empathy triage

I read the news every morning. It’s part of my routine. I do it almost without thinking. Get up, get dressed, check the perimeter, feed and pet the cat, start the coffee, read the news.

One of the first articles listed in my morning news feed was from The Atlantic magazine. It was titled Why People Who Hate Trump Stick With Him. I started to click on it, partly out of habit and partly because The Atlantic usually has solid reportage — but I didn’t. I read the title again and thought, ‘I really don’t care why people who hate Trump stick with him’. I moved on to the next stories — one about a white man in Wichita who threatened to assassinate the mayor for issuing a mask mandate, and one about a black man in Louisiana who was granted parole after serving 24 years of a life sentence for attempting to steal a pair of hedge clippers.

A million years ago I was a medic in the military. Basic military medical training tends to be focused on casualty and trauma care. In addition to the field fundamentals — stop the bleeding, tend the wound, prep the patient for evac, that sort of thing — we were also taught the essentials of triage. Triage is a system developed by Dominique Jean Larrey during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century. It’s a way of sorting mass casualties to determine who should be treated first. It’s a method of directing limited resources toward the best outcome for the majority of the wounded.

Dr. Dominique Jean Larrey, creator of the triage system, during the Napoleonic Wars.

Basically, what it means is that during a mass casualty event, some poor bastard greets the incoming wounded and sorts them into three groups: 1) victims who’ll probably live even without treatment, 2) victims who’ll likely die even with treatment, and 3) victims who have a chance of living if they’re given immediate treatment. Your arm is broken in three places? Yeah, it hurts…but it’s not going to kill you. Wait in the hall. Your arm has been blown off? Yeah, we can fix that, go right on in to surgery. You have two traumatic amputations and a head wound? Here are some M&Ms to tide you over until you bleed out. Sorry.

It’s an ugly job. Necessary, but ugly. But here’s the thing about triage: it focuses only on the wound and the treatment, not on any other characteristic of the victim. Dr. Larrey insisted treatment be based on the seriousness of the injury and the urgency of need for medical care, regardless of the wounded person’s rank or nationality. That meant French doctors would treat a seriously wounded British private before a lightly wounded French officer.

The Trump years have been a struggle for folks who care about other folks, who care about strangers as well as for friends and family. My capacity for empathy has been stretched. I’m now performing a warped sort of empathy triage. I’m most focused on folks who are suffering emotionally and spiritually and not coping very well. They get most of my empathy and support. Folks who are suffering but manage to retain their sense of humor and some degree of optimism, they’re the walking wounded; they’re in pain but they’ll recover. Folks who support Trump — those are self-inflicted wounds from which they probably won’t recover. Here are some M&Ms to tide you over until you bleed out.

Folks who hate Trump but stick with him? Dr. Larrey would be disappointed with me, but I’m out of M&Ms.

23 thoughts on “empathy triage

    • I read the article, and here are a couple of outtakes: “Those who are sticking with [Trump], despite their expressions of discomfort with him personally, are driven by an even deeper scorn for the president’s detractors.” (Not a good reason to vote for a narcissist-bully-racist who sows nastiness and divisiveness—also sentiments expressed in the article.) “Even in the past six months, some participants have continued to say they’ll back Trump. They don’t think Trump is doing great, but how could he? He’s constantly contending with obstructionist Democrats, a biased media, and a bunch of Never Trump Republicans in Name Only. Some meaningful number of voters who are clear-eyed about Trump and his manifest failures—even those who think he is plainly doing a bad job—will stick with the president because they believe Democrats are worse and the media aren’t to be trusted. . . . They swim in a cultural soup of Trumpism, surrounded by friends, family, and social-media acquaintances who do live more exclusively in a right-wing-media ecosystem.” Seems about right, and echoes what Joe says below, which you, Billy, obviously find ridiculous. And yet—that’s what his ardent supporters are going on. It’s all you’ve got.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So do you see anything wrong with Biden at all?

        Oh, and I have big news for you. The media has not been trusted for 2 decades, Trump is just the first one to come out and speak about it publicly instead of kissing their asses like the democrats do.


  1. Greg, the triage you describe is about sorting for medical treatment. Military triage, as I recall, is also about combat capability. If a casualty can be returned to combat readiness, that is supposed to be a part of military triage. But I may remember incorrectly.

    But I will concede a Republican voting party lines except for one little thing. Trump is not a Republican. He is not a conservative. He is not a man of faith and he does not care about abortion. All he cares about is ratings.

    Trump followers think themselves part of a club, a family. “WE” they think, and all others be damned. Tell them they don’t need healthcare and they believe it. Tell them the other party wants to destroy the very country they live in and they believe it. Tell them a the son of a rival left a laptop with emails and incrimination pictures at a corner computer repair shop and failed to pick it up and they believe it.

    They will not concede any truth that does not support what they want to believe of their group. Thing is, their group is not America, is not the United States of America. They are not patriots.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Greg, there are certain things that used to be Republican ideals that I like. Smaller government, a certain amount of individual state autonomy. A fiscal conservatism.

        Trump and Trumpeters exhibit none of these attributes. They remind me of the people who stuck up for Tonya Harding when she had her rival whacked on the knee.

        The science denial and labeling all info counter to the movement as “fake.” The desire to limit free speech. The threat to not accept election results. These are big alarms going off.

        I am starting to think that the majority of America sees through the charade. I hope, anyway.

        Liked by 2 people

      • What science do we deny?
        What larger government do we support?
        What state autonomy are we against?
        What fiscal conservatism are we against?

        I know a lot of Trump supporters and I do not know any who support Tanya Harding.


      • Joe, there used to be Republicans in Congress (or even the White House) with whom I disagreed, but could still respect. I still have friends and family who are principled conservatives, who still identify as Republicans. Most don’t support Trump, though. The few who do support him seem to have abandoned their conservative principles. It’s sad to see.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Why is it sad to see they lost their conservative principles? This means they have liberal principles, so I would think you would be overjoyed.


      • Congressional Republicans who abandoned their conservative principles didn’t acquire liberal principles; they pissed away ALL of their principles. They chose to support a man who is an inveterate liar, who coddles tyrants, who cheats on his taxes and his wives, who betrayed our allies, who has no respect for the law.


      • Which principles do they support now exactly?
        They support a misogynist? – Bill Clinton, JFK
        They support someone beholden to leaders of other nations? – Obama &Joe Biden to China /Hillary Clinton – Saudis
        They support someone who circumvents congress to make laws? – Obama in making DACA
        They support a racist? – Joe Biden, Obama

        So which principles do they now support that are not leftist ones again?
        The support spending like a drunken sailor? – Bush, Obama


    • I do not agree with your politics, other than that you know nothing about me yet you have already cast a view that is hateful and negative. You do not see me doing that as I go after ideas, not people. I follow many blogs, both conservative and liberal and progressive (yes they are different) to gain perspective of what others think. To try and find some common ground.

      But when you have people like yourself who refuse to even accept that people can have different opinions without degrading them personally, the conversation is over before it started. I live and have worked in one of the most liberal cities and industries for more than 20 years (Film biz) and most of my good close friends are liberals, progressives, democrats, etc. We banter over poker on ideas but we never attack each other.

      I have no doubt that Greg wants what he thinks is best for the country, my opinions are different for what I think is best for the country but the goal is the same, making the country better. Since the goal is the same we can discuss the methods by which to achieve that goal and often times there is some middle ground where solutions reside.

      But you go ahead being you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • He’s like a group of case studies. Is he supplying an exercise in identifying logical fallacies? Is he an extended series of examples of Poe’s Law? Is he a disinformation agent? Is he a foil you have invented yourself to flesh out arguments? Is he the reincarnation of Duane Gish, with a new hobby horse to gallop? Is he precisely what he seems to be presenting himself as, a cult member defending his cult?
      In any case, his comments tell me less about him than about the quality of this blog, what with all the effort he is willing to expend. Kudos, Greg. [insert one of those weird, spammy “nice blog you have, link to mine now” comments I see sometimes.]

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: My Week On Crooks and Liars | Mock Paper Scissors

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