by Kathie MM
The value of empathy—putting oneself in the shoes of others, trying to feel their pain—has been recognized for centuries by all major religions and countless philosophers and human rights advocates. Empathy is seen as the major path to moral engagement, the psychological process whereby ethical people resist the chronic call to participate in man’s inhumanity to man.
In a time when members of the U.S. government appear intent on dehumanizing countless “others,” and continuing the destruction of our global homeland, it may be useful to think of engaging in empathy as a form of resistance, as Steven Wineman suggests.
When Wineman argues, “in the current toxic political environment, compassion and empathy become critical tools of resistance,” and suggests empathizing with Trump himself, we should probably at least think about the idea.
Wineman acknowledges that: “We are confronted with a president whose words and deeds leave many of us horrified, outraged, deeply frightened. What could seem more natural than to view the man as a monster, someone who has abandoned his humanity? ….But these ‘natural’ reactions to a dangerous adversary form a trap, locking us into Trump’s formula for embroiling political discourse in a barrage of verbal violence.”
Providing a daunting challenge, Wineman also says, “Viewing Trump as fractured, wounded, locked into a vicious cycle that perpetuates his own injuries, creates a foundation for compassion.”
And what is Wineman’s take-away message?: “Empathy for Trump does not in the least excuse his many abuses of power…Nor does it contradict doing everything we can to resist his regime. Empathy is an act of resistance; a way of safeguarding the humanity of those of us who resist; a way of making resistance to hatred an act of love.”
In a complementary analysis of Trump, psychologist Jeffrey Rubin has this advice for the new President:
“If there is any way to turn people from hate to respect, it is useful to model how you want to be treated by treating others as you want them to treat you. This is the basic Golden Rule.”
The model from whom Rubin thinks Trump best can learn is JFK—check out his argument. My own heart, refugee from the 1960s, points towards Robert Kennedy.
Lots to think about, in these emotionally exhausting times. Please share your thoughts.