Election Day: On Empathy.

I’ve never been a fan of people. I know this, because one of my very earliest memories was a profoundly disturbing experience on that theme. One that shook me to my core and helped define who I am.

I was in Kindergarten, walking to school one morning. I can still remember where I was standing, and where the bullies and their victim were standing. I remember the faint chill in the air, as autumn was just arriving – THAT is how much impact this had on me.

The two bullies had their victim on the ground, they’d pushed him over and kicked him. The reason? He had some candy, and they wanted it.


I was just sick over it, this huge flood of … grief?… just overcame me. It was something that I was unable to articulate to my teacher at the time, who was wondering why I was so upset – it wasn’t me getting bullied, I wasn’t in trouble, and it wasn’t my candy to lose.

Her position made things worse. Who cared about the candy? Didn’t she – and the bullies – understand that candy was… nothing? Why did the teacher care about the candy?

No. This was about the fact that I had just watched two older bullies show a blatant disregard for a fellow human, over something so insignificant. That they were willing to gang up on and hurt someone, over THAT. I was crying as I tried to explain it, and my teacher had no idea why I was upset over something that had “nothing” to do with me.

To be honest, the memory is upsetting me as I write this, and I’m still not sure I’m doing justice to explaining what was happening. It was like… a 5 year old’s first existential crisis, the first time I ever thought to myself “What is WRONG with people!?”, and just a deep sadness for what people were capable of. I wondered what each of their lives would be like, growing up. These were KIDS. What would happen to the victim, being exposed to that kind of treatment so early? Would he learn to just lay down and take it in the future? And what of the bullies – they were also kids. What kind of monsters would they grow up into?

I may have been a weird kindergartener to that teacher – she had NO idea what I was talking about – but it all still seems perfectly normal to me, something like 28 years later. Why wasn’t SHE worried about that stuff?

You know those sci fi movies, where the fate of the earth is being decided based on how “worthy” we appear to aliens? In my view – that day, and ever since – that one incident would have been a deciding factor to getting us nuked. THAT is how hard it hit me.

That event has really stuck with me my whole life. I’ve watched the story repeat itself in many ways, and veer off on various tangents. People – as an overall data set – are HORRIBLE to each other. While I’m ok with many *individuals*, I really don’t like PEOPLE.

While reminders of this were fairly sporadic, growing up – it’s been more of a constant theme, in the past few years. I can’t handle all of the racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia that seems so prevalent these days. I still feel like others don’t “get” my point of view. I’m not black or gay, why should I be so affected by it? Canadians are “acceptable” immigrants, after all… why should I be upset if people treat the Mexicans bad? It wasn’t MY candy, afterall.

You see, we ALL have to live in this world, that is being affected by this stuff. Who cares if it’s not our candy? We still have to live with the realization that people are willing to do horrible things to each other. We have to stand by and watch as these people – the bullies – have less and less respect for their fellow humans. We live in a world where we are constantly exposed to people treating “the others” as somehow lesser than them. People put less and less value on the lives of others. Regardless of whether we – as individuals or groups – are being subjected to it directly, this is *our* world, our society. That crappy treatment of others is an attitude that spreads like a cancer throughout our society.

As an Aspie, I’m told that “my kind” has no compassion. That we’re incapable of feeling empathy for others. I’ve never understood this. We live in a society that SEVERELY lacks empathy – and sometimes, we seem like some of the only people who notice and are offended by this.

Interestingly enough, growing up Aspie gives me a huge amount of empathy for GLBT people, specifically. I may be a zero on the Kinsey scale, but we have a lot in common, you see – We’re born this way. We’re told we’re broken, and some of “our kind” are subjected to horribly abusive therapies. We’re subjected to campaigns against our right to live as ourselves. We’re viewed as lesser-than, used as political pawns at times… the list goes on.

Between that empathy and my earlier/ongoing experiences with feeling horror at how people treat each other, this election has been particularly difficult for me. Today, the state that I live in will vote on formally defining marriage as being one man and one woman into the state constitution.

I could go on forever about how wrong this is. I could talk about the purpose of the constitution, the actual definition of religious freedom. I could talk about how people should not be scared into voting for this, based on bizarre lies about how the sky will fall if gays can marry.

I rant about the fact that one of the strategists behind it came out to say that the whole purpose of the amendment vote was to get their party voters to the polls, to help the presidential race – and that that same strategist himself will be voting AGAINST it. I could discuss how grossly inappropriate it is to use the constitution as a political toy.

I could rant about how – while anyone can argue good or bad points for any politician running for any office – there is NOTHING good about writing bigotry and religion into the state constitution.

But I won’t. It’s been done. Every argument that could possibly be made has been repeated til everyone is blue in the face. I’ve made my thoughts on the whole thing pretty clear, myself.

Instead, I want everyone to remember that we all have to live in this world. That GLBT, Aspie, immigrant, or not – we *should* ALL be able to empathize, as we are all human. HUMAN. Gay people – no matter how demonized and dehumanized – are people who live, love, go to school/work, and pay taxes like the rest of us.

When the vote happens today, it will be a majority of people deciding the fate of the minority – I am still sick to my stomach that this is even coming up for a vote. I really hope that when Minnesotans head to the polls today, that they do not elect to gang up on the small kid. It’s not just candy that is at stake, this time.

1 thought on “Election Day: On Empathy.

  1. I agree with so much of this, but esp the part where you couldn’t understand why the teacher wasn’t concerned. Why do more people not care?

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