I haven’t quit writing for the blog, but have taken a couple of weeks off to work on a new project. As you might have gleaned from between the lines of the posts these last few months, I’ve been wrestling with what I should do with all the extra time I now have, since my daughter got her driver’s license and my son’s bone marrow transplant care is pretty much complete.
I’m fifty. I figure, if I’m lucky, I might have twenty to twenty-five good, productive years left. So, what to do with the time? I tried my hand at driving a beer truck. It was good, hard work–really just what I needed at the time. But at 5’9″ and about 165 lbs., I have no comparative advantage at ‘rolling beer in the ‘hood’, as my buddy Freddy used to say. And the hours were murder, for very little pay. For a job like that, I wanted an eight-hour, clock-punching schedule. The company where I was hired paid its drivers a salary, no doubt to keep from having to pay overtime. So the hours were more like about ten to twelve per day. I figured that if I wanted that much to do, I’d just go back to practicing law, where I did have something of a comparative advantage. I’m very average physically, but well above average intellectually, though I generally like physical work more than mental.
Once I quit that job, I sat down and tried to figure out what I could do that would put what few talents I have to best use–in other words, I got serious about doing something I might be able to do well. I had often wanted to get involved with an English language program we have at the church I attend, so I figured I’d volunteer to teach English to people who are learning it as a second language, at least while I mulled my options. I found that I loved it–the teaching of English, and especially the people, with their interesting stories of having come from all over the globe to arrive in my little corner of the universe. That snowballed into volunteering at another program run by a local charity, and I enjoyed the whole thing so much that I decided to look into taking some classes down at the local university (the University of Alabama at Birmingham). They have a Masters program in Education for teaching adults English as a second language. And so now I’ve enrolled in the program, taking my first class this summer, and am volunteer teaching and tutoring in their English Language Institute. I really want to travel once my last kid is through with school, and this sort of thing could yield opportunities to do so, while in the meantime, it gives me the opportunity to step outside of my little world–to sort of travel in place, if you will.
It occurred to me that if I broadened my focus, I could use the law degree to help with the mainly immigrant population seeking to learn English as a second language, and so have attended a couple of immigration and naturalization law seminars, and have been reading the law to get up to speed on it. I have in my mind that I might one day create a sort of one-stop shop to meet the legal and language needs of new arrivals.
Immigration and naturalization law is some of the most arcane, bureaucratic, rules-intensive law I have ever studied (but admittedly, I have precious little expertise, for example, in the Affordable Care Act, which has got to be just as dense). It is quite remarkable to me that the US should make putative immigrants and visitors jump through so many hoops to get here, which is a relatively new phenomenon, and certainly not something new arrivals up until the early twentieth century (except the Chinese) faced. Imagine had the Mayflower denizens been forced to get their H-1B’s in order before being allowed off the boat. In retrospect, the natives might have wished they had a bureaucratic thicket through which they could have forced the Pilgrims, but just as things are now, it could only have slowed the great tide that washed ashore. It couldn’t have stopped it. The federal government’s fetish for attempting to control and manage the flow of humans across those imaginary lines drawn on the North American map capably demonstrates the government’s hubris, while also revealing its ultimate impotence. The government pretends it controls things by making rules that reflect what is already happening on the ground, or by ignoring what is happening on the ground to make nonsensical rules, which of course, are ignored (i.e., the eleven or twelve million unauthorized immigrants). All the federal government is really doing with its immigration law and policy is operating like a troll under a bridge, exacting tribute from anyone who wishes to legitimately and legally immigrate to the US, while effectively ignoring people who wish to come but don’t have the wherewithal to pay the troll.
As I am a libertarian at heart, believing that governments should not have the authority to direct the flow of human traffic, I figured that aiding the putative immigrant in his quest to exercise his God-given liberty to move freely about would be right up my alley. And as I believe the world, because of the British cum American Empire of the last several hundred years, will one day all be speaking English, at least as a second language, I figured that teaching it could keep me occupied until I’m done with this world.
So, there it is. I haven’t had as much time to write as before, and so I haven’t. In fact, all I’ve written in the last week was a poem for my wife on the occasion of her fiftieth birthday. It was sort of risqué, so it wasn’t for sharing. As I juggle things around, I will hopefully be able to set aside a few hours a week for writing.
I figured out who I was by writing this blog, which is to say, without this blog, I would probably not have stumbled into the idea of teaching English as a second language or of practicing immigration law. Knowing and understanding yourself is quite a valuable thing to possess, and so the benefits have been tangible. And that’s why I shall; I must; I am bound, as Augustine says necesse est, to keep writing because I get more satisfaction, happiness, delight, out of doing it than I would get out of not doing it (paraphrasing Albert Jay Nock). If the reader also benefits, then so much the better.