A Case for More Empathy

Alejandro Flores Monge - India


March 14, 2017

 

I’m fair skinned, American born, and I effortlessly articulate my White, American accent. There were moments where I struggled in school, but for the most part I managed to keep up with the high-achieving, middle-class White kids at the top of the class. I even went by the name Alex and, for the most part, still do.

 

“But you’re different. . .” I was often told.

 

I am different. The biggest difference between first generation “Alex” and the other first generation “immigrants” is that people in my community know my name. They know me. I’m not a political argument or a statistic but a living, breathing, human life. I am a friend and, therefore, matter more than strangers. That’s precisely the root of the problem. How can one teach that strangers aren’t as strange as one might imagine?

 

I recently read an article making the case for a nationwide system of public service in the United States. The model resembled a domestic Peace Corps service, or a sort of expansion of AmeriCorps, with the underlying philosophy being the building of bridges between coastal, urban, politically liberal communities and the more central, rural, politically conservative communities. America’s political divide is getting worse. The resulting tension and distain does not benefit either side and in fact causes significant damage to both. This became especially apparent through the course of the 2016 election season and President Trump’s 2017 inauguration. In many ways, America has become very broken, and this author proposed we begin to repair it by constructing a social fiber binding the two political extremes through civil service, by exposing the so-called “coastal elite” to the struggles of rural, conservative America, and vice versa. The program would aim to expose both sides to the idea that as a common humanity, we all face one challenge or another. Through service, by engaging in the process to find solutions to one another’s problems, people would form connections between opposite sides of the political spectrum.

 

This model would aim to lay the foundation to form meaningful relationships between people by understanding each other’s challenges, by encouraging a “tu lucha es mi lucha” mentality, and by teaching that a rising tide raises all ships. This model begins to weave the fibers of a society driven by empathy.

 

Political stances aside, the United States and global governance as we know it is beginning to crumble. History shows that great empires will eventually fall, and the global empire of aristocratic party politics is quickly approaching its end. To echo Clarence Page, what we need is to burst our bubbles, to leave them behind. Enough bridges have been burned: it’s time to start rebuilding them. When we realize that a rising tide does indeed raise all ships, we begin to understand that strangers aren’t quite as strange as one might have originally imagined. We need to rethink the way we are living our lives. We need equality. We need equity. Most of all, we need empathy.

 

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Note: the blog aims to publish every Tuesday and Thursday, but given that publishing is indirect, we cannot guarantee that each blog will go live on a Tuesday or Thursday. Nonetheless, the aim so to have two blogs going live per week through the end of March, ideally every Tuesday and Thursday.

 

Alejandro Flores Monge