Abstract: This chapter presents a portrait of American children as situationally vulnerable and introduces the public emotion of civic tenderness as a response to the indifference that is routinely directed toward this vulnerability. Discussions of pro-social empathic emotions typically prioritize emotions like sympathy and compassion. While they are important in their own right, these pro-social emotions are responses to situations of current need. Civic tenderness is a response to situations of vulnerability. Insofar as a person or group is now in a situation of need, they had to have first been vulnerable to experiencing that need. Since vulnerability is conceptually prior to need, civic tenderness is prior to these other pro-social emotions. Through the process that I call tenderization, I explain how tenderness for poor and impoverished children’s vulnerability can be expanded to a society’s members, institutions, and systems.
Comment: The text introduces and situates civic tenderness in a broader discussion of public emotions and social justice.