[This is an email from a former student of mine from my days as a teacher in New York City. She works as a lawyer in the non-profit world, working with court systems. She sent this to me as part of a longer conversation about how we’re feeling about the world these days, and I thought it made sense — with her permission – to post it here.]
Yesterday I drove over to the court so that I could get my client released to a drug program. I was scheduled to be in a different court that morning. I arrived at the second court around noon and my client was released around 12:45. For the third time this year, I drove her to treatment. Not under any illusion that she would stay in the program, but also not harboring any thoughts about her leaving the program. I’m driving her to another program simply because that’s what you do.
Earlier in the day, at my first court, a good friend, a private lawyer, introduced me to his client as the best lawyer you can’t hire. Feeling sort of melancholy from the post-election hangover, having just advised my undocumented client on the uncertain status of his personhood in the Trump America, I replied in passing that my work is my rent for being a member of the human-race. Being a decent human-being is the cost of admission.
Imagine having to footnote all your legal advice with “but that was under the Obama Administration, no one knows what Trump is going to do”. In six weeks, you, undocumented person standing in front of me, could be a priority for ICE.
I drive my client to the city hospital, a many-storied decrepit building that houses the shelter, Department of Corrections hospital unit, and several health and treatment programs for low-income/homeless populations. I show my bar card to the Haitian Department of Health security guard. We take the elevator up to the 11th floor and are buzzed through the locked doors. The African-American intake coordinator tells me my client’s bed was for tomorrow but I beg, and she relents.
My client is led to the nurse’s area by a woman in a headscarf. I wait at the front desk for my client to complete the admission process and am surrounded by the comings and goings of the thirty or so woman on the unit getting sober. They are from all different races and nationalities. Some are pregnant, others are mothers trying to regain custody, there are grandmothers, there are women getting clean for the first time and women who have spent decades in and out of programs. They’re on their way off the unit for “fresh-air” outside. They call out to one another, their ribbing filling the hall with shouts across rooms.
In all of this landscape I think to myself that this is what is beautiful about America — we are what makes America great. My America is filled with diversity and unified around a singular purpose of making society a better place for having each of us in it, and aside from any anger I feel, I am also sad that there are people who can’t see the beauty in this humanity.