Leigh Sloan: Bleeding heart or solution-based compassion? Vote for Stephanie Taylor for East Anchorage

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By LEIGH SLOAN

There is a common refrain on the left that is based on the idea of empathy.

Some on the right like to poke fun at leftists by calling them “bleeding hearts” or “snowflakes.” But there is something about empathy that makes us human. Empathy is one of the great appeals of the messaging from the left. Most people want to think of themselves as loving, compassionate, and full of empathy. 

Homelessness is a key issue where this dynamic plays out. You see the man on the street and your heart goes out to him. You feel better about yourself if you give him some cash you have on hand, whether or not such an act would really lead to a great outcome for that individual. 

Research has shown that empathy is good in reasonable doses, but unbridled human empathy causes us to lose our grip on rational thought.

In one study, people were presented fictional stories with real faces attached. The most empathetic members of the study group placed themselves in their shoes and, consequently, were willing to do almost anything within their power to alleviate the pain of the person with which they identified.

Participants were moved so much by the story that they voted to move the fictionally unwell patient up in line to get medical treatment, regardless of others who may have been even more needy or deserving and waiting in line for that same treatment. The study also showed that those who showed high empathy were also more likely to hurt others if it meant helping the one for whom they felt empathy. 

TV shows play to our sense of empathy as we watch the stories of unknown performers getting catapulted into stardom. We care enthusiastically for their success because we’ve invested ten minutes watching their story. When we put ourselves in the place of others, that emotion can get us to do amazing and seemingly selfless things, whether rational or not.

Identity politics plays upon our thirst for empathy. If we can identify a people group: a minority, misunderstood, or underprivileged group as deserving of empathy, we can get people bend over backwards to do whatever we suggest that they do for that people group. This can be used for good purposes like charity fundraising, but it can also be used to manipulate people into a mindset of toxic tribalism— elevating one particular people group at the expense of all others.

The homeless are an example of one people group that often get lumped together. But in reality, people experiencing homeless are not one single monolith of people with one single story. Each homeless person has a story— a reason for being without a home. In fact, a person can identify as homeless one day and not the next day. Some are peaceful, some are violent. Some are healthy— others have mental illness or participate in substance abuse.

Playing identity politics may be effective at winning elections, but it’s lousy for actually solving complex problems. Identity politics trigger our baser emotion of empathy, which makes us feel good about what we’re doing, but little more. If we’re not careful, it can enable and perpetuate the same problem we are trying to solve.

Instead of merely ramping up our empathy with identity politics, we need to shift our mindsets to compassion. If empathy is a magnifying glass, compassion sees with a wide angle lens. A compassionate stance sees the need of different individuals, but is also able to hold those needs in tension with the needs of others. A compassionate person can look at a person experiencing pain and feel for them, but also remain cognizant of the problems that might have caused that pain. A compassionate person is able to discern whether an individual needs a hand up or some tough love. 

When we look through an “empathy-only” lens, we tend to want to solve an immediate felt need without addressing the underlying issues. A true solution-oriented person will not be satisfied with mere empathy. They will only be satisfied when true progress is made toward enduring solutions—solutions that work not only for one people group, but for all the people in the community.

If you live in east Anchorage and want a strong voice of reason who will see our city’s issues from a lens of thoughtful compassion, join me in voting for Stephanie Taylor for Assembly District 5! A quote from Stephanie’s website says this, “By responding with both compassion and accountability, we can reduce crime and homelessness.” Stephanie Taylor is not just talk— she is the real change we so desperately need for our city. 

Leigh Sloan is campaign director for Stephanie Taylor for Assembly, District 5.

30 COMMENTS

  1. A bleeding heart tosses a dollar (especially if it came from someone else), while a truly empathetic will sit and share. A bleeding heart loudly proclaims their empathy while exploiting the downtrodden in order to keep them in dysfunction and use them to further a power base.
    “I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.” Ben Franklin.
    Enabling people to remain in dysfunction does no one any good, least of all the victims. If we truly want to help them we should demand that they live by functional standards, and to an extent help them to achieve that goal. The last thing that we should do is enable them to drag the rest of society down to their level. Some truly need a hand up and we must help them. Many more need a forceful reckoning to improve themselves if they wish to share the benefits of civilization.

  2. Well stated. For far too long we’ve been grouped by the left/media/politicians into various categories for their exploitation. One size will not fit all in our diverse society. it never will.
    We are all unique and individual in our own way. Societal issues are better solved with keeping this in mind.
    As an East Sider you have my vote!

  3. And while the crowds are busy empathzing with one group there is a greater problem badly neglected in the far shadowery corner. Thats why leaders need jesus as much as the people they serve. So the leaders can pray for themselves, ‘Lord give me wisdom and intelligence according to your perfect will and understanding over whatever is problem.’ God is faithful and asked according to his word, it be given.

    • In a nut shell. Compassion is another emotion. Emotions can’t always help the person make the right choice. You need a personal relationship with God by the salvation coming through jesus. A daily walk through the scriptures prayerfully surrending your life over to do his will not how your mind reasons or how your heart emotionally feels is right choice. Cause how we look at a situation, person or client what we determine best for them might not be best and make things worse for them, when the helper or employee don’t even know the LORD themselves.

  4. Logic and wisdom should be first in action.

    But every single group I’ve spoken to as a candidate has been about their interests.

    Not the people of Anchorage funding this theater.

  5. Very well written. Another small point, but mostly overlooked, is that the State of Alaska should bear some of the burden of providing help for our homeless population. A large percentage of them are people who have been banned from their villages for numerous reasons that we will never know. Anchorage has become the dumping ground for these often disturbed people, and the local taxpayers should not bear the entire burden of getting them help. Our community has always been compassionate but many of us are running low on it, when our neighborhoods are being trashed. Another small percentage of these people are not homeless at all, but opportunistic. And then there are the drugs. If our assembly could just work with our Mayor instead of against him, the homeless situation could be turned around and all of these people could receive proper treatment. I really believe that he is a man of compassion. It would be great to get someone of like mind on the assembly.

    • To the small point, It will take some time and screening to get these folks sorted for treatment and who and how to approach their situations whether from Anchorage or the bigger picture our state to work in or on the same page. The current camp cleanouts could be the beginning of this….gathering data!

  6. I’m sorry but giving a dissertation on how having empathy for other humans can be a bad thing and then talking about how we should not care about what happens groups of people sounds distressingly like the rationalizations of someone about to do something monumentally WRONG. The fact that the article does not describe her politics beyond the grossly saccharine justifications really does not help.

    • Miles, You have had years now of her opponents programs at work resulting in only making the problem WORSE. Perhaps you might want to THINK about that.

    • The article is about ‘misplaced’ compassion. Compassion or empathy that is really more about the the giver than the receiver as it only perpetuates the behavior or condition causing the suffering, and does not move forward to a solution. I’m sure you have heard the phrase ‘give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime’. You might agree also that empathy or compassion that has ‘feet’, and can actually help a person navigate out of their situation would be far more effective. That is what the author is indicating. Proactive dynamic compassion is better than static compassion that only comforts temporarily.

      • Like our public education system, more of the same = insanity equation seems prevalent. Breaking this mold will take much perseverance…patience! I believe electing difference makers (as to insanity equation thinking) is vital!
        A very well explained comment EH!

      • alternatively: “Give a man some fish and he can spend his days working to turn his life around. Just teach him to fish and he’s stuck living hand to mouth for the rest of his days.” sometimes the obvious and empathetic answer is actually the right one.

        • Everyone should be given the essentials of life so that they have the time to achieve their dreams without worry. Work ethic and self reliance are so 19th Century

          • Jefferson, don’t you think that everyone should get everything free? No one should have to work for anything? That’s what the mediaeducational complex teaches recent generations. My 17 year old daughter commented that Spongebob used to be proud of his job and his work ethic and now he is just a stupid loser, and she won’t allow her nieces and nephews to watch him (or any other newer juvenile shows).
            No one needs to work; everything for free! ‘From each according to his ability to each according to his needs.’
            Oh, and seriously, better learn to speak Chinese now to serve our upcoming masters unless we again praise and reward hard work and success.
            Again seriously, China has beautiful culture of hardworking people where parents and schools push children to succeed and slothful losers are shunned by society. And they have media far superior to Hollywood (check it out):
            ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFmnLJ-UXVQ&t=3307s

  7. If you know Stephanie you know she can do this. If you don’t know Stephanie you hope the Assembly and administration can go forward with this approach. And a balanced mindset toward the rest of our city’s issues. Hopefully with Stephanie in the mix

  8. More of the same. Todays empathy is tomorrows pathological altruism. I don’t a want a representative to work with the other group. We’re living in what that gets us. We’d be better off if there was just deadlock and none of the these people could do anymore to us. Oh sorry, for us.

  9. Statistics show that conservatives outgive leftists every year by a large margin. Leftists may make the biggest noise about caring, but are mostly generous with other people’s money over their own. Remember when Bill Clinton donated his underwear to charity and wanted credit for it? Gag…

    • Indeed, MF. And handing out money to the chronically dysfunctional, that was collected at the point of a government gun (i.e., taxpayers’ dollars), is not “charity”, but simply coercive redistribution. It is, in other words, merely robbing Peter to pay Paul, which is theft and immoral by any measure.

  10. I like it “compassion and accountability”. With the anticipation accountability will appropriately deal with those not interested in getting off the streets and get them off the streets. Give the hand up to those who seek it. Assembly and previous Mayor were/are heavy on compassion, lacking in accountability. I’m voting for accountability.

  11. So there’s no profit in policing the homeless. That’s what tickets on workers running late are for.

    There’s no profit in charity. That’s why churches ask for donations.

    There’s no profit in low income housing. It’s why you don’t see new apartment construction.

    There’s not supposed to be profit in politics….yet debarr and Taylor have spent a quarter million in ads and campaign donations….

    If that money had been used to get just 1 family help…. You’d never stop hearing about it.

    I have successfully trained homeless people and got them jobs.

    Don’t fall for the money. Because it’s your money.

  12. I am away and don’t know who she is. But use caution as progressives ALWAYS run as if they were conservative and once elected forget every promise they ever made.
    Note: they pretend they are conservative because they know if they told you what they really were no one would vote for them.

  13. Sadly Anchorage took a nose dive decades ago and never recovered. I applaud those try to dig it out. Good luck. Call it what you want. Empathy, compassion…reality is regardless of where we stand caring for each other is best. Its called love and policy wont cut it. Laws never do. Honestly, integrity….those are the qualities needed. Let the people of Anch solve the homelessness issue. Free up funds. Encourage the faith community to step up and help. Quit extorting tax dollars via inflated property taxes so beaurocrats can determine where funds are spent according to thier idea of whats empathetic. Honestly the bigger issue is the corruption in the Anch assembly and local government. Swampish. You got what you voted for Anchortown. This lady is may be a great choice. Likely better than what you have now.

    • I don’t know why bureaucrats get such a bad rap. Is any government worker a bureaucrat? Troopers? Military?

      • Bureaucrats, troopers, teachers and even military get a bad rap when they no longer do their jobs in a nonpartisan committed support to government service. Strongly held political views are incompatable with public service. You can support who ever and what ever you choose,on your own time but when your on the job you should be political blind and serve all equally. Just my opinion as a life long federal Civil Servant.

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