Thanks again for all your help. Here is the final draft I'm running with in case you're curious to read it.
‘A burning desire for justice’ is an apt metaphor that captures intense emotion and passion. On Saturday, 4th February, 2017, however, the phrase took on a new, literal meaning for me.
The sky was a particularly unpromising shade of gray that morning, and the clouds were hugging the ground as if weighed down by an invisible mass. It began to rain as soon as I arrived at the U.S. Embassy, where the first large-scale international protest against the travel ban was taking place. A light steam was coming off of the gathering, making visible the palpable energy of the crowd, creating a fog that rolled down the London streets leading away from Grosvenor Square. Despite having mulled things over for the better part of an hour, I was still undecided as to whether I would actually do it. As I walked through the square towards the Embassy, I stopped briefly in front of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s statue. The pause brought clarity of thought, and I became nervous, to the point where I was visibly shaking – it was at that moment I knew I was committed to my plan. I entered the crowd and spent a few minutes fidgeting with the lighter in my pocket while listening to the speaker rally the crowd with their megaphone, trying to delay the crucial moment. Suddenly a TV reporter and her crew appeared within a few feet of me and she began to broadcast her report. It was opportune timing, so I removed my American passport from my back pocket, and with one flick of the lighter, a flame slowly started lapping at its papers. After a minute or so, a Muslim woman standing next to me noticed what was happening and started taking photos with me on her phone. Then a news photographer took a picture, and another, and another, and before long, the reporter had abandoned her report to investigate the commotion going on behind her. Shortly thereafter I was faced with a wall of cameras and several reporters asking me questions. I remained silent and let the fire do its work, before dropping the passport to the ground, declining an interview, and leaving without saying a word.
Why did I do it? I believe many thought as I did, namely that the ban was on travel in name, but on Muslims in practice; that the intent of the law, if not its lettering, offended the First Amendment and Equal Protections Clause of the Constitution; that there was no serious national security rationale to justify the policy; and that the policy would further alienate Muslims and the world from an America exercising a unilaterally aggressive and unapologetically misguided foreign policy. In this context, I thought the image of an American burning their passport in opposition to an un-American policy would convey to Muslims a message of solidarity, so that they knew there were Americans who would fight with them, rather than against them; so that they knew there were Americans who practiced the ideals of their country, whether they be enshrined in the Constitution or chiselled into Lady Liberty, rather than merely paying them lip service; so that they knew there were Americans who treated an attack on the rights of others as an attack on the rights of all. I love my country and its highest ideals, and so I could never take the decision to destroy a symbolic government document lightly, but I believed the value of this message would offset its costs. I also felt that had I tried to explain the act in the moment, I would have diluted the message, and so I left it open for others to read into the act what they will. Many people were enraged, accusing me of everything from littering to being a terrorist sympathiser, but the universally positive and widespread response the action received from thousands of members of the international Muslim community affirmed my decision in my mind. I had found myself in a rare position, namely a safe environment, outside of U.S. legal jurisdiction (so that 17 U.S.C. § 1543 Willful Mutilation of a Passport did not apply), with the requisite means and clear opportunity to make a difference, so I did what I felt was right.
Every individual can have an impact, but some influences are larger than others. By the time the sun was up in Hawaii six hours later, a District Court judge had imposed a stay on the travel ban, effectively blocking its introduction until further judicial review was undertaken. I can only dream of making such a difference one day. For now, all I can claim is that I have the will to fight, and in fact, there is nothing I relish more than a good fight with conviction and fidelity to justice. I view the American legal framework and its Constitutional principles as the most effective means of advancing this justice, and for this end I am keen to learn. I recognise that talent without training, effort without experience, and passion without practice all have a lesser effect on the course of things than an approach based in the institutional reach and permanence of the law. I also realize the necessity of grappling with nuanced questions of State power, civil rights, levels of scrutiny, and the polemics of the day, which the scrupulous training and expansive educational opportunities at [Law School X] provide. And so, although my English family has long advised me to apply to law school in the U.K., I tell them that America is where the fight is, and so that is where I am heading.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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