April 30th, 2015
This week there have been three FB posts that have set my blood to boil. All of them are diverse in subject, but common in theme. One was a video of a social experiment where a “homeless” man tried to give others money. Another was a post about Baltimore and the author of the post seeking to understand perspective, and the last was a post about abortion, comparing the outrage of the execution of eight convicts in Indonesia to the lack of outrage over abortion, which in the poster’s eyes, equated to execution. While the subject material is diverse, the theme, “judgment of others”, is similar. As I read and re-read the threads, it occurred to me it didn’t matter which side of the argument one might gravitate toward. The underlying, systemic issues remain.
In the video, which you can view here, the viewer is treated to the responses this “homeless” man receives when he tries to offer up a positive message. He holds a sign with “No one has ever gone broke by giving” written on it and offers passers-by $10.00 with the explanation that it makes him feel rich to give. Most of the responses he received were despicable. Most of the men threw the money back at him, telling him to f*ck off. They called him names and dismissed him with a flip of their hand. “I could buy you,” came out of more than one person’s mouth. When did having money make someone better than those who don’t have it? The superiority these individuals demonstrated emphasized their lack of empathy and solidified their disdain for someone they perceived to be beneath them.
In the post about Baltimore, the individual who originated the post sought perspective. He wondered if there was a similarity in emotions behind The Boston Tea Party as there were to those rioting and looting in Baltimore. His wording did not suggest he condoned the behaviors, but instead postulated that perhaps we needed to be more empathetic to the causes and seek understanding in order to find a solution. The post blew up. Males responded, white males, calling bullsh*t on the race card. They spouted their firm belief that everyone in this country has the same opportunity as everyone else regardless of race, gender, or orientation. Take a moment, let that sink in. They are firmly ensconced in the camp that race and inequality are not viable arguments for societal problems. Apparently those are excuses for when things don’t work out the way someone hoped. How does one even begin to argue with that level of privileged ignorance ? More importantly, that attitude and belief system perpetuates the problem and does nothing to solve it. Why can we not step out of our comfort zones and “see” people?
The final post, and the one that angered me the most, was the one that compared the outrage of the execution of eight convicts in Indonesia to the lack of outrage over abortion. I planned to stay off of that thread because arguing empathy and understanding is pointless to those who use words like murder, execution, and annihilation to describe abortion. However, when one woman came on talking about spirituality and a book she had read entitled “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom,” he referred to the title as Women’s Indoctrination. Indoctrination into what, exactly? Owning ourselves as women and not needing a man’s perspective to define ourselves or our choices?
What I found so obnoxious about this thread is the implication that it’s on the woman because she’s the one who has the abortion. This philosophy has been handed down to us since biblical times. When Jesus stood at the well and told the crowd, let he who has not sinned throw the first stone, where was the man? Did he not also commit adultery along with the woman about to be stoned? When Jesus told her to “go and sin no more” did that also pertain to the man? He was not held accountable in the eyes of the villager or the woman. How could this ideology NOT pass down through generations. The bible implied it was her fault and when we scream, “Enough!” then we, as women, face the villagers with stones in their hands. I wish I could claim the brilliance behind this analogy, but I have to give credit to Father Joe who posed this argument to our congregation at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. His point was not to denounce the Bible, or the story, but to remind us to look at the entire picture.
The majority of abortions performed in the United States, 69% of them 1, are performed on women living at or below poverty levels. They are single and childless or single mothers. Where are the men? Why are they not being held accountable? The vast majority of abortions would not be necessary if the fathers stayed in the picture, because according to data, women would keep the babies if they could provide for them, yet women are the ones who are blamed, called names, shamed for making a decision most of us cannot imagine having to face.
All of these problems are systemic to our society. Sitting in judgment solves nothing except to solidify our notion of superiority. It is very easy to cast stones when we have not experienced the plight of another. We can say with supreme authority what we would do in a given situation because we haven’t had to face it. It is comfortable to sit in our world of privilege and not entertain the notion that perhaps we are part of the problem. One of my favorite quotes from Steven Covey is “When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you get more creative in solving problems.” We need to stop judging one another and seek empathy so we can find these needed solutions. We need to stop throwing stones and start having conversations, start building an infrastructure of humanity, and understand that OUR world, is not THE world. Every one of us is either part of the problem or part of the solution. It doesn’t matter where your sensibilities fall, what matters is whether you work to find solutions or work to build a greater divide. As it says in Matthew 22, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Maybe when we can live by those words, we will be able to address the issues and find resolution. Until then, seek empathy. Step outside your comfort zone and strive to understand someone else’s reality. Empathy doesn’t equate to condoning or accepting. Empathy means you feel another’s pain and are more apt to help than you are to judge. In the words of Maya Angelou, “I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.”