Mike Kueber's Blog

December 10, 2012

Republican empathy (or lack thereof)

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:33 pm
Tags: , ,

Last week, Jon Stewart attacked his guest NJ Governor Chris Christie for the Republican Party’s lack of empathy for the challenges faced by disadvantaged minorities, suggesting that Republicans have a mental disorder.  Stewart’s thinking reflects that of a friend of mine from Wisconsin, who suggested to me that Paul Ryan might be a sociopath who simply doesn’t care about other people although one might counter with the point that empathy and self-reliance are not natural partners.

Stewart attempted to support his diatribe by using former VP Dick Cheney as an example.  Cheney is generally considered to be conservative to the core, yet when he was personally exposed to a disadvantaged minority (his daughter is a lesbian), he surprisingly transformed into a tolerant, sensitive individual who endorsed same-sex marriage.

I recall a similar situation involving Don Imus a few years ago.  Imus made a joke about “nappy-headed hos” on the Rutgers’ girls basketball team, and the resulting brouhaha resulted in Imus’s talk show being taken off the air.  When he returned a couple of years later, after profusely apologizing for his crude humor, Imus promised to never make similar insults.  To help him from falling into that mindset, he added a black person, Tony Powell, to his cast, and Powell’s presence is palpable whenever a topic takes on racial overtones, just as the presence of Imus’s Jewish sportscaster, Warner Wolf, is felt whenever Imus and his band of merrymakers want to make some witty humor at the expense of Jews.

I experienced a similar bout of sensitivity in dealing with the Confederacy.  I grew up idolizing the southern rebels and, because I didn’t have any black friends or even acquaintances, I didn’t appreciate that the Confederacy was insulting to them.  Later in life, after moving to Texas and getting to know some black people, I eventually concluded that the insult to them outweighed my admiration of the rebel spirit, and now I rarely display my affection for the spirit of the confederates.       

So, I concede that Republicans are probably not as empathetic to people outside of the American mainstream because they are not as regularly exposed to outliers.  But I think it is unfair to characterize this trait as a mental disorder.  Of course, conservative talk show host Michael Savage wrote a book that declared liberalism is a mental disorder, so I guess turnabout is fair play.

 

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