My hoped for New Year's resolution is that as many Americans as possible vow to do better at being (1) more compassionate and (2) more in touch with reality.
I see these goals as being complementary.
Compassion requires a clear-eyed view of what is causing our fellow humans, animals, and other living beings to suffer. If we aren't correct about what is real, versus what only exists within our own mind, we'll be thrown off track by misplaced concern.
For example, here in Oregon there's currently a push by some to demand that businesses shut down by Covid restrictions, such as restaurants, be allowed to reopen.
OK, that shows compassion for restaurant owners, most of whom are having a tough time during the pandemic. But it's important to also recognize the reality of 344,000 COVID-19 deaths and the many people who suffer, often for many months, from the virus even though they didn't die because of it.
It isn't easy to find the right balance between compassion for a particular group, and compassion for a different sort of people, especially when doing right for one means doing wrong for the other.
But we have to do our best.
And the only way to accomplish that, doing our best, is to combine the compassion that almost everybody (psychopaths excluded) has for people who are suffering with our equally important capacity for separating fact and fiction in the world at large.
In other words, the subjectivity of compassion should be married to the objectivity of knowing reality as it is. The progeny of this marriage will be offspring we can be proud of: wise actions, productive activism, pleasant feelings of having done the right thing.
Since compassion is a natural reaction to seeing other people going through hard times, on both an individual and societal level we need to emphasize the knowing reality aspect of my Compassion + Reality = Right Action equation.
Compassion is akin to an engine that propels us onward in an effort to make things better. However, without a navigation system that ensures we're going in the correct direction, we run the risk of wasted motion.
Or worse, destructive motion.
I'm inclined to believe that most people set out to do the right thing. Within their own mind, they've concluded that doing this or that is justified to accomplish some desirable outcome.
Problem is, often their good intention leads to bad results because they are clueless about facts that either are deliberately ignored or innocently unaware of.
Examples abound in 2020. Here's several that come to mind.
The Black Lives Matter protests in Portland started off well: peaceful, with a powerful message of the need to reform policing and end systemic racism. But things went downhill when protesters engaged in property damage and confrontations with police.
There was no discernible purpose behind the setting off of fireworks, defacing of buildings with graffiti, breaking windows, and such. Business owners in downtown Portland suffered through nightly protests that went on for months.
It seemed obvious that the Black Lives Matter cause was being hurt, not helped, by the increasingly destructive protests. But reality never broke through into the closed minds of the protesters. They were caught up in the game of taunting law enforcement officers and damaging property for no good reason.
In this case it was liberals, with a heavy dose of anarchists, who failed to realize that compassion for Blacks who endure injustice had to go along with an understanding of the reality that violence in the streets was undermining the legitimacy of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Meanwhile, conservatives and Trump lovers were embracing an ever-expanding variety of batshit crazy conspiracy theories. QAnon infected the psyches of people who believed that Democrats were running a pedophile ring from the basement of a pizza parlor. Then came deniers of the reality of COVID-19, and of the efficacy of wearing masks to prevent infection by the virus.
Currently a large share of Republicans have bought into the baseless claim of their Liar-in-Chief, Donald Trump, that Joe Biden's win was the result of election fraud. In this case I can't discern any degree of compassion in their efforts to subvert democracy and steal the election for Trump.
It's a shameful power grab, an attempted coup, that will end only on January 6 after their last-gasp effort to derail the free and fair presidential election fails in the halls of Congress when 306 electoral college votes are counted for Biden and Harris.
Our country can't thrive, and maybe even survive, when so many citizens are either unwilling or unable to acknowledge reality. Those of us who favor fact over fiction and truth over falsehood can't merely sit by in our comfortable corner of the reality-affirming landscape.
That's why I like the term, Warriors of Reality. When we see that someone -- elected official, Facebook friend, whoever -- is trying to tear down the shared reality that binds us together, we need to say "No! This is the truth. You have no right to your own facts, just your own feelings about what is true."
Reality is the ultimate big tent. Reality holds everybody who chooses to take shelter under it. Reality doesn't need us; it is we who need it. Reality is more important than the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, because reality is what makes all these things possible.
Deniers of reality not only harm themselves, they also harm all of those who depend upon it -- which is everybody.
So if you've ever felt the need to fight for something, fight for reality. With compassion, not violence. Those who deny reality often don't know any better. Giving them facts in a calm, cool, collected manner may help them.
If not, reality still stands, with or without them.