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Nrrrrrrgh!!!! I’m sorry if my thoughts are going all over the lot this Friday, but this post over at Bench Memos makes me cringe:

Obama’s Empathy [Ed Whelan]

A reader writes to state that he “was really bothered by the President’s crack about the Special Olympics last night” (on Jay Leno’s show) and to call into question what President Obama’s so-called empathy standard for judicial nominees really means:

I have a mentally impaired sibling who has participated in those games and would be devastated to find that the President of the United States thinks her efforts funny.  It struck me that his comments were especially out of line given his own gold standard for nominees, which called for nominees with the “heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom.  The empathy to understand what it’s like to be . . . disabled. . . .  And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting judges.” Through his chuckling mocking of handicapped athletes last night, the President showed he would fail his own standard.  I wonder if he really cares about empathy for the disabled at all — or if his empathy standard is merely a proxy for activist tendencies.

A good question. It is quite clear that any empathy that Obama might have for disabled persons does not translate into enabling citizens to afford them any meaningful legal protection of their basic right to life when they are in utero.

It’s sympathy, goddammit! Sympathy!!! “Empathy” is the capability to share another person’s feelings. “Sympathy” is the positive regard for another person’s feelings. Obama can’t have empathy for a disabled person or a young, teenage mom because he’s not a disabled person or a young, teenage mom.

Contrary to the trend these days, these words are NOT interchangeable.

Thank you.

Those two or three of you together who have the slightest interest in my feeble attempts at spiritual exploration may be interested to know that as the weeks have progressed I have found it necessary desirable to alter my Lenten reading list somewhat.  It has always seemed to me that such reading might broadly be placed into two categories, namely books that aid and encourage penitence, and books that aid and encourage growth.  (Of course, there are plenty of books that do both, but I don’t want to get too deep into the technicalities of classification here.)

Aaaaaanyway, I started out with a plan to read a great many books from the former category, Augustine’s Confessions, for example, and not so many from the latter.  But in making my way through my list, I am increasingly aware of a voice suggesting that I might be far better off altering the mix, of introducing more books having to do with growth.  And when I say growth, I mean growth as in growth in love.  As in the “God is Love” kind of love spoken about by St. John.  As in Charity.  I don’t often get these dispatches from the Home Office, but this one seems to be pretty explicit: stop fretting about your shortcomings so much and start focusing on (I cringe slightly to write this) loving others more in the Christian sense.

fourloves1To this end, since I just finished up another book, my hand fell on my copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves, a book that has been sitting on my library shelf since last Lent, but that I have never got round to reading before.   It seems to me that there are few better places to go for a detailed meditation on this sort of thing, a spelling out of and differentiation in the different meanings that in English we tend to lump under the same word.  (Yes, I am already well aware of what agape means, but I am hoping  that by taking the time to parse my way through it again, I will grow stronger not just in understanding it, but in practicing it as well.)

I suppose that one of the signals for this realization was having dinner with Steve-O the Llama last evening.  We’ve known each other twenty five years now.  I must say that I actually have very, very few real “friends”, but the ones I do have are awfully good ones.  It’s about time I started making more of an effort to act in kind.

UPDATE: Just thought you might like to know that after writing this post I re-discovered the pocket cross that dear Kathy the Cake Eater gave me last year, and which I had misplaced two weeks ago.  Now I don’t happen to believe that God spends much time playing parlor tricks and that I hadn’t found it before because I was looking in the wrong pair of pants.  But that’s only a temporal explanation.  The spiritual grace note aspect of the thing is still very much valid.

flora I must say that I cannot remember a year in which I have looked forward to the arrival of Spring more eagerly.  I used to be a cold weather kind of guy, but this year I was sick and tired of Winter almost before it started.

Age, I suppose.

At any rate, you will well understand how happy I was a few days back when, glancing out my kitchen window, I noticed a large flock of robins in the back yard.   They disappear from our neighborhood in the colder weather (although I understand they hang around the National Mall and the Tidal Basin year round).  One of the first signs of the change of the season is when these large migratory flocks start to appear.  They’ll come and go for a couple of weeks and then vanish again, leaving a smaller population of robins to hang about through next fall.

It’s just the first step, of course, but how delighted I am that things are starting to move!

UPDATE:  In answer to Groovy Vic’s snipe about the boiling heat and humidity that will arrive in Dee Cee in another, oh, 3 months or so, I would just point out that there is no inconsistency a’tall between my enjoying the advent of Spring and loathing the advent of Summah.  Indeed, as I say, I have long advocated the establishment of a summah capital, to which we poor Dee Cee’ers could flee when it gets nasty out.  My latest thought was the possibility of locating said summah capital somewhere in the Austrian Alps:

alps-austria Yes, there would be some logistical issues, to say nothing of the sovereignty complications, but I’m sure they could be sorted out.

As a matter of fact, my first choice had always been to establish the summah capital somewhere in the wilds of Maine.  However, speaking on behalf of all Pine Tree Staters, the Mothe has made it abundantly clear that we Feds can get stuffed.


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March 2009