I remember the first time I read the Bill of Rights. I was a child suffering with extreme states and didn’t have any idea what I was experiencing. I believed and I was told that I was different. At the same time, I watched my mother get fired from a job she worked so hard for and went to school for, because of a diagnosis. I then watched all her rights stripped away in psychiatric hospitals. Through it all I felt hope because of those rights contained in the Constitution.
I eventually went to law school so I could fight for the rights that were not being honored for people like my mother (by this time my mother did not need my standing up for her – she was and is still the best advocate I have ever known). Unfortunately, the world was a dark place for me and I found my refuge in the darkest of places. Law school was a long nightmare. I was rarely involved physically or mentally.
Strangely, in my fifth year into a three year degree program I found the same shining light I found as a child – the Bill of Rights. I signed up for a class on individual rights. I went to the first class and the professor talked passionately about our rights as US citizens. There was a fellow student who spoke articulately and powerfully about said rights. I found myself going to every class. I went early and I went prepared. I looked forward to hearing what my classmate would say every week.
I was not in a good place and was paralyzed with fear of everything, so I never talked in class – even though I worked hard and wanted to engage my fellow classmate and the professor – I simply could not find my voice. I could not even muster the courage to talk to him after class. All told, I spent 22 years in school (credit for 19) and I do not think I ever participated voluntarily. My only real regret about not speaking up during all those years in school is that I did not speak up in that individual rights class.
I somehow managed to finish school and become an attorney. I did have moments of pride and feelings that I was good at my job. Unfortunately, my personal demons did not rest for long. I could not handle my human experience and my ways of seeking refuge caused enormous destruction. My awful actions landed me in court. At the time, I was broken and beaten and assumed I would be dead soon, in prison or in a psychiatric hospital.
The powers that be asked me what my position was going to be regarding my law license. I could not believe the question. I had embarrassed, what to me is, the most important profession for rights protection. I had caused such destruction. Why in the world would they ask about whether I was going to fight for my license?
Well, it turns out I had Due Process rights concerning my law license. There was not an attorney in the world that could have salvaged my license to practice law – but my rights were still honored. I said I would l resign and still I needed to go in front of a judge and formally state that I was voluntarily resigning from the bar association.
Through miracles in the form of compassionate fellow humans, nutritional changes, taking personal responsibility, yoga and meditation – I am well today. I take everything very seriously by living everyday deliberately – meaning with great structure. Probably the greatest thing about my new life is that I have found my voice. I am not paralyzed by fear anymore. I may not be eloquent but I get my words heard.
And my message – my voice – revolves around those rights I have always been inspired by – the ones contained in our Constitution. I remember watching a tape of a civil rights leader being interviewed and he was asked what he wanted. He said he only wanted the US to honor the words of the Constitution – to do what they said they would do.
I say we need to be asking the same thing now. We want the rights we are promised – no more and no less. The State of Connecticut honored my due process rights for a law license that they had every reason to take from me. The same state passed a law on Thursday that suspends constitutional rights for people that VOLUNTARILY seek help for a troubling human emotional experience that results in a night spent in a hospital.
This new law requires the names of individuals who voluntarily check themselves into a psychiatric hospital be compiled into a Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services database so that Second Amendment rights can be suspended. No Due Process – just egregious discrimination. Unless proper Due Process procedure says otherwise, we all have a constitutional right to bear arms – whether we want guns or not is irrelevant. I personally have no interest in guns but I have a lot of interest in equal rights.
I hope that we all will stand up and fight this unconstitutional provision. I hope we will demand all of our constitutional rights. I know I will be standing up. I hope my former law school classmate, who inspired me with his conviction for individual rights, will stand up. I feel I can make a little bit of a difference in my role at Advocacy Unlimited but I know for sure that said classmate in his current role as a United States Senator can make a difference. I hope Chris Murphy still has that fire for justice inside of him and that passion that brought me out of a dark place just so I could hear him. If he does then he will join us in fighting this injustice that came insultingly under the guise of “gun violence prevention” and “children safety.”