Empathy vs. Apathy

Those of you out there who know me at all are probably aware that I consider myself politically apathetic. I use that phrase a lot as a way of defining myself although it’s not entirely accurate. But I use it because I feel it does the best job of describing how I don’t subscribe to a particular side of political discourse.

But the reality is that I’m not apathetic toward actual political discussions. If you want to discuss the merits of increasing the minimum wage in this country, I will energetically describe how much I am for anyone who is working in this country to get a living wage. No, I don’t think that we should decide that people working 40+ hours a week at a fast food restaurant are any less deserving of enough money to live on simply because there might be better jobs for them out there.

I’m actually quite empathetic toward most political concepts. That’s probably my entire political belief system: empathy. I’m empathetic toward those who have been trodden on and deserve better. I’m empathetic toward those who are struggling just to survive, even if they are in that struggle because of poor decisions they have made or even if they are continuing to make them. My political belief structure is that we, as a country, have failed the impoverished and can and should do better.

What I am apathetic towards is how we talk about politics. So rarely do we discuss what can actually be done to “make America great again”, instead we talk far more about how much this person sucks or how this other person is not as sucky as that person. Sure, sometimes our discourse about which person is less sucky does bring us down the road of talking about actual subjects, but so often the way we end up talking about them is to repeat the words of one of those sucky people we’ve chosen to subscribe to.

When I say I’m apathetic, I’m telling you that I’m apathetic towards politicians or parties, not toward the actual things we need to do to make this country better.

I’m not Republican, I’m not Democrat. I’m not pro-Trump or pro-Biden. I’m not even a liberal or a conservative. I’m anti-label when it comes to my politics. Because all a label does is put you in a bucket where people have already decided what all your beliefs are and why you believe them. And I don’t think my thoughts on how our country should be run are quite as simple as that.

Heck, I don’t even care about the economics of our country. Sure, I would hate for us to be in a place where me and my family are forced to go to the bread lines because we’ve ended up in the midst of another Great Depression, but the reality is, so many Americans are already at that point, I’m not sure any of us are any more deserving of a comfortable life simply because we’ve made better financial decisions or were born into a family which has provided us a better backing for our financial future. In the event that someone were to decide to put me in a high office in this country, I would not promise riches for anyone. If I’m being completely honest, I think we’re far too focused on being rich in this country than just making sure people are able to get access to food.

I don’t care about money. In fact, I’m terrible at money. But I do care about people, and when someone brings up a political discussion with me, my focus is always on how it impacts those who are already being beaten down.

Don’t tell me your fears about how socialized medicine will make us more communist, because all I see is that we have a massively exclusionary health care system which refuses care to those who need it most. Our country has some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, and we’re paying the most for our drugs, even though our country also subsidizes those drug companies. Not to mention that a great portion of the world’s most developed countries have instituted socialized healthcare and are still doing pretty darn well for themselves.

Our country has the richest people in the world, who make their fortunes off the backs of people whom we have declared don’t deserve to be paid a living wage. You’re telling me people like Jeff Bezos can afford to send himself into space, but if he were to pay his workers fairly his company would die? He’s going into space while people are starving on the streets.

Heck, speaking of people starving on the streets, it turns out our country has been more than capable of using our school systems as the infrastructure to provide foods for all of the kids in our country, but we simply refused to do it until a global pandemic forced us to.

We spend so much time being concerned about the people on the bottom of our economic pile being able to abuse the system that we are absolutely willing to ignore the people who require these welfare systems to live. We’re so worried about the idea that we’re going to be paying for the health care of our most impoverished that we’re absolutely willing to ignore that there are people who are being refused service at our hospitals because they couldn’t afford to pay their $20 insurance premium. We are so concerned that these people who are using our welfare systems have smart phones while not being able to pay for their families to live, while completely ignoring how quickly someone can go from making just enough money to survive and afford little nice things for themselves to being at a point where their family is on the street.

Why in the world are we so damned concerned about the specifics of the people who are downtrodden in our country when so many of us live so comfortably? Sure, I may not be blasting off into space anytime soon, but I can afford a smart phone and my health insurance with a little bit left over for fun things, while there are growing numbers of people in my city forced to live on the streets because of rising housing and food and healthcare costs. I’m incredibly lucky to live the life I live, as are many of you. What have we done that makes us deserve the basics necessities of life any more than anyone else?

And bringing us back to the point of the article: I don’t believe there is a person in power in government right now who actually cares to fix these problems. And that is why I’m politically apathetic. I don’t care about the political discourse of it, I just want to stop watching people die on our streets because we’re too busy battling about whether it’s fiscally responsible to keep them from dying and whether they actually deserve it or not. No one deserves to die of starvation while in the land of plenty. No one deserves to be rejected basic health care in the land of amazing medical science. No one deserves to have to work more than one fulltime job just to be able to have shelter and food simply because it could decrease the stock price of a megacorporation.

Our country has been blessed by so much and I can’t help but see so many of us think we somehow deserve it while others are simply undeserving.

No one deserves to starve to death.

No one deserves to freeze to death because they are homeless.

Our country has so much. Why are we okay with people being forced to struggle to even stay alive?

This is my political stance. And it’s not just localized. I think we can do so much on a global scale to reduce and/or prevent food and housing and healthcare insecurities. And I think we should.

I think, as humans, it is our requirement to care about our fellow humans, regardless of the decisions they may have made in their lives to get them there. And I honestly don’t believe there is a single politician in this country who is more concerned about our fellow humans than they are about making sure they are getting enough votes to continue their jobs.

And that is why I’m apathetic.

Published by Adam Oster, Adventure Novelist

Husband, Father, Creator/Destroyer of Worlds

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