Seventeenth Century English wit and poet John Donne once wrote, “…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankinde. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee…” Donne, Meditation XVII. His meditation reflects on our interconnectedness – on the importance of empathy. Injustices in the world diminish us all. None of the more superficial boundaries; nationality, ethnicity, sex, age, or religion, reduce our essential humanity or our responsibility to treat others as we would have them treat ourselves. (A fundamental tenet of all major religions.)
It was this necessary empathy that Meryl Streep was referring to last night at the Golden Globe awards when she noted: “An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like.”
Streep went on to contrast that act of empathy to the performance of Donald Trump mocking a disabled reporter – showing a stunning lack of empathy – intending solely to make the audience laugh. Streep observed: “this intent to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it gives permission for other people to do the same thing.”
Or, to extrapolate, it is Donald Trump’s self-evident lack of empathy that is most scary – most unacceptable – for the prospective holder of the nuclear codes.
Meryl Streep’s full speech, the giving of which was an extraordinary act of courage, deserves to be seen in full.
I know it is currently all over the web, but here is one link.