Sunday, June 17, 2012

Reader Publicly Thanks Me: "You present these issues in such a calm, rational, and unemotional manner but with great moral clarity, and this is exactly the right way to raise awareness."

It is inevitable. If you decide to stick your neck out for a cause you believe in, you get attacked from all sides. That is simply a reality of speaking up and insisting that something about a system - any system that many people don't necessarily notice - is deeply flawed and unjust. In this case, as we know, it is about exposing the predatory nature of the student lending industry. As one friend recently put it, this unregulated, predatory industry has led to one of the biggest payday lending scams in U.S. history. I have the numbers to prove it, but for now one number will suffice: $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. That pretty much sums up this payday lending scam. 

Suffice to say, there is a lot at stake when analyzing and critiquing the student lending industry and all of its various facets. So, it will comes as no surprise to most of you - and many of you are aware of this fact - that I receive a lot of nasty emails from hateful, spiteful, bitter people. Conversely, I have built a strong network of people who not only support my work, but are also helping me spread the word. Just recently, for example, I received a grant to write an in-depth article on the crisis.

My gratitude runs deep. I am deeply thankful to the all the journalists, authors, and professors who have acknowledged my research on the student loan debt crisis, and consider me a fellow colleague. I also appreciate all of my readers and the countless activists who have joined me in this fight. I have a fantastic literary agent, Diana Finch, who has been working with me tirelessly on finalizing my book proposal. In addition, I have business leaders who have encouraged me to fight for change. The business people in particular have also made me realize the challenges of being an entrepreneur, especially when fighting for those who have no money, no power, and have been sold a bill of goods by a corrupt and broken system. After reading Gary Rivlin's Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. - How the Working Poor Became Big Business, I understand more clearly how the indentured educated class are part of what drives, what Rivlin calls, the poverty industry. The model of the poverty industry is now on every campus in the United States, and even at your closest mall (more on that later). Financial aid officers are a new incarnation of the payday lender. 

But let's get back to gratitude. I am most grateful to my family. Without the tremendous support from my in-laws, I would not have been able to become a full-time activist and writer.

It is critical to remind myself of all of the thank you notes and words of encouragement that land in my inbox on a regular basis. Unfortunately, that seems to be easily forgotten when I receive the hate mail. As many of us know, people on the Internet can be vicious and cruel. You meet them in person? Well, that's another story.

Since I write about sensitive topics and readers share intimate details of their struggles with me, I decided long ago to moderate every single comment that comes my way. (This also helps with SPAM, like the ad I just got that said, "Buy Viagra." It had a dumb link to that lame product). In any event, I oftentimes hate opening these cruel messages, because they are filled with unkind words. Of course, that is often not the case, but I'm human and bullying tactics online are bothersome at times. On the flip side, I realize that my message has been amplified, because those who despise my position are now visiting the site. That is really a good thing. 

In any event, I received a very kind note today and wanted to share it with all of you. It was in response to my interview about suicidal student loan debtors with Rose Aguilar.

Here's what the reader said: 

Agree with the first commenter, you are a truly inspiring individual.

I bookmarked this blog a while back but need to follow it more regularly, for no other reason then to remind myself there are people left in the world such as Cryn Johanssen [sic] who actually care about the plight of others.

I dodged the student loan bullet many years ago through sheer dumb luck but looking back, could easily have been caught as badly as those for whom you advocate. I worry about these young people all the time, especially those who are unemployed and severely underemployed. They are always in my prayers and as well as my thoughts. I try to discuss this issue with people of various ages and backgrounds but their eyes glaze over, they do not wish to know since it does not effect them directly. I think about the cruelty these young folks must face on a daily basis from arrogant people who blame them for their plight, and as a result the discouragement and despair which they must carry in addition to the actual debt. My heart aches.

May you be blessed, protected, and strengthened in this fight you have taken on. You present these issues in such a calm, rational, and unemotional manner but with great moral clarity, and this is exactly the right way to raise awareness.

My only suggestion (and you may know this already)- do not let this become a partisan issue. Remain above the vicious left-right fray that has poisoned American political discourse, only highlighting political sides when the issue is being addressed effectively by particular politicians.

Should my own circumstances change for the better, I would be proud to be able to join you in this fight.

I want to thank you for your lovely note, and when the time comes and you're ready, I hope you join us in our fight. 

It is important to be grateful, and that I am. That I am. 

On a final note, I agree entirely with this reader's remarks about staying above the fray. While I have been critical of the GOP, I have also critiqued the Democrats. On Friday, I had a lengthy and positive conversation with a staffer who works for a Republican Congressman. And next week, I will resume talks with staffers who work for Democrats. I don't give a damned if you're a big D or a big R or a this or a that, if you wanna join me and solve this problem then let's do it.


Kathy Horn said...

Cryn, It is my honor to represent one of the Top 10 Leaders of student loan reform. I am looking forward to the launch of Matters Of Today radio show at the end of July.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to add my gratitude to this as well. You are right; there are a lot of nasty commenters out there but I believe that the majority of them would change their tune if they knew the reality of this problem. My own mother couldn't believe her ears when I finally swallowed my pride and told her about the trouble I was in. She'd say, "Why don't you try refinancing?" "Is there anyway you can bankrupt and just start over?" Once I explained how all of our rights had been removed and how, even if you pay on your private loans for decades, they can raise your interest rate (therefore increasing your balance) and suddenly erase years of payments, my mother was shocked. She said to me, "This isn't even American." She said, "I'd offer to help, but it'd just feel like I was throwing my money down a bottomless pit. What a scam!"

My family truly believes that thanks to people like you, Cryn, who are getting the word out and advocating for us, change is inevitable. This system is unethical and unsustainable. I have no problem paying for school - I think it makes one appreciate their accomplishment even more... but I'd like the same tuition rates and opportunities that generations before me enjoyed. At least give us a chance to make good on our loans for crying out loud.

I hope to join you in this fight, Cryn. We should all do what we can to bear some burden of this battle. I am trying to get into a position to do so - it's just kind of tough when you're trying to keep your head above water. I suppose that's the idea though - keep us busy and keep us quiet, right?

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...


I am the anon who wrote the original comment. I am so glad to learn you have such a supportive family. There is no way anyone could take on this kind of fight without a strong support system. Your husband and extended family all sound like gems.

Your words are a strong reminder what a difference each of us can make in helping others to bear burdens of any kind in this increasingly mean economy where the poison of selfishness and individualism reign and have broken the bonds of community that once enabled us to support each other through difficult times. Student debt and unemployment are social problems, not individual ones.

As an expat now resident many years in Europe, I can see this clearly. Only in America are people blamed for social problems like this. It is only voices like yours that can continue to influence the culture away from the destructive turn it has taken especially in recent years.

If my lotto ticket for this week comes up trumps expect a big donation from me for your foundation :-) In the meantime, may you continue to grow in strength, confidence, and courage, and attract likeminded people to assist in this cause.

Anonymous said...

Who is addressing the larger issue of the huge number of completely useless degrees, such as Women Studies or Art History, and the rising tuition rates, which are due to the easy availability of student loans?

There are a ton of people out there who got into debt up to their eyeballs getting a B.A. in Bullsheet, and then can't get a job worth a damn because they don't know anything useful. Then they can't pay back the money theu borrowed, and the so on. What to do about that?