Compassion First

Chances are you’ve heard of the wild protests against the stay-at-home orders, business closures, etc. And so you’ve likely seen the footage of all these crazed people congregating in the street and on the steps on government buildings, often with zero PPE in sight. For most people with a shred of common sense, this sight in infuriating.

Before we get angry at these people, we should take a second and try to think why they are out there. Okay, a good number of them are probably upset that their beaches, bars, and hangout spots are closed, but I’m sure there are also those out there who want to get back to work because they lost their jobs and simply can’t afford to live of their current saving and government assistance.

I’m fortunate that I worked from home even prior to the onset of the pandemic and that I am currently writing this from my childhood home where I really have no expenses. However, not everybody is so lucky. Granted places like Huntington Beach are filled with affluent, privileged people who have no good reason to be protesting, but what about people who depend on their patronage?

If you thought that the $1200 “stimulus” payment was pitiful then you should be able to understand why some people want to get back to work.

Let me be clear though, I think the protests are misguided and dangerous, as are the people who participate. The question is how do we reach these people? Through yelling at them through our computer screens? What’s the purpose of getting angry?

You might be mad because that’s just your knee jerk reaction to seeing people do stupid stuff. But who is that for? Certainly not yourself, most people don’t like feeling angry. Maybe you’re angry so that the people you’re angry at will realize what their doing is bad, but that severely overestimates the empathic capabilities of people with a cause, especially zealots. Perhaps most reasonably, you are mad for the people that this harmful behavior is hurting; the healthcare workers, other essential service providers, the vulnerable but how does your anger and outrage help them? Anger may strengthen your resolve and your passion internally, but externally it cheapens them.

If you want people to see things from your point of view you have to appeal to things they care about. Fortunately as humans, we often share common values, at least when if comes to the most basic core values. Where we differ is how we live out/ achieve/ prioritize those values.

Get angry. Just don’t let them see it. When you see those angry protesters, do you think, “These people must be educated, knowledgeable, and conscientious!” Don’t stoop to their level. Throw a fit. But then think critically and try to solve more problems than your create. Physical distancing and isolation are currently the most effective way to reduce the number of preventable deaths, but it’s not a perfect system. Be humble, stay informed, and act accordingly.

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