Compassion.

I weep for you,’ the Walrus said:
      I deeply sympathize.’
With sobs and tears he sorted out
      Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
      Before his streaming eyes.
Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter.”

 

Sometimes enlightenment comes from the strangest places.

As can be expected I have been following the ACHA debacle closely.  I have been frustrated by the seeming callousness of some of the supporters of the new bill. Some of them seem dangerously clueless, such as the representative who claimed that people who didn’t need health care led better lives. Some have simply flat out lied to their constituents about how the bill will effect them.

Then there is Representative Joe Walsh. In response to Jimmy Kimmel’s touching recounting of his infant son’s life-threatening heart problems, which if you haven’t seen you should, the good Representative tweeted “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care.”*

I struggle to articulate the thinking behind a statement like this. Yes, it’s selfishness, but it is also something else. That’s where the Barenaked Ladies came in.

As I sat trying to figure what to blog about this, the BNL song “Bank Job” popped up on my iTunes. In the last verse, the narrator of the story in the song expresses the outlook of many of the people I read about who support Trumpcare, even knowing that it will result in millions losing healthcare:

“I’m all for compassion, just not on my dime.”

You see that a lot.

I have compassion for people who lack insurance,  just don’t raise my taxes — no matter how small the amount of the increase — to help them get it.

We really need to help schools in poor neighborhoods, but I refuse to vote for a parcel tax because my kids don’t go to school anymore.

The poor Syrian refugees face untold horrors, but we need to prevent any of them from coming into the country.

I feel sorry for women who have been raped, but we can’t allow them to have access to Plan B or any form of abortion.

The Native Americans are understandably upset about their water and land being threatened, but we need to build the Dakota Access Pipeline, because it will bring jobs.

It’s tragic that young men die at the hands of the police, but we can’t criticize our men in blue, let alone hold them accountable.

It’s a shame about families being torn apart, but we do need to deport every illegal in the country, including the ones brought here as children who have not known any other country than the US.

So many people claim to be compassionate, but it’s compassion that isn’t on “their dime.” This isn’t compassion. It’s ersatz compassion, seeking validation for being a good person without having to commit to anything. It’s the compassion of the Walrus for the oysters, claiming a moral high ground while consuming those they claim to care for. Pro-tip: anytime someone uses the words “I have compassion for…,” they generally don’t.

Real compassion is muscular; real compassion calls for action.  The truly compassionate say not “I have compassion, but…” but instead “I have compassion, and….”

For a long time, I used to state I had compassion for people who held horrible views. After all, racists or misogynists must have bitterness in their hearts that made their lies miserable, right? Yes, the objects of their hatred are the first priority, but shouldn’t we feel sorry for people who constricted their world in such a way?

I don’t feel that way anymore. For one thing, it’s condescending as hell. For another, this forces me to pretend that I didn’t feel anger or disgust (or even, yes, hatred: I don’t claim to be a good person). Most importantly, it moves the focus of discussion away from where it really should be: on the victims of racism or misogyny.

It’s much better not to pretend to be compassionate. I don’t have compassion for the extreme alt-left (the preferred term these days, rather than Bernie bot), I have fury towards them. I don’t have compassion for Trump voters, I despise some (not all) of them for what they have done to my country. It would be hypocritical for me to claim otherwise.

Honesty is much better than compassion. That way,  you don’t try to influence people to care for others that neither warrant nor, in many cases, want your concern.

*Considering that Joe Walsh (no relation, I’m sure to the absolutely fabulous guitarist for the Eagles) once was taken to court for not paying child support, I don’t think he’s in any position to chide someone else like this. Neither does the Twitterverse — he got absolutely slammed. Not to mention that Walsh here demonstrates a total lack of understanding about how insurance works: every one who has insurance pays into a pot of money, which is then doled out to pay for health care. In a sense, every time someone uses their health insurance, someone else is (at least partially) paying for their health care. It’s appalling how many people just don’t get this.

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