The ancillary costs of marginalization

I just got done listening to a father speaking of the day his son committed suicide.  The young man was 14 years old, had a learning disability, and just couldn’t take any more bullying.

Five years later Jeff Lasater, the boy’s father, has devoted his life to preventing bullying of special-needs kids.  This is a noble cause that is best engaged in by passionate people.  I’m positive Jeff has a way of bringing this important issue to people that touches them and that his son’s life is honored through Jeff’s actions.

As I listen to Jeff Lasater’s story I am reminded of so many people I know who have made their life’s work advocacy on behalf of a cause that may have been foreign to them until it touched the life of a loved one.  Frequently these “over night advocates” are a result of a marginalized person being the victim of injustice; a special needs kid victimized by bullies, a loved one suffering from mental illness, a teen walking while black, a family member who happened to be gay, and so on.

What I find myself thinking about when I hear these stories is “What would these advocates be doing if their loved one was not left on the fringe?”  How much productivity, creativity, income potential, tax revenue, etc. do we lose when family and loved ones feel compelled to take up the cause of marginalized people?  We kick so many people to the curb on the assumption the marginal cost of inclusion exceeds the marginal revenue to be gained by treating them as whole people.  We rarely tally the cost of those who devote their lives to finding justice in a culture that ignores marginalized people and ignores the ancillary costs of injustice.

Jeff’s story can be found at:

Pushing and letting go

Yesterday I got fed up with the slow pace of change in trying to receive the same access to public spaces that others freely enjoy.  I put my foot down and let the organization’s managing director know my patience had run out.  I outlined the problem, my legal rights, and my plans to enlist the help of third party agencies in ensuring the organization came into compliance with the laws that guaranteed my rights.  Within a few hours action had been taken and it seems the problem is well on its way to resolution.

This morning I meditated, as I do each morning.  My meditation was restless as I sat on my cushion.  After the chimes signaled the end of my meditation session I just sat for a while.  I decided to practice sitting in a full Lotus position just to see how well my joints would accept the position while I meditate.  I took a few minutes of mindful breathing to see how it would feel.  In the absence of chimes to measure the time of my meditation I just sat with my breath and no other distractions.

Sometime it is the pushing and sometimes its the letting go that gets me where I want to be.

The people, the law and the oath. What a concept!

I listened to Virginia’s Attorney General this morning as he explained why he would not be pursuing defense of the state’s ban on Gay marriage.  It was refreshing to hear a logical, fact based, explanation of someone’s perspective on marriage equality.  Actually, Herring’s explanation didn’t give me a definitive understanding of his support of marriage equality, just that he did not believe it was appropriate for him, as the Attorney General, to fight marriage equality in the state of Virginia.  In an excerpt from a New York Times article Herring’s position was characterized as:

At a news conference in Richmond, Mr. Herring said the ban violated the 14th Amendment right to due process and equal protection, an argument that has been the basis of successful legal challenges to same-sex marriage prohibitions in other states.
“I cannot and will not defend a law that violates Virginians’ fundamental constitutional rights,” Mr. Herring said. To do so, he said, “would be a violation of the law and my oath.”

As the day progressed I heard a variety of reports on Herring’s announcement.  What struck me as an alarming revelation was how much of the commentary simply repeated rhetorical positions on marriage equality.  Very little was said about the legal arguments underlying Herring’s position.

There seems to be something very wrong when an Attorney General’s obligation to the people he represents, the laws he is obligated to uphold, and the oath of office he has taken is secondary to the political positions of various special interest groups.

Stepping back or plunging into the abyss

This week I started the last full semester of my regular classes in the Doctoral program at Cardinal Stritch University.  The weekend included classes on Friday night from 4:00 – 8:00 PM, all day Saturday and all day Sunday.  I ended the weekend by going downhill skiing at Sunburst ski area.  Flying down a ski hill with nothing but my wits and the voice of my ski guide to keep me from crashing seemed a fitting end to the weekend.

As I look out on this year I am intimidated by the challenge of bringing my studies to completion and finishing my Doctoral dissertation.  At the same time I know it is a time to dream and visualize how I will move forward in the world after I complete my studies.  This too can be seen as an intimidating challenge or a fantastic opportunity.

This whole inner dialogue was summarized by a conversation I had on the top of the ski hill last night.  A partially sighted skier was telling me he would how scary he found it was to drive a stock car while blindfolded. He told me he would never do that again.  Personally, I find driving stock cards while blindfolded an exciting challenge that I welcome into my life.  It occurs to me this morning that the challenges of completing my doctorate are really no greater than getting up the nerve to fly down a ski hill or drive a car without being able to see.  I am sure I will find the sense of accomplishment equally exhilarating.

Watching out for the letter carrier

The frigid Artic blast of air this past week and periodic snowfall has turned our driveway and sidewalk into a sheet of ice.  As I took my dog out this morning I realized I know I can’t clear all of the ice from my drive and walks but I want to make sure the letter carrier can safely get to our mailbox.  I thought this with the knowledge the need for daily postal delivery has long past.

It’s a pretty rare occasion we receive first class mail any more.  The majority of mail is third class advertising that goes directly into the recycling bin.  If we received mail delivery three times a week we probably wouldn’t miss any important mail and it would save a whole lot of money.  The political agendas that obscure this reality are outside of the scope of this post and I’ll leave them for another time.

What struck me as I walked up the driveway this morning was the fact that we seem to have lost the letter carrier in the circular rhetoric that masquerades as a conversation about the need for daily postal delivery.  Regardless of how the U.S. Postal Service becomes a part of our future (or past) the letter carrier fills a noble role that deserves a safe passage to my door and into the future.