Events this week (e.g., the occupation of the bird sanctuary in Oregon, the vote to repeal the ACA, the President’s speech on gun control, campaign speeches by candidates in Iowa, the contaminated water in Flint, and more) illustrated one of the largest emotional and philosophical divides in (at least) the USA. That divide can be summarized in one single observation:
There are those within our population who show concern and respect for others — especially the poorest and weakest among us, and then there are those who seek to overcome any who disagree with them for the gain of those who are already rich and powerful, with no real concern for those who are weak or sick or poor
- The former show compassion to those afflicted with misfortune. The latter blame the unfortunate for all that may have befallen them, and pursue initiatives that would increase their misery.
- The former demonstrate empathy for victims. The latter insult the former for “being weak.”
- The former seek to employ science to cure disease and protect the environment. The latter seek to discredit science when it conflicts with their profit or beliefs.
- The former seek to maintain public spaces and resources for future generations. The latter are willing to sacrifice those holdings for personal, short-term gain.
- The former seek to avoid warfare and to acknowledge that others may hold differing but valid opinions. The latter seek to dominate, verbally or physically, all who stand in their way.
There seems to be no significant middle. Or rather, if there is a middle, it is quiescent.
That so many people flock to someone running for President who flaunts his extreme material wealth, while making fun of those with disabilities and insulting the poor, is a sign. That so many would deride and taunt a leader and father for shedding tears over the deaths of children, is a sign. That we have people who will gladly support policy changes to reduce food and health benefits to the poor to enhance the wealthy, is a sign.
Sadly, those whose hearts have hardened are unlikely to see those signs of what they are or have become. They need a “Christmas Carol” visit from the 3 spirits, but that doesn’t seem to happen in real life. Those people claim that they are the strong ones, and the ones with vision. The true villains, they will claim, are those who worship differently, speak a different language, are different in appearance, or love differently than they do. They will claim to have their god on their side — the same one referenced in Matthew 25:31-46, although they fail to see the dissonance between their actions and their scripture.
I hope that as a society (and as a species), compassion triumphs over greed. I wonder what it will take to make that happen? And how do those of us who care avoid becoming full-on cynics?