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By Pam Burke 

View from the North 40: Move along, folks, there's no sympathy to see here


April 13, 2018

If sympathy was a tangible thing that you could use to fill a room, all the sympathy my siblings and I got from our parents when we were children would amount to a vast, empty hall filled with nothing but echoes of our complaints.

Maybe a few crickets taking advantage of the awesome acoustics.

I claim three parents so, sure, the odds are that there were moments of sympathy. Let’s put one box of sympathy in that room, in a far corner — one of those sturdy, but little, boxes suitable for packing books without hurting your back.

In my memories, though, the take away from childhood — and my siblings will back me up on this — is that in lieu of sympathy we got one of three responses.

1) If something bad happened to us we were asked about, or advised on, how we were going to move forward, get past this and make a positive/learn a lesson from this — classic making lemonade from lemons stuff. In instances when we were the injured party, we were almost always counseled to move into the great beyond of happiness by putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes, which is to say, essentially, instead of getting sympathy ourselves, we were to find a way to generate sympathy for the person who just did us wrong.

2) If we did something bad, we were to explain why we were so stupid and how we were going to fix the problem, or atone for being an idiot. Then we had to report back on our follow through. Perhaps eat some crow for a meal or two.

3) For most of life’s sympathetic moments, when we were suffering from the physical or emotional injuries of life, we were told to buck up, laughed at, poo-poohed, harassed, dismissed, cajoled, name-called, given the ol’ “this is the world’s smallest violin playing ‘Cry Me a River,’” advised that “life’s a b**ch” or, the one I never could understand and that seemed particular only to my dad, told “my heart pumps urine for you.”

I probably should have gotten therapy, psychiatric or genetic, who’s to say.

If sympathy was a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being the average sympathy of a normal human being and 10 being my parents, I guess I’m a 9, maybe an 8 about some things — because I always was the sensitive child — but definitely the person who will tell you where to find sympathy in the dictionary.

That means when I read things like David Curran’s article on SFGate.com about the eight cops in Argentina getting fired after they blamed hungry mice for 1,000 pounds of missing marijuana evidence, I’m all about response No. 2. Why would you do something like this? What do you think should happen to you now?

And if I have any sympathy at all it’s like in No. 1: What about all those cases that will have to be thrown out now because there is no evidence or, worse, because you are no longer a credible law enforcement authority? How are you going to hold your head up now?

All that said, I have to admit, that I do feel sympathy for the bad guys, the ones whom life turns on, who get the rug pulled out from under them.

The 21-year-old guy from a few years ago who called the ambulance for his grandmother because he thought she was having a heart attack. The cops responded with the ambulance and the guy got busted for drugs and paraphernalia. He was just trying to save his maw-maw’s life but ended up in jail.

Or Stephen Paris who spent 40 years as a solid, job-holding citizen after escaping from an Oklahoma prison where he was serving a sentence for theft.

Paris was arrested Thursday after his mother died and someone noticed a son by another name listed in the obituary. Cops put together clues and busted Paris at work in Houston.

I mean, sure, he has to serve out his sentence for the theft and the escaping prison incident but, dang, he just lost his mom and, because someone was trying to honor her and him, he has now lost his job and his freedom.

Yeah, I laughed a little bit, but my heart pumps actual blood for him.


For the record, I always thought No. 1 was the worst response at http://www.facebook.com/viewfromthenorth40.com/.


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