Saturday, March 17, 2012

Empathy: Liberal Poison

I used to argue with the guy at the Texaco about how all these draconian legal-document laws coming down the pike from legislators apparently entirely immune to the real effects of the laws they were promulgating actually had terrible effects on real people, including even thousands of American children. He had his DeKalb hat after all, so I figured he was maybe a farmer of some kind, and might actually need some help now and then to get his maters up, or his melons, or his tobacco. And if he needed help, maybe he'd actually realize that "help" is real people. As opposed, I mean, to some fantasy demon Mexican drug biker with tongue jewelry, frightening tattoos, and dirty fingernails. I was mildly shocked to find the guy countering me with "that's just empathy--you need to stamp that out of your system."

This would be, you see, one formulation of the dissonance law I've been asserting lately on these pages. As the dissonance increases, shout louder. Examples seem to fly off the teevee every day, and I sometimes feel like Newton must have felt when he realized the thing about falling apples. Suddenly there was a snowstorm of apples. Suddenly things fell into place. No pun intended.

It turns out that farmers are now hurting from a lack of farm labor. Unfortunately, farmers are a tiny minority in the US, and they aren't going to even raise the attention of legislators until it's pretty late in the game. Meanwhile, the legislators can buy their food at any price from the best markets in town, and move along to new agendas--new places to make pain and sorrow for millions of real people who, just like the farm laborers, have preciously little to do with the stereotypes on which their laws are based.

These days of course it's the women's health agenda that's on the card. I give you the following column, which comes via Digby:

Here's a bit from the piece. Read it all:

The doctor and nurse were professional and kind, and it was clear that they understood our sorrow. They too apologized for what they had to do next. For the third time that day, I exposed my stomach to an ultrasound machine, and we saw images of our sick child forming in blurred outlines on the screen.

“I’m so sorry that I have to do this,” the doctor told us, “but if I don’t, I can lose my license.” Before he could even start to describe our baby, I began to sob until I could barely breathe. Somewhere, a nurse cranked up the volume on a radio, allowing the inane pronouncements of a DJ to dull the doctor’s voice. Still, despite the noise, I heard him. His unwelcome words echoed off sterile walls while I, trapped on a bed, my feet in stirrups, twisted away from his voice.

“Here I see a well-developed diaphragm and here I see four healthy chambers of the heart...”

I closed my eyes and waited for it to end, as one waits for the car to stop rolling at the end of a terrible accident.

If that makes you feel kinda bad, you still have a little empathy. If you still have a little empathy, you'd better vote for some Democrats, and p.d.q. Democrats are by no means perfect, and in some areas they have a lot of big issues. It'd actually be wonderful if people who still had some empathy had time to start working on making the Democratic Party a better place. What's happened over the last thirty years is that a lot of folks who would in a better world be centrist Republicans have simply moved to the Democratic side because there's no place for them at all left on the Right. As I used to say back in the early '90s, Bill Clinton was mostly a Rockefeller Republican. I still believe that's true.

Back in 1990 or so, another moderate Republican, Barack Obama, was talking about making the US less "mean spirited." As Ms Maddow rightly pointed out this week, Mr. Obama's words are little more than a rephrasing of George Bush's "kinder, gentler America." On the current thing we call the "Right," Obama's new ancient comment is being offered as "evidence" that he is somehow, just as they all thought, "un-American." Woohoo.

Meanwhile, in the real world, where we actually all must live and suffer and die eventually, a nice doctor gives his third ultrasound to a woman carrying a fetus which must, for sound medical reasons, be terminated. And no doubt over on the right, people are shaking their heads at that story from the Texas Observer. "It's just more empathy fodder," they'll say. "Anectdotal testimony, of limited scientific value." It is a known scientific fact that "pro-life" women who use abortion facilities will frequently return to the picket-line within days of their procedure.

As the dissonance increases, so does the volume and intensity of the response.

[photo from ]

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