Every once in a while, I have a fleeting moment in which all of the world's problems become piercingly clear, and my heart just about crushes under the weight. In such moment of realization, there's a sense of utter hopelessness. I'm not strong enough, I'm not smart enough, I'm not powerful enough to do anything about it. I can't change it. And then the moment concludes with the desire to flee everyone and everything, and maybe just live a simple life under a rock in Siberia.
And then I get up the next morning and start over, one step at a time, one person at a time, one problem at a time, in hopes that when my efforts cease at the end of a long life, something will have happened for the better for someone along the way.
Yesterday, I had one of those moments. This week I heard a story from two of my clients that just pained me - there is rampant abuse by law enforcement against these juveniles. I cried for the first time at work on Thursday. A lot of kids don't want to report it, because they know that the individuals being reported will just make life worse for them, and they just want to lay low until they're out of this system.
I spoke with a friend yesterday who works for my state's U.S. Senator, and I told him that there was an issue in regards to which I intended to write my Congresspersons. He assured me that citing my concerns directly to him would be more effective than writing a letter, so I told him that I was angry and worried that the recent (within the past few years) federal aid restriction, barring kids with drug convictions from receiving any federal aid, is disproportionately punishing lower-class, disadvantaged, minority youth. Some kids who get drug convictions can just have their parents pay or co-sign loans for them to continue with schooling. Other kids, who grew up in poor and violent neighborhoods, will be precluded from receiving aid - thus keeping financial aid from the very people who need it most.
The question on the FAFSA indicates that it is only in regards to convictions after the age of 18. The financial aid forms differ from school to school, but all of the ones that I've read indicate that the reporting requirement is only in regards to adult convictions. I'm not sure what the purpose of the law was - I suppose it was intended to deter college students from doing drugs - but in the end, the students that will suffer most will be the ones who could barely afford college to begin with. And then middle America will sit around and shake their heads, wondering why it is these young people just can't get their lives together and be good, productive members of society.
And then there's the country's foreign affairs. The horrific abuse and violence our country is inflicting on citizens of other countries in the name of democracy and freedom, the militarization of poor and minority youth, the "Trust us, we're the good guys" assurance fom the Executive branch in regards to detaining and denying basic civil rights to individuals deemed "enemy combatants" - the list goes on and on.
Last night, in that fleeting moment, all of these problems flashed through my mind. And that rock in Siberia was calling to me.
With the kids and their problems, I think I can do it. I think I can meet kids one by one, and confront situations one by one, and feel like I've accomplished something. [But for confidentiality, I'd be organizing rallies and demanding journalist exposes on the topics right this second.] I can wake up, take a deep breath, and for now I can dedicate my life to getting up every morning to tackle these issues - drugs, violence, abuse, militarization of youth. It's not going to be simple, or quick, but these are the steps within my power, and so these are the steps that I will take.
Soon, the Supreme Court will address the current legal designation and legal rights afforded to detainees. The Supreme Court has to respect the power of the Executive branch in a time of war [a power granted to the President by the very document which he seeks to suspend and circumvent] - and the Supreme Court must also protect the individuals' rights. If the Supreme Court tips the balance of power too far in favor of the Executive, the result will be abhorrent.
I hope that the Supreme Court will realize that it is their responsibility to wake up, take a deep breath, take the steps that are within their power to rectify the appalling violation of Constitutional rights.