By Marguerite Jill Dye
“Empathy, not apathy, is going to change the world,” Seane Corn declared in the Sounds True Summit, “Waking Up in the World.”
“Empathy” is to identify with the feelings, thoughts, and attitudes of another. “Apathy,” also from Greek, is the refusal to suffer. Perhaps to understand the “other” we must recognize and feel their pain.
It is said that if we change the people we change the systems, if we change the systems we transform society and if we transform society, we change the world. The time has come for change.
I lost my faith in our Supreme Court when Anita Hill’s testimony was ignored and Clarence Thomas was appointed judge. The current debacle further demonstrates how corrupt our “pinnacle of due process” is. If the rule of law and due process is rejected with Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the Supreme Court will further lose any credibility it had left. “Its democratic legitimacy is under threat,” a political commentator said.
It’s a great waste of human potential when we exclude, mistreat, discriminate, and undermine certain groups of society. A certain degree of inherent respect for other human beings, including women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, the disabled, LGBTQ, immigrants and refugees, and other creatures, for that matter, is a basic moral value. All people are valuable and each person is unique. Who says who doesn’t belong?
“Othering” isn’t helping us create a great society. It encourages separation, segregation, unacceptance, discrimination, even violence and hatred. “Othering” implies “they” are less while some are more. “Othering” is the opposite of “mothering,” raising up and encouraging.
When humiliating, belittling, degrading, and assaulting isn’t challenged or rejected, “othering” gains more power, damaging the “others” to their core. “Others” retreat into their shells, damaged and fearing the next assault on their being and/or bodies. The initial and ensuing assaults continue to weaken their self-confidence, ability to act and to put themselves out into the world. The damage that “othering” does to the psyche is catastrophic and unimaginable. That’s why it’s called “trauma”: anything that overcomes our ability to cope and leaves us feeling helpless and powerless.
For those burdened with “otherhood,” the unhealed assaults on their bodies and personhood remain “indelible in the hippocampus,” as victim and witness Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified about her chilling attack.
I realize we all make mistakes when we are young, but most certainly someone we choose to lead, teach, or judge, even in any lower court or office, should possess a history of human decency and respect. This should also go for higher offices! Is it any wonder many Americans have lost faith in our elections due to the blatant hypocrisy, corruption, sexism, and lack of action against Russian intervention? The only remedy is to vote!
As long as those in power continue their current practice of absolving boys for being boys, grown boys who are bullies will continue to reward themselves with wealth and power at the expense of the “others” they mistreat and abuse.
It’s time for bullies and those in power to be held accountable for their actions and to undergo training in empathy and compassion. It’s time for “others” to stand up together and no longer be treated as second-class citizens. It’s time that we American citizens embrace them through our own words, thoughts, and actions. May we awaken to celebrate our differences, knowing in our hearts that we are One.
Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between the Green Mountains of Vermont and Florida’s Gulf Coast.