Liberal Compassion

Posted By Elgin Hushbeck

For many, it is almost as axiomatic as the sun rises in the east, that Liberals are compassionate, and conservatives are heartless.   But like so many self serving clichés frequently cited by liberals, it does not hold up to critical analysis. While a liberal might say “I feel such compassion for …” The first two words describe the core of what is happening “I feel.”  In short this is often more an exercise in narcissism rather than compassion. While Liberals will understandably object to such characterization, it is demonstrated by another trait: existentialism, or living in the here and now. Liberal do have compassion, but only for those before them, either directly on in images. Those they cannot see, do not exist, and this tendency runs through and explains many of their positions, that would otherwise seem disjoined. 

One of the most defining of the liberal position is Pro-Choice.  For many Liberals this is actually an easy call.  They have compassion on the woman who is faced with such a difficult decision. While conservatives often portray them as pro-abortion, they really are not for what drives their beliefs is compassion.  This is why the horror stories of back alley abortions and coat hangers play such a role for they are projected upon themselves, they imagine themselves facing such a crisis (yet another indication of narcissism) which they then try to project on their opponents: “what if it were you.” For them, abortion is an issue of a woman facing a difficult and life changing crisis, a woman for whom they have great compassion.  For them, the fetus is unseen. It is not before them, and is really more of an abstraction. Given the existential outlook of liberals, it does not exist.   For them the issue of an abortion really comes down to “What would I do if I were pregnant.”  Along these lines it is interesting that as sonogram technology has grown, allowing parents not only to see their own unborn babies, but to have pictures to share with other, the fetus has become less abstract, and support the Pro-Choice position has declined.

This compassion of the moment is most visible where in cases  where positions change as the situations changes.  I talked to many liberals who opposed the First Gulf war, when the victims of war were most evidence.  And yet many of these same people were critical of Bush 41, for not “finishing the job” and leaving the people of Iraq suffering under Saddam.   As the sanction against Iraq had affected many liberals strongly opposed the sanctions, but with the second Gulf War became supporters of sanctions claiming they had been working.  This fluidity of position is understandable when looked at as compassion for visible victim of the moment.  It is also why liberals can be so strongly against the war because of the deaths that are occurring, and yet completely ignore that far more deaths would occur should we follow their demands that we leave before Iraq is stable.  These potential deaths are in the future and there is no future or past, there is only the here and now.

Another issue where this narcissistic existentialism is seen is in the illegal immigration debate.  Again the plight of the illegal immigrate is seen and felt by liberals. Illegal immigrates are poor people simply struggling to make a living.  Liberals worry about the struggles they go through to get here and try to make it easier for them, with such measures as setting up water stations, and opposing measures that would make the plight of the illegal immigrate more difficult such as building a wall.  The problems caused by illegal immigration on the other hand are abstract, and difficult to personalize.  While liberals can easily see themselves in the place of an illegal immigrate struggling to earn enough money to feed his or her family, they cannot see themselves as an infrastructure strained under the burden of illegal immigration.  Even when the problems are understood, such as the impact on Emergency rooms, or schools, again they have compassion for the illegal immigrant who needs medical attention, or their children who need schooling. 

In all of these cases, and many more, liberals see themselves as having compassion, but in all these cases their compassion is selective in that it is for those before them at the moment whose struggle  they can personalize.  Yet their compassion for these people normally comes at the expense of others who are often unseen.   For abortion this would be the fetus killed in the procedure.  While liberals can see themselves as, and thus have compassion for, minors who might have to face their parents and thus oppose parental notification laws,  the minors who have had complications from abortions and  who have died because their parents did not realize their daughter had just undergone a major medical procedure go unseen.  While they have compassion for those here illegally, there is little compassion for the unseen who do follow our laws and are waiting patiently to come to the country legally, a wait that is increased as we to struggle assimilate all those who have come illegally.

Many other issues could be cited, such as liberal compassion for criminals, particularly murderers which comes at the expense of their past and in some cases future victims when liberals get their way and convictions are harder to obtain, sentences are reduced or criminals are released on furlough programs. Thus the question is not who does or does not have compassion, but rather for whom will you have compassion, and at whose expense?

Oct 15th, 2007

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