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  • Kelly Marks

Empathy

Do you remember those early days of your relationship when life was great and you were two of the luckiest people on earth? Yeah, this post is not about those times.


Do you remember how hard the first year of marriage or living together was? How each little peccadillo seemed like the one thing that might push you over the edge into insanity?


I honestly can’t remember the last time Paul and I argued, but at this stage we’ve melded our lifestyles. Over the years we’ve capitulated and landed in the center of a Venn diagram - more of the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” area. Things he does that used to drive me nuts, I probably do now, and certainly vice versa. But in the beginning we were polar opposites.


To throw a monkey wrench into the whole deal was the fact that when we moved in together it was to a small apartment outside of Philadelphia. Neither one of us knew anyone, and we were more than an 8-hour drive from home. So when an argument got to the “that’s it, I’m going home” stage, the distance made us reconsider whether we could not, in fact, make it work.


There is one trick I used when it was hard to like each other. I’m embarrassed to say this one out loud, but it really worked. I would imagine what my life would be like if Paul were dead. And I will fully admit that in my imagination, he usually expired at my hand, but after the rush of that thought was over, I would start to think of all the things I would miss about him.


That’s where the change happened. When I recounted what I would miss, I also remembered that he was a great guy, and maybe, just maybe, the whole argument was not 100% his fault. Certainly the blame was 95% his, but maybe I shared some of the responsibility.


And that’s when I would start pondering my own part in it, and then I would ask myself what I could learn and possibly improve about myself.


The devastating news Friday from the Supreme Court has me playing the same game again. As I struggle with the actual nausea I feel from hearing the decision and contemplating what it means for half of our population, I find myself asking, “Is there anything we can learn from this?”


And while we can learn many things such as - don’t assume those in power have your interests in mind; don’t assume those in power have ANYTHING except keeping the power for themselves in mind, is there something on a more basic level to be learned? On a more “we the people” level?


At the risk of being perceived as a Pollyanna, or one who plays the Glad Game, I believe we can learn from any and every situation. And I believe we can learn from this as difficult as it feels.


For the first time in my life I feel like a 2nd class citizen; I feel oppressed because all of the freedoms and rights that this great country stands for and guarantees do not apply to me or to my daughter or the millions of women out there and their daughters. However, it also gives me a tiny taste of what others endure, what others experience on a much more pervasive level on a daily basis. While I fear the overturning of Roe v. Wade may be the beginning of more hideous disenfranchisement, already in this country African-Americans, Muslims, homosexuals, Native Americans, those with disabilities, and more people than I care to even think of, feel oppression every moment of their lives.


So while the defeat of Roe v. Wade sickens and angers me, it has also made me see things in a different light. While it has taken away some of my naivete and made me a little more cynical and made me fearful for the future of women and other minorities, it has given me a healthy dose of empathy and solidarity with others denied their rights.











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