Updated: Mar 12
The left and right share much in common, including compassion only for the 'right' people
"Where's your compassion?" she screamed at me in a comment on another blogging platform.
"Where's your brain?" I asked.
We argued whether transwomen's rights were more important than actual women's rights. She hewed to the 'woke' narrative, I spoke for the Reality Community.
I've pondered compassion a lot in the year since that argument (I got kicked off the famously far-left platform shortly after and wonder if she had something to do with it) and today I'd ask a different question.
"Where's YOUR compassion? For women, Ms. So-Called Feminist?"
Her heart was in the right place--after all, most of us can agree people have the right to live how they want without hassle or violence--but not her brain. She accepted uncritically the 'woke' metanarrative that how you identify is what you are, when clearly that's not true. Or no one would question Donald Trump's identity as the rightful, lawful President of the United States.
Since women have been an underclass for forever and men only when they chose to don dresses and wigs and post endless narcissistic Instagram photos, my compassion for them is more limited than it is for, say, female prisoners - emphasis on the word connoting powerlessness - who don't want people imprisoned for sexual offenses sharing a jail cell with them.
But still. Ms. So-Called Feminist had a tangential point. I'm low-TERF; just as one's right to swing your fist stops at my face, your right to parade your dick around stops at the same place. But I knew who I was heartless and uncompassionate about. Trumpers. MAGAs. White nationalists. Misogynist men.
Did I just trigger you?
How much do we have in common with 'those people'?
I'll be honest; I can't stand fundamentalist Christians. I grew up in the United States and remember the modern day movement's birth. It started not with famously fundamentalist Ronald Reagan but during conservative Christian Jimmy Carter's reign, in 1976 with a mysterious slogan.
Bible-thumping had left the revival tent and was about to be discovered with an annoying believer near all of us. The ignorati asked, "Found what?" which was their invitation to tell us about Jesus.
I grew up in a nice mainstream, progressive Lutheran church and family, and we didn't like those 'Bible thumpers' much.
I argued with them in college, left Christianity and later wrote many articles criticizing them in a local alternative newspaper which today I would regard as a bit extreme (my articles, not the newspaper).
I still can't stand 'fundies', considering them Trump-loving fake Christians along with their fellow MAGAs, white nationalists, and toxic masculine males and fangirls.
But I've begun to ask myself, "Why are they the way they are?"
I excuse my lack of compassion, reasoning they chose who they are, their values, their toxic ideologies. They may have been born into a certain religion or culture, but they can escape it if they choose, along with their politics, values, and assumptions.
But were they truly as free to leave as I thought?
After all, everyone has a story, and negative beliefs imply it's never a pretty one.
Sometimes life is like a difficult video game you can't shut down and walk away from when you get frustrated. Maybe you've tried to find a way out and you can't; you wander around forever trying doors that are locked because you haven't found the mystery device or life decision to liberate you. Learned helplessness teaches you God wants you here, this is your lot in life, you're not good enough and there's nothing much you can do but shoot meth and let Tucker Carlson or QAnon assure you it's everyone's fault but yours.
Fundamentalist ministers encourage you to vote for the masters who prefer you in your place and persuade you to stay there, and God will reward you in death.
We don't know the other side's stories, and we make ill-informed judgements about them.
Why does that woman hate men so much? Because she's one of those hateful, misandrist feminists! But why? Why did she go down that path and not another?
There may well be a tale, or several, of trauma and abuse involving males. Or maybe she was raised to hate men by her angry, resentful mother. Maybe men abused the hate into her. A cousin or uncle who molested her.
Maybe she doesn't know another way, because she believes her own mental bullshit.
Why does that asshole insist on living in a trailer park? Doesn't he know he should lay off the heroin and get his goddamn GED? Others have worked their way out of poverty; look at J.D. Vance!
That MAGA isn't J.D. Vance and didn't grow up the same way he did and maybe he just gave up trying for various reasons, good or bad.
It's easy to feel compassion for those we can relate to, with whom we've shared their struggles; less so for the ones with whom we have little in common.
I don't understand why fundamentalist Christians hew to a clearly unscientific, historically flawed history to explain why humanity sucks - is it 'sin', or our complex, flawed brains? - but I try to understand why they choose that path. Maybe they prefer simplistic answers, or they prefer the deeper ties with a community of like-minded individuals. Maybe they're afraid of the responsibility a more worldly view entails. Maybe they see how screwed-up the rest of us are and think, "Not for me. I only need Jesus."
It's an 'insular bubble', but so too are our own, wrapped up in our own little religions - 'woke', liberal/conservative politics, fan culture, 'furries', #MeToo.
Traditional liberal thought is rooted in compassion for others and accommodating and debating other points of view. It's what drove blindly privileged white people to support the early civil rights movement, and heterosexuals to embrace gay rights. To ask the questions, "Why should a black skin matter when applying for a job?" and "What skin is it off my nose who they love?"
The left's conceit is that we're more compassionate than Those Other People. Liberals, like conservatives, are imperfect humans too, less inclined to show compassion for those they don't think of as 'downtrodden' or in today's parlance, 'marginalized'.
The left has fallen into the rigid trap the right fell into long ago.
Give me that old-time Woke religion
The seventies marked the fundamentalizing of the Religious right, and the late eighties the 'fundamentalizing' of liberalism.
Today's highly illiberal extreme left is a 'woke' religion indistinguishable from fundamentalist Christianity save for its only difference - one God.
Like their Christian brethren, they're more unforgiving of Those Others.
When TV evangelist Jim Bakker fell from grace after a sexual affair with a woman in the '80s, Christians forgave him. When Jimmy Swaggart publicly confessed with tears and shaking voice to hiring prostitutes to perform weird sexual stuff, Christians forgave him. And then again when he did it again. They forgave Christian politicians for diddling other men - repeatedly - "Hate the sin, not the sinner" - and today have so abandoned Christian moral standards they voted for Donald Trump, arguably the biggest sinner the Republican party has ever rallied behind. Their 'pro-life' claims now lie in shambles with their support for Herschel Walker, a man of Trump-level stupidity with multiple baby mamas, who's paid for at least two abortions.
Christian fundamentalists demonstrate what Buddhists call 'idiot compassion' for the wrong people for the wrong reasons.
Idiot compassion is what Ms. So-Called Feminist exhibited when she asked where my compassion was for transwomen. I asked where her brain was because she should see transwomen aren't the same as born women mostly from the vehement misogyny coming from many. Putting on a dress and wig and calling yourself Mary Anne doesn't negate traditional predatory male sexual behavior.
The 'woke', like Christian fundies, will forgive anyone who shares their own insular bubble.
One wonders how the compassion game will politically unfold after a mass shooter targeted an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado last week by a male-born suspect identifying as 'non-binary'. Guess what? He hails from a right-wing, conservative Mormon family.
Oh, the cognitive dissonance for both sides! Will the left condemn 'one of their own', if the accused turns out to be another right-wing extremist? Will the right excuse him for 'mental illness' as they always do with their own mass shooters, or will they fold in embarrassment that a crazy gender identity nut came from a conservative Christian family?
The fundamentalism police
Another commonality both extremes share is turning on each other for insufficient devotion to The Cause.
Wokeists, like Christian fundamentalists, police each other like the Gestapo.
The holy rollers keep an eagle eye out for sin, especially anything sexual, while wokeists patrol social media, looking for anyone who's not woke enough. If they find someone they don't like, and can't find a good reason, they'll dig back practically to the point of their target's birth to find something untoward that person said or did.
Because, you know, the Holy Wokers themselves are sinless.
Putting aside our own biases
Ms. So-Called Feminist's question is worthy of all our consideration.
I don't worry about my acceptance of transwomen. My TERFiness extends no farther than keeping men out of women's-only spaces until they can handle the responsibility, which I believe won't be for at least a few generations. Maybe a century or more. You don't erase thousands of years of patriarchal entitlement and objectification in just a few.
I focus my attention on my far more visceral response for MAGAs and Bible Trumpers.
I've read books about the chronically poor to gain some insight into why they're so uneducated, why they don't understand white privilege, and why they're so inclined to bigotry.
I can never understand their lives as I grew up middle class. But I can try to understand what it must be like to go into debt over a rundown home, barely-functioning car or a health problem, and living a daily, endless struggle over paying the rent, the mortgage, their child's medication, and how they're going to keep their family eating.
They don't have time to do anything but struggle - stress, anxiety and depression their constant companions from dawn to dusk.
I can't understand the wokeists either, who, despite their fancy college educations, come across as hateful, dogmatic, and as ignorant as those for whom they have zero compassion.
Fundamentalist Christians get one thing right: We can hate the sin but not the sinner, or bigot. Christians may imperfectly apply that themselves (which is why there's a runoff between the highly flawed Herschel Walker and a Democratic Christian minister in Georgia), so there's something the left has in common with 'Bible-thumpers': They strive, and often fail, to be more like Jesus and on the left, we strive, and fail, to be better people too. But not always. If we can see the error of our ways we can change, and many have. Obama got elected partly because Republicans fed up with George Bush's party extremism voted for him (like my father, who told me Obama was the first and only Democrat he voted for before his death).
Some have left both the 'woke' because they're fed up with the lies, the hypocrisy, the misogyny, the racism, the anti-science, and the anti-intellectualism.
They see identity politics are as hateful, dogmatic and loathsome whether the bigot flies a Confederate or trans-activist flag.
They look at the history of enforced left-wing politics (Communism), recount the human catastrophes that resulted in China, the Soviet Union and North Korea, and realize that living under Kim Jong-un is no better than living under Hitler.
Compassion is good, and sorely lacking. Idiot compassion, unfortunately, is a pandemic.
We'd do well, when we accuse the uncompassionate, to start with ourselves.
So I ask: Who do YOU despise?
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