Editorial: A Call to Compassion
Emotions have run high since Donald Trump assumed office in January. Each new day seems to bring another outrage, and with only a little more than 100 days of Trump’s presidency in the past, many are beginning to feel the fatigue that comes with waking up each morning to a Facebook feed full of anger. While this anger has been successful in motivating those on the left to organize and get involved, it also seems to have had the unfortunate side effect of decreasing compassion.
Compassion is a quality that many progressives hold in high regard. They claim that it informs all of their policies, from social to economic. The thing with compassion, though, is that it must be universal. Compassion selectively applied is not true compassion, but instead is simply affinity for those who reflect your values.
In some cases, progressives are quite good at observing this axiom. Progressive views towards such groups as criminals, drug addicts and even terrorists tend towards the compassionate. When it comes to those on the opposite end of the political spectrum, progressives tend to be far less compassionate. Despite supporting policies designed to support those in need, there are times when this support takes a backseat to exulting in the poetic justice inflicted on those progressives find deserving.
For examples of this, one need look no further than the schadenfreude, or joy in the misfortune of others, exhibited towards Trump voters now coming to terms with the consequence of their vote. Stories about an elderly Trump supporter who depends on Meals on Wheels have been met by progressives with a response that approaches glee. Similarly, a woman, also a Trump supporter, whose undocumented husband now faces deportation has elicited similar responses. In general, when hearing about the proposal to cut funding to Meals on Wheels or the deportation of nonviolent undocumented immigrants, progressives respond with outrage. They often fail to apply this outrage when the victims are conservatives, instead arguing that these people are getting exactly what they deserve for supporting Trump.
If progressives wish to represent a political ideology of compassion, and support policies that operate on this ideology, they must recognize that their fight is not just for those who agree with them, but for everyone. As red states tend to receive the most in federal welfare spending, it is a simple fact that many of the people who will benefit from the programs that progressives support will be on the opposite side of the aisle.
To truly support these policies, and the ideology behind them, progressives cannot allow themselves to succumb to the temptation to indulge in self-righteousness. Progressives need to base their politics around positive, creative movements. This is not to say that progressives should shy away from outrage or protests, but that it cannot allow itself to be defined by opposition to conservatism. To do so leaves the identity of progressivism in the hands of conservatives. A movement based solely on opposition is one that will disintegrate, should it ever take office.
Compassion plays an important role in life in general, but in today’s political climate it is especially necessary. As progressive policies and ideals are under assault by ideological opponents, to cast aside compassion is to cede the core of the progressive movement itself. As difficult as it may be, the progressive commitment to compassion must be universal and enduring.