26 May 2017

It's Personal

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that politics is just about competing abstract ideas. But, policies that result from politics, and even the social climate that results from the rhetoric that politics produces, affect the lives of real people.

My daughter's graduation yesterday from George Washington High School, an "inner city" school in Denver, Colorado, was a stark reminder of that fact.

There many speeches. They didn't proclaim a bright future where graduates could follow their dreams. Instead, the graduates were praised as resilient survivors who were equipped to survive in an adult world that had become an increasingly hostile place for them since the last election.

One graduate was a Dreamer who had lived in the U.S., undocumented, since he was 11 years old and would be attending CSU on a scholarship tailored to someone in his shoes. The Trump administration has started deporting people like him.

Another was a young black man who'd had a run-in with the law and disciplinary problems in middle school, but who turned his life around in high school and was off to play college football. The Trump administration wants to adopt policies that make it likely that he will have no recourse if he is targeted groundlessly by police and that he might end up spending disproportionate terms in prison if he makes a misstep.

One of the two valedictorians described the graduates (in the school color green gowns) as baby sea turtles, struggling against the ocean and long odds to make it in the world. Unlikely the sea turtles, they are not alone in the world, but the world is definitely not on their side.

One graduate had lost a mother to brain cancer but persisted. Another's mom had pulled through as her son struggled to figure out how school could be relevant - but his mom made clear that education was the path to a better life than he'd know in his childhood. Some graduates had children facing an uncertain future.

The programs that face deep cuts in the federal budget proposed by President Trump are programs that a large share of my daughter's classmates have relied upon to help meet their basic needs. Those cuts mean their little siblings will be hungry and may be denied medical care.

Many of her classmates' families send remittences to family abroad. Trump plans to heavy tax those transfers. 

Some of her classmates are homeless. Trump's policies, if implemented, will swell the number of George Washington High School students in those dire straights.

The upswing in expressions of hate directed at these students has visibly swelled since the election.

As a community, the students who attend George Washington High School, their family members, and the faculty and administration, are united in trying to create positive conditions for those students and in trying to give them a bright future. But, no one is fooling themselves. There are many obstacles in the way of these new graduates.

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