There is a classic problem in philosophy you may have heard of, known as The Trolly Problem.
In this problem you have two scenarios. A street trolly rolling down a track loses it's brakes. As a switch operator, you could pull a track switch and divert the trolly, seeing that if you don't five people in a car are directly in the trolly path and will assuredly be killed. However, on the side track is one workman who would also be killed if you do choose to pull the track lever.
What is the ethical choice? Do nothing and five people die. Pull the lever and only one dies. It seems like a simple math problem.
Or is it?
What if you the observer weren't operating a track switch, but observing on an overhead bridge instead? And instead of a switch, and incredibly fat man stands beside you. You know that if you shove the fat man off the bridge onto the track that sure, he will die. But you are also pretty sure that he's so large he would stop the trolly, saving the five people down the track?
A conundrum eh? Ethics aren't so simple are they? Our intuitions are affected by proximity.
There are those consequentialist philosophers who claim that this quandry is truly ethically challenging, but I don't think so.
Why? Because we know, both observationally and personally that there is an ethical difference between pulling a switch and shoving a man to his death. It's just that the ethical difference, and therefore capacity to suffer exist with the observer.
Collateral damage and modern warfare clearly spells this out. A ground infantry soldier is far far more likely to suffer from PTSD than a remote drone pilot, despite the likelihood that a remote drone pilot has taken more human life. It isn't the dehumanizing label of "enemy combatant" that does this either. Rather it is the proximity to the consequences of violence and warfare.
So why am I going on about this?
In today's political climate many people of a like mind to myself keep pondering why Trump supporters can so easily dismiss the ethically crushing results of some of his administrations policies.
I am here to claim that, just as the problem above, much of our ethics are informed by proximity. And the distance afforded by divisive policy for many, makes the otherwise tragic ethical outcomes of far less consequence.
We have so many Trumplicans perfectly ok with the administrations immigrant policies. And so many of these people easily dismiss situations like we find in Texas where thousands of children have been separated from their families.
Why can they do that? Well first, it's because they have been convinced by years (decades even) of conservative propaganda that illegal immigrants are the root cause of many of our problems....even if they are demonstrably not.
How many of these Trumplicans could actually physically separate children from their parents and not feel abysmal shame?
And I mean this literally. How many people who agree with his policies would actually go and do the work of dragging children physically from the arms of their parents??
I'd wager, given human nature, far far less than are otherwise ok with this. And it's entirely because it's an abstract issue happening to someone else, SOMEWHERE else.
Think all Germans were as ethically bankrupt as the worst of the Nazis? It might make going to war with them easier to believe this, as much of the WW2 propaganda proclaimed.
All Germans were clearly not this ethically bankrupt. They just took the idea of patriotism too far, and to it's ultimate dark place.
Now do you grasp just how scary a place we as a culture find ourselves??? :-/