“I empathize, but I will not sympathize.”

Absolute barn-burner of a piece today over on Esquire from Charles Pierce, on the subject of coddling so-called “regretful” Trump voters. I’ve been on this particular train for awhile now (to be perfectly frank: I already disliked these people when they were “only” stupid – why should I become more sympathetic when they add racist/fascist or supportive ofthe same to the mix?) but it’s nourishing to hear it presented with so much genuine perspective and (yes) appropriate empathy.

Money ‘graph, as far as I’m concerned:

“Holy mother of god, I’m tired of reading quotes from people who live in places where the local economy went to hell or Mexico in 1979, and who have spent the intervening years swallowing whatever Jesus Juice was offered up by theocratic bunco artists of the Christocentric Right, and gulping down great flagons of barely disguised hatemongering against the targets of the day, all the while voting against their own best interests, now claiming that empowering Donald Trump as the man who will “shake things up” on their behalf was the only choice they had left. You had plenty of choices left.”

I assume that sounds “mean-spirited” to some, and I suppose to a degree it is. But then you remember that these are people who either endorse or are “basically okay” with condemning the actual most vulnerable people in our society (minority and immigrant communities, LGBTQ youth, etc) to misery, pain and death and jeering them as “snowflakes” when they object – so I’d say they’ve earned a little scorn.

Eventually, in the name of moving on and the greater good, decent people will have to find a way to accept sharing the world with onetime Trumpists – but if there’s justice, every single person who ever so much as glanced positively in the direction of “Make America Great Again” will carry the crushing heartache of knowing what they did (and not being “allowed” by polite society to deny, forget or mitigate it) for as long as they live.


6 thoughts on ““I empathize, but I will not sympathize.”

  1. Ryan Berg says:

    With you 100%. I feel zero empathy. Until people start actually voting in their best interests and interests of others who don’t look, believe, or live like them, they can go to hell.
    Thanks for being an awesome voice on this.


  2. TellingItLikeItIs says:

    I just honestly wish the world cared as much about Australian politics as they do about American Politics. Fuck, I wish AUSTRALIANS care as much about their own politics.
    We’ve had our trump for several years now.
    He’s sent back asylum seekers, destroyed our internet infrastructure, killed our dollar, sold our country’s mines and assets for pocket change, deported hundreds of innocent minorities…

    The list goes on.

    But our country sits quiet, you see it’s poor form to complain here, especially about politics, so we get to sit and watch as an aging majority votes for a candidate who wins “By the grace of god” because that same god forbids they vote for a candidate that would dare consider gay rights, or global warming or.. 2MB/s internet connections.


    • Al (@ereyethirn) says:

      Sorry, could you let me know who you are talking about? I am not Australian (but am from NZ so basically the same thing right 😀 ) but I follow Aus politics as it is quite close to home.

      If you are referring to Malcolm Turnbull then that is slightly crazy (sure he should be stronger on many issues and is far from perfect but he is by no means anything close to Trump). I see him as being very comparable to our PM (who I do not support but would definitely not equate to Trump)… I am not sure that is who you are talking about because he hasn’t been PM for several years and he has considered both climate change and gay rights (albeit not as much as he should have).

      If you are seriously trying to equate someone it would be Pauline Hanson but her party only has like 4 seats in parliament and she has no power (also that’s obviously not who you were talking about because you said he).

      I feel there is a strong chance neither of these are who you are talking about so I am interested if it isn’t who it is?


  3. Jason Berman says:

    I am so sorry to hear that basic human empathy is difficult for you, Bob. I am sorry that you identify so strongly with your own opinions and notions of superiority that you are willing to dehumanize tens of millions of people you’ve never met, whose lives you don’t understand, whose existence you defame and despite with every breath you take. I am sorry that the notion of having to empathize with people who are not you, and whom you are not able to obtain credibility by patronizing is exhausting to you. I am sorry that you felt the world owed you the respect that it did not owe those you disliked. I am sorry that people who are not you exist. And I am sorry that that last fact angers you.

    I don’t care to hear any more excuses about how you or your type are excused from basic human decency because Trump exists. About how the existence of Breitbart and Rush Limbaugh frees you to act exactly like them, but that you are ineffably better than they are because you live in Boston and retweet the correct websites. You speak of Trump supporters the way Trump speaks of Muslims, and are astounded that they don’t listen to you. You condemn them as inhuman monsters, Nazis and creatures from a B-movie, you spit on their aspirations and mock their pain. You have done this since the beginning of this electoral cycle, and the last one, and the one before that. You, and almost all the Democrats with you, spent decades praying that they would die out, telling everyone who would listen that they were illegitimate, crepuscular monsters out of a fantasy novel, urging those around you to ignore them when possible and attack them when necessary, and then you act astounded that they did not listen to your “well-reasoned arguments”? That browbeating them into voting the way you wanted because they are inferior to you was not an effective tactic? The same people now defiantly posting hashtags about resistance and talking about how unfair it is that they were expected to speak to people who are not exactly like them, now conjure fantasies of enormous Nazi conspiracies that sprang up without any involvement from them, because they need monsters to fight to feel good about themselves. All while anyone with two eyes and a willingness to listen can tell that the reason Trump won in the first place is because you and yours were too busy patting yourselves on the back about being superior to those buck-toothed, inbred, shotgun-wielding southerners and mountain westerners to bother trying to engage in the democratic process.

    And yeah, Trump and his ilk did the same thing. What of it? Is that the height of your ambitions? To act like Trump and Yiannopolis and then rely on the fact that you demonize the right sort of people to seize the moral high ground? If you and the writer of this article can’t be bothered with basic human empathy towards a group of people you know nothing about, to the point where the very suggestion that listening to them might be useful sparks a panegyric about how “they should have done what you said” even though you spent the last two decades publicly wishing them all extinct, if you are truly that far gone, then congratulations. You have the President you deserve. And you helped mightily to get him elected.

    I am a lifelong Republican. And this last election, I spent five months in the company of people I hate, calling my fellow Republicans in a dozen swing states and arguing and cajoling and in some cases BEGGING them to vote for Hillary Clinton, a woman I despise, whose politics I generally loathe. I spoke to near a thousand Trump supporters, some of whom were exactly the racist, drooling monsters that you imagine them to be, and most of whom were not. Maybe I wasn’t good enough at it. Maybe I went about it the wrong way. Maybe I’m a bad political caller. Or maybe every person whose mind I did manage to change was counterbalanced by someone else in Michigan or Virginia or Missouri turning on the television or the internet and seeing people like you condemn everything they believed in or wanted for themselves and their children, unheard and unseen, because empathy is hard and they are undeserving of it.

    So go right ahead and call me a racist or a Trumptard or a scumbag who deserves to be beaten and driven into the dirt with clubs. Invent beliefs for me to hold and mock me for holding them. Congratulate yourself on how much better a person you are than I am, for that is all you did, all election, and I know this because I was here watching. Because I’m also a cinephile. And I’ve always respected your movie opinions even when I think they’re insane. But don’t come to me in four years and whine about how it could possibly happen that Trump won re-election, not after you and yours decided that empathy was something that wasn’t your responsibility, and that instead you should spend all your time trying to ensure that your party became as decrepit and rancid as mine.

    Don’t come to me to complain. Because you have spent a lifetime doing every single thing you condemn Trump supporters for. And I have no time for self-centered cowards who think that regarding your fellow humans as human is too much of an imposition, no matter which party’s bumper sticker they decide to put on their car.


    • Al (@ereyethirn) says:

      So Jason I read all of that and you seem like a really sensible person so I feel like you may be good person to start a dialogue with. I am a New Zealander so I don’t run into many pro-Trumpers. Basically everyone in my city was really hoping for Hillary/ Bernie but none of us had any power to influence it (even though it affects us way more than you would think).

      So as someone coming from a country with politics slightly left of California (if California was a country itself) I struggle to understand what the reason for hating Clinton’s politics (as you said) and voting for Trump would be. So while I am unlikely to agree with what you would say I would like to hear from someone reasonable as to what makes you a Republican.

      In this I promise even if your response is something evil like “I hate gay people and want to eliminate black people from America” (which I’m sure it won’t be and of course isn’t actually the Republican position) I won’t reply in a nasty, judgmental way because I truly want to understand so I can see if there is a way to keep people like you and decent Democrats happy (probably leaving only the crazy minorities on both sides unhappy). I doubt it is possible but I really don’t know what makes you have your politics so I feel like I should try to understand!


  4. Mylestrom says:

    Jason Berman: from reading your post quite closely (notably the 4th paragraph), I can wholly get where your apparent angst is coming from, but I daresay you’ve been somewhat reactionary here: the point from the very title of this blog is that empathy is deserved by the regretful Trump voters but not sympathy (a concept with which I agree, but I’ve yet to read the linked article). You seem angry that Bob is telling people not to empathise, but that’s the opposite of what’s happening.

    You should know that now is possibly the worst time to give in to reactionary sentiments in two decades. Be vigilant and godspeed, brother


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