The hands of compassionate women
have boiled their own children;
they become their food
in the destruction of my people.
Where has compassion gone?
As our country divides over three unforgettable issues (COVID-19, racism and a presidential election) in 2020, we have lost our heart. We are destroying ourselves from the inside out.
Right and wrong are irrelevant. We have lost the ability to convince others of our values.
I’ll say it again: Right and wrong are irrelevant.
Without compassion, all of us are wrong.
Compassion, according to the Webster’s dictionary on my bookshelf, is sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
Instead, we ignore the distress of others. We not only have no desire to alleviate it, we add to it.
How do we regain compassion – a desire to alleviate distress in other people – in our once-great nation?
We’ve drawn battle lines over wearing a mask. It’s become a political “freedom” issue, not the public health issue that it truly is.
A good friend inhaled a toxic gas while serving in the Army a number of years ago, ruining his lungs. He does not wear a mask because he couldn’t breathe if he did. But he also does not pick fights with businesses that require a mask to enter.
Why is compassion so difficult? People are dying, people are getting sick. It’s a highly contagious disease. Do we want huge numbers before we acknowledge its seriousness? Whatever happened to prevention?
Countries where COVID-19 is no longer a serious threat locked themselves down for eight to 10 weeks, with nearly everyone wearing a mask and social distancing. Countries where residents think of other people – that’s compassion – bit the bullet for a time. Then, as cases waned, those countries gradually and safely opened up.
The United States is a country with 330 million individuals who aren’t willing to do that, even for a short time. Some of us did this spring, but not enough to make it work. As a result, we won’t view much college football on Saturdays this fall, and our education system is a mess trying to figure out how to begin in the next month.
There are consequences for our actions, or lack thereof.
But let’s not get tyrannical about it. If a store requires a mask to enter and you won’t wear one, respect the store’s policy. If you wear a mask and you see others not wearing one, keep your distance. Let’s not scream at each other. That solves nothing.
When George Floyd was killed this spring in Minneapolis, a firestorm of protest ignited, figuratively and literally. There are extremists on both sides, and often those are the voices we hear.
Instead, can we learn compassion for each other?
This is a hard one, because the history of racism is long and deep. It’s ingrained. I’m sorry to say that, but it is.
We whites flippantly say, well, slavery ended soon after the Civil War, so get over it. Legally, maybe, but our hearts did not change, and still haven’t in many of us.
Compassion is sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. This starts with listening to each other, to your story and mine. Without anger. Without prejudice. Without judgment.
On both sides.
Do you have friends of other races and ethnicities? Can you work together on the job, and take instruction from each other? Be honest.
If not, do the rest of us a favor and keep silent (including on social media). If you do, let’s show compassion for each other in our leisure activities and our work spaces.
In the words of a song I learned as a child, “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”
Neither side has the full truth.
Democrats are not anti-life. Republicans are not narrow-minded Bible thumpers.
While Democrats support abortion as an option to end life, they do much better than Republicans do in the public arena should that baby be born. Dems know that all of us have immigrant backgrounds, some more recent than others. Guns in rural areas are used for sport or for hunting deer and other animals, generally. Guns in cities are used to kill other people (unless you’re into skeet shooting, or something similar). There are problems with mail-in voting, sure. So, fix them. Don’t throw out the whole system, or ruin the U.S. Postal Service over it.
Black lives do matter. Again, both sides have extremists on this issue. Let’s learn how to share leadership (a huge issue for white people) with respect, not resentment, on all sides.
Scripture clearly opposes same-sex marriage, but be careful how you apply that. Jesus talked with a Samaritan woman at a well who had five husbands and was living with a sixth man. In another scene, Jesus was introduced to a woman caught in adultery. Did he cast the first stone? He did not.
Do these stories mean Jesus supports divorce and adultery?
No. Jesus cares about people, since all of us have issues. By meeting our deepest needs, Jesus helps us understand the difference between right and wrong.
Jesus showed compassion in the face of sin. He told the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (John 8:11)
Where is that standard of righteousness, with forgiveness and empathy, today?
I’ve seen people bash the ethics of either President Trump or his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. We’ve been finding fault with our leaders for generations. I’ve often wondered why anyone would even want that job.
Where is empathy?
Compassion has not been a strong suit of Americans for a long time.
Except, perhaps, on the athletic field.
When a player suffers a serious injury during a game, it’s not unusual to see athletes from both teams gather together, kneel and say a prayer for healing. When the athlete is placed on a stretcher and taken off the field, the fans in the stands – whether the player is wearing a home or visitor’s uniform – clap as a sign of respect.
It often takes a tragedy to draw us together.
Sept. 11, 2001, united us as a nation against a common enemy.
COVID-19 should have brought us together in a similar way against a common enemy, even though a coronavirus is unseen. But at some point in recent years, we lost the desire to fight for each other.
When four police officers killed George Floyd, we stopped for a moment and listened. Some of us did, anyway. But we as a nation won’t acknowledge racism as a common enemy, so that’s not a fight we’re prepared to win at the moment. (Respect goes both ways. There are deep, deep issues here.)
And the presidential election has turned into an ugly social media battle.
We must get beyond tweets and memes. We must listen to each other’s distress, then seek to alleviate it. If I do that for you and you do that for me …
We will be showing compassion for each other. And we will be a United States of America again.