A lot of people are expressing surprise at how terrible people are. They are disappointed in family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers who refuse to wear masks, or who refuse to stay in and avoid socializing, or who appear to be racists or, at the very least, unconcerned about racism (which really are the same thing, but that’s another discussion). I think all this awareness is because we are in a strange moment in time, facing many existential and identity challenges at once. Though it seems shocking to see how selfish people are, I think we’re just experiencing people outing themselves right and left as zero-sum-gamers.
One theme that presents itself over and over again in human history is that during times of great stress – famine, war, natural disasters – the capacity for empathy in general suffers as people attend to their own survival. That’s why stories about people rising above catastrophes make us feel so good – because we realize that it’s special, and admirable, to rise above one’s own pain to care for others.
So when we have tremendous failures of empathy, I tend to look for the tragedy driving it. And right now, I don’t see it.
Dear White People,
I’m glad we’re discussing race. As the heirs & beneficiaries of the systems that limit people of color, it’s our job to end institutional racism. We must examine our attitudes, prejudices, behaviors, and fears, and understand how they contribute to stereotyping, exclusion, and violence. Yes, we need to talk.
My daughter has two children and is pregnant with her third. She’s also works full time as a nurse, and she just returned to school to become a Nurse Practitioner. She’s really busy. I go to her house on Wednesday and Friday mornings to take care of the kids, and while I’m there I’ll do things that need doing. A load of laundry. A sink full of dishes. Whatever I find.
This drives my daughter crazy. She appreciates it, but she feels like I shouldn’t be cleaning her house. She says, “You do too much already.” Then she says the thing that really matters – as if I needed her to explain herself: “I don’t have time to do it all, so I let the things sit that can wait, and I don’t do the things that don’t need to be done. I’m OK with that.”
As people tire of social unrest, there are those who would suggest that this is a culture "war." That kneeling is somehow a form of disrespect. That broken windows are worse than a life ended. That trying to elevate one group of people somehow oppresses another group of people.
Don't let them fool you for a moment.
I didn't watch the Super Bowl yesterday. It's just not my thing. Normally it would have been on at my house, because my wife is a rabid football fan, but we respected Super Bowl Silence this year since she's still bruised over the Packers.
I was peripherally aware that Katy Perry was doing the Half Time show. She's a talented young lady (though not an artist I follow much), so I assumed it would be entertaining. Yet, when I looked at my Facebook feed at the end of the day, all I saw was Katy Perry bashing. A lot of it. People - adults - complaining that she's not talented, she's an offense to music, she’s worse than every other available singer, and that the NFL was stupid for hiring her. How tiresome.