Thursday, January 12, 2012

Empathy

I love liberals.

Why?

Because I believe that – deep inside – they are happy.

I’m not saying they’re happy about the world situation.

How could they be?

The world is at war, economies are failing, and here in the United States, unemployment and housing foreclosures have put millions of people at risk of realizing their American dream. At the same time, our country’s public education system is mostly deplorable, and there is so much homelessness that shelters must consistently turn people away.

So, no, the liberals are not happy about the world situation.

What they are, however, is comfortable in their own skin.

As for others? Non-liberals? I’m not sure about their comfort levels. I think just about everything that isn’t just like them makes them uneasy. Other races (such as might come in the form of a black president) scare them, and so they parlay that fear into allegedly “just” legislation (or no legislation at all). Independent thinking gives them the creeps, and so they seek to enact policies that promote controlled action. They distrust someone who views the whole of humanity because doing so flies in the face of “us” versus “them.”

Non-liberals need enemies in order to justify the fear on which their thoughts and actions are based.

Non-liberals are uncomfortable people, and if they have it their way, discomfort will become the rule of law.

… Last year, I had the pleasure of attending a screening of Klute at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (what we townies call “LACMA”). And what made the event a particular pleasure was Jane Fonda’s appearance, after the film. She sauntered onto the stage, a martini in hand, and proceeded to engage those of us in the audience for nearly an hour.

I’ve always admired Fonda’s work, but that night, I became a huge fan. She was beyond dynamic, and she also said something that – while not altogether enlightening – was so well-presented that it made me think. She had been talking, of course, about her experiences as an actress, and she shared that the reason so many Hollywood types are liberal is because actors are naturally empathic.

How true. But, that empathy is not just limited to actors.

Hollywood, which earns a bazillion dollars a year, takes in that profit because of collective empathy.

A screenwriter cannot create a credible script unless he or she understands a variety of characters.

A producer cannot get that screenplay “green-lit” unless he or she believes that those characters’ stories will resonate with the audience.

A director cannot elicit truth from the movie’s actors and actresses unless that director can envision the emotions that underlie a scene.

And the actors themselves demonstrate, through their performances, the empathy they share with the screenwriters, the producers, and the directors.

Empathy.

It’s brought a boatload of money to Hollywood, so maybe it’s a profiting formula.

Something for non-liberals to consider.

… It also makes me wonder. Movie theatres are dark. They are places where we, the audience, can react in private ways. They are places where, even when we’re in a crowd, we can feel an incredibly personal connection.

Given John Boehner’s propensity for tears, I cannot help but wonder: Did The Help make him cry (even though he probably expresses racism privately and with his cronies)? If he saw Edward Scissorhands back when it came out, did he respond emotionally to the protagonist’s plight (even though that protagonist does not “fit in”)? And going back further: I bet E.T. was a multi-kleenex experience for our “Speaker.” But: if that same extra-terrestrial showed up in his congressional district, Boehner would give him a one-way ticket off the planet.

Non-liberals may have empathy deep, deep, deep in their souls, but feeling it, and ultimately exposing it, scares the hell out of them.

And it is probably for that reason, more than any other, that they are unable to imagine the financial advantages of kind decision-making.

16 comments:

sonia said...

I completely agree with you on all levels. I am a die-hard liberal, left of left, if you will, and feel like non-liberals and I come from different planets. I just don't understand how anyone can be so fearful of what they don't understand... especially if they're educated people. Or so filled with hatred. Maybe I'm coming off judgmental but from my personal experience with non-liberals they seem far angrier than liberals even though liberals rightfully deserve to be so.

Martha Mawson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martha Mawson said...

Brilliantly written and brilliantly presented. I would say one of your best, but I have yet to read one of your blogs that isn't a "best." (Dad would be so proud - and he would look at you with that wide-eyed look of wonder. "How'd you become so wise?" he'd ask. The apple didn't fall far from either of the parental trees.)

Kittie Howard said...

Great post! When I meet a certain type of person (don't think I have to explain) and that person finds out I'm from Louisiana, most of the time racial slurs spew forth about the president. I firmly state that I approve of the president, don't like and won't listen to such horrible talk and walk away. It's really, really, really bad what's being said out there! I also find it odd that conservatives can say what they wish, but get in-your-face hostile if someone disagrees. These people are soooooo angry! What's going on now is a very serious situation. We're just going to have to push to get people to vote!!!

Jules said...

So agree. I'm so far left I'm sneaking up on the rear of right. :) Non-liberals scare the heck out of me because they remind me of a cookie factory; same flavor, same shape...

OH, Jane! I would love to hear her speak, on anything! I too love her work.
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Sioux said...

I agree. Fear is at the base of what they do and what they think...

I too love Jane Fonda. I was always fascinated with her, because her father seemed a bit distant--emotionally. (I always compared him to Jimmy Stewart.)

deborahjbarker said...

Interesting for me to read this post, being in the UK, but I am drawn to Martha's comment and thinking what a lovely thing to say. She is right when she describes your writing and I am sure she is right about your dad's reaction too. I wouldn't make it as a politician - I see the good in everyone and both sides to every argument - does that make me liberal? I don't mind if it does!

Katie Gates said...

Thanks to all for your comments, and unrelated to that: I don't get the sudden comments in italics thing. Are you seeing what I'm seeing? I swear, I didn't do anything administrative from my dashboard. Blogspot has no empathy for my technological challenges!

Ricardo Miñana said...

Hi Katie, always a pleasure going through your interesting space
I wish you happy weekend.
a hug.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Well, now, I sure feel right at home here. Couldn't agree with you more about liberals. Alas, I happen to live in an area in Georgia where "liberal" is pretty much a dirty word, and most minds are so closed, you couldn't force a new idea in with a shoe horn. Talk about frustrating! Reckon I'll have to hide out here. Count me in as your newest follower.

Fireblossom said...

What an interesting and insightful piece. Especially the part about Hollywood.

I want to thank you for your visit and comments at my Word Garden. Please drop back by any time.

Reviewer11 said...

Hi, I saw your comment over at Nancy's blog. You mentioned you self-published. Where? How did you do it for advertizing. That's hard. I too am having a hard time getting my work published. :(

mshatch said...

What an excellent post. And I couldn't agree more with it and everything everyone else had to say. And I think you're right, at the bottom lies fear which breeds distrust which gives birth to us and them.

cj Schlottman said...

Katie, What's left to say? I'll just comment with a rousing ditto!

Namaste...........cj

Jayne Martin said...

You've totally hit on it here. Conservatives are driven by such fear. I read somewhere that the brains of liberals and conservatives are actually wired differently. Conservatives tends to see things as black or white, while liberals see a whole range of grays in between. It makes a lot of sense -- as do you, as usual.

Maybe it's time to rethink Disqus? Just sayin'... :)

Jayne Martin said...

You've totally hit on it here. Conservatives are driven by such fear. I read somewhere that the brains of liberals and conservatives are actually wired differently. Conservatives tends to see things as black or white, while liberals see a whole range of grays in between. It makes a lot of sense -- as do you, as usual.

Maybe it's time to rethink Disqus? Just sayin'... :)