Mark Steyn rightly excoriates Alan Colmes and Eugene Robinson for their rather shocking lack of empathy toward the Santorums for doing this:
There is something telling about what Peter Wehner at Commentary rightly called the “casual cruelty” of Eugene Robinson. The Left endlessly trumpets its “empathy.” President Obama, for example, has said that what he looks for in his judges is “the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.” As he told his pro-abortion pals at Planned Parenthood, “we need somebody who’s got the heart — the empathy — to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom.” Empathy, empathy, empathy: You barely heard the word outside clinical circles until the liberals decided it was one of those accessories no self-proclaimed caring progressive should be without.
Indeed, flaunting their empathy is what got Eugene Robinson and many others their Pulitzers — Robinson describes his newspaper column as “a license to feel.” Yet he’s entirely incapable of imagining how it must feel for a parent to experience within the same day both new life and death — or even to understand that the inability to imagine being in that situation ought to prompt a little circumspection.
Steyn notes that, "The Left’s much-vaunted powers of empathy routinely fail when confronted by those who do not agree with them politically"; but I would like to suggest that the problem Steyn identifies is actually more deep-rooted and characterological than mere political partisanship.
If you look below the surface of the supposed "compassion" and "empathy" that the political left constantly trumpets about itself, you will find neither.
From a psychological perspective, many of them are not mature enough to be capable of either true compassion or real empathy when it comes to anything that remotely touches on their political dogma--a dogma that infuses every aspect of their life and relationships.
This is all part of the same pattern that makes the progressive movement so completely pathological. They are constantly emphasizing how
- "reality-based" they are--while refusing to acknowledge any reality that doesn't conform to their constricted worldview (e.g. that you don't get out of debt by constantly spending more money);
- "progressive" they are--while being firmly and consistently against progress (particularly economic progress);
-how normal, peaceful, "grassroots" and appropriate the "Occupy" movement is compared to the evil Tea Partiers who are a bunch of Republican "Mobs", astroturfing phonies; Nazis with swastikas, and "these people are too well-dressed to be genuine protesters". is a case of the leftist projecting their own thuggish motives onto relatively normal Americans who are unhappy with what is going on right now in Washington. Meanwhile the angry and often violent and disgusting tactics of the poorly dressed, gentle, drug-abusing, raping Occupy crowds is honored and sacred.
- how everyone else is "racist" (or homophobic, Islamophobic; as well as anti-woman, children-abusing; anti-old and anti- poor people); and how the goal of their opponents is to kill old people, poor people, people of color and oppress them (instead of having a different perspective on how to best help them). This allows these compassionate and caring people to pretend that the social policies they support don't have any destructive effects (e.g., encouraging permanent victimhood and resentment in the people they claim to be "helping"; increasing dependence; promotion of class warfare instead of "brotherhood")--effects which can be seen all around us. It is never their own policies or beliefs that are to blame for the worsening situation, it is NOT ENOUGH of their policies have been implemented. Many beg to differ.
The list could go on and on.
Do you begin to see a pattern here? It is a psychological pattern that is certainly not exclusive to the political left (remember when Richard Nixon kept loudly proclaiming, "I am not a crook!" when Watergate proved that he was not only lying to himself, but to the country); but the political left currently bows to no one in expressing their immaturity and denial of reality.
This psychological maneuver is very common and pervasive. It is a maneuver that I have written about repeatedly on this blog and it is called projection.
I believe it is Ann Coulter who has said that, "You can always tell what liberals are up to by what they accuse you of."
That is the essence of psychological projection, the psychological strategy by which the user is able to disown his or her own thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors-- even as they virtuously accuse others of possessing those same thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
I wrote in an earlier post about psychological defenses:
I frequently use psychiatric and psychological concepts to describe behavior in this blog, and because of that, many people accuse me of labeling anyone who disagrees with me politically as having a mental illness.
This is not true; and it suggests that most of these critics know little about psychiatry, psychiatric diagnoses, or psychological defenses.
While I do believe that some of the people I describe might indeed have a mental illness; and that some are, in fact, perfectly healthy but simply malevolent or evil; it is simply not the case that by exposing certain psychological defense mechanisms that explain their behavior, I am giving the political opposition a medical/psychiatric diagnosis. Nevertheless, if a particular diagnosis fits, I am perfectly content to let them wear it.
In discussing psychological defense mechanisms, what I am trying to do is understand how and why people behave in the way that they do. Describing psychological defenses is not the same thing as "making a diagnosis" for one very simple reason. All humans utilize psychological defenses, all the time. Both Democrat and Republican; Left and Right. Good and Bad.
Psychological defenses are involuntary, regulatory coping processes.
By themselves, defenses are not evidence of "illness". When used, they may appear to be "sick," evil, or even irrational, but basically, they reflect a creative adaptation to the world.
George Vaillant, a brilliant researcher in this area, and a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard, uses the analogy that defenses mechanisms are deployed in a fashion similar to physical symptoms-- such as a fever, cough or elevated white blood cell count. All of the latter physical symptoms occur when an individual is coming down with an illness.
Vaillant points out that the body reacts to the environment with these physiological responses in order to prevent or ameliorate the attacking illness. Without these normal physiological responses, we would be at the mercy of many illness and die.
In similar fashion, the psychological defenses are employed by the ego to respond to a threatening reality. With varying levels of success, our defense mechanisms ameliorate, distort and/or transform reality in order to protect our psychological self. The healthier and more mature defenses are a remarkably creative synthesis of our conflicts, needs and external reality; a synthesis that enable us to both give and receive pleasure in life.
Some defenses may be considered "immature" or even completely out of touch with reality; while others are "mature". This is not necessarily a value judgement, since it only reflects the fact that throughout development from childhood to adulthood; certain psychological strategies are generally discarded in favor of healthier and more effective strategies. The difference between the two types--mature and immature--is that the psychotic and immature defenses may cause considerable human misery and are, in the long run, not particularly adaptive or healthy. In some cases, they can even distort or warp reality to such an extent, that the person using the defense puts his life (and possibly others lives) at stake.
This is a very high price to pay to avoid a reality that is unpleasant or unacceptable.
Thus, when I see the predominance of "immature" strategies (e.g. projection, fantasy, acting out)--and/or some of the more primitive and potentially psychotic strategies (denial, distortion, paranoia)--being used by supposedly grownup adults, I begin to look around for explanations of their conduct that are not being acknowledged.
When I observe such strategies being used by large groups or even nations, I cringe; because the liklihood of a large number of deaths and considerable human misery is an almost inevitable outcome.
A healthy person will use many different defenses throughout life. A defense mechanism becomes pathological when it is used persistantly and leads to maladaptive behavior that will eventually threaten the physical and/or mental health of the individual. Having said that, there are psychological defenses that are:
1) almost always pathological - when they prevent the individual from being able to cope with a real threat and obscure his/her ability to perceive reality;
2) immature - used in childhood and adolescence, but mostly abandoned by adulthood, since they lead to socially unacceptable behavior and/or prevent the adult from optimal coping with reality;
3) neurotic - common in everyone, but clearly not optimal for coping with reality since they lead to problems in relationships; work; and problems in enjoying life; and finally,
4) mature defense mechanisms - used by "healthy" adults, they optimize one's ability to have normal relationships; enjoy work, and to take pleasure in life.
So, what is going on here with the so-called "empathy" of the progressive left?
There actually IS a connection between projection and empathy.
Projection is considered a primitive or immature defense mechanism because it is used frequently by children (and in their case it is not considered pathological, just childish, and is easily seen through). As an individual matures, gains insight and self-awareness into his or her own psychological realities and acknowledges the reality that is outside his or her own head, the same capacity to project one's own feelings onto others matures and becomes the ability to appreciate the feelings of others.
In the former (immature) case, one disowns "unacceptable" feelings in one's self and projects those feelings into someone else. In the latter (mature) case, one is now able to accept one's own imperfections and tolerate one's own emotions (even painful ones), all of which makes an individual able to accurately and deeply appreciate what others might be feeling.
This latter psychological trait is not a defense mechanism per se, but the abilty to experience appropriate empathy toward others as a conscious and daily process.
Of course, if a person consistently and repeatedly refuses to acknowledge inner and outer reality, then the maturation process is halted, or even reversed. Paranoia, is projection that is not only immature, but psychotic (i.e., completely out of touch with reality). Empathy, OTOH, is projection grown up and used to enhance relationships, rather than to destroy them.
When anyone flaunts their empathy, look closely to see what they are hiding from in themselves.
In the case of the Santorums' baby who died after only a few hours, the people in question were not only unable to get past projection, but it is clear that they were actually frightened by the emotions the Santorums' actions engendered within them. These emotions had to be quickly and firmly rejected if their worldview and their image of themselves was to remain unquestioned. Hence they projected their own inner weirdness and angst (even hate) onto the person who was causing them to have questions.
Steyn goes on to compare the Santorums actions with another individual in the news cycle:
Santorum’s respect for all life, including even the smallest bleakest meanest two-hour life, speaks well for him, especially in comparison with his fellow Pennsylvanian, the accused mass murderer Kermit Gosnell, an industrial-scale abortionist at a Philadelphia charnel house who plunged scissors into the spinal cords of healthy delivered babies. Few of Gosnell’s employees seemed to find anything “weird” about that: Indeed, they helped him out by tossing their remains in jars and bags piled up in freezers and cupboards. Much less crazy than taking ’em home and holding a funeral, right?
The unwillingness to face reality and its consequences; the unwillingness to look within one's own self and truly see and acknowledge one's own negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors is probably the most serious mental illness of our time.
Unlike those suffering from real, biological illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar illness, who are not responsible for the physiological defects that haunt their thoughts and behaviors; these modern deniers repeatedly lie to themselves and the world despite all evidence to the contrary; and ultimately choose over and over again to ignore external and internal reality. They pretend that they are perfect and virtuous, and flaunt their empathy like a shield against that reality.
But, hey! They mean well.
How sad for them that they represent the source of everything which stands against the Good in the world today.