Last week I posted a diary that was neither eloquent nor overtly political. I did not blame any particular person or group or party for my current situation. I merely spoke honestly (if inelegantly) about my life. Those who responded to the diary here at the Kos and on my personal blog, did so with empathy and compassion. Often, they commiserated. Many offered help, suggestions and useful information.
By the next day, a couple of Conservative websites had picked up the piece and lambasted it. Many of the comments were unnecessarily vile and vicious. Because I had posted my diary here, they made sweeping judgments about me and my life. They could not contain their loathing. In a single stroke, I was personally, politically and morally reprehensible. Most of all, they seemed offended that I had dared to open my mouth in public.
My politics are informed by my experience and in my experience a Liberal's first instinct is to reach out, to help or seek to understand that which is different. In contrast, a conservative's first instinct when confronted with something different or unsettling is to stifle and suppress it. In effect, to set it apart as The Other.
In the case of my previous diary, the commenters were responding to some imagined Other, whom they needed to despise and belittle to quell their own fear. As long as my words were merely the ranting of some worthless imbecile, they were safe from ever finding themselves in the same situation. Because clearly, such things do not to happen to GOOD people. (Except when they do, and then books must be written and sermons must be preached and it must be decided at long last that the trials which have befallen this good person are like those of Job, a part of God's inexplicable but unquestionable plan.)
Othering divides us. Even here, I have done it, sweeping all Liberals and all Conservatives into my little construction. But all to often now it seems that “There but for the grace of God...” suddenly has the subtext of “There but for all my hard work, wise choices and inherent goodness...go I.”
I can understand how someone who has always been blessed with rewards for their hard work, might believe that they have earned what they have, while someone who has worked equally hard (if not harder) and reaped none of the rewards is more likely to understand that the work and the reward do NOT necessarily go hand in hand. In other words, the people who see themselves as Good, and to whom only good things have happened, tend to believe that it is cause and effect, that they have earned those good things by the sheer goodness within them. This is why such people feel blindsided when something bad happens, because it seems suddenly unfair, as if the rules have been broken. To truly be compassionate, one has to first accept that there are no rules and some understanding of this truth is crucial in the fostering the empathy and support that I received last week.
As a result of that feedback, I feel recharged and re-energized. I am ready to fight for the rights of people like my daughter. I am willing to fight until every one of us has access to appropriate healthcare. And I am able to speak up, scream at the top of my lungs if I must, to add my voice to the chorus, exposing the undeniable consequences of long-term unemployment.
Thank you for reminding me of such things.