Law in Contemporary Society

Where Are Prisoners in the Parades?

-- By JohnOMeara - 19 Feb 2016

Is This Your Comfort Zone, Sir?

If strangers pass the bier to see me in repose, I hope they'd know I was funny and kindly predisposed. I'd like to do the best I could, too, but I don't yet know what I have.

I agree with Eben: Thurgood Marshall's epitaph is a proper standard to hold oneself. Joe Louis said the same, and Philip Roth echoed it after shoveling dirt on his career. That's a marvelous foursome to follow; however, I struggle to fight with their diligence and resoluteness. My life's work is nascent, not yet an existential struggle. Work is part of an enjoyable bundle.

My desires for creative stimulation, comfort, and appeasing the missus distract my focus for grander purposes. I don't yet know what my epitaph will be. It is not for lack of courage, but rather lack of empathy and experience. I am trying to correct these deficiencies.

I aim to do some lasting good in the next five years. This summer and beyond, with a civil rights lawyer named Jack, I will try to improve the livelihoods of homeless persons and the incarcerated poor. It is one of our national shames that we have imprisoned, mistreated, and left bereft so many people during the past forty years — when our capability for largesse and community health reached new heights. I foresee much worse conditions for prisoners and homeless persons as environmental migration burgeons throughout the next forty years. I foresee scapegoating, subordination and heightened racism. Us-and-them at its worst. I will stop America's methodical, unfeeling blood-letting as well as I can.

To accomplish beneficial results for prison conditions and homelessness would require incredible focus and energy, but I'm gearing up for it. Comfort, the beautiful bitch, is a paramour. I hope my wife understands.

What Arnold Achieved, What My Fathers Could Not

My family's recent history is hallmarked by easygoingness before courage under fire. My dad and my grandpa were gentle and skinny. My grandpa was a USMC Captain in the Pacific Theater, but he was never a hoo-rah Marine. In a manner typical of the Midwest Irish, he never talked about war. I read in archived Cedar Rapids Gazettes that he shelled Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal. I think killing was his deepest shame. At every party, from '46 until 2010, he reminded any gathered youth to never enlist. He was quiet, a bumblebee with a broken sting. He let my grandma pummel him in Scrabble to pass the time.

My dad was an attorney whose ambling curiosities led him toward pastel art and med-mal litigation. Other lawyers would not confuse him for a dogged fighter, but he got results. I think my dad recognized too late that he was not fit for politics -- and his attempt at environmental protection work in Alaska was a lark -- so he focused instead on making money for individuals who were screwed by hospitals. Both fathers were affable and respected, though neither earned himself a plaque in city hall. That's okay. If we three could make a parade of Thinking Men, we might've strolled down the boulevard, out of step, a little late, and laughed about it. But my will to help strangers is stronger than theirs. My chosen cross should be heavier to bear.

I salute Eben and Thurman Arnold for provoking a deeper realization of my comfort dependency. As Arnold notes, the personification of maligned American society is a corporation grubbing for another buck. That doesn't comport with me; it's not a value I hope to imbue into my kid or my client. Prisoners and destitute communities are farthest from that personification, which is perhaps the most compelling reason why they deserve good lawyering. Arnold rightly admonishes me to preserve humanity in society, to put the government of the people ahead of the comfort-yielding corporation of the few. I once heard Gerry Spence, too, talk about distrust of easy pleasures and impersonal business. (I must have a thing for Wyoming lawyers.) I recognize that to achieve my goals, I cannot seek constant comfort. My parade shouldn't be that of my fathers' design.

Incarcerated People, Homeless People

There is a measure of hope in human interconnectivity. Individual personhood stands to benefit from computerized sharing, but society requires social interconnectivity to hold us together — to relearn empathy, sharing, and cohesion despite cosmetic differences. That, and some Robinsonian chutzpah to stand on one's own. I appreciate Eben's dotCommunist idea here: since the marginal cost of re-production and dissemination of information and ideas is negligibly small, the activity of self-determination and education could be essentially free so long as society were willing to forgive sharing and penalize greed. I would like to reflect that concept to improve treatment of the least comfortable people in our society. Almost none exhaust their kindness.

My plan demands a lot from the system it hopes to turn around. Using money from abuse-of-power cases, I hope to fund a practice. Within that practice, I can blast the broken segments of our society which damn the poorest. Recognizing the ragged people around me is a crucial step. After recognition, a purer human agency could breathe and grow.

... They Don't March Alone

I share Eben's belief that law students must do a better job of seeking and embracing autonomy before pursuing weal and wealth. Robinson's appeal is that he wears that truth on his sleeve. Arnold, in his own way, probes for political will through the Thinking Man. If granted options, most people bend toward the more comfortable tack or the one that promises a pursuit of riches. For both matters, Columbia Law abides consistently. Big machinery is out there, but I think I have the wherewithal to refuse it. I'd rather help the helpless.

I hope they'd know I was funny and kindly predisposed.


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r5 - 18 May 2016 - 12:14:58 - JohnOMeara
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