Thursday, September 01, 2005

Proximity Empathy

Why did President Bush say that devastating flooding would make us stronger? Would a powerful kick to the nuts make him stronger? Why does the death of hundreds, or thousands, of New Orleans residents, make this country stronger? Why does the wholesale destruction of a major American city, and a great cultural center, make us stronger? September 11th also, he told us, made us stronger.

Well, obviously, they don't. We've already seen how September 11th dropkicked the economy, and how Pres. Bush's response to it -- the war in Iraq -- has hampered our crisis-response and -preparation abilities. So why would he say these awful things make us stronger? Blame dispersal. The president believes in a god who's got one big cosmic plan for us, replete with tests ("we will pass this test," he said on Sept. 11, 2001) and trials ("God's signs are not always the ones we look for. We learn in tragedy that his purposes are not always our own," he said just days after Sept. 11) and tribulations. And that means, he's not responsible for trying to prevent or mitigate them. It's his god's plan. Which means it has meaning, which means it's good that we endure it. And which definitely means there's no cause to hold him accountable for it.

The New York Times has called his speech yesterday his worst ever. Even his conservative allies are piling on his awful performance. What many seem to have forgotten his that he performed similarly poorly immediately after September 11th. It wasn't until he came to New York and saw it for himself, and saw actual human beings toiling in its aftermath, that he found a part of himself that could respond to it in a human, empathetic way.

That's because he has what I call proximity empathy. It's the same phenomenon that drives some Republicans to champion disease research when they or their loved ones are stricken. Empathy for those around you, of course, is not a bad thing. But politicians, particularly the president, are supposed to care for everyone, near and far, like and unlike. That's his job. Because natural disasters aren't supposed to make us stronger. He is.

5 comments:

LoosScroo said...

It's funny how he can murder thousands in Iraq and not feel the slightest empathy but once something happens to the United States of God he bends over backwards. Backwards indeed.

Anonymous said...

You're granting Bush his claim that Sept 11 caused the last recession. Don't perpetuate this falsehood. His policies had us well into the down economy by then. Sept 11 is his all purpose excuse for everything. just like tax cuts/ corporate handouts for the rich are his all purpose "solution"

Petty Larseny said...

Please note that I didn't say Sept. 11 caused the recession. I said it dropkicked the economy, which it did. Clearly, the effect would have been mitigated, and the recovery quicker, without his destructive economic policies.

WeThePeople said...

Another good job, Jonathan.
Remember that it doesn't matter whether someone like bush "gets it;" what's critically important is that those who hold the power to remove him do...
peace

ladyhawkePI said...

Excellent observation. Bush is completely disconnected, and dangerously so.
I believe that Bush's lack of ability now showing through will out weigh his typical retoric..."I'm a leader", "they hate us for our freedom", "we've got to be strong, America can take it" etc...
Speeches that are always empty of real thought and direction.

Things will get worse for all Americans.
Oil executives are still making money and will pass on Katrina's cost to all of us, while making more money. Katrina will be another excuse to up prices even further. I bet many an oil executive is rubbing their hands in glee, knowing the cost and of any damage will be passed on to citizen's. Never mind the huge tax breaks they all just received!

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