Over winter break I watched The Pianist. As the film opens, the main character is playing live on the radio in 1939—just as Warsaw is being bombed by Germany. With the bombs falling, the pianist rushes home. His family is Jewish, and his sister is a young lawyer.
The bombing continues for days. The family is relieved when France and Britain announce that they have declared war on Germany, but no nation comes to their rescue, and before long Warsaw is under the umbrella of one ideology. The pianist and his family, who are forced to wear blue Star of David armbands and are not allowed to work, eventually are relocated to a Warsaw ghetto. The pianist is separated from his family by a friend serving in the Jewish Ghetto Police. It is a heartbreaking moment as the rest of the family—including the pianist’s sister—are shoved into a cargo train and sent to their certain deaths.
That scene and the sister’s character arc have haunted me this entire semester. Although the movie is primarily focused on the pianist, I wanted to know more about her, what she was thinking—as an attorney, she must have agonized over the supposed legal justifications as the Jewish population lost their jobs, then their homes, until finally they were transported to the Treblinka extermination camp. What I found so frightening (and chilling) about the sister is that despite being a lawyer, she was unable to protect her family. Under the circumstances, what could she have done?
Everything was moving so fast. In a time of war, Poland’s civil society and its institutions were collapsing. The moment was bigger than one person, one attorney, or one Jewish woman.
But it still haunts me. And I have not been able to shake that feeling.
On Tuesday night, I lay in bed refreshing the New York Times app and checking Twitter franticly. I voted for Hillary Clinton, and supported her from the first day of the primaries to the last day of the general; in fact I’d hoped that she would be running long before she announced it. When the push notification came into my phone naming Trump as president-elect, I cried.
The results of the election were gutting, for a number of reasons. After a campaign fueled by hatred and fear, Donald Trump’s presidency validated every anxiety I had felt during the general election—that there were more people willing to put the rights of others on the line to salvage their own privilege than there were people willing to work to correct the injustices in this country. We now know that Hillary won the popular vote, and while that is in and of itself reassuring, it does nothing to assuage my concerns about what a Trump presidency will mean for the safety of people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community, disabled people, Muslims, or immigrants. Almost half the country voted for someone who admitted to sexually assaulting women, who called Mexicans rapists, who promised to ban Muslims, and who mocked a disabled person, and that is a stain on our history that will never come out.
Six years ago, I found myself in a situation on Capitol Hill that I could hardly believe was happening.
I walked through the tunnels of the Capitol Building, passed by the Speaker’s lobby, and descended down a series of stairs to approach the room HC-5. I took my shoes off, said my salaams to the other men and women entering the room, and sat down near the front. “Allah hu akbar.” The muezzin started the call to prayer.
More people continued to enter the room. Among them were Congressional staff, officials from various federal agencies (including the Department of Defense, the State Department, and Department of Health & Human Services), and members of the press. The man that sat on my right looked a bit confused, but eager to start the prayer. The man that sat to my left looked familiar, but I could not put a name to the face. Meanwhile, the call to prayer continued. The room was almost at capacity and nearly all eyes kept turning to the man sitting to my left.
As the muezzin ended the call to prayer, the khatib took the microphone and started the brief sermon. He gave his blessings and then introduced two men. The man sitting to my left was Congressman Keith Ellison, the first American Muslim elected to Congress. The man sitting to my right was the U.S. House of Representatives Chaplain, the first Roman Catholic priest to serve in that position. After a brief introduction, the Congressman and House Chaplain sat back down next to me. I was overwhelmed with emotions. “Allah hu akbar.” Everyone stood in unison as the Friday prayer began.
That’s when it hit me.
2Ls (from left) Maria Colella, Ryan Murphy, Ashley Gambone, and Margaret Capp, pictured with BC mascot Baldwin, ran the Red Bandanna Run on October 24th.
As I introduced myself to classmates, professors and administrators during orientation and throughout the first few weeks of 1L year, many of them asked where I attended college, or why I chose BC Law. I told them that I went to Boston College, and had such a great experience that I thought it would have been crazy, if given the chance to come back to BC, to go to law school anywhere else. I couldn’t even picture it. Their response was, more times than not, “oh, so you’re a double eagle!”
I had heard the phrase “double eagle” tossed around in college from time to time. For those of you who haven’t, members of the BC community affectionately call people with two BC degrees (including diplomas from BC High) “double eagles.” Similarly, the more exclusive “triple eagle” title signifies three BC degrees.
Being from New York, and not knowing many BC alumni, the term “double eagle” never seemed like more than a catchphrase used in the community. But as I get closer to attaining my second degree, it has become much more than that for me.
They don’t. That’s the message that plays on a loop against a seemingly never-ending backdrop of killings of unarmed minorities at the hands of those who are sworn to serve and protect society. That’s the message that’s forced a movement around the idea that #BlackLivesMatter. That’s the message that made me wake up in a sweat early this morning.
The only light came from the eerie glow of the crescent moon as I stood in the middle of a wheat field. It was slightly windy, and there was a dilapidated farmhouse about 100 yards in front of me. Around the field and the house were dark, uninviting woods. For no reason, I noticed I was wearing a white t-shirt and black pants. As I walked towards the house, I suddenly realized there were figures approaching me on either side from out of the wooded areas. They were just black silhouettes lit against this breezy field, but I could tell they were wondering what I was doing there, and I, of course, would have no explanation. Continue reading
I’m going to take a tiny detour from my Things I Wish I Knew series to address something that came up this week for me and that most of us are guilty of forgetting in one form or another: privilege.
Now this is where I expose my inner geek. One of my absolute favorite things to do in college was to have people over and play the game that has been ruining friendships since the 90s: Mario Kart. Remember when you were all set to win the race, and you’d drive through an item box and it would roulette through all the different items before it landed on the one you got – usually something useless like a banana peel, because unless one of your fellow racers beat you out in the last second, chances are you’d be crossing the finish line first.
What the frack am I going to write my personal statement about?
A thought that has probably haunted many a person reading this for the past few months. And even after you’re done writing it, you have to read it, which is a lot like hearing your own voice on camera – i.e., “Gross. Do I really sound like that?” Even worse, you have to get someone else to read it to catch the typos and confusing tangents. And most people fall into one of two categories: the ones who tell you it’s perfect and not to change a thing (thanks, Mom!) and the ones who basically tell you to rewrite the whole thing.
To say that I was nervous about submitting my personal statement to BC is kind of like saying Boston got a few snow showers this past month. Race is such a sensitive topic of discussion, and I felt like I was really throwing caution to the wind in dedicating my entire admissions essay to the subject, but I couldn’t help it – it didn’t make sense to me to write about anything else. Then when I got the request to publish it in BC Law Magazine, I was even more anxious. I typed the confirmation email quickly and hit “send” before I could change my mind.