Empathy is a characteristic of divinity that separates man from all other animals. Defined as "the vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another," it is synonyms with being on the same wave length or having compassion. Empathy is selflessness. It results in service to others and renders a caring heart that gives meaning to the Golden Rule: "Do unto other as you would have them do unto you."
Last week Americans, once again, experienced a sense of empathy as we watched Hurricane Isaac bear down on the citizens of New Orleans and the surrounding area, almost seven years to the day after Katrina. We shared prayers, hopes and made preparations to help in any way possible. We also shared a sense of relief that this storm did not take the disastrous toll of life and property as did the previous one.
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As I read about President Obama's decision to visit the storm-ravaged area almost a full week after Isaac hit, I was forced to asked myself if we had elected an empathy-free president. This question comes to mind only because of a history of other empathy-free actions made throughout Obama's political career.
Most Americans feel a deep sense of empathy for the thousands upon thousands of black urban children who, by no fault of their own, are trapped in deteriorating cities and failing school systems. Our heart aches reading about high school seniors graduating without the ability to read their own diplomas and thereby starting a life with a future of hopelessness. It was this empathy that encouraged Republicans, Democrats and Independents to come together and craft a voucher program in which over 2,000 black Washington, D.C., families could choose schools for their children outside of their depressed neighborhoods. The success of the program was an astonishing graduation rate of 94 percent, and 89 percent of those graduates enrolling in a two- or four-year college. With the success of so many black children breaking the chains of illiteracy, why would our first black president, six weeks after his inauguration, eliminate the program, forcing hopeful children back to proven dangerous and failing schools? Is it that his dedication and loyalty to the education labor unions trumps the welfare of these children, or is it simply that we've elected an empathy-free president?
Most Americans feel empathy for babies who are born alive, even if the intention of the mother was to abort them. It is this compassionate connection that allows Americans to feel that these living, breathing children deserves medical care and sustenance to continue their lives. After listening to testimony of a nurse who endured comforting a "throwaway baby" as he took his last breath, then-state Sen. Obama voted four times against the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which would have made illegal "death by neglect" of born but unwanted infants. Is it his unfettered dedication and loyalty to the abortion industry that discriminately places 70 percent of their centers in black communities, or is it simply that we've elected an empathy-free president?
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Americans feel a deep empathy for the over 23 million jobless or underemployed citizens who have had to endure the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression. We feel for the lifetime savings lost, retirements deferred or eliminated, dreams that have been shattered as homes were foreclosed on, the many once-sacred marriages that could not weather the pressure of bankruptcy and the American people who, for its first time, doubt a brighter future for their children. We would expect our new president to understand the despair of joblessness and spend every working hour getting all segments of Americas, not just labor unions, working again. Instead, with full control of the Senate and House of Representatives, he spent his first 18 months focused on a health-care bill that was never designed for job growth. Instead of job creation, is his first priority ensuring centralized government control of what used to be private and personal choices, or is it simply that we've elected an empathy-free president?
Grove Parc Housing Complex, Cabrini-Green Housing Complex, New Evergreen/Sedgwick, Lawndale Restoration – these are low-income housing complexes whose residence were represented by then-state Sen. Obama. Most Americans would have empathy for these thousands of poor black families living in deteriorating, rat-and-roach infested buildings, lacking sufficient insulation, compiling a list of code violations that included an old, rusty iron gate that eventually collapsed and killed a 3-year-old child. We would feel for the neighbors who watched as spreading blight destroyed their community and the residents who were eventually forced to move as these complexes were foreclosed and shut down.
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On the other side of this equation were Obama's wealthy friends who become wealthier due to federal subsidy payouts and tax credits. Slum-lord manager Valerie Jarrett, now senior adviser to the president, slumlord developer Tony Rezko, now in prison for fraud and bribery, and a handful of other Chicago power brokers were granted "tens of millions" in federal funds under Obama's watch.
Lawndale residents rallied against Obama, the protest organizer stating, "How didn't he know? Of course he knew. He just didn't care." As Obama claimed that he never knew about these conditions over his eight years as their representative, is it possible that because of his loyalty to his wealthy friends who would seed his political career that he took a "see no evil" approach in regard to the poorest in his district, or is it simply that we've elected an empathy-free president?