In general, I want to stay away from politics on this blog, at least for the time being. Talking about politics ostracizes people who don’t agree with you, and it’s not a smart idea to alienate potential readers. However, my interest in language takes me into the realm of politics today, although I will attempt to treat the issue objectively.
In yesterday’s Congressional hearing on the confirmation of Judge Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions said this: “Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.” This quote is absolutely ludicrous.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, empathy is defined as:
1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner ; also : the capacity for this.
Notice that there is no mention of bias in either of the definitions. As a future educator, it disgusts me to see empathy, which I feel is vital to fully understanding any subject, used in a negative connotation. Empathy is being able to see another point of view, it has nothing to do with being biased towards that point of view.