“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.


8 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!


      • Jason Berman says:

        So I will confess, I didn’t come back to this thread for months, because, to be honest, I assumed that the responses my little essay would have engendered would be angry accusations of my moral inferiority, and I reached my limit long ago on such things. This is not an excuse, but a sad reality of the assumptions I have accustomed myself to making. In all likelihood, I am consequently talking to nobody at all, as this question is now two months old, but still, I feel I do owe a reply, such as it is, so here I go.

        To begin with, as I thought I’d implied, I did not vote for Trump. I did not vote for him because he is a reprehensible toad, a narcissist, and a good many other things besides. This is why I spent so much time trying to get my fellow Republicans to vote for Hillary, despite the distaste I (and they) bore her. To me, it was a question of the lesser of two evils. Obviously the majority of my fellow party members saw that question differently. As such, any arguments about why someone would vote for Trump would be disingenuous coming from me, as I was unconvinced by them. Overall though, from those Trumpers I did speak to during the election, the arguments were that he better represented conservative values than Hillary did (which I thought untrue, but at least can understand the mentality of), or that he cared about their plight as being poor and desperate and rural while Hillary did not (the later is true, the former I believe is not). Some believed that both Trump and Hillary were liars, but felt Trump had a better chance of doing things they approved of, such as protecting their jobs and industries from foreign competition, or trying to fight the endemic problems of joblessness, depression, and drug abuse (particularly opiods) that plague rural counties. I don’t agree, but given that Hillary spent the entire campaign pissing on rural counties and the film who feel in them, I see where they might have gotten that impression.

        As to what makes me a Republican though? As you surmised, it’s not a matter of “I hate blacks and gays”. It’s a matter of core beliefs about the world and the issues that concern it. I believe that government inclines towards inflexibility, inefficiency, and tyranny, however noble the intentions of those who engage in it might be. That’s not the same as saying that government should be abolished entirely, but I believe it needs to be limited carefully to only those things that it alone can accomplish. What those things are is a matter of debate, of course, and always will be, but attempting to legislate how people are allowed to live, think, and speak are uniform disasters, as are unfettered meddling in economic and social matters without proper thought. One cannot “ban”racism or income inequality any more than one can ban a preference for the color green. One must allow society to work such things out, painful as that process may be.

        As such, a lot of touchstones of the Democratic party cut no ice for me. I believe that banning guns is useless at best and pernicious at worst, an attempt by left wing culture warriors to criminalize the way of life of people they don’t like, rather than grapple with the reasons why there is more gun violence in the US than in say Iceland. I believe that affirmative action legalizes discrimination and destroys all pretence of equality before the law. I believe identity politics is a poisonous attempt to remove all nuance from complex situations by dividing people into categories of “good” and “evil” based on whether we will become popular by championing them. But most of all, I believe that societal change, while inevitable and often good, needs to be carefully managed, lest we wind up with idiocies like the 18th amendment, ethanol subsidies, nuclear power bank based on nothing but Luddite superstition, and, frankly, most of Obamacare (though not all).

        I am a conservative person in the literal sense of the word. I believe things should be conserved until shown obsolete and not changed to suit a momentary whim or the fickle will of an ambitious politician. I believe consequently in the utility of some things Democrats hate, such as the death penalty, deregulation of the economy (within limits), tariffs, economic protectionism (within limits), and the sovereignty of the federal government over unelected international organizations like the UN. As to abortion, I just flat out think it’s murder, albeit horrifically complicated, and have never been convinced by anyone, male or female, that it is not. You may ask how I square my belief in an unobtrusive government with wanting the government to regulate what women can do to their bodies, and the answer is that I cannot. I never claimed to have all the answers, and abortion in particular has never provided one for me that I can accept, save that in a perfect world it would not exist. This is not a perfect world.

        I am a Republican because I am conservative and because I agree with the standard Republican platform more than I do the Democrat one. But my party has become debased, no longer conservative but reactionary and regressive. I hated Hillary because she was an opportunistic, arrogant, narcissistic creature of pure ambition, spite, and elitism. I voted for her anyway, and worked to get my fellow Republicans to do the same, because Trump was, and is, even more of those things, plus a race-baiting cur, a consorter with white nationalists, a dilettante, and, seemingly at least, a genuinely cruel imbecile. Him becoming the face of my party is a source of great pain to me. The fact that the Democrats are eagerly searching for their own version does not help. Nor does the knowledge that Trump has given them all just the excuse they were seeking to sequester everyone who ever opposed additional hikes in the capital gains tax rate as racist deplorables.

        If you genuinely want to find a way to make both me and the Democrats happy (and if so, god help you), then i would suggest it begin with treating us like people with valid concerns, rather than dismissing everything we have to say as the product of racism or sexism or some other convenient buzzword that enables people to silence a conversation. People who told me they were voting for Trump because he promised to make their lives better while Hillary ignored them and called them racists for going to church and for mourning their sons who died of oxycodone addiction, will not be convinced of your bonafides because you call them a racist and mock their ambitions. It is not sexism or MRA whining to be concerned about the fact that men kill themselves at four times the rate of women, and it is not oppression of minorities and Nazism to want strong border control, with or without a wall. Believing that contraceptives have no place in a national health insurance system does not make one a rapist of women or a murderer of the poor, and arguing on behalf of the plight of a community of people who are predominately white does not imply that one hates black people. You don’t have to agree with me, and you don’t have to support me, but by God you WILL listen to me and those like me, or else you will have more Trumps , and likely destroy your own party in the attempt to stop them. My concerns and viewpoints are no less valid than yours for being from another source, and if Democrats cannot bring themselves to accept the basic humanity and validity of any deviation on fiendishly complex issues whatsoever, then they have earned the President they have got. And i in turn shall also have no sympathy for them when they manage to get another one elected.


  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


    • Jason Berman says:

      The title of the blog post claims that Bob empathizes, but does not sympathize. The content of the blog post makes it clear that he does neither, and in fact prides himself upon it. He claims that he hated all of the people who might have voted for Trump even before Trump himself ever existed, and now is glad that he can hate them openly by calling them all racists. He mocks, viciously, the concerns and grievances they have, calls them inhuman and incapable of thought or reason, says he never wishes to hear about their plight ever again, and even calls for them to be (symbolically one hopes) branded forever so that they can be degraded and despised for all time by the noble Democrats. He plainly has no idea why anyone voted for Trump, and so happily invents reasons of his own which start with frothing bigotry and get worse from there. And then he claims he does not want to discover the real reason, because the people he is referring to are too impure to be spoken to.

      Not only does Bob not empathize with Trump supporters, regretful or otherwise, he luxuriates in his lack of empathy. He brags about it. He feels superior to those who do possess such empathy. In this, he reminds me unerringly of Donald Trump.


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