"We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are: where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We're kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us."
- Robert Ebert, film critic
There have been 197 school shootings in the first 206 months of this century. Congress has not passed a single piece of legislation in response to the fact that more than 3 people are being shot in schools - more than one of them killed - each month.
It is true that this problem of shootings in America is complicated. It is also true that high school students feel that trigonometry is complicated and yet we - rightfully - force them to work on trig problems. Shootings are complicated but not more than any of thousands of problems that are given out each day to millions of students. We ask them to solve these problems because it will make them better.
A failure of empathy is the root of Congress's lack of response to this carnage. Let's do a simple thought experiment, changing out schools for legislatures.
There have been 197 shootings in legislative bodies in the first 206 months of this century. Congress has not passed a single piece of legislation in response to the fact that more than 3 people are being shot in congress - more than one of them killed - each month.
Does anyone believe that the above paragraph could ever exist in the real world? After just 19 shootings in legislatures - 19 stories about congresspeople rather than students or legislative aides rather than teachers - does anyone believe that new laws would not quickly be passed?
Maybe the most essential feature of any leaders is empathy. What help would you need if your mom were single and poor and you had no access to mentors? What help would you need if you were an aspiring entrepreneur without access to mentors? What would it be like to be faced with the prospect of 30 years of commuting an hour each way to work? What would it be like to be on your third military deployment in two years? Leaders who make communities happier places are leaders who can empathize with people they are not and understand what would help.
In no small part because our legislators cannot understand what it would be like to go to work each week wondering if theirs will be the legislative body where the one congressperson will go berserk and begin shooting, or where some madman with an AR-15 will walk into the deliberative chambers to begin systematically shooting helpless, frightened congresspeople, they will not do a thing for our students and teachers. "Women and children first," is not a phrase heard on this ship of state.
A terribly conservative friend who loves Trump told me that what he likes best about him is that "Trump's a fighter." I guess one emphasis for leadership would be to find someone who fights, even though most of the people he fights with are fellow Americans. For me, I like the idea of empathetic leaders.