Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Signing Our Names for Justice

How many times would you sign your name to secure justice for someone else?

I'm not talking about signing a petition, although that's an interesting angle too.  I'm talking about the governor of Virginia, who tried to restore the voting rights of 200,000 felons earlier this year with a decree that restored the rights of each felon all at once--one signature required.

Some legislators protested and the Virginia Supreme Court said that he needed to restore rights one person at a time--that's a lot of signatures, and he's vowed to work his way through every single case.

I listened to this story yesterday as I was driving home from work, and I thought of the two students that I had helped in the afternoon.  I had to go to the registrar's office, get a file, make copies of transcripts, and then try to puzzle what classes had been transferred and what might still need to be transferred.  Once we made all of those decisions in-house, and it would have been me making those decisions.  Now I'm trying to sleuth my way through other people's decisions.

My afternoon task took some time, 45 minutes per student, but it's nothing compared to what the Virginia governor is facing.

I thought about the other factor--I had students sitting in front of me, so I had to take some action.  The governor could have chosen to do nothing.  Since felons have few advocates, he'd have likely faced no criticism.  He could have shrugged and said, "Well, the Supreme Court told me no--what can I do?"

Instead, he took the route that will require him to sign his name over and over and over again.  It's not a particularly brave stance--not the kind of action that so many Civil Rights workers took in the 50's, 60's, and beyond.

But it's inspiring nonetheless.

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