A little girl is left in a black trash bag on a rocky Deer Island shore near Boston. The issues of missing children, exploited children, and child abandonment jump to mind.
A young woman walks with her father along a San Francisco city pier and is shot dead by a gun in the hands of a man in the country illegally. Issues about illegal immigration flood the news.
A Detroit area doctor diagnoses his patients as having cancer and prescribes lengthy debilitating treatments. Except the patients don’t have cancer. Issues of medical malpractice, insurance fraud, and ethics shock us.
Nine members of Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, are shot to death at Bible study by a malcontent. Racism rears its ugly head. Gun control plagues us. Enough.
These actions are within our country. Actions in foreign lands are horrific and bleed to our shores. I’m exhausted, heartsick. Sad.
Aristotle believed that seeing actors portray a tragedy on stage could be beneficial. Their pity and fear aroused, an audience could then envision themselves in the tragic circumstances and leave the theater purged of doing such actions. A catharsis.
On the other hand, Plato argued the opposite. Actions on the stage, and by extension to today in our entertainment media, can influence what a person does in real life. These can have an immoral and negative effect.
I’m with Aristotle on the nobility of his view and the need for empathy in our daily lives and law making. Sadly, I’m with Plato on entertainment media and its potential to desensitize us, making us unempathic and numbed to others.
And then I see South Carolina House member Jenny Horne address the state assembly on the issue of removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds in Charlotte and displaying it in a nearby museum. Such an impassioned plea. A plea based on empathy and understanding about the subtext of that flag. Click here to view. Empathy is a distinctly human trait, the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.
Some claim that removing a symbol such as the Confederate flag is practicing revisionist history or trying to rewrite history. To me, the removal represents positive change. It represents learning from historical acts which is the reason we study history.
I hope our leaders will continue to dig at the ills and issues in our society and arrive at decisions that promote the greater good. I like the American flag waving on official government grounds. I like being united under one flag. I like positive change and progress. Most of all I like empathy, man’s saving grace.