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It’s Not About Compassion

HippocratesOne of the accusations hurled at conservatives is that we have no compassion.  No compassion for the sick who can’t afford health care.  No compassion for the millions who are suffering in Mexico and only want to come here for a better life.  No compassion for the poor who only want a chance.  Nothing is further from the truth. We have compassion, but we recognize our own capacity and the capacity of our nation to address these issues.

When I was a child, I found an injured chipmunk that had been hurt by our cat.  I brought it in to my mother who, filled with compassion for both the injured animal and her son, brought all her motherly skills to bear. She treated its wound, wrapped it in a towel and set it in a shoe box in a warm place.  She saved it’s life.

Soon after, confident in my mother’s abilities as a healer, I brought her a beloved pet who had died.  I was young and didn’t understand the difference between life and death, but my mother did.  Filled with compassion, she told me there was nothing she could do.  it wasn’t that she didn’t want to help, it was simply beyond her capacity.

So when I hear those on the left accusing we on the right of having no compassion I have to say, it isn’t about compassion, it’s about capacity.  We don’t have the capacity to care for millions of illegal immigrants.  We don’t have the capacity to care for millions of poor who can, and should care for themselves.  We don’t have the capacity to insure everyone.  We may want to, but the reality is we can’t.  Like the child I was, many on the left are filled with hope and longing for the capacity to do the impossible without understanding their, or the government’s limitations.

I didn’t understand that life was unfair, and I felt cheated by the inequity of life, the inherent unfairness that this thing I loved, once alive, was now dead. 

If she could have, I have no doubt my mother would have saved my pet.  If we could, if it were in our capacity to do all that we could to help those who need it, is there any doubt we would?  We are the United States of America.  We give more to charity per capita than any other nation. We are a giving, compassionate people. And on that note, let it be known, that conservatives give more to charity than liberals do.

Now, let me talk about compassion, and what true compassion is.  At another time, our cat climbed up into the engine of our car where it could soak in the warmth from the engine.  Sadly, when we went out later to run an errand, the cat was hit by the fan and severely wounded. 

We took him to the vet who told us he could save our cat’s life, but it would be a miserable existence filled with pain. We didn’t want to inflict that on a beloved pet just so we could have him in our lives, and the decision was made to put him down.  Compassion is and should be selfless.  I would argue that much of the alleged compassion on the left is not true compassion. It has it’s origins in selfishness, and true compassion should be selfless.

When I was a young man, a family friend and youth leader taught me a valuable lesson.  There are different kinds of love.  There is the love we have for those who do things for us.  We love them because they care for us, or they help us.  There is the love we have for another because of what we can do for them.  There is the love we have for others in spite of their faults.  And there is the love a parent has for a child.  The first two are based on selfishness.

I believe that much of the “compassion” on the left is based on the love they have for others because it makes them feel good, or for the praise and adulation they receive.  They love because of what is in it for them.  It is an immature love, and I propose that it is impossible to have true compassion with either of these kinds of love. When we do things for others because it makes us feel good, because it paints us in a positive, dare I say “better” light than others, we are doing it for selfish purposes.  That is not compassion.

The latter two are based on sacrifice and true compassion. Compassion is caring for the welfare of another. Compassion is the willingness to cut open a child to remove a tumor, even though you know they will suffer immensely.  Compassion isn’t always about sparing another suffering.  Often, true compassion is forcing another to suffer so they can have a better life. 

Liberals don’t understand this.  True compassion isn’t feeding the poor. It’s giving them the capacity to feed themselves.  That might mean letting them hit rock bottom without a safety net so they learn valuable lessons.

True compassion isn’t about insuring the uninsured.  It’s about giving them the capacity to find work, a good job that they can lift themselves up with and insure themselves.  True compassion isn’t opening our borders to everyone who wants to come here, it’s giving them the capacity to thrive in their own nation. 

The problems of the world won’t be solved by compassion.  They will be solved by increasing the capacity of the downtrodden, the afflicted, and the destitute to change their circumstances.   It is not about compassion, and it never has been.  It’s about capacity. 

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