Voices from the sidelines: ordinary people weigh in on impeachment debate

Gregg Reese | 7/6/2017, midnight

Empathy - The ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.

—from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press).

Hours after the Impeachment March on July 2, a sizable group loitered around a tent set up on the grassy area south of City Hall known as Fletcher Bowron Square. The center of this activity was a contingent of activists from the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy based in the Bay Area. On this day, they were staging a series of dialogues between opposing members representing the ongoing debate nationwide about the legitimacy/viability of the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

These proceedings were in turn being filmed by a video crew headed up by Uruguay native Carolina Sosa, a student filmmaker at the local campus of the New York Film Academy. During her two-year stint in the United States, Sosa became intrigued with the fervor over the Trump candidacy, and after encountering the Culture of Empathy members at a pro-Trump march in Berkeley, Calif. this past April 15, she invited these proponents of “conflict resolution” to Los Angeles for this latest political rally. Led by Edwin Rutsch, these “empathy tents” were used as sanctuaries, wherein antagonists might air their concerns and foster compassion, and nonviolent solutions.

Sunday’s event was largely benign compared to that in Berkeley, a bloody affair in which the ultra-conservative “Proud Boys” from Los Angeles clashed with the controversial anti-fascist “Antifa” movement, a consortium of leftist youth with factions across the country and in Europe. These left wingers are noted for their willingness to use violence to further their aims, and at least 15 people were arrested and scores of others battered and bruised.

The most glaring exchange during Sunday’s gathering was a spirited verbal exchange between two San Fernando Valley residents on opposite ends of the political spectrum. A North Hollywood resident who would only give her first name as “Caroline,” took offense at the red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap worn by wheelchair-bound Melvin Spicer (an invalid since 1997) from Reseda. She went so far as to suggest that Spicer and his group (“San Fernando Valley 4 Trump”) had been paid and/or bused in to disrupt the protest by violence and other means.

“She was just misinformed,” Spicer countered, denying any underhanded motivations behind his appearance.

“I don’t really understand it. There’s just no evidence of wrong doing (on the part of Trump and those in his circle),” he claims in reference to the numerous critics of the current regime.

“Give the man a chance,” he says, summing up his personal political philosophy with the opinion “…that which governs best, governs least.”

Caroline revealed that she’d originally been a Republican who’d switched to the Democratic sphere in the aftermath of the Richard Nixon/Watergate scandal. Her GOP opposition was reinforced by the legacy of the Bush presidencies,

wherein the government was preoccupied, in her words with “French kissing” with the Saudis and other Arab oil oligarchies. The current administration is, in her view, a continuation (and extension) of these policies, a viewpoint she drove home with words like dictatorial, fascist, and totalitarian.