Compassion is at Our Core

In a world where you can be anything, be kind. Unless you can be a unicorn, then be a unicorn.

Teeshirt Philosophy

Conventions don’t usually interest me. Too noisy, too many people, too much rah rah without a lot of digging deep. But last night was different, because Democrats are fighting for our lives, our democracy, our values, and everyone was willing to own what we believe in our core. Caring for each other is foundational to being a Democrat. It seems like every time Republicans use to come out swinging with epitaphs like “bleeding heart liberal,” or “socialist,” we’d run for the hills. It’s as if we’ve bought into the Republican value of being tough, uncaring, and independent, but all that changed Monday night. Being a Democrat, is at its core, about creating policies and programs based on caring for our fellow human beings and our planet.

Compassion maybe a noun, but caring is a verb. Compassion requires action. When I say, we are here to care for each other and the world, I’m not talking about warm and fuzzy feelings. Feelings don’t get the work done. My 95-year-old mother with dementia hates taking a bath. I can have all the warm and fuzzy, lovey-dovey feelings about her in the world – none of them get her into the shower. Caring for her means coaxing, cajoling, pushing and pulling to do the work of getting her bathed.

Caring requires voting, but it requires so much more.  Yes, we need to be the party that shows up at town halls and writes letters to the editor, but also the party that marches with Black Lives Matter, that demands our candidates support women’s reproductive freedom, that gets out into our neighborhoods to actually talk and work for the people we profess to be represent. Caring is why we wear masks, why we pay our taxes, why we support science and small businesses, why we want not just equality for all, but equity. Caring means that we don’t accept 170,000 deaths from Covid-19 as “it is what it is.” Caring means we can’t just allow a disproportionate number for people of color to die from Covid-19. We have to do something to change that now.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about saviorism. We aren’t a bunch of good middle-class mostly white folk, who are here to lift up the masses and feel good about ourselves. We create a social safety net, not just for others but for ourselves. I might currently be doing okay, able to pay my taxes and give some donations, but certainly that wasn’t always the case and it might not always be the case in the future. Unless you’re terribly lucky and part of the 1%, at some time in your life you may need that safety net – that thing caring societies create for everyone. More than that though, is the realization that we all benefit when we live in a society were people have equal footing, truly equal opportunity, equal privilege, and equal justice under the law. Creating that society requires working to end systemic racism, to end sexism, homophobia, xenophobia. It requires ending poverty, income and wealth inequality, and environmental catastrophe (or at least slowing that down before it’s too late.) That requires work, but first we need to openly care. The opening night of the Democratic National Convention proclaimed that care. It is as Michelle Obama said, “This is who we still are: compassionate, resilient, decent people whose fortunes are bound up with one another. And it is well past time for our leaders to once again reflect our truth.”

Caring is hard – which might be why so few Republicans are doing it. But it’s the only way we can save democracy, the planet, and each other. It’s the only way we have to work for justice, equality, and inclusivity. It’s the only way we get everyone educated, informed, and using their talents for the common good. It’s the only way we have to become fully human – by doing the hard work of compassion. So, let’s proclaim loud and clear that compassion is foundational to being a Democrat and let’s elect leaders who reflect that.