Big story. All over the news. Within hours, media—social and otherwise—begin discussing the appropriate gesture. A moment of silence? Black armbands? The dead player’s number stenciled on his teammates’ helmets? A consensus begins to develop around the idea of canceling the game.
People who had no intention of watching that game, who in many cases couldn’t name the player in question, who couldn’t tell you what city the Chiefs represent or who their opponents were, are adamant and vocal in their insistence that the game simply cannot be played.
The first question that springs to mind: Why not? Will canceling the game somehow “raise awareness” that shooting your wife and/or blowing your brains out is a bad idea? Or is it that inconveniencing tens of thousands of ticket-holders and the millions who were planning to watch the game on TV will force any other potentially homicidal NFLers to think twice before “bustin’ a cap,” or whatever it is the cool kids are saying these days?
No, we are told, it’s a matter of “compassion,” and that anyone who opposes the cancellation, no matter their objection, is obviously a heartless Neanderthal.
Compassion is now the standard by which all things are to be measured. No one in business, politics, or entertainment can afford to be seen as lacking in it. In the event of a natural or other disaster, even the president must take time away from supervising relief efforts to make sure he is photographed looking concerned and offering comfort to the victims.
So what is going on here? Has America suddenly become a kinder, gentler, more caring nation? Five minutes negotiating rush-hour traffic in any major city should give you the answer. In fact, what’s happening is the manipulation of a noble human quality by those who would use it to further a weak and illogical political agenda.
There was a time when attaining the moral high ground required some sort of sacrifice, or at least effort. A person might have to take the coat off his back and put it around a freezing homeless person, or give up a life of bourgeois comfort to tend to the sick and dying in some Third World hellhole. Now, all you have to do to show the world what a great person you are is click the LIKE button on Facebook, or if you’re feeling really “compassionate,” cast a vote for the guy who promises to raise taxes on the “rich.” Because nothing says “I care” like sticking your hand in someone else’s pocket.
Conservatives are often accused of not caring about society’s least fortunate members, but maybe they’re just tired of seeing them exploited. Lately it seems as though every bloated spending initiative or poorly thought-out government program is justified by scouring the depths of human misery. Want to increase the education budget by a couple of billion? Tell us about the six-year-old orphan who has to study on the floor of a leaky, unheated trailer because his school can’t afford desks. Government-subsidized contraception? Find some pregnant preadolescent from the backwoods and point out how she never would have gotten herself into such a jam if her father had only had access to “free” condoms when he was raping her. The way the desperately poor, sick, and helpless are forced to carry our social programs and entitlements on their backs, it’s a wonder the poor things haven’t been crushed to death.
Empathy is innate in all but a tiny percentage of human beings. It can however, be fostered or hindered by our behavior. When we allow government to define and appropriate compassion, we hand them a proxy for our natural emotions and instincts. We not only distance ourselves from personal responsibility, we lose touch with our actual feelings.
Ironically, societies with the most extensive social programs are the least charitable in attitude as well as the amounts of actual dollars that individuals willingly contribute. There are fewer and fewer givers as the majority of people come to see themselves as recipients. The government “cares” for you in much the way an overprotective boyfriend does—by slowly taking control of every aspect of your life until you’re left helpless and dependent, unable to make any choices but the ones of which he approves.
Those who actually foot the bill—that is to say, who pay more in taxes than they take out—are regularly demonized by media, government, and the general population. Trust me, nothing will make you less charitable than being forced to buy dinner for someone who spends the whole meal telling you what an asshole you are. Those who enjoy that sort of thing can always get married, but I digress.
In the end, compassion is defined by how you treat other people, not by how you vote or what you post on Facebook, and definitely not by how loudly you denounce other people as heartless scumbags. If you really want to connect with your fellow human beings, take a few moments away from patting yourself on the back to volunteer for an organization whose mission truly touches you, or reach into your own pocket and help someone who you feel deserves it rather than asking the government to do it for you.