Friday, January 20, 2006

The Dissenting Minority

My family owns a group home or in other words, an assisted living facility for developmentally disabled adults. I have two disabled siblings, an uncle with Down Syndrome, and a passion for this population that I can compare only to my passion for certain periods of history. This may seem relatively off the topic, but in all actuality sets up the topic perfectly.

On Wednesday a resident at our group home in McCammon died suddenly of a heart attack. When I speak in terms of "residents" I always mean friend and in this particular case mean family. For nearly six years we lived within the facility. I grew up with those residents, I now call them family and am honored to be their friend. Since Wednesday I have found myself reflecting frequently on just how amazing the opportunity is to work with these wonderful individuals who have had such an impact on my life. It is an opportunity few people can appreciate. It is a job few people can do well.

Last night at the Pocatello City Council meeting, a gentleman came before the council who had been denied a taxi license due to prior criminal activity. When I say criminal activity, I mean activity that appears on his criminal background check, that may not be all too criminal. I didn't know this man nor do I claim to understand the circumstances, but in meeting him learned that he may have been in a poor relationship that sadly resulted in them calling the police on each other repeatedly.

This man had worked and spent quality time in a partial care facility working with this population of disabled adults that I care so deeply for. I don't know if what this man was charged with truly reflects his actions or if after so many domestic disturbances it was the only route left to take, but I do know that when he said in front of the council that he works with this certain population, he said it with pride. He was afraid that the opportunity would be taken away from him. There are few people that I've met who can see that opportunity before them. There are few people that appreciate the opportunity.

Charged with domestic battery, the man claimed to have no violent tendencies. Maybe a victim of circumstance, maybe not. Whatever the case may be in his defense let me say this: There are times in this business when all the patience in the world isn't enough. There are times in this business when you can't take another minute of the redundancy. If in those times he has never cracked, if he has never once disrespected those people with whom he has been trusted to care for, he can't be all that bad of a guy.

I hadn't attended the Council meeting for his case alone, though when I read the agenda, I was convinced that I needed to be there to hear his story. The council voted 4-to-1 in denial of his license, giving him the opportunity to reapply in 6 months. The lone dissenting voice was Councilman Stallings. I don't know why Stallings voted the way he did, but it taught me a lesson that I hadn't realized until today.

As I sat in an interview for a position on the ASISU Senate, one of the last questions Vice President Sharp asked was how important I feel the dissenting minority is in the legislative process. After taking in the magnitude of the question, I thought about the Council meeting and this post that I had begun to write with no conclusion in sight. I told Will Sharp and two ASISU senators about Stallings' vote last night and it clicked right then in my head that whatever the reason, a dissenting voice is necessary and unbelievably important in the process. Without a dissenting voice, the majority never will know both sides of the story/issue. The majority will always vote with no check on their conscience.

For what it's worth, learning this lesson has taken quite a bit of my time this week. Time that was not for a second wasted.

1 comment:

Enkidu said...

A friend of mine just lost her 28 year old disabled son to a heart condition. As his service conducted as Madeline St. Sophie Center (http://www.stmsc.org) the memories his friends and family shared brought tears to my eyes several times. Most moving of all was his friend with Down's syndrome who sobbed "He was my friend. I miss him."

Many believe that the difference between man and other animals is tool use or language. It is not. The joy we get from each other's company is what makes us nearly unique.