EMPATHY DEFICIT

Posted in Rants on April 17th, 2016 by Ed

Of all the hypocrisies commonly associated with American conservatives the best contender for the worst is the tendency to deny the existence of systemic problems but flip-flop when they are affected personally. My go-to example is Randy Cunningham (who ended up in prison himself in short order) temporarily setting aside his cheerleading for the War on Drugs to beg a judge to be lenient on his son, who was repeatedly busted for selling cocaine and heroin. "He's a good kid, he just made mistakes," said the former Congressman, applying logic he was unable to understand in any situation not involving himself or his kids in a courtroom. As a bonus, his own experience in prison caused him suddenly to recant his previous statements about the value and fairness about the War on Drugs. If only there were some way to reach the conclusion that the entire justice system is being undermined without actually going to prison oneself.

Another classic example is Senator Rob Portman's 180 on gay marriage when he found out his son is gay. It's almost as if – almost! – these people are unable to feel empathy, or that they don't really care about anyone except themselves. They don't bat an eye when the people affected by their ideology are nameless strangers. The inability to exercise enough forethought to consider something basic like, "What if this decision affected my family?" before legislating their ideology is baffling to the point of incredulity. Isn't that one of the most fundamental ways that the human mind creates a framework for understanding the rest of the world? It's as strange as if they couldn't do something as simple as, for example, learn from previous experience.

Wait…

Despite the repeated insistence that voting is as easy as pie and that the law imposes no barrier to participation, we've recently learned that registration procedures are "onerous" when a member of the Trump family finds out that they can't vote in their state's primary. Anybody else who fails to register properly is stupid, lazy, and responsible for their own disenfranchisement. However, since they are unable to accept responsibility for their own actions – Isn't that a key trait of sociopathy? I'm sure it's unrelated. – a failure on their part is an indictment of the system.

But I don't suppose it matters much that one half of our political system is composed of and supported by people who are entirely devoid of a key component of a healthy adult's psychological makeup.