The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
When Congresswoman Ophelia Payne was called to the White House and informed she was the best choice to head the newly created, Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Empathy, President Joe Biden warned her about the nominating process. “I feel for you, Miss Payne.”
Why? She had agreed to appear on Tucker Carlson’s show that evening.
“Miss Payne, thanks for coming on the show. Isn’t pushing empathy down our throats just another far-left radical attempt to control our lives? Aren’t you just another misguided woman guilty of wanting to kill us with your misguided so-called kindness?”
“Take this pandemic, Miss Payne. Your extreme empathy for the sick is what has murdered our economy — not some silly virus! On our border, your sickening empathy for sniveling children, rapists and terrorists has created a crisis! Tell us, are you ‘empathetic,’ Miss Payne, are you soft on the antifa and Black Lives Matter terrorists?”
“What?” And then she was off the air. Commercials for pepper spray and portable bunkers followed.
Payne’s nomination was opposed by the Ayn Rand Society, Sociopaths United, the Proud Boys, the Associated Bullies of America, and the National Indifference Association, a group described by the Southern Emotional Poverty Center as a hate group funded by billionaires.
Payne soldiered on with the the backing of the Fred Rogers Institute for Neighborliness, the Dalai Lama, former President Bill Clinton’s I-feel-Your-Pain Foundation, the pope, and the BKM, the Be Kind Movement.
The next morning, Payne appeared for her confirmation hearing before the Senate. Sen. Ted Cruz interrogated her first. “Miss Payne, why should any American walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? Especially in those high heels you’re wearing.”
Laughter. Cruz didn’t realize his mic was hot when he whispered to Sen. Ron Johnson, “Speaking of shoes I’d like to give her my boot, right up her ... ”
Payne tapped her mic. “Was that a question?”
Sen. Ron Johnson barked, “Where was your bleeding-heart for the white supremacists falsely accused of attacking our Capitol?”
Sen. Sinema interrupted. “Where did you get your outfit? I like the whole look. Do you like my outfit?”
“It’s very Bjork.”
Sen. Rand Paul interrupted, “Empathy didn’t build America, Miss Payne! Our national anthem isn’t ‘Stand by me.’ Indifference to the suffering of others built this country, not hugs! Indifference to Native American genocide, to slavery, to the voting rights of minorities is what made America great.”
Payne attempted to respond over the clack of the gavel. “Senators, a house divided will not stand. We are morally connected, one to the other. Our founders knew this back in 1782 when this very body decided upon our nation’s motto: E Pluribus Unum.”
Sen. Cruz shouted, “Speak English! This is America, woman!”
Payne calmly replied, “Out of many, one.”
Sen. Cruz gagged. ”Why in God’s name would anyone want to ‘bring us together?” Cruz excused himself and left for Majorca.
On Wednesday, Payne was confirmed by the Senate along party lines, with 50 senators opposed to empathy.
The next day, as Secretary Payne walked up the steps of the new Department of Homeland Empathy, the “National Ben’s Bell of Kindness” rang out in celebration.
As the Marine Band played “Eleanor Rigby” in the foyer for the celebrants and dignitaries, Payne found her office and began her tenure. That afternoon a sour Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a speech to an empty Senate chamber calling empathy “a weak un-American trait” and “naked communism.”
In April, at Payne’s first press conference, she stood in front of a giant marble statue of her favorite lifelong Republican, the late Fred Rogers, that looked out upon the press with sincere benevolence. His words were the theme of her address.
“The space between people who are trying their best to understand each other is hallowed ground.”
At the close of her remarks, Secretary Payne issued a warning. “Thousands of more Americans will die in ICUs because some of our fellow citizens are refusing to wear masks and refusing to get vaccinated. This pernicious lack of empathy for the fate of our fellow Americans, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, promoted by cynical leaders and commentators, threatens our nation’s survival.”
In June, Secretary Payne was to speak at the Father’s Day Commemoration held at the Tomb of the Unexpressed Emotion. As she rode in her limo she scanned her daily briefing: news summaries of hate crimes, child abuse, elder abuse, political violence, sex trafficking, suicides triggered by bullying, and mass shootings.
On the seat were binders filled with small, effective, anti-violence and anti-bullying programs that she hoped to lift up and implement on a federal level. The ridicule, mockery and threats were sometimes overwhelming.
As she was escorted to the next event by her Secret Service protection she thanked each agent, “for all you do for me and for others.” Being in favor of empathy in the United States of America in the 21st century could get you killed.
David Fitzsimmons: firstname.lastname@example.org.