Entertaining Empathy for Change

This post originally appeared on my blog, http://nopithyphrase.blogspot.com/2014/06/entertaining-empathy-for-change.html. Please feel free to pass along.

I have a funny post pending for tomorrow. Today is something else I need to discuss. Today I am not funny. I read a lot of online news and such (it's slow at work right now), and the past few days I've been pretty disgusted. 


Do you know there was a fatal car crash in Houston today? A woman with two small boys, ages 4 and 6, hit a tree. She was killed, her boys were injured. While waiting for help to arrive, bystanders saw people STEALING THE GROCERIES FROM THE FRONT SEAT OF HER CAR. With a dead woman and injured children still in the car. I'm horrified at the thieves AND at the bystanders.


In Dallas yesterday, a car hit the median and flipped over. By the time the police arrived, they could do nothing but watch the car burn with two people inside and hope to god the passengers were dead already for mercy's sake. The officer who spoke about it was ashen-faced and teary-eyed. Bystanders videotaped the whole incident on their cell phones. No one attempted to help before the car started on fire.


I can't even begin to discuss the #YesAllWomen comments I've seen from both sides. I understand the anger, I empathize with many of the stories relayed through the movement. I'm disgusted by the troll commentary. I've lived similar situations and dealt with the ingrained sexism in our culture. But I also see that common sense is being set aside. I'm a realist who appreciates the idealism of social movements but understands the predators, criminals, and assholes out there will never allow an ideal state to occur. I'm a feminist who believes firmly in equality and respect between the sexes should be the way of the world, but who also knows how to (and regularly DO) adjust my behavior, dress, and attentiveness based on my situation and surroundings. That's not giving in to sexist society: that's consciously taking responsibility for my own safety, which I believe is a necessary outlook for women and men. I've seen too much backlash against men as a gender, which doesn't' allow for any attempt at mutual understanding. To the girl who bitchily tried to force a male ER nurse from his table at lunchtime yesterday, loudly proclaiming his wish to eat his lunch at the table he was at first was sexist and he should move "BECAUSE I'M A WOMAN AND I WANT IT," I wish I'd been there. I would've slapped you across the face, you entitled idiot. Women like you are just as sexist as the sexism you protest, and you aren't helping equality at fucking all.


Do you know what the #YesAllWomen movement has in common with the current uproar about the US trading Gitmo prisoners for a POW who may or may not have been a deserter? I assure you, there IS a commonality here.


COMPASSION. EMPATHY. SYMPATHY. RESPECT. Specifically, the utter LACK of compassion, empathy or sympathy displayed by individual and the "mob" right now.


This is more than a common courtesy issue: this is a significant public inability or refusal to bother thinking, even for a single instant, how the person being attacked might feel.


Yes, that absolutely applies to both #YesAllWomen and the backlash against it. It also applies to the fight women face in places like Afghanistan and India where the threat of attack, rape, and death is a very real and constant thing. It applies in places like Saudi Arabia where women are legally considered children. It applies in the Sudan where men and women can be killed for being the wrong religion. It applies in Uganda where a gay couple can be murdered legally for who they love. Anytime a society sees a group of people as sub-human, property, or less-than-equal in any way that society gives permission to cruelty. Period.


So what about this POW all over the news? I saw today President Obama will not apologize for bringing him home. Good. He shouldn't. He did the right thing. I don't give a hoot whether you voted for President Obama or not: the man enforced a basic Military value, a basic American value even, in bringing home a soldier languishing for FIVE YEARS in terrorist custody.


And yet, that man's hometown has been attacked by an incensed mob for planning a welcome-home party. A welcome home party the town has held annually since the Sergeant was captured as a "bring him home" party, which is now cancelled. That man's parents have been attacked in the media, called terrorist sympathizers, called traitors and worse. Why?  Because the dad said he wouldn't shave his beard until his son was home. Because his dad tried through Twitter to get the Taliban to release his son. Because they loved their son, who was held against his will by deadly people in a situation that could result in long-term torture or his death. What parent wouldn't fight to get their kid back?

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