I think that the conversation we had in class today regarding whether understanding automatically leads to sympathy is an interesting one that clearly has ties to numerous other books that we have read. Emilio and the others in The Sparrow felt sympathy for the Runa, and even the other species at one point, but it is clear in the end that they didn't really understand them at all. So if it is the case that one doesn't need to truly understand to feel sympathy, it only makes sense that it can go the other way: one can understand another person or another culture and still not feel sympathy. I still agree with the point that Phil made about the difference between understanding how and understanding why and the effect that has on sympathy. There is a difference in those two types of understanding and I think the understanding how is a lot easier to accomplish. However, understanding why on a deeper, more psychological level is essential to the element of sympathy.
I definitely also agree with the point that just because you understand someone doesn't mean that you sympathize with them or even like them. I can think of a few people that I know pretty well and still absolutely dislike. In fact, understanding your enemy is perhaps the best way to beat them. The more you understand about how someone does something, the easier it becomes to destroy them in the end. I also think that it is possible to sympathize with someone and still dislike them. Empathizing with ones enemy is one way to get and to keep the upper hand. Perhaps this is why Cortez seemed to understand, and even sympathize in the end, with those that he encountered? Was he doing this because he knew that this was an easy way to get what he wanted in the end? Maybe Cortez is proof that it is possible to understand, sympathize, and even feel sorry for someone, but still destroy them in the end.