The ethos of our modern political culture can be summed up in a single sentence: “Do unto others more than they have done unto us.” This is the essence of cancel culture, for example. Are we bothered (or even hurt) by someone else’s speech? Then they should suffer not just public shame but economic catastrophe for what they’ve done. The punishment exceeds the crime.
At the extreme levels, this leads to shocking amounts of schadenfreude at the suffering and even the deaths of our enemies. A broken man commits suicide? Fill the internet with stories of his worst days and worst moments. An anti-vaxxer dies alone and afraid in his hospital bed? Post about Darwin or tweet thoughts that begin, “It’s sad, but …”
In this environment, compassion for your opponents or enemies can actually make people angry. How can you “fight fire with fire” if you insist on granting them mercy for their mistakes, even when they might never be merciful to you? How can you live by the principle “f— around and find out” if you insist on defending others’ rights, even when you strongly disagree with their speech?
This is the heart of the claim that compassion represents a form of unilateral disarmament. Compassion represents a tangible way of loving your enemies, and it precisely models Christ’s example. When a mob seized him—and one of his disciples drew his sword and cut off a man’s ear—Christ healed the ear and went peacefully with the mob.
When he was dying on the cross, unjustly executed by an imperial oppressor, among his last words was a plea for his killers: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing.”
We love those stories 2,000 years removed from Roman rule, but do we value compassion now when it’s displayed towards the people we believe oppress us? The available evidence suggests no. The available evidence suggests that a culture that seeks vengeance despises compassion as weakness.