10 Oct

A lack of empathy

I keep thinking about the lack of empathy in a lot of modern conservative thought during this showdown. About Republican leaders who work hard to make life for people who are gay harder, and then only until someone in their family turns out to be gay, do they stop to reassess. The idea that children, who cannot just ‘go get a job’ to get healthcare or food, are being hurt by the slowdown.

It’s a lack of imagination to be unable to understand how horrible things might happen that are outside of a sole individual’s ability to handle.

It’s the same reason I’m stunned when I see conservatives refusing to sign up for ACA (Obamacare) even if it might help their family (I have seen some comments online to that effect), saying they won’t need insurance.

There’s a thread through all that I find interesting.

“The mayor of a Texas town devastated by a fertilizer plant explosion told the Dallas Morning News that the disaster has changed his views on the state’s laissez-faire view of business regulation. Watching his townspeople struggle to hew their lives back together in the six months since the explosion ripped apart the town of West, has given Mayor Tommy Muska a new perspective on government aid.

‘I don’t want government help…but I’m also for the middle-class Joe that just kind of needs a little bit of help,’ Muska said. ‘I don’t know, maybe that’s an oxymoron.’”

(Via Texas mayor: Plant explosion changed how I think about government aid | The Raw Story.)

“For Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), the government shutdown is just a ‘temporary inconvenience.’ The libertarian lawmaker is right that the shutdown is temporary, but I’d be hard-pressed to label it an ‘inconvenience.’

Among the people affected by House Republicans’ refusal to fund the government are kids with cancer, who have been refused admittance for clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health; kids in Head Start; women who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); shipyard workers; domestic violence counselors; disease and infection trackers at the Centers for Disease Control; college students on federal work study programs; and hundreds of thousands of federal workers, as well as the communities who serve them.

Republicans have offered measures that fund specific areas—in particular, veterans benefits and national parks—but have had little to say about these other functions of the federal government.”

(Via Of Course the GOP Isn’t Worried About Those Affected by the Shutdown – The Daily Beast.)

Kevin Drum puts a finger on it:

I’m tired of conservatives who suddenly decide that Medicaid should be more generous with stroke victims after they’ve had a stroke themselves, or who suddenly decide gay marriage is OK when someone in their family turns out to be gay. Is it too much to ask that they show a little empathy even for people and causes that don’t directly affect their own lives?

But first reactions aren’t always right. I do wish conservatives could demonstrate a little empathy even for people and causes that don’t directly affect their own lives, but it’s not as if this is an exclusively conservative thing. It’s a human thing. Personal experience always touches us more deeply than facts and figures, and in the case of gay marriage we all knew this was how progress would be made. People would see gay characters on TV and shed a little bit of their discomfort. They’d learn that old friends are gay and decide they wanted to stay friends anyway. They’d learn their children are gay, and decide that they still wanted the best for them, even if that means supporting same-sex marriage.

He’s right, it’s very human. And yet, what is it about modern republicanism that means that when it comes to disaster, pollution, child poverty and so forth that evinces so little imagination when it comes to walking a mile in their shoes, and that they only seem to understand these things if a family member is hurt (or will only vote for disaster funds to be released if it is their community that is hit, as Colorado Republicans who refused to vote for East Coast federal funds but voted for their own recently demonstrated?)… it wasn’t always like this. I remember ‘compassionate conservatism.’

That seems to have died. Another reason I feel that, even though I’m politically moderate, I’m repulsed by the republicanism on display over the last 10 years in particular.