It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter—someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie; it was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.I still cannot believe he won despite such talk and action. A horrible human being as the President!
It is even more depressing to think that he won because of such talk and action.
To quote the philosopher Adam Smith--yes, that same Smith who is canonized as the saint of capitalism--"by changing places in fancy with the sufferer, that we come either to conceive or to be affected by what he feels." We imagine how it would be to be disabled. Or to be terminally ill. Or to live in Aleppo. Normal human beings, therefore, do not mock the disabled, or the dying, or those being bombed in Aleppo. Yet, if millions voted for that horrible human being to be the president, then I worry more about my fellow citizens than about the pussy-grabber himself!
Which is why right from election night I have been operating with a clear bottom-line: There is no such thing as a good trump voter:
Trump campaigned on state repression of disfavored minorities. He gives every sign that he plans to deliver that repression. This will mean disadvantage, immiseration, and violence for real people, people whose “inner pain and fear” were not reckoned worthy of many-thousand-word magazine feature stories. If you voted for Trump, you voted for this, regardless of what you believe about the groups in question. That you have black friends or Latino colleagues, that you think yourself to be tolerant and decent, doesn’t change the fact that you voted for racist policy that may affect, change, or harm their lives. And on that score, your frustration at being labeled a racist doesn’t justify or mitigate the moral weight of your political choice.To empathize requires a fundamental starting point of recognizing and respecting the other--who does not look like me. Not with this demagogue and his voters!
Empathy is also what serious art conveys to us. As Streep said, "An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like." Like even when a eleven-year old boy silently sheds tears because an animated character dies.
Unlike that eleven-year old boy, the demagogue has an utter lack of an ability to "fancy with the sufferer"--a complete and total lack of empathy. There will be situations during his presidency when he will have to be the comforter-in-chief. There will be situations when he will have to weigh whether or not to bomb a place or a country. There will be situations when his policies might have drastic effects on people. But, when he lacks empathy ... progress will stall. We might even regress. The trump voters will stand accused!