Empathy

I went to an Anti Trump gathering tonight.

Image may contain: one or more people, people walking, sky, night and outdoor

It was heartening, seeing that one is not alone in knowing that the Executive Orders that the current POTUS are abhorrent. We just need to make sure not to lose this momentum, or our empathy.

Terry Pratchett said that “Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.”

I believe that that is true.

One way of treating people as things is by treating them as labels, which is something that seems to happen a lot these days.

It’s very easy to lump a group of people into categories. The dichotomy of creating this “us” and “them” vibe can even be comforting. But I think that it is also intrinsically damaging.

People can belong to a religion, but they are not just their religious beliefs, any more than people with green eyes are green eyes. It is a part of what makes up their being, sure, but not all of it. It’s the same with gender, or sexuality, or race.

People may be many things, but they are always, first and foremost, people.

Once you begin to ignore this and start to classify certain human beings as “other”, it is easier to ignore and excuse injustices made against those “others”, because they’re not like us, right?

Except they are. Everyone is human.

And once you ignore injustices happening to one group of others, it becomes easier and easier to ignore injustices happening to other groups, too. And others.

This is why it’s important for everyone to speak up against cruelty towards any group, but especially those most vulnerable. It’s most important for those in positions of power or privilege – white people, men, cisgender, heterosexuals – to speak up for other, less privileged/powerful people. Because if you don’t, who will be left to speak up for you when your time comes?

Because that’s the tricky thing about ignoring violence against groups. One day the group being targeted could be yours.

So say it with me folks: people are not their nationality. They are not their religion, sexuality, gender, or any other character trait. They are other people, just like you, looking out with terror and wonder at the world from the dark place behind their eyes.

We all need to practice empathy to remind ourselves of this fact, and then do whatever is in our power to help our siblings, and treat them as people, not things.

 

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