My Personal Statement for Grad School

The full gamut of my lived experience has funneled me into a career in human rights, both its practice according to established doctrine as well as in understanding the movement’s ongoing evolutionary arc. While my dedication to this pursuit knows no bounds, I am especially keen and well-positioned to address the so-called alt-right’s vexing presence, and to reconcile it with the bigger picture. I hope to do so by leveraging my intimate, exhaustive familiarity with its internal perspectives, driven by my own transcendent desire to see humanity prevail. Though I am in many ways the epitome of an atypical candidate for enrollment at [name of university], I believe that my basis for seeking its [name of program] is timely and rare in a way that merits consideration.

At this stage of my life, I feel that my extraordinary zeal for human rights lacks only an equally extraordinary introduction to the genealogy, theory and principles that gird the foundation of the movement. Having spent the larger part of the past decade on an extended walking meditation, racking my mind over persistent reservations about the post-war consensus on the essential sameness of all mankind – particularly as it bears on the unimpeachable need for prosperous human coexistence – I feel I have acquired a unique sense and sensitivity for humanism’s hard problems such that warrants cultivation par excellence. Toward this end, I desire to study human rights at [name of university] for the same reason an Egyptologist desires to study in Cairo.

For a long time, this fixation of mine on the dilemma of difference was strictly theoretic, abstract. This changed late one night in Moria, in 2015, on the Greek Isle of Lesvos. I was there on a lark, just to pass the time. On this particular night, an elderly Saddam Hussein look-alike had gotten separated from his family. He was frightened sick, and I tried futilely to reunite him with them. It turned out that they had left him behind because he was not classifiable as immediate family. Afterward, I met a Pakistani-British volunteer with Red Crescent. When I told him my name, Al, he broke into the song by Paul Simon, “You Can Call me Al.” This was a song my mother used to sing to me as a child. I always took it for a song about nothing, but learned then and there, amidst the chaos and confusion of our makeshift camp outside the UNHCR compound, what the song was really about. This broke me wide open.

In a previous life, it would have seemed a contradiction for me to become so singularly passionate about humanism and humanitarianism. What led me here was my earlier obsession with shielding the white race from the onslaught of a false universalism. This was why I spent my first career as an undergraduate writing and directing proto-alt-right underground theatre instead of keeping up with the physics track that my father had cajoled me into, and why I ultimately dropped out of polite society and started riding the rails. What I’ve since come to realize is that the plight of the white race is indistinguishable from the plight of mankind, and that the alt-right’s existence is woefully mis-understood and mis-appreciated (both hyphens intentional) by the contemporary liberal humanist outlook. It exists not without legitimate grievance, and it will not go away until the stewardship of humanity can wean itself from the legacy notion that white people are the body to its head, and that they are an exception to all other peoples.

My academic history is certainly muddled, but this is only a reflection of my cognitive need for self-motivation, something that I was sorely without during my first stint at Rutgers University almost ten years ago. However perplexing my resume may seem, it becomes far less so when you realize what my inner world was concerning itself with all throughout. Though I have many overt connections within the alt-right, and share much of their criticism, the truth is that I want for everybody what they want for themselves. Political developments in the US and Europe of the past year are indeed cause for alarm, and the time is ripe to admit a breath of fresh air into the purview of human rights.

We can’t afford to screw this up.

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