I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear that I’m a liberal commie pinko and so are a good number of my friends. (Heck, some of you are to the left of me!) So I hear a lot of the rhetoric from various parts of lefty America.
One thing I hear a lot (and have even said myself) is something along the lines of “if these red state folks just got a good education, they would…” vote Democratic or vote for whatever policy we support.
And…well…okay, I haven’t changed my opinion that people in blue states are (as a population) getting a better education than those in red states. But to claim that our current political climate is due to that difference in education is problematic.
It’s classist, for one thing. It assumes that people who vote Republican, such as working-class people or those who go into trades, are naturally less intelligent and less educated. (I dare you to rewire your house without killing yourself or redo your bathroom without flooding the floor. Now thank your local electrician and plumber who need to learn a lot to do what they do.)
The “they’re just uneducated” rhetoric also assumes that smarter and better educated people are always going to go to college or take AP-level courses and consequently will vote Democratic. There are obviously plenty of well-educated Republicans, so let’s just erase that idea, please.
But the reason I object the most is that I’m beginning to think that it misses the point entirely. What if the difference between people who voted for Hillary Clinton and people who voted for Donald Trump is a question of empathy instead?
(Quick sidenote: I’ve specifically said candidate names instead of Dem/GOP voters in the last graf, because I think my argument becomes less clear when you look at the GOP as a whole. I’m convinced it holds true for Trump voters and a good portion of the rest of the GOP, but by no means all of it.)
When I debate with Trump voters or see articles written by them or speeches given, I’m struck by their tone. It’s not just nasty (although it’s certainly that) but it shows an astounding lack of concern for people outside of their own group, whether that group is white people, Christians, or residents of Kansas.
There’s a lot of fear and hatred and a whole heck of a lot of “who cares what happens to them as long as I’ve got mine.” I see folks who can acknowledge their their own families were immigrants or refugees once, but don’t have an ounce of compassion for current immigrants and refugees.
In the Jewish community, I see Trump voters who say “well, he’s going to support Israel”. Hey, if he supports Israel, who cares what happens to Muslims or Syrians or LGBT folks, right? Who cares what happens to black or Hispanic people, as long as Israel is safe.
That’s an attitude that’s so alien to me, it might as well come from an actual different planet. (And hey, if that attitude could go back to that planet right now, that’d be cool. Thanks.)
But I see it again and again: “You gotta keep those trans kids out of our bathrooms because my kid is afraid!” Um…but what if the transgender kid is afraid? Have you ever considered their feelings? And have you considered that maybe if you didn’t tell your kid the lie that a transgender kid was going to attack them (find me some evidence for that claim!), maybe they wouldn’t be afraid. On the other hand, if they’re out at all, the transgender kid has probably already been attacked in the bathroom, so they’ve got evidence on their side.
“We can’t send aid to states hit by hurricanes because we need fiscal responsibility!” But that one’s only said when it’s someone else’s state hit by the hurricane. Believe me, when it’s their state, they want their federal aid and they want it now. The rank hypocrisy of this one makes me scream every time.
It’s not an education gap that created Trump voters, I feel, but an empathy gap. Somewhere along the line, a lot of people were never taught to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They never learned that we’re stronger when we all take care of each other, instead of just taking care of our own.
That empathy gap is why I’m sick and tired of the accusation that those of us who live in diverse communities filled with people from all walks of life and many different backgrounds are the ones who are in a bubble: divorced from reality, from the “real” America.
The real America is the Hispanic single mom who lives across the street from me with her twins, next door to the Asian couple with their young children and to the white guy on the other side who’s an original owner of his house in our post-WWII neighborhood of brick ramblers. It’s the woman next door to me who has one kid in college and one who’s just enlisted in the military and the couple down the street with two special needs kids and a rambunctious kid in pre-K.
It’s the boy in my son’s class who just moved here from Gabon and is well on his way to acquiring English to go along with his fluent French. It’s the Jewish kid sitting across the table from the Buddhist, flanked by two Christians. It’s the kids in the gifted program who are getting too much homework and the kids I help once a week who are just learning to read and spell.
It’s me and my husband and our friends teaching our children that every person is valuable, that every person deserves a decent life, and that nobody deserves to be excluded as the “Other.”
We have a gigantic empathy gap in this country and I don’t know how to bridge it. It’s difficult enough to teach empathy to young kids…how the hell do I teach it to adults?