My fears listed in 2-point type would stretch from planet Earth into the Hubble deep field … sucked by dark energy ever farther away … an endless and accelerating supply of mostly banal personal concerns. I awaken with them sometimes in the middle of the night … a subconscious working them over in my sleep.
I attempt to cultivate courage … to affect a gravitational pull … over my shameful, ever-expanding universe of fears.
And so … … I think of the unknown man standing alone in protest before the tanks in Tiananmen Square, humbly holding his white plastic shopping bag. I think of Nelson Mandela jailed on Robben Island … of Galileo Galilei persecuted for declaring his discovery that Earth revolves around Sun. I think of Thich Quang Duc‘s self-immolation … of Maximilian Kolbe, sheltering Jews despite arrests by the Nazi regime – and eventually being sent to Auschwitz. Mahatma Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, Desmond Tutu, Emmeline Pankhurst, Edith Cavell, Odette Sansom, Abraham Lincoln, Sophie Scholl, Frederick Douglass, Malala Yousafzai.
I am not those people.
I am not even like those people.
The House of Representatives Budget Committee report, The War On Poverty: 50 Years Later frightens me.
The relentless, disproportionate reports of fraud perpetrated by claimants and recipients of Social Security disability benefits sends shivers up my spine.
The cultivation of an angry mob of well-meaning, but unknowing, people who hold a negative opinion of disabled people and who will demand policy changes based on misinformation, strikes fear into my heart.
Hearing an Administrative Law Judge say he is afraid to approve legitimately disabled claimants for fear of being called “outlier,” makes me break into a cold sweat for knowing what disabled people will continue to endure upon repeated, unfounded denials of support.
I think of brave people to provide for myself a reference point. And from it, I see the smallness of the courage required of me, and of judges, to do what is right by the disabled people who come to us.
We must endure criticism, be thought of as scoundrels, be misunderstood … fight for our clients, fight a political fight.
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani girl who, at the age of 12, began blogging about her life in Pakistan under Taliban rule. She was fearlessly outspoken, documenting human rights violations under the Taliban, and working to advance the cause of education for girls in her country. She granted interviews to the BBC, the New York Times, eventually a documentary was made about her. She was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Price … and then, the Nobel Peace Prize.
On October 9, 2012, a gunman boarded a school bus on which Malala was riding, asked for her by name, and shot her three times. Malala survived the attack. The Taliban has reiterated its intent to kill her. Malala continues to speak and to write.
I am not Malala.
Disabled people, attorneys representing disabled people, Social Security’s workers and judges must endure criticism in a rancorous political climate. We must endure being misunderstood. But we also must stand in this swirl and together fight this good and worthy fight … understanding that this fight – though important – is not asking very much of us in the way of courage – really.
We can rise to this occasion.
All hands on deck.