Brian Schoeneman, writer and general council for Virginia’s busiest Republican blog, Bearing Drift, penned an article this morning entitled, Where Has Our Compassion Gone? This article mirrors a series of thoughts which have been troubling me for weeks, but for which I lacked the words to adequately express the depth and breadth of the problem. Brian’s article relieves me of the need to continue organizing those thoughts. He captured it all. (Please take a few minutes out of your day to read Mr. Schoeneman’s article in full).
Mr. Schoeneman begins by accurately defining the dilemma we face. “There are few threats as great to the continued success of our American experiment than our loss of compassion for one another“. We have conditioned ourselves to anticipate the political posturing of others, presented with any event, we immediately launch into our accusations and defense. As I wrote in my piece On The State of the Conservative Movement, “As much as I love the conservative grassroots, I no longer feel any sense of optimism that we’ll eventually all come together and get our acts together. Organization isn’t our strong suite. Cooperation apparently isn’t in our DNA. Compromise is intolerable. Settling for something slightly less than perfect seems perfectly impossible”. The fact is, we’re in trouble.
We’ve abandoned any desire to work together or to act as if we are all citizens of one nation.
When terrible events happen, we remove ourselves from the human element, focusing in on political platitudes. As Brian writes,
What is missing in all of these discussions is compassion. We aren’t putting ourselves in the car with Philando Castile. We aren’t putting ourselves in a uniform in Dallas watching as our colleagues fall under a hail of gunfire. We aren’t putting ourselves in the shoes of a black father trying to give his son “the talk” – a much different version of the “talk” that I received from my father. We aren’t putting ourselves in the shoes of a son watching his father put on a badge and go to work, saying a prayer that Dad makes it home tonight.
49 Americans died in an Orlando night club. Did we talk about the human beings that died? Did we talk about how broken hearted we were for the families that survived them? Or did we get caught up in the same old tired discussions about homosexuality, Islam, terrorism, and immigration, most of which had nothing to do with what really happened on that terrible Sunday morning.
Not only do we fail to put ourselves in the shoes of those who have suffered these terrible events first hand, many of us scoff at those who do.
Too often, these days, compassion is viewed as a weakness. Compassion is not weakness. It comes from strength. It comes from a source of bravery and a willingness to accept others and feel empathy and consideration for someone who is completely different from you, who may even hate you. Those who deserve compassion the least are the ones who need it the most. It is what we selflessly give to those around us, simply by virtue of who we are and what we strive to be. Compassion is a gift that anyone, rich or poor, black or white, citizen or non-citizen can give to another. We all need it and we can all give it, today more than ever. Yet in these times when compassion is so necessary, we find it more lacking in our neighbors than ever before. That must change.
If compassion is viewed as a weakness, as a surrendering to the political countenance of those who need our compassion the most, then of course we find ourselves immediately immersed in a morass of mind-numbing rhetoric and finger pointing. We no longer love one another. We no longer experience any feelings of loyalty or belonging with our fellow citizens. We live amongst each other as enemies and competitors, armed with magniloquence and malicious intent.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with a senior member of my county’s School Board. Mr. John Copeland is a thoughtful gentlemen and a Democrat. We support totally different political approaches to solving problems we both recognize are priorities. Yet, for hours, we sat and talked about the issues that face our county and our schools without accusation or finger pointing. By some stroke of chance we accepted as a premise of our conversation that the other was engaging with us in good faith. The conversation was unforgettable and inspiring.
We could all be having these kinds of dialogues with one another if we chose to, but the simple fact is that we deliberately choose not to, because we simply do not care to. We don’t care whether there is any meaningful dialogue or progress or understanding. We don’t care if we’re hated or despised, or whether or not we hate or despise others. We’ve accepted this antipathy as our present and future state of being.
Mr. Schoeneman concludes with the following:
Christians are taught compassion – it’s one of the things that makes our religion strong. Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians to “[p]ut on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Compassion is embodied in Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan, and his admonition at the end of the story to “go thou and do likewise.”
It’s time for all Americans to take a step back and reflect on our lost compassion for our neighbors.
We need to find our compassion again. We cannot fix what is ailing America without it.
I couldn’t agree more. We need to do this. We have got to stop treating each other as enemies. Disagreement is healthy. In politics, I rarely agree with Mr. Schoeneman’s perspective or his solutions and yet we both operate within a Republican Party big enough for us both.
Often, we are defensive with Democrats and with our fellow Republicans, our fellow Americans, because of all the vitriol and nasty rhetoric we’ve absorbed over the years. Are we going to wait around for every jerk that has slung unwarranted insults or misrepresentations our way to ask for our forgiveness? That’s not how forgiveness works in the first place. We forgive others because we have been forgiven. We do not wait for apologies or olive branches. We can decide to forgive past insults and choose to treat our fellow citizens, even in this contentious political environment of ours, with compassion and with respect.
It’s the only way we’ll ever work out our differences together. In the absence of our working out our differences together, the only alternative is defeating one another and that’s not a pleasant atmosphere for our civic action. Each of us can only decide how we behave and how we react, but if enough of us adopt a stronger commitment to compassion, is there any doubt that our opportunities for understanding and progress will increase?