Alan Mendoza Ayala

Alan Ayala 

I was born in Mexico and raised in Walla Walla, Washington, where we believe in making something out of nothing but grapes and onions rest under the misting sun and the air is sweet.

Second to anything, I am a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama era executive order issued in 2012 that defers the removal of some individuals brought to the United States as children. And I am compelled to believe DACA should not be considered a benefit, but more of a leveling of the ground on which I stand next to you; an equalizer. On that basis, I regret that so many of our fellow humans- those whose legal designations remain null- are left out of the even temporary, mercurial relief that I receive.

For my presence at the school of law, I am indebted to the Thomas More Social Justice Scholarship Program, although I am not necessarily in fiscal debt or indebted to Sir Thomas More who, in his 1516 book Utopia, wrote about Raphael Hythlodaeus, a weary traveler named after the healing archangel and the Greek word hythlos (nonsense), describing “the island of Utopia”: …every man might be of what religion he pleased, and might endeavour to draw others to it by the force of argument and by amicable and modest ways, but without bitterness against those of other opinions; but that he ought to use no other force but that of persuasion, and was neither to mix with it reproaches nor violence…

Sir Thomas More’s fictional character “Thomas More” responded: ... I would find out some other time for examining this subject more particularly, and for discoursing more copiously upon it. And, indeed, I shall be glad to embrace an opportunity of doing it.

And as the Reformation spread through Europe, against the backdrop of Sir Thomas More’s 1529-1532 Chancellorship in England, documentation of persecution of heresy by burning at the stake is ubiquitous. As a matter of fact, the very title Utopia, coined by More and a play on the Greek ou-topos (no place) and eu-topos (good place), suggests that the nonsense Hythlodaeus spewed was meant to be taken as just that.

Granting this, I do not presume to know the complexities of the man who was Thomas More. Devout, to be sure. Nevertheless, I bring my background of philosophy with humility to the study of law as I examine what it would take to ensure the dignity of every individual as intended by the Thomas More Social Justice Program, for at some point you and I may disagree- reach bedrock, as it were, in our justifications for our opinions. What will we do with our spades then?

So, leave Spokane, Washington. Drive SW three hours. From Portland, Oregon, drive NE four and a half. Don’t speed. Pine trees around you shrink as light from the city dims and the sky ahead broadens and the clouds are stratocumulus. You are a dune bug crawling on a golden moon. Pee-breaks and fruit stands are the only things that can stop you. Half a pound of Rainier cherries is eight dollars and Walla Walla onions two-for-five but here you can barter, and the air is sweet.