the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy

…there was one performances this year that stunned me; it sank its hooks in my heart, not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job—it made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

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.

Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose. …

Just in case you missed it, I just had to share with you part of Meryl Streep’s speech as she accepted the Cecile B DeMille award. Yes, I know, awards shows are so much more enjoyable without that political crap…not that awards shows have EVER gotten political about things like abortion, the environment, dolphins, the financial crisis, foreign affairs, wars, immigration, LBGT rights, Presidential campaigns, treatment of Native Americans, race, the AIDS crisis…This is nothing new; and as long as we can enjoy our First Amendment Right, I imagine that it will likely continue as long as there is a value or belief or platform to support or protest. People can get pissy when a woman on stage expresses such thoughts saying that she has no right to talk about politics, but she wasn’t talking politics. What Ms Streep was talking about was common decency and respect. Because when the person about to take the position of respected power in our country continues to act like a bully mocking those who oppose him, it does filter down into everybody’s life where people imagine they have permission to do the same thing.

My kid told me pretty much that recently when he expressed how mad he is still over the Presidential election outcome. Some might say he’s just a kid and really shouldn’t have an opinion. But he does. He should. He will be able to vote in the next Presidential election and he plans on voting to get rid of the bully. Perhaps he doesn’t have the words or the physical strength to fight against those who mock people like him but he does understand that he does have the privilege and responsibility to show respect and kindness…even when they are standing right beside him mocking him as he receives an award for respect and kindness. Mom is glaring murdering daggers at those middle school-aged boys until he makes eye contact chiding, Mom, don’t, because in the end, kindness and respect wins…and it will always, as long as we are brave enough to remind each other of our privilege and responsibility.

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One thought on “the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy

  1. I’m split — in one hand, anger can be a great force for change, and the anger is an expression of the violation that I’ve felt from the lies and and the hate being validated instead of people taking a stand.

    On the other, anger begets angers. The real solution seems to be through compassion, listening and understanding, even if it’s more challenging.

    Not sure what I’d tell my kids if I had them… I don’t even know what steps I can take to be more politically effective as an individual. But I do know that everything is impermanent, this too will change!

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