Choosing empathy


There’s been plenty of online and actual discussion recently by people trying to rank these horrors (which I’m listing in no particular order): 1) the University of Cincinnati police officer shooting motorist Samuel Debose in the head with what appears on the body camera video to be no justification; 2) the dentist wounding the lion in Zimbabwe with an arrow, after which it wandered injured for 40 hours before the dentist and his guides shot it dead; and 3) Planned Parenthood’s trade in human organs and the depravity of how casually its leaders discussed it over lunch.

I guess it’s human nature to rank things, but the effort brings to mind a situation in which people are looking at three bone-dry water glasses of different shapes and sizes, debating which one is most empty. In their own way, they’re each as empty as can be.

Regardless of how one ranks them, the incidents are disturbing to the core — but I take some solace in the fact that our society indeed finds them disturbing. We’ve collectively recoiled in horror at the Planned Parenthood doctor’s description of where exactly she prefers to “crush” human life, at the thought of a creature wandering in pain as a result of someone’s twisted vision of sport, and at the sight of an officer of the law putting his weapon to a man’s head, pulling the trigger, and ending a life for no reason.

So what can we do? Here are my thoughts:  

Practically, further research into adult stem cells could render research on fetal stem cells unnecessary (and regardless of its admirable provision of birth control and cancer screenings, the fact that our tax dollars go to an enterprise that crushes human fetuses is beyond me…), hunters can monitor their own ranks to ensure good sense and fair sportsmanship, and (as I’ve long advocated) we can require all police officers to wear body cameras, now. (Regarding body cameras, I was disappointed to see the recent news that the City of Minneapolis is finding reasons to slow the full roll out to all officers; for the amount of money it spends each year on engineering of the proposed streetcar line, the city could afford to hire the employees necessary to manage the body-cam data.)

Beyond practical steps, in our own hearts and actions we can cherish life, stay vigilant against the coarsening of our culture, and teach our children to do the same. (If you question the need, try flipping through the channels on a Friday night with your young children.)

So rank away, People of the Internet, but I think we’d be better off if we recognized that each of these horrors flowed from a common place, where people confuse force and strength and where empathy shrivels up and we treat fellow living things as objects. By any ranking, that’s not a place where any of us wants to live.

Cam Winton is an attorney in the energy industry and lives with his family in Minneapolis.