Dear Conservatives: Empathy Applies To Bad People, Too. (Part 2)


Then why is he still alive?” – Under The Red Hood

Since the beginning of time, there have been bad people. And since the beginning of time, good people have had to decide what to do with bad people. And that’s where things get dicey.

In the most recent days, I’ve heard people talking about what we need to do with ISIS, but the ones that have stuck with me are the suggestions that we should just bomb them. Not only is this idea devoid of an understanding of how complex the situation is, it’s devoid of empathy, and here’s why.

ISIS is not the only place where this startling lack of empathy can creep up. It creeps up when people think that those on welfare are just lazy and should stop abusing the system. It’s leveraged when talking about how okay it is that many prisoners receive inadequate or harmful medical treatment. Or, you can check out how easy it was to shift the tide of empathy for unarmed 18 year old Michael Brown when it was found out that he had stolen cigars from a gas station.

Yeah, I get it. We feel that there must be justice. Some form of retribution. Some vengeance. But too often what people in search of vengeance do not stop to consider is what they will not do. After all, if we’re going to call ourselves the good guys and our enemies the bad ones, we should have a reason for that.

What is the distinction between them and us? What exactly is the difference between a member of Al-Qaeda being willing to blow up a plane in pursuit of an ideal he believes in, regardless of the collateral lives lost, and us being unconcerned with the amount of false convictions in our prison system? What is the difference between 9/11 and daily drone strikes?

What’s the difference between a damned killer and a righteous one?

Basically, in order to be a good person, there have to be some things that you are not willing to do, even when dealing with extreme evil. Because that’s the definition of a good person. People being evil doesn’t mean all bets are off on how we decide to treat them.

What’s the difference between a damned killer and a righteous one?

Monsters come in many forms, and you can’t tell me that you’re willing to indiscriminately bomb these countries (as we do), support waterboarding (as Evangelicals do), forced sodomy, rectally infused puree (Abu Ghraib), etc, AND you don’t want me to call you a monster. If you do not carefully construct your worldview to include things that you are not willing to do for justice, if you are truly willing to do anything to defeat ISIS, or to feel safe, you will end up doing despicable things that will corrode your heart.

Because we must be good. And as it turns out, being good is actually the hard thing to do.

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One thought on “Dear Conservatives: Empathy Applies To Bad People, Too. (Part 2)”

  1. I was thinking about war the other day and specifically the so-called rules of warfare. The idea of the rules of warfare comes from the idea that “the ends justify the means” is not an appropriate moral code to follow. However, the reason we go to war is not because we find war itself to be noble, but because we see it as the only viable option in order to achieve our goals of freedom, humanity, world peace, or whatever. Under normal circumstances, we would find systematically killing mass numbers of people horrendous, but we are willing to use this horrendous means to achieve our noble end goals. Sure, chemical warfare is not noble. But is there any form of warfare which is noble? When we go to war rather than solely relying on diplomacy (and most likely being killing ourselves), we are already living under the moral code of “the ends justify the means.” We label people as enemies or innocents and we justify killing enemies because they are the ones directly impeding our end goal (and sometimes the end goal is just not being killed ourselves). But why is killing an enemy morally acceptable, but killing an innocent not? The act in both cases is killing; the only difference is that one act of killing directly helps achieve our end goal, while the other is more indirect, but both can be argued to help achieve our goals.

    We could just bomb ISIS and each consecutive threat that pops up and by doing so we would survive and retain a life of “freedom,” but we would also be compromising our moral integrity (and giving up our empathy). That is of course, unless someone can show that killing another person (as an action in and of itself and not as a means to an end) is good.


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