Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Empathy fatigue and adverbial correctness

I have empathy fatigue.

I'm currently on vacation, in Florida relaxing at my mother-in-law's house.  She's a gracious hostess and I appreciate her hospitality.

It was probably before I left that I started developing empathy fatigue.  When I heard about the shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I thought, "Not again.  Here we go again."

On the drive down to Florida, we stopped at McDonald's for breakfast, and that was when I learned, courtesy of a big-screen TV blaring CNN all over the place, that TWO black men, in different parts of the country, had been shot by white policemen in 24 hours.  One of them was the shooting in Baton Rouge.  The other was in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The MN shooting was live streamed on Facebook.  The Baton Rouge shooting was also videoed and placed on the Internet.

After seeing the news on CNN, all I wanted to do was cry.  Because such shootings have happened too often.  And I predicted that violence such as what happened in Ferguson would follow.

What I did not predict -- indeed, what probably no one else predicted -- was the senseless slaughter from ambush of five Dallas police officers, murdered in cold blood.

That, I learned of when I sat down for breakfast Friday morning, opened up my iPad, and saw as the first alert from my news apps.  All I could do was whisper, "Oh, my God."

I, like probably numerous others in this country, am just plain overwhelmed and tired from all of the violence, murder, and other bad news we've been hearing recently.  Orlando knocked the Standford rape case out of the headlines.  A bombing in Iraq knocked Orlando out of the headlines.  Baton Rouge knocked that bombing out of the headlines.  St. Paul knocked Baton Rouge out of the headlines.  Dallas knocked both Baton Rouge and St. Paul out of the headlines.  The American flag has been at half-mast for so long and for so many times, I've forgotten who, at the moment, we're supposed to be honoring.

What next?  What next?

I'm worn out from trying to care and from being expected to care.  I describe it as "empathy fatigue". I think the correct term is "compassion fatigue", and it's common among those who serve in the helping professions.

Not only am I worn out from trying to care, I am worn out from trying to be adverbially correct.

That's not meant to be a comment on the use of correct grammar.  Rather, I feel as if I have to have the politically, socially, Bibically, spiritually, -- whatever -ly word you want to use -- correct position on every. single. issue that is out there.  And the thought of having to do the research and thinking to come up with whatever that position is just leaves me overwhelmed.

And in addition, I feel that no matter what I say, as a white woman, I am going to be labeled as either "racist" or "privileged".

If I am not an overt racist, I'm a covert racist.
If I'm not a covert racist, I'm an inadvertent racist.
If I'm not an inadvertent racist, I'm an unconscious racist.
If I'm not an unconscious racist, I'm a subtle racist.

And if I'm none of the above, I'm "privileged" solely because I'm white.

Therefore, since I am white and privileged,  nothing I say counts.

At the risk of offending friends on both sides of the political aisle, I'm going to say two things:
1.  Sometimes the police officer is the bad guy.
2.  Sometimes the African-American who is shot by the police is the bad guy.

Neal Boortz, a retired talk show host who was based in Atlanta, has said that when a young black is shot by a white police officer, the narrative is that the young black is ALWAYS innocent and the white officer is ALWAYS guilty.  I can't say that he's totally wrong.  Because that does seem to be the narrative these days.  What I resent about these police shootings is that NO ONE is willing to wait until the facts come out before they start casting blame--whether it be at the white cop or the African-American victim.

On the other hand, we DO have a tragic history of racism when it comes to the treatment of African Americans by white officers--and sadly, there are some white officers that still automatically treat African-Americans as if they are criminals when they are not.  One of my minister's sons is African American.  He's been subject to such treatment from white police officers.

We live in a world where it seems that right has become wrong, wrong has become right, and the world has turned upside down.  To tell me, as a Christian, to, "just read your Bible and do what it says" doesn't completely help , because ANYONE can take the Bible and use it to "prove" that what they are saying is accurate.  To go through and try to prove or disprove every.single.teaching that is out there is a job I just can't do.

I"m a white woman who doesn't want to be a racist.  I'm a Christian who wants to follow God's command to love Him, love others, and reach the lost.  Is there no way for me to do it without falling victim to empathy fatigue and/or having to be adverbially correct on everything?

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.


  1. Neal Boortz was one of my favorite talk radio hosts, and his books are fantastic. He's one of the truly "independent" voices out there.