Orwellian Meditations and Being in Another’s Shoes – Empathy is Key

I started to write this on Day 10…. it is Day 15.  By the time you read this it will be Day 17. Do you know where your empathy is? More on that later.

I worked on the day of the Inauguration. I’ve watched every one that has occurred since I’ve been able to watch things on TV. Even if the guy who won wasn’t my guy, I watched. I truly appreciate the pomp and circumstance and respect the office, even if I have none for the man. This is the first time I didn’t want to watch…but I was forced to in a way. I was at work and one of my fellow teachers was holding a viewing party for some of the students. So I watched some, and later read an annotated version on NPR. I was not shocked by anything he said during his address…disappointed, angry and sad, but not shocked.

To be honest, I am in a constant struggle of wanting to be informed and knowing that ignoring it all is the best thing for my mental health. Facebook notifications have been turned off, but I still read nearly every news story I see. I’m constantly trying to strike a balance.

What did the Ministry of Truth say today? Are we in the upside down?

The next few days pretty much went as I thought they would go, although at the end of the day, it’s been a dizzying array of awful. “Alternative Facts,” focusing on size of crowds rather than the issues behind the fact that literally millions of his constituents took to the streets in peaceful protest.  So much for governing for everyone, and unity. Forget alternate facts, we are living in an alternate universe, the upside down, the “Twilight Zone.” Orwell’s 1984.

Can anyone bridge this divide? Can those who respond kindly to an authoritarian leader ever get along with a rebellious quasi-hippie like myself?

I’ve noticed some things that I find interesting. I’ve found many of his supporters are lacking in empathy. Many, it seems, quite literally cannot imagine themselves in another person’s shoes and therefore continually find themselves on the defensive…or strangely, on the offensive. I’ve seen countless commentaries after the Inauguration as well as after the Women’s March of Trump supporters finding glee in calling other people names for their beliefs, for their fears, for disagreeing with the President. Commentaries where there is joy taken in seeing people who didn’t vote for him be upset about not only his win but the disastrous policies and appointments he has named since.

I’ve never seen such pleasure in gloating over things that have been genuinely harmful to people. These interactions hardly ever happen face-to-face of course, because it’s so much easier behind a keyboard…yes, I’m doing this behind a keyboard, but I’m not calling names. I’m making observations and would love to have a civil conversation with anyone who can explain this phenomena to me.

I don’t understand what is so scary about people who have genuine passion in their hearts to fight for what they believe in in a safe manner, publicly. People who march have every right to do so. (Scroll down to Amendment I) Protesting is not whining. It is constitutionally protected and it works. Maybe that is actually the problem…some are afraid that our protesting might actually bring about change and prospect of that is powerful. Disagreeing with people in power is patriotic. Civil discourse is essential for progress…to move forward in any society.

It seems many of his supporters are fearful of having compassion, or are not capable of it because their fear of OTHER things is so. much. larger.  Somehow we should be quiet because in whatever circumstances they found themselves during the last 8 years or maybe their whole lives, they haven’t had a voice, or have felt too afraid to say the things they’ve wanted. Or have known those things they want to say are not nice, and they were holding back due to political correctness… I’m sorry they feel this way, but I won’t be quiet now.

Silence = Complicity

I have a roof over my head and food on my table. My kids are clothed and warm. But I know there are many women and children who aren’t that lucky in this country, and I’ll always have compassion for them and speak up for them, as one day that could be me or you, no matter how hard we work.

I’m not a part of the LGBTQIA community but I’m an ally.  I don’t want a single person to ever be erased because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. I’ll always have compassion for them because in the end we are all human.

I currently have health insurance…but I have pre-existing conditions that have been previously been denied.  Under this administration this could happen again. I’m heartened even people who are healthy marched for people like me and have compassion for me and others like me.

If you don’t understand something, rather than needing to experience it first hand – maybe it would be helpful to meet someone who HAS experienced these things you don’t understand rather than making assumptions. Talk to me without calling me a snowflake, racist, libtard, Killery lover or any other nickname that does nothing but reveal a nasty side of your personality.

It is assumed all women have the same rights as everyone else – but not all do. If someone says her husband wouldn’t have “allowed” her to march, then she doesn’t have all her rights. I have compassion for her and are happy people marched for her, even if she didn’t want them too…now.

So many things are assumed, are swallowed whole from sources, unchecked, without questioning. All because they fit a narrative that aligns not with the greatest hopes, but the greatest unsubstantiated fears.

A common response to being proud of marching, of the opportunity to march – “the real bad places are not here…they’re in all of those countries that practice Islam…why don’t you march about those things? Those women have it terrible. We have it great here!” I reiterate, not everyone does, even if everyone YOU KNOW does. Funny, how before this march many of those same people couldn’t give a crap about any of people of Islam anywhere, only when it serves their argument somehow.

Lord help me from not losing my mind while this administration remains in office.

Which brings me to my next topic – how does one take care of oneself in a time like this?

Do the things you love. Cry. Scream. Rant – even if people tell you they don’t want to hear it anymore, find a sympathetic ear who will listen. Ignore those who are threatened by your political engagement. If they’d rather see puppies and rainbows all the time, they can scroll on by.

But on that note, do try to be positive. What you focus on grows, and the negativity spewing out of DC is enough.  Mediate daily, twice if you have to. Find some affirmations that focus you. Visualize what life will be like here when this nightmare ends (and it will.) Try to think of the best scenario, not the worst.

Laugh! Listen to music. ACT.  Remember we are not helpless, hapless or hopeless.  We have power, a voice, and a wallet with which to support the things we DO believe in.

Continue to have empathy…if you are confronted with an antagonistic supporter, take the emotion out of it. If you feel the need to respond, do so from a place of love of country, not hatred of the other side.

Even though it’s not my usual day to post a thing I like to hear…as I finish this, it is that day…Sunday….so I’ll leave you with my latest obsession…which is actually apropos to our current situation…don’t give away your shot at protecting our country’s founding ideals…

By Joy

I'm 42, a remarried mom of an 8 year old girl and a toddler son, a teacher, and a writer. People tell me I tend to be brutally honest and ...tell it like it is, so I had hoped to use this outlet to keep me sane while I got used to my new life as a stay-at-home Mom back when I was home with my daughter....it worked. And it's been therapeutic through the end of a marriage and the emergence of me...


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