Other people’s needs

Francine Prose has thoughts on Trump’s cult of callous brutalism:

[U]ltimately our president’s failure of empathy is less disturbing than the ways in which it appears to resonate with his supporters. He and his allies have framed our response to the crisis in terms of partisan politics, to imply (incorrectly, as the polls suggest) that tough conservatives are eager to get back to work sooner than scaredy-cat, stay-at-home progressives.

The flag-waving, gun-toting, defiantly unmasked protesters storming the capitol buildings in Michigan and Wisconsin would seem to support that view.

Indeed they would, and isn’t that bizarre. A virus isn’t political. It’s not “liberal” or “hard left” or even “socialist” to want to avoid a lethal virus and to avoid giving it to others. It’s bizarre that so many on the right seem to be happy to claim that it is.

It may be that the deepening polarization in our country – the suspicion, grievance and rage that the president is spouting and encouraging – is less political than spiritual. These divides go deeper than how we vote; they express our core beliefs about our responsibility to those with whom we share this brief span on this damaged planet. As Slate editor Tom Scocca posted on Twitter: “Conservatives have by now been conditioned to believe that thinking about other people ‘s needs or interests in any way is tyranny by definition,” a sentiment echoed by Emily Raboteau in the Huffington Post: “I can’t debate someone into caring about what happens to our fellow human beings.”

That is why I keep disputing people like Neil deGrasse Tyson when they say reason and evidence are not just necessary but also sufficient. They’re not sufficient. The instinct to give a damn has to be there too.

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