Last week I heard the President of the United States vow to “get rid of the really bad dudes in this country.” While it’s true that Donald Trump has a small vocabulary weighted towards extreme adjectives (“big league—or bigly,” “disaster,” “dangerous,” “huge,” “tremendous”), the use of “bad dudes” hit a new low.
Yes, “bad dudes” is a ridiculous description. But rather than focussing on how Trump said it, let’s consider the real problem: the assertion that our country is divided between “good” and “bad” people. It isn’t useful to look at each other Trump’s way. I did not vote for Donald Trump but I know many reasonable people who did. I don’t agree with them but I understand why they voted for him and I can empathize with their concerns. More important is while we may have been divide regarding voting, let’s not let Trump divide us as a country.
I like to think of myself as an empathetic person, but now I’ve learned that it isn’t that simple. This week I came upon an article in The Atlantic by Paul Bloom, author of “Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion.” How could anyone be against empathy? “Empathy is biased,” Bloom writes, “pushing us in the direction of parochialism and racism.” And there’s more (and this I DO understand): “Our empathy for those close to us is a powerful force for war and atrocity toward others.” The tendency when something terrible happens (Muslims with visas turned away at airports) is to be relieved that it didn’t happen to us. That’s how we become divided.
How about looking at our society a different way? In his 1961 inaugural address, John F. Kennedy requested that we “Ask not what our country can do for you. Ask what you can do for our country.” Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, why not do something to make our country better? And I don’t mean just by voting; I mean by action—even small actions. There are lots of useful steps we can take from calling our legislators daily, weekly or monthly to give them our opinions (People magazine online has a current list of all 535 members of Congress and their phone numbers here) or by joining a #Resist Meetup group in your area (there are 1,000+ around the country). Don’t just be disgruntled. Do something for our country. Good, Bad, or Bigly, we are all in this together, friends.