Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Year 2013: Smoke and Mirrors

It has been an interesting year, 2013, and I can't say I'll miss it. That is especially the case when it comes to the student loan debt crisis.

As we get wiser, we learn a thing or two about smoke and mirrors, whether it's in our professional lives or our personal ones. This is particularly true if we become committed to living a rigorous life dedicated to moral integrity, honesty with one's self and others, and just trying to be an all around decent human being each passing day. If we live this way - or in the very least attempt to live this way - we begin to see through the smoke and mirrors quite quickly. Even better, it doesn't even disturb us when we see the clowns who are busy creating the plumes of smoke and putting up all the silly mirrors. In fact, the healthier we become, the more grounded we find ourselves, the more empathy we have when we see the destructive nature of those who are scrambling to create the illusion with smoke and mirrors. (Clowns are pretty funny, once you realize they are just sad people with lots of make-up on, wearing bad wigs).

This has certainly been the case with my work on the student loan debt crisis and its own fun house filled with smoke and mirrors. Over the course of these past four years, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting upon the nature of the crimes that have been committed in order for clownish people and foolish, thieving institutions (under people in power) to rip off millions and millions of Americans. These clownish people wittingly turn their fellow Americans into permanent indentured debtors! And they do it through smoke and mirrors! They have turned higher education into a demented fun house! Can you believe it? What a gas, right?

I will openly admit that I have been too close to the anger of these debtors, that I have seethed with fury, that it has brought me to tears, that it has caused me sleepless nights. But through those moments of anger and sadness and pain, I have been inspired to write and to research and - most importantly - to reach out to people about the problem. I have reached out to so many of you, I have asked you to share your stories with me, and you have in turn told me your stories, and for that I am most grateful.

I have also reached out to Congressional leaders, and so far, that hasn't gotten me very far. Which brings me back to smoke and mirrors. This year has been all about smoke and mirrors, another type of smoke and mirrors, something created by our leaders and the media. We have heard so much about the student loan debt crisis from our leaders that many of us - including myself - have been fooled into thinking that something might be done, that something is being done to solve the systemic crisis that is swallowing up more and more people as I write this short essay. But you see, that's how smoke and mirrors work, and we've all fallen victim to it, because ultimately nothing is being done to solve the crisis. It's festering and worsening.

Oh, yes, the power of smoke and mirrors. Just when you think you've seen through all those tricks, you find yourself right back in the fun house. This is a different fun house, one created - as mentioned - by our leaders and perpetuated by our media.

Does that mean I think it's hopeless? Nope. But I do think this situation needs some serious reconsideration, especially when it comes to solutions at the policy level. Just because there is a lot of jabbering about a topic doesn't mean there is any headway being made. In fact, it can actually serve to diminish the enormity of the crisis. It is the illusion of solving a problem. It is a form of smoke and mirrors, and it is dangerous, because it is disingenuous, and a disservice to the American people. After all, if you are going to talk the damned talk, you better walk the walk.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

For You Enjoyment, While I Write

So, I am working feverishly on wrapping up my book project, and that is one of the reasons I haven't been writing here as frequently. Rest assured, the work continues, but it is a bit more behind the scenes that this juncture.

As for tidbits about the student lending crisis, many of you probably know that the Department - despite countless complaints against the behemoth lender - has plans to renew their contract with Sallie Mae. Big frickin' surprise, right? Sallie Mae not only is responsible for overseeing loans, but they also have an arm that collects them when payments are either delinquent or in default status. And, uh, yeah, that isn't a conflict of interest or anything. We should all congratulate this administration and Arne Duncan for their decision to renew the Department's contract with Sallie Mae. Great job!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I Am Not A Loan Blog

Folks, I've been away on vacation, hence one of the reasons I haven't written as much lately. (I'm also, as most of you know, finishing up my book for Seven Stories Pres, so that project is keeping me very, very busy). In any event, I wanted to share this new blog from Ed Trust - I Am Not A Loan - with everyone. I've added it to my blog roll, and encourage you to check it out.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Forgotten War: Love Letter to a Soldier in Afghanistan

Despite what politicians say, the "war" in Afghanistan is not over. The claims that we are withdrawing troops is inaccurate. We continue to deploy soldiers to the country, despite press coverage of the President and others talking about a withdrawal. In plain words, this is simply false.

I can say this with certainty, because of the way in which deploying soldiers have found their way into my own life, especially one particular soldier, a soldier I love, respect, and admire. You see, that soldier is, once again, in Afghanistan, just like thousands and thousands of other American soldiers. So, this talk about withdrawal and everything is, as the German would say, ganz falsch (entirely false).

So, with that said, here is a second public love letter to that soldier currently deployed to Afghanistan (a snippet):

Pre-Deployment: Night

Your green combat fatigues, your gray combat goggles, your brown combat boots -- the boxes with holsters and caps and gloves and medicines and even more field supplies -- all of these things sit quietly on the floor of my tiny apartment. Even though you are away, the tan war bags that you will cart with you to dusty Afghanistan rest in front of my little black refrigerator. At the moment, you carry just one camouflaged colored backpack. You are gone because it's a weekday during pre-deployment training, but not by a very far distance, just a few hours away. Despite the short distance between the two of us, I cry and hug your green socks and combat clothing, even your holster, I hug that as well.
The piece can be read in its entirety here.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Torres