Fake Empathy

My disdain for “now you know how we felt under Obama” (which I’ve read verbatim a number of times, an island to itself, like a bumper sticker) isn’t just that it’s absurd to pretend the situations are equivalent. It’s that even if I give the most extreme benefit of the doubt – we are, after all, talking about feelings, not facts, and who knows what this person’s trusted news sources are – it’s an awful thing to say to a friend. It’s: “I hear you’re frightened and grieving; let’s talk about me and how I need more credit.”

If you’re really trying to reach out – if this isn’t just vindictiveness under the thinnest pretense of empathy – try, “I see how you feel. I’ve been through this, and it didn’t turn out as bad as the scariest stuff I was reading. Here’s why I think it will be ok this time.” That’s how people talk who are sincere about maintaining relationships across political divides. (I speak from experience. Thanks, buds.)

If you can’t do that, maybe you shouldn’t say anything. Maybe this isn’t a topic where you need to weigh in.

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