In the Summer of 2020 for the first time in history, the world and America itself got to see in real time first hand accounts of police brutality against Black Americans and anyone who would dare stand with us. The world has gotten to see and know videos of Black people getting murdered for things as basic as sleeping in their own home or trying to stop a fight.
In 2016, white Americans, white women especially gasped in shock as a racist, misogynistic, sexual predator who ran on a platform of “this is what I hate and don’t want” and nothing else became President of the United States. Trump, who I will hereafter refer to as “Sarumon” for his abuse of the power he was given, ability to sway masses with his speech and his being a pawn of a more intelligent and insidious evil that operates behind the scenes, just like Lord Sarumon in Lord of the Rings, became the archetype for the part of America, many American’s try to pretend doesn’t exist.
This isn’t an article about Sarumon though, it’s an article about the societal mindset that allowed Sarumon to gain power. Because it isn’t just Saruman supporters who refuse to embrace compassion.
In my frustration of dealing with people not wanting to believe how much racism still exists in America, despite the litany of historical and current evidence, I turned my eye to learning about a group of people I was ignorant about, disabled people. I incorrectly assumed that they are well taken care of in our country and protected by discrimination laws.
I started to learn how unaccommodating most of our society is to the disabled community. And it goes beyond that, a good chunk of the population straight up believes disabled would be better off dead! Like literally!!!
I found an abundance of disabled people creating literature, podcasts, social media etc. explicitly stating the human basics that they need to survive and thrive, and how to provide it for them, yet for some reason getting met with a “whatever, it’s not a big deal or an issue really” kind of response.
In trying to integrate some basic lessons I’ve learned so far from listening to disabled people, I’ve experienced surprising backlash at times. For instance, I learned that words like “crazy” or “insane”, are heavily associated with systemic and systematic abuse of disabled people and should be avoided. It’s the same reason why “n*gger” is a word that white people shouldn’t say, because of the history of oppression behind it.
So I’ve been trying to get into the habit of catching myself and replacing words like “crazy” with a different word. Because, why not? It’s a fun challenge to expand my vocabulary and an easy way to help others feel at peace in this world.
Surprisingly, people sometimes get upset with me when I do this, even after my explanation of why, I will get an eye roll and an “it’s not that serious”. I would see posts of self proclaimed liberals who have things like “anti-bigotry”, “BLM”, “F SARUMON!!” in their profile, on social media making fun of Saruman, not for his litany of moral failings, but for his disabilities like having difficulty walking or not being able to hold a glass with one hand. I would comment and point out that making fun of a disability means they are promoting the very things they say they are against and would be met with indifference and “well because he’s a bad person it’s ok” or sometimes downright rude responses.
Is it really that hard to just not make fun of disabilities or the way someone looks? Is being able to make fun of someone’s disability or to say a person is “crazy” really SO important to people that they will disregard the cries of millions of people? Apparently the answer is “yes” for millions.
Just yesterday, I watched Sia, whose music I have enjoyed in the past, disregard the voices of thousands of disabled and specifically autistic people in defense of a movie she will be releasing that features a non-autistic actress playing an autistic role.
Again, I’m not really here to talk about the person, but the mindset behind why a conversation like this is happening. As a musician, I get being defensive about a work you’ve put all of your heart and soul into, but as a human (and even musician) I’m having a hard time understanding why anybody would want to tell a story that isn’t theirs then get mad when the people who’s story they are trying to tell give them feedback that the story isn’t being told correctly.
So what is it? What is so difficult about compassion? To me compassion is the act of learning about those you don’t understand, it is an act that requires listening and letting go of the assumptions we have about ourselves and others. This is an uncomfortable process, compassion really doesn’t feel good until after the learning has happened, after an understanding of why a person is the way they are/did a thing they did, after an understanding of why we believe what we believe has been reached.
But to me it’s worth it, because don’t we ALL feel like we’re misunderstood? It seems very logical to me that if we ALL just listened, learned and adjusted how we treat a person based on the feedback they give us that we ALL would be much happier and healthy as a society. I genuinely believe we could be exploring space with warp drives and food replicators by choosing to embrace compassion.
But, clearly not all of society shares this belief. A good chunk of America, ~73 million to be precise, made it clear that they still believe in white supremacy and all that comes with it, when they voted for Saruman on Nov. 3rd 2020. White people are raising their young men to be murderers and are completely ok with it (Kyle Rittenhouse, Dylan Roof are some recent examples).
And to be honest, after watching so many white people literally willing to DIE on the hill of “I don’t believe in masks or COVID” because their leader told them to, I can’t even feel mad or take it personally. Because these people are doing it to themselves as well as everybody else. Dylan Roof literally threw his life away with the rest of the people he murdered in that church, why would anybody celebrate a young man throwing his life away? Why would anybody want to pass such a legacy down to their children? Where is the growth in that?
In the end, the cost of a lack of compassion, is loss of self. Many people claim to be of high moral standings and to believe in the sanctity of life but when it comes down to the test, they’re making excuses for cold blooded murder and turning a blind eye to oppression of millions because it makes them uncomfortable and is too inconvenient to face.
So what’s stopping so many from embracing compassion? My guess is fear, fear that one can’t survive without the benefits of privilege (not true), fear of having to admit that perhaps we’re playing the part of the villain, fear of facing and being who we really are. Fear of being something that society shuns. Fear that there isn’t enough to go around (not true). As Yoda said, fear leads to anger which leads to hate which is the path to the dark side.
NOBODY benefits from a lack of compassion for others, while the scars and pain or more apparent on the oppressed and down trodden, the decay that must take place in a person to turn away from compassion and our spiritual instinct of love and unity is readily apparent as well.
So what do you think? What’s stopping so many from embracing compassion? Please comment and discuss your thoughts (in a compassionate way of course!)