I volunteered at a local high school that focuses on STEM education today. A lawyer I know emailed me about volunteering to help their “law lab” and I said yes without paying attention to the details because kids. As ot turns out, their project is to develop a policy initiative where they can advocate for fellow teens, which I discovered in the last five minutes of today’s afternoon panels.

So, the panel. These panels were a vaguely defined discussion of issues of import to teens. I did not originally volunteer, as they were looking for a lawyer who defends deportation cases or something very sympathetic. No one volunteered. I emailed my buddy and said I was willing to do it, but I thought I was a bad fit because I am generally the villian in those kinds of stories. I do not expect teens to love my many yarns about the good ol’ days of union busting when Bush was president. He said he needed someone to go, so I went.

Hoo boy, was that a bad room for me. CPS court judged talked about healing families and believing in the institutions of democracy. School district democracy education guy gave an inspiring speech about getting their generation involved. School counselor cried when speaking of homeless teens and suicide attempt. Human trafficking expert. Women’s economic opportunity. Holy shit.

And me. Union busting enemy of the working man. According to the 9th Circuit, legal mafioso and serial killer. What the hell was I supposed to say?

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In the morning panel, I said that the government would not help them, that nothing good happens in the courthouse, and that I am generally cynical about systems and institutions, and much more a believer in the power of individuals to overcome the problems that are created by those things. No questions, let’s talk to the human trafficking lady.

In the afternoon session, I admitted that I had no idea why I was there, and explained that my work is all around particular problems and disputes, and I give little thought to issues of policy. Policies one way or another just change the board I play on, sometimes to my advantage or disadvantage. But beyond that I am not very political. I told them that sometimes you stumble into bigger things, and I told them about the Gerawan workers, and that the reason we won despite all that was stacked against us was that the humans behind the power could not resist the collective will of the workers. Meh, let’s have the school counselor talk about his alcoholic dad and cry some more.

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Never volunteer.