common. If we gotta wait for a majority of Senators to get breast cancer to get some funding? Do the math. 😀 If I don’t get my roads fixed until the mayor throws an axle? Good luck with that. In short: I can’t afford to wait for my legislators to really ‘feel my pain’. I don’t expect my doctor to have a heart attack to deal with –my- middle aged cardiovascular issues. And I don’t expect my congressman to have to have a daughter who needs an abortion to get some consciousness raising on ‘choice.’
Do not get me wrong, I believe in change. I believe in those Paul goes to Damascus moments. But those moments should come from prayer, reflection about mankind as a whole; not because of your personal tragedy as horrible as it may be.
If you are a lawmaker and you change your viewpoint because something happened to a family member you should have the decency to stand on top of the mountain and say, twice as loudly as you previously railed in the opposite direction, “You know people, I was wrong. I was fucked in the head for years. I was a hard ass and I was wrong for not trying to see the other guy’s point of view. Shame on me for not being able to identify with my constituents until the problem was in my own backyard. I should do better. I should be able to feel for the problems of all my constituents without having to bleed myself.
We should applaud those who do the right thing, or come to the right point of view because of their thoughtfulness and care for others. Not for the Doubting Thomas’s who only believe when they feel the wound.
Call me skeptical, but my strong sense is this: make a list of every guy who has had a recent ‘epiphany’ on any of the above social issues. You’re looking at a candidate for President in 2016 or 2020.