The Evils of the Purge: Crushing Dissent & the False Promise of Finality

The Khmer Rouge sought to establish a red Khmer empire in Cambodia, with some ambitions of expansion beyond the nation’s borders, by stamping out any human life or mind that varied from the project, as narrowly conceived by Pol Pot and his murderous regime. The “killing fields” that ensued, with the mass slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million people, were an attempt to establish a new break in time, the time before and the time after the purification —as the regime proposed— of all Cambodia.

Beyond Utopia, it was a lust to fashion a paradise built on millions of purgatories. It was the paradox of a violent Heaven, a wisdom of intolerance, a corrupt purity, an abstraction drowned in the blood of innocents. In order to establish absolute power, either for themselves or their ideology, a purge was undertaken that would attempt to eliminate nearly all people of learning, leaving by one count only 4 highly trained Cambodian legal minds remaining.

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Empathy is Not Prejudice

EMPATHY IS NOT PREJUDICE: it is the ability to imagine the point of view of the other. Without this ability to engage in thoughtful outreach, beyond one’s own personal realm of experience, and empathize with the human situation of the other, no jurist can begin to understand the human meaning of the arguments made in their court, and objectivity remains wholly beyond their reach. Empathy is not sympathy.

Sympathy means feeling what the other feels, experiencing grief at the other’s grief, loyalty in kind with the other’s loyalties, taking sides; empathy is the ability to comprehend the meaning of another’s experiences, and does not entail adopting or sharing the other’s views. Empathy for a judge means the ability to see how both parties arguing before a court could arrive there based on legitimate human experiences and assertions about the protections and provisions of the law.

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