Reflection on Community Service (Post #10)

 

For my community service project, I decided to pick up trash in local parks. My main reason for choosing this was that it allowed me to set my own schedule, and work around my heavy course load this semester. I haven’t done much community service, so the experience was relatively new to me. Despite that, walking around with a trash bag was not an especially foreign experience.

At first, I had planned to visit Sycamore park, Hidden Cove park, and the Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve, but after visiting the first two, it became clear that there wouldn’t be much for me to do there, as I couldn’t find a significant amount of trash to pick up. The Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve, on the other hand, was in dire need of some cleanup, so that’s where I ended up spending most of my time.

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The world’s most ignored sign

Anyone who lives near the CSNP knows that, despite closing at dusk, the park at night is a popular hangout for kids to drink and do drugs. There are a couple of areas with seating where most of this seems to take place, and these were, unsurprisingly, the areas with the most trash, despite the fact that trash cans have been placed less than ten feet from most of these spots. The trash seemed to have been building up there for some time, but these areas were relatively quick and easy to clean, since most of the trash was too recently discarded to have begun sinking into the mud. The bulk of the trash I gathered was from these spots, but the bulk of my time was spent further down the trail, by the creek. The creek was time consuming because so much small trash had been washed into it, most of which was half-buried in the banks. There were also some unusual pieces of litter, such as a lawn mower and a tire, that were too large for me to retrieve myself. I can’t imagine how those ended up in a creek without somebody intentionally putting them there, which is a bit disheartening.

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Someone had better have a good excuse for this.

As I wandered through the park picking up trash, I thought about the tendency of littering and pollution to reinforce themselves; very few people will litter in a pristine park, but once there is trash on the ground, more people are willing to add to it, reasoning that “everyone else is doing it, so does it really matter if I do too?” The more trash on the ground, the fewer people will avoid littering, and so small messes snowball into large messes rather quickly. On the other hand, this means that with regular maintenance, a park’s cleanliness can be maintained with very little effort, since a clean park is less likely to attract litter. Many problems in our society behave this way; They start out small and easy to manage, but if left unattended too long, they can start to seem insurmountable. Too many of these problems are left to volunteers to solve, and, due to the fact that most volunteers can’t commit time regularly, the problems end up growing much more difficult to solve. It seems more logical to hire a small staff to regularly address these issues, thereby reducing the difficulty to something trivial, rather than a grueling day of work once every few months. For now, though, we have to rely on volunteers to address these problems infrequently, so we see cycles of gradual decay followed by frantic efforts to repair the situation, followed by more gradual decay until the situation once again reaches becomes critical enough to warrant volunteers’ efforts.

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Research Essay Partial First Draft (Post #9)

[The intro is still in its early stages, and will probably be completed last]

Public attitudes vary by region

What effect do these attitudes have on the administration of local facilities?

What effects does the style of administration have on local recidivism rates?

How do public attitudes towards crime affect recidivism rates?

For the sake of simplicity, this essay will focus on comparisons between the prison systems of Minnesota and Oregon, the states scoring highest and lowest respectively on recidivism rates in a 2011 survey by The Pew Center on the States. This will of course provide an incomplete analysis of the correlation between public attitudes and local recidivism rates, but as information on either subject is limited, a comparison between extremes should yield the most immediately useful results.

Minnesota has a 3-year recidivism rate of 61.2%, the highest of any US state (Citation). In spite of this, a public opinion survey conducted in 2002 found that 92% of Minnesota residents “always or almost always feel safe” (citation). This draws a stark contrast to Oregon, whose exceptionally low recidivism rate (22.8%) (Citation) coexists with a much lower percentage of people feeling safe from crime, only 68% (Citation). (It should be noted that this survey was conducted in 1988, and public attitudes may have shifted significantly in the years since) This seems to suggest an inverse correlation between public fear of crime and recidivism rates – that is, higher levels of public anxiety tend to correspond with lower proportions of prisoners being reincarcerated. To determine whether this correlation is causal or coincidental, we must examine the effects of public opinion on the administration of prisons, along with the effects of a prison’s style of administration on its recidivism rates.

[Next I plan to classify prisons into archetypes and assign each state’s most populous prison to its corresponding archetype, followed by a comparison of each archetypes effectiveness in different areas, eventually leading to a conclusion on how (or if) local attitudes towards criminals affect local recidivism rates]

Proposal for research paper (Post #8)

For my research essay, I’ve decided to compare cultural stigma towards criminals in various regions to each region’s predominant prison archetype, analyzing each archetype’s effect on recidivism rates. The archetypes, which I’ve identified from a research  paper comparing prison conditions in Israel, The Netherlands, and the US, are as follows:

High-Security, High Reform – These facilities are heavily guarded externally and allow prisoners relatively little privacy, but allow (and often require) prisoners to participate in reform programs such as GED courses and technically demanding work programs.

High-Security, Low Reform – These facilities are heavily guarded both externally and internally, and allow prisoners very little freedom or privacy, and have almost no meaningful reform programs or recreation.

Low-Security, High Reform – These facilities are lightly guarded, and allow prisoners a high level of privacy and comfort, with an abundance of reform programs and recreational facilities.

I am still in the process of researching this subject, but my preliminary findings are that regions with more cultural stigma against criminals, such as the American Southeast, are more likely to have high-security, low-reform prisons, which seem to lead to high rates of recidivism; in regions with moderate cultural stigma against criminals, such as the American Northwest, the high-security, high-reform model seems more prevalent – this model appears to result in the lowest rates of recidivism; in regions with very little cultural stigma against criminals, such as the Netherlands, the low-security, high-reform model seems prevalent. This model seems to result in the highest recidivism rates.

In my essay, I plan to provide statistics and examples to verify that, A) these regions do have the assumed level of cultural stigma against criminals, B) these archetypes are common to their corresponding region, and C) the recidivism rates in each region are influenced by the prison archetype used. I will also present my personal hypotheses as to why each archetypal prison has the effect that it does on recidivism rates.  Overall, I hope to demonstrate that extreme levels of cultural stigma against criminals ultimately drive recidivism rates up through their effects on the styles of administration in prisons.

Research Essay Topic Brainstorming (Post #7)

I am researching the dehumanization of prisoners in the US prison system, with an emphasis on comparisons to other prison systems around the world. I would like to explore the stigmatization prisoners experience both during and after their sentence, and how that stigma affects recidivism rates, again with comparisons to foreign systems & cultures. I don’t have a thesis statement yet.

I’m still in the very early stages of this essay. I still need to finalize my sources, and annotate them. I will need to do this within the next week, along with finalizing my topic. Selecting and annotating my sources will probably be easier after finalizing, or at least narrowing down my topic.

(Written 03/22/2016)

On Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow”

Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow seeks to answer a question that is almost universally ignored, dismissed, or answered incorrectly. The question is: Where have all the black men gone? This question, although simple, can prove hard to answer because of the stereotype that surrounds it. Some might hear the question and think of the stereotype of the absent black father, dismissing the question as invalid, since stereotypes usually have no bearing on a group’s actual behavior. However, Alexander immediately disputes this assumption, saying, “The sense that black men have disappeared is rooted in reality. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2002 that there are nearly 3 million more black adult women in black communities across the United States, a gender gap of 26 percent.” So, the question is valid. Where have all the black men gone? While many have theorized that moral decay, religious apathy, or a lack of a strong community are to blame, each of these ignores the obvious answer that nobody wants to acknowledge: That a staggering portion of the adult black male population are in prison, and many of those that are not currently in prison have been there before. It’s an ugly truth that reflects far more on our society as a whole than those behind bars. In an era where racial equality is largely assumed because of a few black men and women who have risen to the heights of celebrity, overt racism has been replaced by systemic racism. This system of oppression has been built into our legal system so thoroughly that racial inequality no longer requires the dedicated efforts of prejudiced individuals; it perpetuates itself, and the apathy resulting from the myth of a post-racial society is all it needs to be sustained.

The overt oppression of millions of black men in America would not be possible today. Social attitudes have shifted to the point where most Americans despise racism, and those that do not are unlikely to admit it. Today’s oppression is laundered through the legal system. Rather than disempowering black men directly, the “New Jim Crow” system, as Alexander calls it, first labels these men as criminals, then proceeds to disempower them. Unfortunately, social attitudes have not progressed so far as to demand ethical treatment and equality for convicted persons, so most people actually see this oppression as a service, protecting our society from those that would corrupt it. Sadly, the only way to “protect” society from criminals in a system that disempowers them past the point of supporting themselves through legal means is to keep them out of society all together.

Although the prison system in the U.S. is thoroughly corrupt and backwards, this does not explain why such a startling proportion of those prison’s tenants are black men. The disproportionate imprisonment of black men is, unfortunately, a self-perpetuating system. As black men are released from prison, many of them return to the same communities they lived in previously. Once there, they find themselves unable to find gainful employment, as most salaried positions won’t even consider hiring ex-convicts. Thus, they are forced to reoffend to support themselves and their families, and are quickly swept back into the prison system. Those that do not reoffend are often found in violation of their parole for associating with those that do. Meanwhile, court and prison fees funnel money out of these communities, impoverishing the remaining residents, which, of course, leads to more criminal activity. The cycle perpetuates itself, and nobody protests, because who wouldn’t want criminals off of the streets? Even as this cycle turns innocent people into desperate people, and finally into criminals, nobody lifts a finger. And for what? Is the satisfaction of being “tough on crime”, the sense of superiority we gain from knowing that, no matter how low we get, we’ll always be better than criminals, worth it? Is it really worth tearing apart millions of families and trapping innocents in an endless cycle of poverty just to make sure that a judge gets reelected, or to line the pockets of the private prison industry?

Encryption and Privacy

Recently, the FBI ordered Apple inc. to decrypt the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. On the surface, this may seem like a simple and reasonable request, but there is much more to this request than may be obvious to the average citizen. The first issue is that Apple does not currently have the ability to decrypt their customers’ phones. The encryption system was designed so that nobody, not even Apple or the US Government, could gain access to the phone’s data without the user’s credentials (in this case, the user’s fingerprint scan and passcode). For Apple to grant the FBI’s request, they would need to create a modified version of the iPhones operating system (OS) that would allowe them to break into it. The FBI insists that the modified OS would only be installed on this phone, but critics of the request believe that the FBI would begin using this strategy in more cases, increasing the risk that this software would be leaked to a third party. In the wrong hands, anyone with this software could break into any iPhone they could get their hands on, accessing personal and financial information of the phone’s owner.

Although it may seem to be just a squabble between a tech company and the FBI, this issue actually represents the next major crossroads for the right to privacy by the American citizen. Although most constitutional scholars believe that the constitution guarantees its citizens’ right to privacy (through a combination of the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 9th, and 14th amendments), they also agree that this right to privacy is forfeit during substantiated legal investigations. This interpretation has worked for years, but with the recent advent of the digital age, we must consider the consequences of continuing in this manner.

Before the digital age, privacy meant that nobody could come into your home or take something that was yours without permission. They also could not access any legal, financial, or personal information about you, since any documents containing such information would be inside your home or workplace, where they would not be allowed without permission. Now, however, people store their entire lives in their pocket: their phone contains personal information in the form of texts, emails, and pictures; their credit card and social security numbers are stored by apps through which they make purchases. To gain access to someone’s phone is often to gain access to their schedule, their bank accounts, and any other services they may be able to access through their phone. In the digital age, a phone contains everything one would need to completely assume a person’s identity, or to empty all of their accounts. All of this can be done quickly and untraceably once a party gains access to the data. We must consider this incredible risk when choosing to allow certain parties access to our information.

Some might argue that these risks are there in the physical world as well – that the same criminals can break into your home or mug you, steal your wallet, and accomplish the same goals. However, the major difference here is that in either case, it is clear that a crime has been committed, and that the victim’s data has been compromised. In the case of digital intrusions, a skilled hacker will leave no trace that the victim’s data has been stolen. A person may not realize that their identity has been stolen for hours, days, or even weeks after the crime has been committed. This makes it very difficult to track the person  who committed the crime, and leaves the victim little hope of recovering his assets.

The thing about encryption that public officials seem unable to grasp is that you cannot create a backdoor without leaving it open for anyone clever enough to find it. What I mean by “backdoor” is a method for authorized officials (such as the FBI) to access encrypted data. To understand the flaw in this idea, we need to understand how encryption works. When data is encrypted, it is first encoded numerically, so that a computer can read it. Next, these numbers are run through a function based on the user’s key. Without the key, there is no way to convert the encrypted numbers back into something that the computer can read. Modern encryption programs do not rely on the method of encryption being kept secret, as that method’s discovery would render the entire encryption system useless. A government backdoor would require an encryption system that does not nned the user’s key to be decrypted. This method would rely entirely on the government’s method of gaining backdoor entry remaining secret. The moment that method was discovered, the entire encryption system would become unsafe to use, exposing millions of people’s data to anyone tech savvy enough to look for it.

In the digital age, where a person can remotely access a server from anywhere in the world, and where any information they gain can be disseminated nearly instantaneously across the globe, we cannot afford to rely on secrecy to protect our data. The chance of the backdoor’s secret being discovered coupled with the untold damage that could do to millions of lives far outweighs the advantages that could be gained through giving the government access to criminal’s communication records. This is not an issue of the FBI gaining access to a single phone. This is an issue of whether we value the privacy and safety of every single citizen over the ability of our government to access the records of those deemed to be a threat to national security. It is not an easy question, and should not be answered lightly, but I believe that the potential risks far outweigh the potential benefits of having a government backdoor to encryption. Even if we assume that this power will never be abused, we cannot realistically assume that it will never be replicated by hackers, who have already proven far more competent in matters of information technology than our government.

There’s no denying that police violence in the US has become far too common. Over the past year, it has become abundantly clear that officers will not face any serious repercussions for their actions in all but the most horrific cases. These two facts have created an environment of fear and tension between civilians and police, one which regularly erupts into violence that only serves to further divides the two groups. A positive feedback loop has been created, where some violence leads to more violence, which in turn leads to even more violence.

The main issue with the current system is the lack of accountability held by offending officers. When an officer abuses his power and is not punished, he will continue to do so, while serving as a reminder to other officers that they are untouchable, and not to be held to the same standard as normal citizens. This only serves to reinforce the “us against them” mentality that has become far too common on either side of this mess. On the other hand, if officers are punished for their transgressions, (actually punished, not suspended with pay for two weeks) they serve to discourage similar behavior. If this were the case, violence would lead to convictions and punishment, and every violent incident would make future incidents less likely, instead of the current system that encourages them.

Considering all of this, why aren’t officers punished for breaking both civilian trust and the law? Thanks to an anonymous hacker known as “Cthulhu” along with an anonymous source within the Fraternal Order of Police, we finally have an answer for this question. Cthulhu hacked into the central server for the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), and released 2.5 GB of confidential information, consisting of 63 contracts between police unions and their local governments. Although some of these contracts were innocent enough, more than a third included clauses allowing departments to destroy records of investigations, complaints, and disciplinary actions after a negotiated period of time, ranging from a few years to only a few months. Many of these contracts also allowed police departments to deny citizens access to any of these records, effectively burying any evidence of wrongdoing.

FOP officials argue that these provisions are there to protect the rights and safety of officers, and that it was “standard HR practice” to remove evidence of wrongdoing, as it can affect career advancement. This argument only serves to illustrate the disconnect between the rules for officers and the rules for civilians. A civilian convicted of a felony is stuck with the record of that felony for the rest of his life, and whatever career he may have been advancing through can be assumed to have ended the moment the verdict was read in court. “Standard HR Practice” for employees who break the law is to fire them.

There are other alarming provisions in these contracts, which can be read about here, on The Guardian’s website. Many of the practices outlined in these contracts are damaging the public’s trust of the police, but the most damning by far is the nearly universal practice of conducting all investigations internally. This means that corrupt departments investigate their own guilt, and the verdict is almost always that they are innocent. Many law enforcement officials defend this practice, stating that “no one understands what we do.” Not only is this excuse condescending and contrived, it hints at the very dangerous mentality shared by many officers today: That they see themselves as separate and above normal citizens. They see battle lines being drawn between themselves and the very civilians they are supposed to be protecting.

Although the current situation seems grim, it’s vital that we remember a few things: First, that these events of police brutality are not new. There always has been and always will be a risk of those in power abusing that power. Corruption has always been present in any organized society since the beginning of time. What has changed is our ability to see that corruption. With modern technology, a bystander can take out their phone and record these events at a moment’s notice, then post them online to be viewed by millions. The apparent epidemic of corruption and violence that we see today is largely a product of that fact. The next time you wonder, “how did the world get so backwards?”, remember that it already was backwards, and it’s only now in the digital age that most of this corruption is coming to light – and once it’s out in the open where everyone can see it, we can finally start to do something about it.

The second thing we need to remember is that not all police officers are corrupt. In fact, it’s likely that very few are. Sadly, these few seem to congregate in certain departments that damage the reputation of all other departments. However, the current climate of anger and mistrust towards officers only serves to alienate them from the public they are supposed to protect. Every time an act of violence is perpetrated against law enforcement officials, every single officer is forced to question his commitment to the public, especially when the public seems to condone that violence.  Law enforcement agencies need to take a serious look at themselves, and make sure that they are addressing their failures in a way that serves to discourage further failure, but we as citizens also need to take a serous look at our own actions, and make sure that we are not encouraging each other to perpetuate this violent cycle. Without compromise and restraint on both sides of this conflict, the violence will only get worse, and people will keep needlessly dying.

About Me

I am a first-year student at GPC or GSU or whatever we’re called now. My major is (will be) aerospace engineering, assuming I don’t mess up too badly in the next couple of years and successfully transfer to Georgia Tech. This is my third time as a Freshman; the first two were at Drexel University in Philadelphia, but due to some personal difficulties, I was unable to complete my degree there. Also, none of the credits transferred.
In my free time, I enjoy consuming various types of media (games, movies, tv shows), and playing music (bass guitar, french horn).

Narrative Essay Rough Draft

ENGL Essay I 1st Draft– Title Goes here

by Dylan Lambeth

A crowd had started to gather to watch the show. The venue had been nearly empty for the opening band’s set. They’d played well, but the summer heat and rusted scrap metal littering the empty lot had discouraged most passers by from staying to watch. But now that my friend Chris had started playing, nobody seemed to mind. People living nearby came out from the comfort of their air-conditioned homes to see him, and people walking by stopped to listen. Kids sat on their parents shoulders to see the band. Chris could have held the attention of an entire stadium if he’d ever had the chance. His unique style of jazz crossed with metal drew the crowds, but what kept them watching, and often cheering, was his performance. When he played a guitar solo, he looked like Jimi Hendrix reincarnated. Where most people would play a play a pleasant solo while swaying back and forth a bit, he would play something twice as intricate and nuanced, often behind his back or with his teeth. I always thought it wouldn’t be long until he was touring the nation, selling out stadiums wherever he went. Sadly, life had other plans for Chris.

I grew up very differently than Chris. I was white, from an upper-middle class family, whereas Chris was black, raised by a single mother who struggled to make ends meet. I never needed to worry much about police or money, so I didn’t really appreciate how different my situation was from Chris’s. I grew up in a bubble of liberal optimism, and as a result didn’t know that racism and poverty were still very real problems in America. To me, Chris was just my friend, who happened to live in a cramped apartment. I didn’t think about how different Chris offering me a snack at his house was than my doing the same at my house. I never considered that underage drinking or smoking pot, things that could at worst land me on probation for a few months, could cost him so much more. I never thought about a lot of things growing up, because I’d been led to believe that the world was fair, and that anyone could follow their passion to success. Watching Chris and his family, though, I started to see the cracks in the utopia I’d been told I lived in.

Chris and I were on our way to band practice, with Chris’s older sister driving. A bass guitar in its case was sitting across our laps in the back seat, since the trunk was already full of drums and amps. It was a short drive, maybe ten minutes. We’d barely started driving when red and blue lights came on behind us. Chris and I looked at each other, then at his sister. Neither of us was really sure why we’d been stopped. Chris’s sister just let out a tired sigh as she pulled over and started to dig through the glove box. She seemed to have done this a few times before. After what felt like hours, the officer got out of his car and slowly walked to the driver’s window. I couldn’t make out what the officer was saying from the back seat, but Chris’s sister couldn’t have said more than ten words.

“Yes, sir.”

“Sorry, sir.

“Won’t happen again, sir.”

After the cop handed her the ticket and we drove off, I asked what the ticket was for. “I was speeding,” she said, not quite sounding convinced. I wasn’t convinced either, since I’d glanced at the speedometer when we’d been pulled over. Later, Chris told me that the ticket had been for “DWB”, driving while black. At the time, I thought it was a joke, just a pessimistic way to complain. If I hadn’t seen it happen again and again since, I might still believe that.

After we graduated, the band broke up, and most of our members decided to go to music school, Chris included. He was accepted to Alabama State with a generous financial aid package. I couldn’t wait to see what he did with his incredible talent. But then, only a few weeks after he started, his financial aid fell through. Apparently there was some minor problem with the paperwork, and just like that, Chris had to pack up and move back into his mother’s apartment. I was confused by his reaction to the whole thing. He seemed resigned to it, almost passive to the whole situation. I wanted to know why he didn’t fight harder, and find a way to follow his passion, no matter what it cost him. Looking back, I think I know why. He and I had been living our lives by entirely different rules. I’d been raised to dream big, follow my passion, and aim as high as I could (because I was already sitting higher up than many people could hope to climb), but he’d been raised to deal with reality, and to work hard to make the best of whatever situation life put him in. Now, four years later, he’s married, serving in the Navy to provide for his wife and son. Chances are he’ll live a comfortable, fulfilling life, and give his son a better start than he had. Still, I can’t help but wonder where he’d be now; how many platinum records or sold-out stadiums he could have had if he’d only been given a chance to pursue his passion.

Privilege can be strange. It can open many doors that remain locked forever for many, but it can also blind you to the reality of many people’s lives. Everyone starts on a different rung on the ladder of life, and it’s easy to forget that. Some people enter the world with fame and fortune already waiting for them, while others are greeted by poverty or worse. How many of those people could have become great artists, scientists, or engineers if they’d been born into a world that let them?

Narrative Freewrite on Privilege

I’ll start by saying that, as a white male from an upper-middle-class family, I am very privileged. I don’t have to worry much about my safety, since nobody wants to assault someone who looks like they could assault you right back. I don’t have to worry about traffic tickets, since cops barely even see a white guy speeding past in a grey sedan. I don’t have to stress about money, because my parents are wealthy enough to bail me out of any financial situation I get myself into. I grew up with this safety net all around me, without even realizing it was there. As a kid, I genuinely believed that the world was fair, and that most people just wanted to help out. It wasn’t until high school that I saw how wrong I was.

In 10th grade, I had a friend named Chris. Chris was one of the most talented musicians I had ever met. He was also black. Chris and I were in a band together at the time, so, in addition to the time we spent hanging out and goofing off, we spent a fair amount of time practicing at each other’s houses. This meant we needed someone to drive us and our equipment around (guitars, amps, etc.). Most of the time, my mother would drive us, but one day, she wasn’t available. So, Chris’s sister drove us. It wasn’t a long drive, probably only 10 minutes, yet during this 10 minutes she was pulled over for speeding. Not by much, less than 5 miles per hour, and in an area that every sped through. I’d just gotten my learner’s permit at the time, and I drove down the same stretch of road very often – it was about a quarter mile down a residential street, but one of the widest streets in town, even though there was only one lane each way. The speed limit was 30, but everyone always went closer to 40 or 45, because it was one of the safest streets to do so. But for some reason, I had never been pulled over there. Nobody in my family had ever been pulled over there. Speeding on that stretch of road was a crime everyone I knew committed, but none of them had been punished for it.

Privilege can be strange, because it’s very hard to see when you have it. It’s only when you see how someone lacking the same privilege is treated that you begin to understand just how uneven the playing field is.  After the ticket, I started noticing more and more the ways that I was treated differently. My friend Chris eventually got into a music program at Alabama State, with a generous scholarship. We were all excited for him, and made jokes about how he’d be the next Jimi Hendrix (minus the overdosing, hopefully). In the years since we’d started playing together, Chris’s skill at the guitar had only improved, and I think he had the potential to do something truly amazing with his talent. Then, less than two months after he started at Alabama, his scholarship fell through. I didn’t even know that could happen. I had figured, once they gave him the scholarship, all he had to do was be reasonably successful at school. But apparently, some minor paperwork hadn’t been filed correctly, so the whole thing was cancelled, and my friend suddenly couldn’t afford to pursue his amazing talent. He came home, and got a job working at a restaurant. For a while, I couldn’t understand why he didn’t fight harder to keep his scholarship, why he didn’t find a way to pursue his dream, no matter what it cost him. Eventually, though, I realized that he and I were playing by entirely different rules. Where I had been raised to dream big and aim as high as I could (because I was already sitting higher up than many people could hope to climb in their lives), he had been raised to deal with reality, and to work hard to make the best of whatever life threw at him. He’s now married, serving in the Navy to provide for his wife and son. Chances are, he’ll have a comfortable enough life, and be able give his kid(s) a better start than he had. Still, I can’t help but wonder where he’d be now, how many platinum records and sold-out stadiums he’d have if he’d had the privilege to pursue his career in music.