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Letter to the editor: We need to teach empathy to all

The recent crimes against the Closs family in Wisconsin help show a serious long-term flaw of the people of the United States. It might be the result of trying to have a "melting pot" nation, or maybe having too much European heritage. Or, maybe something else.

One thing is certain and obvious: We have a huge deficit of empathy here. If the fellow who kidnapped Jayme Closs and murdered her parents was capable of empathy (which is putting yourself in someone else's shoes), he couldn't have committed these crimes. Imagining how the young girl was affected by having her parents murdered in front of her would prevent all but those with a particular brain defect from doing such a thing.

(There's a part of the brain that produces empathy called the "supramarginal gyrus." When it's totally missing, we get the cases of the "cold-blooded killers.")

Where was our nation's empathy when the USA brutally attacked tiny Vietnam? Estimated deaths 3 million, according to the U.S.; 6 million, according to Vietnam. Difference of opinion? They were there, too, you know.

Where was our empathy when we committed war crimes by attacking Iraq and Afghanistan?

The single most important and indispensable quality of a leader or president is empathy. With empathy, you can feel and understand the pain of 800,000 people suddenly without incomes, and will work to fix it, not tell them, "You'll figure it out." Maybe even create the "Art of the Deal."

A leader or president may be weak in economics, science, military, foreign policy, law or religion, and hire experts for those. But you can't hire empathy. You have it or you don't. "You're with me or against me."

We need to begin teaching empathy to all children, rich and poor alike.

A. Martin,