A Serious Empathy Deficit

A Serious Empathy Deficit

Mallorie Joplin, reporter

A dictionary definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s not the same as sympathy. As memoirist Rebecca O’Donnell puts it, “Empathy is walking a mile in somebody else’s moccasins. Sympathy is being sorry their feet hurt.”

If Americans seem less empathetic that they used to be, the scientific community says that feeling has validity. A 2010 University of Michigan study found that college students then were 40% less empathetic than their counterparts of 1980s and ’90s, as measured by standardized tests of this personality trait. And it seems to have only gotten worse since then.

In 2011, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked presidential candidate Ron Paul what should happen to a 30-year old man who chose not to buy health insurance and then became seriously ill. “Are you saying society should just let him die?” Mr. Blitzer asked. The debate crowd “erupted in cheers and whoops of ‘Yeah,’” Slate reported.

Roughly a decade later, in September 2020, after the shooting of two Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies, a crowd gathered outside the treating hospital shouting “we hope they die” as they tried to block the hospital’s emergency exits, according to the Los Angeles Times. That same month, “The U.S. has an Empathy Deficit” was the headline of an opinion piece in the September 2020 Scientific American.

In America today, immigrants are demonized. Asian Americans are assaulted. Capitol police are beaten with flagpoles. Unarmed African Americans are shot and suffocated by police. Votes are suppressed. Mass shootings take lives regularly.

Even mask wearing amid COVID-19 illustrates our empathy problem. The message “I wear a mask to protect you, you wear a mask to protect me” did not resonate with millions of Americans; neither did the social value of vaccinations. Today’s notion of individual freedom has little room for empathy.  Lack of empathy is becoming a very serious problem in our society today.

Information from https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/op-ed/bs-ed-op-0627-empathy-deficit-clone-20210625-te6pv7torngnlbf7kuhq62gtxu-story.html