I went to Yale for a conference on Rebellious Lawyering this past weekend. It was a blast. Lots of great conversation, a wide range of issues and approaches presented, a very intimate setting for every panel and workshop, and excellent speakers. Unfortunately my flight was severely delayed and so I missed the Healing and Vicarious Trauma workshop that was offered, but there were many other moments that were relevant to my externship as well. One was a “caucus” convened on Faith and Religion.

As neither one who identifies as being “of faith” nor as “religious” (although I do identify culturally as Jewish), I attended this because my sense of spirituality is very much at the heart of what makes me me, and what makes me a lawyer/activist. It is something that seems to cause a lot of divisiveness at Elon, to the extent that students refuse to speak publicly about their beliefs – and I mean in the classroom. It also creates an air of separation because once you find out where one falls here in terms of Christianity, you seem to also know their politics. This can’t be true, but it’s the way it feels.

At the conference I was able to hear from students who are Christian but also choice activists. I got to hear from two Saudi Arabian women who are students here and wonder how to conceive of law in a secular society, or how that approach may be applied in their own country. I also got to speak about “wellness” as a litmus test, basically, for freedom, and for a well functioning system or democracy. When you have justice, a system is well. When you have disease that is not addressed, you limit your society’s capacity for being just. On a more personal level, we can all agree that wellness, being healthy, is important. What it means to be healthy is something we can discuss in a more complex way. And maybe through that discussion, we can find solutions to problems that would otherwise not seem even the slightest bit related to wellness… Such as poverty. Such as civil rights. Not to mention issues of environmental degradation. Or education…

I also had a friend die this week. A young lawyer I’ve known since college. He even had an L.L.M. from the London School of Economics and helped keep me inspired last year with phone calls and Facebook posts. He apparently overdosed on painkillers and alcohol… Feeling really sad. Remembering what this work is about…

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