The Vast Gulf Between Empathy and Republicans

by | May 1, 2024 | Opinions & Commentary

Photo by Annie Spratt, Unsplash

The Vast Gulf Between Empathy and Republicans

by | May 1, 2024 | Opinions & Commentary

Photo by Annie Spratt, Unsplash

The difference between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Fascists, is empathy. As you go up the empathy ladder, the lower rungs are thronged with MAGAts and what used to be the Republican party.

So I’m organizing my dairy cooler the other morning, moving boxes of eggs around, and as lifted one I saw, underneath, a fly. It had obviously been hurt—it was twitching and jerking around, and I almost brought the box down to squish it, and then I thought better of it, and let it be. And then I spent the next hour or so kicking myself for NOT killing it because, what kind of quality of life did that thing have at that point? Now, days later, I’m STILL in a kind of low-grade anguish about it. A fucking fly.

I’ve had to put down several cats over the course of my life, and each one wrenched me horribly. Once I had to kill a baby bird that had fallen and broken its wings, and I literally couldn’t sleep that night for the tears. And twice—which is two times too many—I’ve had dying grandparents ask me whether it was okay for them to let go. Like, you’re asking ME? Jesus christ. I should NEVER be put in that position. I won’t kill fucking WASPS, and they’re the most evil little bastards in the world. You don’t need MY permission to breathe your last.

I’m no saint. I’m not even a Jain. I eat meat, I wear leather, I’ve had the benefit of animal lab testing since I got my first vaccination, and, like I said, I’m responsible for the deaths of a few cats, one bird, and possibly two grandparents. But I feel all those deaths. I FEEL them. I’m fifty-five years old, and I still regret making fun of a kid I went to high school with, obsess over several petty acts of vandalism I committed when I was a pre-teen, and I actually get pissed at myself when I remember telling racial jokes to the other boys in third grade. Every time I’ve treated someone badly, every time I’ve let someone down, every time I’ve walked, change in my pocket, past a panhandler, they all play on permanent loop in my subconscious. Those fucking commercials for the dying elephants, and the abused pets, and the kids in Sudan with cleft palates? They WRECK me.

This is empathy. You, my friends, have it. You know what I’m talking about. We live our lives living EVERYONE’S life, whether a Palestinian orphan, a desperate pregnant teen in the parking lot of an Idaho hospital, a widow in eastern Ukraine, a trans child hounded into suicide, or even a fly with a broken body in a dairy cooler struggling to hold on to one more second of life.

And then there’s Kristi Noem, who shot her puppy in the face.

At root, the difference between liberals and conservatives, the difference between Democrats and Fascists, is the extent of our empathy. Pure sociopaths care only for themselves, and as you go up the empathy ladder, the lower rungs are thronged with conservatives, with MAGAts, with most of what used to be the Republican party. They care about themselves the MOST, but they also manage to care about their families, their congregations, their sports teams, and their political tribes.

They couldn’t care less about some Black woman in Mississippi unable to get an abortion in her hometown and unable to afford a bus ticket to the nearest good state, because maybe she shouldn’t have been such a whore, right? But when their daughter gets knocked up, they’re driving straight to the nearest Planned Parenthood. Someone in Texas who accidentally voted thinking she was eligible? Lock her the fuck up. Some guy in Colorado casting a fascist ballot for his dead wife? A patriot. George Floyd was a thug who deserved what he got. Donald Trump is being railroaded.

You see it over and over again. The rules apply to the other side. Look at the hell Bill Clinton went through for lying about a blow job, and look at the excuses made for someone who digitally raped a woman in a department store, fucked Stormy Daniels a few floors below his wife nursing his newborn son, and said he’d date his daughter. There’s a long history of church conservatives raping children, beating off while watching the pool boy shtup their wives, impregnating congregants, indulging in same-sex encounters in railway restrooms, and then getting up in the pulpit on Sundays and damning all that stuff to Hell when THE OTHER SIDE does it.

We liberals, we empathetic humans, LIKE screwing, and we want EVERYONE to have sex, unless they don’t want to, that’s cool too. Long as your partner is of legal age and consents, fuck away, pal. Straight sex, gay sex, group sex, public sex in a sauna at the swinger’s club, bondage, domination, circle jerks, whatever. You do you. You do whomever wants to be done. I have no moral issue with Trump having an affair with Karen McDougal, or a quickie with Stormy Daniels, or that Falwell asshole enjoying watching his wife with other men, or even all those Alpha influencers urging their incel followers to treat women like shit so long as the women WANT to be treated like shit. It’s a big, wide, weird world out there, and when we die it’s all over, so get what pleasure you can while we’re here. It’s the fucking HYPOCRISY that’s maddening.

It’s shouting that America is becoming godless because of Democrats, and then vaping in a theater while giving your boyfriend a handjob, because the rules don’t apply to YOU. It’s Gaetz ordering up a couple underage girls on his app like he’s ordering takeout Thai food, and then proclaiming he’s in the party of morals. It’s Chris Sununu and Bill Barr saying that, yeah, Trump probably isn’t fit to be President, but at least he’s better than Biden.

No, he’s fucking NOT. Look at him over the last couple weeks. He’s shriveled. He’s spent. If he’s not completely demented, he’s not far away. He keeps falling asleep in the courtroom. And, apparently, farting serious old-man farts. He has a young blonde woman following him around with a wireless printer, churning out papers for him to brandish at his post-court pity performances in his little cattle barricade with his little hands, and then he goes out to golf, because that’s his only happy place right now, a place where everyone’s subservient to him and everyone treats him respectfully and he always wins.

President Biden is sending missiles to Ukraine, and getting rid of unfair airline fees, and forgiving student debt, and backing unions, backing reproductive rights, cracking jokes at the Correspondents’ Dinner and sitting for an hour and a half interview with Howard Stern, and Trump is whining about how cold he is and bitching that he can’t spend Melania’s birthday with her because he’s on trial for serially cheating on her and then paying serious jack to hide the fact, and racking up another couple of contempt charges every time he fires up the Twitter machine.

Do I feel for him? I honestly do. He’s old, and scared. I’ve noticed my own mind not moving as smoothly as it used to, and my body starting to tell me I’m not young anymore so maybe use a hand truck on those eggs rather than fucking up your back, hmm? and while I don’t care about my scars and wrinkles and bald patches, all the new nostril hair and liver spots, I can imagine being someone who DOES care about all that shit, and having a cackling coven of courtroom artists delightedly detailing it for the general public while you doze, shiver, and poot your sad, stale old-man poots.

But empathy only goes so far. I care much, much more about that fly in my cooler than I do about Donald Trump. If he asked me, as my grandparents did, whether it was okay for him to let go, I would be the most excited motherfucker on Earth. “Yes!” I’d say, “absolutely! You do that! And say hi to O.J. and Epstein when you get there!”

Imma finish this essay with a poem by Oregon’s all-time laureate, William Stafford. To me, it’s the definition of empathy. Feel free to skip it, though, if you’re not into verse.

Traveling through the Dark

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

John Philip Sunseri II

John Philip Sunseri II

John Philip Sunseri II is a horror writer from Portland, Oregon. As well as writing traditional horror fiction he also writes Lovecraftian horror. John spent two years at Yale University studying a major in English.

Writing since 2001, John has published over 50 short stories. 2007 saw the release of his first novel, The Spiraling Worm co-written with Australian author David Conyers.

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