I can’t take credit for the phrase in the headline; I heard it on talk radio at some point this weekend. However, I’ve been wrapping my head around its genius ever since. Just to make sure that we’re all on the same page, empathy is the ability to share in another’s emotions or feelings. Listen closely to discussions of politics during this election cycle and you’re likely to hear an utter lack of empathy from either camp. Why bother trying to understand what members of the other party feel when you’re absolutely convinced you’re right, and that they’re idiots?
I don’t mean to suggest that we can solve all our problems by holding hands around a campfire and singing “Kumbaya” together. However, it may be a starting point. People with divergent ideals need to see the importance of listening to and respecting each other. Law and order conservatives, for instance, do not invite others to take them seriously when they cannot empathize with family members of those killed by the police. Similarly, progressives do themselves no favors when they would solve funding problems for entitlement programs merely by taxing the wealthy at higher rates. I don’t know if the lack of empathy on either side results from a lack of heart, a lack of imagination, or something else entirely. Regardless, the discourse between the candidates and their supporters must become more civil.