“Pity is the most agreeable feeling among those who have little pride and no prospects of great conquests: for them easy prey—and that is what all who suffer are—is enchanting. Pity is praised as the virtue of prostitutes.” – Nietzsche, from The Gay Science
Thursday, July 8, 2004, the United States Senate abandoned the business of the nation for a few hours to indulge in a pity party on company time – and certainly very much on the company dime.
Oregon Republican Gordon Smith took the floor to introduce a $60 million dollar suicide prevention bill, but really mostly to talk about his college age son who killed himself last fall. “He saw only despair ahead and felt only pain in his present. Pain and despair so potent that he sought suicide as a release. As a release.”
He put on quite a good show for C-Span, sobbing and giving us the sad details of his adoptive son’s bipolar disorder, and such what.
But Nevada Democrat Harry Reid would not be denied an opportunity to nuzzle up and get a mouth full of public sympathy from the pity titty, giving us sad details about his father who killed himself.
It’s probably just as well that C-Span cut out before Oklahoma Republican Don Nickles rose to tell about his suicide dad, and before hugging and commiseration all around played out.
This story was fairly pathetic just from reading the news story, but seeing it on C-Span 2 got disgusting real quick. This display was really wrong on SO many different levels. I, for one, felt a kind of queasy nausea, like Zarathustra.
First of all, our enemies must have just LOVED this. They are predisposed to think that we’re weak, too sensitive and overcome by emotion to deal with them. US Senators crying and hugging and moaning about their personal sad family stories on the senate floor perfectly supports that image. This is the US Senate, the highest elected body in the land- and they turn into a bunch of girly men crying over their personal feelings about their family tragedies. Crikey, if this is our elite leadership, think what a bunch of soft little sob sisters the rank and file must be.
Second, they’re indulging themselves on company time. It’s unfortunate about poor Garrett Smith killing himself. Sounds like he was a real nice kid. If the senator or his family wants to talk to me after hours, or after the senate recesses for the season, I’ll be happy to give them pastoral counseling with a sympathetic ear.
Not while they’re on the floor and supposed to be conducting the nation’s business, though. That’s not the time or place for such stuff. You’ve got a few limited days and hours to take care of the important business of a vast nation. Cry on your own time.
Now, I don’t mean to be insensitive. Losing a child or father like this would be horrible, and you would be expected to have deep personal feelings. If Senator Smith really feels this strongly, perhaps he should resign his senate seat. Then he could dedicate his life to preventing suicide. He could go speak at local high schools, or whatever it is that you do… I didn’t think so.
Third, cry on your own dime. Doubtless they will end up passing his bill 100 to 0. Can’t you see how much pain he’s in? Just give him this little bit of money, by which I mean $60 million of taxpayer money- equivalent to the entire lifetime earnings of how many Americans? Again, I’m sorry about all your dead relatives, but pity has no cash value.
Except if it involves this guy or New Mexico Republican Pete Domenici, who had left for the day, but came rushing back to get in line at the pity titty – and again push his bill to make private insurers cover mental health treatments the same as regular medical treatments.
Now, advocating this must really make you feel GOOD about yourself. However, it would obviously jack health insurance prices through the roof- making it impossible for many to afford just the actual medical coverage they’re barely scraping up money for as it is.
That’s not important, though. What’s really important is that the senator CARES about the poor, mentally ill people. His daughter is schizophrenic, so screw all else. The senator’s on a running crusade to make insurance companies pay. Then when that authoritarian intrusion does damage to the nation’s medical care he’ll no doubt have another government program to fix it.
As Nietzsche said, “In their pity was their spirit drowned; and when they swelled and o’erswelled with pity, there always floated to the surface a great folly.”
Besides the main broad philosophical issues, this display is bad policy. Leaving aside even that there is no constitutional authority for this type of expenditure, what real good will come of this $60 million? This represents the entire life earnings of, say, 100 citizens being blown away simply as a pity sop because one poor sap who happened to be a congressman’s son offed himself. Doubtless that will prove to be $60 million per year, every year from now on – and growing.
Thus is the ugly, sickly sweet indulgence of pity cast as more valuable than the life work of hundreds, or thousands of people.
What good does this even do? Pay attention to Smith and Reid’s stories. The son and the father both were suffering medical problems that pushed them to self-destruction. What good would a bunch of sob sister therapists and advertising campaigns have done them?
But that doesn’t matter. This display was doubtless good politics all around. Poor guy- his dad shot himself. I’ll vote for him. Feel the pity. Aren’t I virtuous?
Let’s finish with a little more Nietzsche: “War and courage have accomplished more great things than love of neighbor. Not your pity but your courage has so far saved the unfortunate.” -On War and Warriors