When did we start to celebrate cruelty?

I suppose “liberals” are frequently derided as soft, “bleeding hearts” who take every possible insult too seriously, overly sensitive folks who are paralyzed by the pain of anyone, anywhere.

But these days, “conservatives” are starting to look cruel.

Cruelty is characterized by an indifference to the suffering of others, and even perhaps taking pleasure in the suffering of others.

Someone who is cruel sees no relation between themselves and the sufferer.   And these days I am struck by how quickly those on the right-wing side of things run to explain away the suffering of others as deserved, and therefore of no consequence to good people such as themselves.

Poor people?  Obviously they don’t work – why should we help them?  (The fact that a high percentage of those who receive “food stamps” or Medicaid are actually the working poor escapes them, along with the history of falling wages that make it impossible for a worker at minimum wage to survive on that wage alone.)

Sick people?  Ask Mick Mulveny – diabetics got that way just by eating improperly; they’re not our responsibility.  (Genetics plays a role here, but Mick doesn’t care.)

The Republican candidate for Congress in Montana lost his cool and beat up a reporter whose question he did not want to answer?  Well, didn’t the president SAY the press is the enemy of the people?  Even when FOX NEWS REPORTERS gave eyewitness testimony that was in conflict with the candidate’s version of events, his followers explained it away.  Now, it’s perfectly fine to beat up reporters from “liberal” media if you don’t like what they say.

Cruelty is certainly nothing new in the human condition.  Long are the histories of the brutality of tyrants, or of the imaginative ways tribal opponents have of making each other’s villages miserable, and of course we know the stories of torture and imprisonment of some of history’s worst.

But shouldn’t a nation that at least loosely holds a “Christian” history be just a little bit wary of the creeping cruelty of some of our public conversation?

I’m alarmed at the scapegoating of groups whose humanity we no longer need to consider.

I’m bewildered by the North Carolina Pastors’ Network posting a billboard about why we ought to have a Muslim ban, because “19 Muslims killed 2700 Americans on 9/11” – what kinds of houses of worship do they pastor?  Don’t we follow a Lord of grace and forgiveness?  Haven’t we been told our enemy is not flesh and blood?  Would Jesus post that – or would Jesus go have dinner with the Muslim neighbors because God loves the world?  Clearly the Muslim NEIGHBOR didn’t kill 2700 Americans!  When did PASTORS become rigidly angry and full of fear?

I’m angry, too, but at politicians and a president who dismiss other people so easily.  President Trump seems to think he can call anyone he wants a Loser, and then give them a nickname that dismisses them.  How can we respect a president who reserves respect, apparently, only for the most authoritarian of leaders?  (He thinks Philippine president Duterte, who is murdering his own countrymen without benefit of trial or sentence, is doing a “great job”!)

And I’m worried, when I hear stories of casual cruelty from strangers who have contempt for someone who is not white, or perhaps obviously gay – who then explain their behavior by pointing out that “Trump won.”

For whatever those who voted for Trump were hoping for in this new administration, I hope it was not that our society would devolve to being at one another’s throats.  Certainly we have problems we must act on, but blaming them on others and then taking out our ire on them is not American, and it most certainly is not Christian!

I am going to take a stand when I hear it.  I am going to get in the face of those who I see do it.  It is time, especially for those who call themselves by the name of Jesus, to call it out.  It’s not funny.  It doesn’t make the crueler person the winner.  No more.  Call me a bleeding heart if you will, but I would rather be that, than someone who has lost the ability to share another’s suffering.