I am troubled by my inability to empathize with Donald Trump

One rule I try to live by is best summed up by those bards of old, Depeche Mode:

People are people/so why should it be/you and I should get along/so awfully

I’m not actually joking. When I get tempted to cast opponents or rivals in the most villainous light, I try to remember: With rare exception, these people don’t see themselves as villains. So — for example — when Rebecca (understandably) makes a sustained critique of gun owners as being selfish, even bad, people, I resist.

Broadly: I think the thing that stops me short of letting myself caricature people — and if you want to find examples of me doing that, you probably can; I’m not a paragon here —  is a belief that humanity is fallen. And we’re all doing the best we can or know how to do. And that means protecting our families and lives from the scariness of the world in a ways that other people don’t like or understand, we’re cool with it. What’s more, we’re good at spotting the specks in other people’s eyes. So yeah: A lot of private gun ownership is a net negative. But I’ve got my bullshit, you probably have yours, and we’re just a little bit blind to it.

It’s not that I give people a pass, though. Sometimes motivations and actions can come from recognizable places and still be wrong. Mostly, though, people are people.

I bring all this up because there is one exception to my empathy, and I can’t tell if I’m the problem or he is:

Donald Trump.

I find it impossible to see the world through his eyes, to find much that is human about him. He strikes me as little more than the sum of his greed and lusts and electrical impulses — and, surely there’s more to him than that.

Isn’t there?

I resist the idea that people are cartoon villains. But Trump strikes me as a cartoon villain. Either I’m failing or he is.

Author: joeldermole

Joel Mathis is a freelance writer who lives in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife and son. He spent nine years as a syndicated columnist, co-writing the RedBlueAmerica column as the liberal half of a point-counterpoint duo. His honors include awards for best online commentary from the Online News Association and (twice) from the City and Regional Magazine Association.

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