A perspective from Brandon Newland, first-year missioner in Jamaica

Recently, the U.S. Supreme court has decided on some very large decisions. Living outside the U.S., in Jamaica, I witness what is happening in a unique way, and I have become frustrated by where we, as Americans, choose to focus our energy.

Even though the political system in the U.S. may not be perfect, we still have the freedom and opportunity to work for change. For example, the gay community in the U.S. was able to fight for and succeeded in securing the right to legal marriage. Looking at Jamaica, the gay population here is completely underground in fear of beatings and death. Simply insulting someone by calling them gay will most definitely end in a fight because people are so afraid of being associated in any way with gay people.

America laid a blueprint a few hundred years ago that would allow people of all races, religions, and, now, genders to be able to protest and speak freely in order to right wrongs in society. We can be thankful that our society is ever-evolving to be more inclusive and tolerant of others deemed “different.”

However, Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United have made it nearly impossible for the most marginalized groups in the world to be heard. I would argue that bank account size determining how much influence one has on our society is more damaging to the “American Dream” than any recent Supreme Court ruling regarding marriage.

Working alongside those in poverty in DC and now in Jamaica, and having witnessed incredible poverty all around the world from my travels, it puts a deep hole in my soul to know that there is very little we can do to help the people on the bottom. The majority are born with little opportunity in their own areas and are rarely taught any skills that would help them achieve success and security.

I rack my brain every day in an attempt to come up with some ingenious idea that will help those here in poverty stay off of drugs, in clothes, and go to bed with a full belly. Living in poverty reduces the amount of options you have, so quickly you find yourself just fighting for anything. Lying, stealing, and cheating become viable options but reduce that person’s value in the community and society as a whole, regulating them to certain poverty for the remainder of their life.

There are literally hundreds of millions of downtrodden in the world that are down to their last option, no lobbying group on their side, no civil lawyer taking up their part, no Internet campaign raising awareness.

Even in the U.S., the homeless had their option of which shelter to attend or which class they might like to take in those shelters. Here in Sav-la-Mar, there is a small shelter and us — and that’s far from enough.

So to conclude, I am actually proud of the decision the Supreme Court made because it shows me I am from a society that attempts to care for all people despite differences. Jamaicans who are deemed “different” seem to have almost no options to voice their concerns out of the fear. Those with mental or physical challenges are often discarded by families and left to beg on the streets. I feel pride when I think of the direction U.S. society is heading. We are far from where we need to be, but at least we are moving in the proper direction.

My hope for Sav is that the people here set an example for all Jamaica and begin to accept different people as equals.

Featured image created from photograph by Daderot, via Wikicommons, public domain