Pain and Policy

Caught up watching the the Charleston Massacre coverage unfold on TV.

Face after face, some in tears, most beyond the comfort of tears. Death and loss, sorrow, heartache. Pain.


This is the crux of the problem, isn’t it?  The emotional pain that is at the center of every human life. It is a bizarre fact of the human psyche that we either ignore this pain as a topic or leave it to comedians to dissipate in laughter–Louis CK is a brilliant therapist.

That is, we ignore the pain other people experience. We are quite involved on all levels of consciousness in the intricate, day by day, moment by moment status of our own personal emotional pain. We acknowledge that others suffer, with varying degrees of empathy, but really, the vast majority of us understand Pain as that thing at the center my life.

Three hundred million Americans, all going to bed at night reliving the defeats of the day, the slights, put downs, cold looks; sometimes worse. The loss of a job, or of health insurance that will make security more tenuous. How will I pay the bills? Take care of my kids? Sometimes dire, a diagnosis, a physical threat. The anxiety of these thoughts lodge in the center of our psyches and cause deep emotional wounds. And of course, as we see in the news, a version of that pain converts to pure violence.

So this is my question: Why isn’t Pain a Public Policy issue?

The public life we  have now exists to serve a corporate entity, primarily financial. The individual is always associated with some corporate body in this system. The Government, Wall Street, corporate America; the alternative is the penal and mental health systems. The individual is expected to ignore, suppress, medicate away the deep sense of emptiness and loss we feel at the core, in order to function more efficiently in a system that holds us in no intrinsic regard at all.

Why don’t we order society for the express purpose of recognizing this truth: A society whose principal purpose is to address the only universal condition of its citizens? Ethnicity, income, health and mindset all will vary from person to person, but that unsettled, scary feeling at the core is one we all feel.

In other words, why don’t we build a society that, to the maximum extent possible, revolves around the value of Empathy?

What would that look like?

Full employment. Universal Healthcare. Merciful immigration. Free education. A rehabilitative, not punitive, court and penal system. Clean environment. Transparent financial system. Adoption of every child who needs a family. Each and every point by the way, endorsed and supported by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Feeling good about that, Liberals? Clean sweep?  Wait. One caveat.

Near zero abortions. The rarest of medical emergencies. A Public Policy that aimed at eliminating pain would include the pain felt by a fetus.

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