Empathy

By Lenny Delligatti

I am white.
I am male.
I was raised as a Christian.
I am heterosexual.
I am a military veteran.
I am a business owner.
I live in Texas.

I own two houses, rarely worry about money, and my children want for nothing.
So why am I a progressive? I certainly don’t fit the profile.
Simple.
Empathy.

I don’t need to be black to feel the seething rage sparked by injustice when a cop shoots an unarmed man in the back, and then walks free.

I don’t need to be a woman to feel that each of us should have full and sole control of our own bodies—or to recognize the arrogant absurdity of elected men in suits legislating to the contrary.

I don’t need to be a Muslim to feel that no faith deserves to be characterized by the abhorrent actions of a perverse minority—and that people of all faiths deserve equal access to the country I call home.

I don’t need to be gay to feel that love shared between two people is good and healthy, no matter their gender identity—that every couple should have the right to marry, raise a family, and receive equal protection under the law.

Though I served my country in the military, I do not feel more deserving of my country’s benefits than those who serve and sacrifice in other ways.

Though I own a business, I do not feel that I deserve better tax breaks than the single mom or dad who works two jobs to make ends meet.

Though I live in a place that fiercely values individual rights and freedoms, I do not feel that these should be put on a higher pedestal than social responsibility.

Though my children have enough food and a safe home and access to good schools, good healthcare and clean water, I feel the anguish of parents whose children do not.

Empathy.

Empathy for others fills my heart in place of fear of the “other.” 

That is the reason I am a progressive.

I invite you to join me.

*****

Lenny Delligatti is a father, husband, writer, teacher, engineer and consultant (in that order).

Extending the Thought

By Gene Richards

Lenny Delligatti has been a Facebook friend for some time, and the above essay really struck me when I read it a couple of years ago, not simply as a reaction to what I see others doing in our country and around the world, but because it makes so much sense—and making sense is a good feeling for me. You? Which led me to these further thoughts.

What the hell is empathy? Is that feeling? Is that “walking in someone’s shoes,” understanding what they are going through? Is it sticking up for someone else? Is it something as simple as thinking before you shoot your mouth off, before you react to something that angers you?

Or is there something more, a long process of educating yourself, and others, about the world, all its inhabitants, all the different ways of approaching our possibly shared reality—do we? Is it something you’re born with, comes with the genes? Or is it learned early from your parents, your home environment? Do you soak it up at your mother’s teat, so to speak, or the back of your dad’s (or mom’s) hand? 

Then what’s the next step? Let’s say you do have empathy, or think you do, what’s next? Does it make you a better person, able to deal with the world in a more positive way? Can you then shoot your mouth off about what’s going on around you, politics, social change, education, family? Do you think you have the right? Seriously asking.

A complimentary reading on empathy:  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/04/smarter-living/5-people-who-can-help-you-strengthen-your-empathy-muscle.html?surface=home-living-vi&fellback=false&req_id=30355160&algo=identity&imp_id=228788506&action=click&module=Smarter%20Living&pgtype=Homepage

***** 

Gene Richards is a Fresno cyclist. Contact him at igenerichards@gmail.com.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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