Every fire and natural disaster triggers an outpouring of expression of empathy. Empathy we don't even bring to the table in our daily lives for people we know far better than those who appear on tv for thirty seconds.
Abstractly, an unknown person suffers an enormous loss, and you feel for the person. Yet you know there are also people of small hearts, somewhere on the periphery of these people's lives, who can only think, "That bastard, it's about time."
Those people with the small hearts---they're also us, watching tv. They're one in the same. Truth may be the man who stands before you, but it's a lot easier to say something nice when you don't know him.
I can see that by reading blog comments, even at this blog, especially at others. The same people who may write with passion elsewhere about what a great job firefighters are doing and how tragic it is that family has lost its home never hesitate to celebrate the misfortune of someone with whom they disagree on a trivial political matter, or in an inconsequential personal dispute, or simply because they are exemplars of a particular cultural grouping.
I've always liked reading blog comments, not because they're informative, but because they so readily demonstrate what's really in the hearts of men and women. In most cases, even among the pious, and for some reason especially among the most pious, it's shameless, naked hypocrisy.
The arm that waives the flag so much more proudly than the other arms when the military walks by, the voice that is so gracious and appreciative of the public servant who works the thick of the calamity, the writer who devotes so much compassion and contrition to people unknown to him---my experience is that these types are always the very same who are most heartless towards the dispossessed when they meet them in ordinary life, where they are untethered to the calamity that ushered them into the dispossession that inspires the snideness, snickering, hate.
It is so rife that I even think that those who wail the most for those unknown to them are most likely precisely the people whose hypocrisy is greatest.