Friday, March 4, 2011

good guys

we're... we're supposed to be the good guys here. and being the good guys means we have to be civilized about this. - stuart redman, the stand

this is my favorite quote from my favorite book of all time. it's my philosophy of life, it's my guiding principle, professionally and personally. i ran an ethics committee for a year in law school. i took every professional ethics class i could get my grubby little mitts on when i worked. i care about what gets done, but i'm one of those annoying people who also cares - quite a bit - HOW it gets done. if it has to be shady, i don't want to deal with it. this comes up because yesterday, i got to get up at oh-dark-thirty, hop in a rental car, and drive two and a half hours one way to spend all damn day at a mandatory professionalism course for my law license. never mind that i had to pay $150 for the privilege, too; i hate that i, being someone who has specialized in legal professionalism throughout my young career, had to sit through situations i already know about. sigh.

but the worst part of all of this wasn't the repetitious nature of the conference. i could've dealt with that. it was the keynote speaker. they dragged out this retired judge guy to talk at us on the subject of professionalism. first off, the man started a generational war with us. i personally don't want to be told by a man who came of age in the era of massive resistance that it's MY generation that was raised in an era that disrespects morals and civility. thanks, but my generation understands that racism is not appropriate, be it de facto or de jure. but leaving that aside, he also spent the whole time blathering about how civility and professional conduct is something special to virginia.

look, i've been a virginia resident off and on since 1998. i've lived all over this commonwealth: the shenandoah valley, hampton roads, richmond and northern virginia (where i reside to this day). i am a virginia attorney. there's a lot of good here. but i'll be DAMNED if i buy into this virginian exceptionalism, a unique type of psychosis in which a lot of well-born virginians specialize. i have a big enough problem with the attitude that americans are more special than other nationalities by mere virtue of our birth (we have to actually LIVE UP TO our awesomely high standards to earn that title, if you ask me). but to extend that to the commonwealth of virginia? no thanks.

i don't get down with chauvinism, in any of its forms. really, it's a ridiculous enterprise to think you're better than anyone else just because of a characteristic that you possess by accident. you're not better because you're, for example, male, virginian, blonde, tall, etc., etc., etc. you're "better," if you can call it that, because you choose correctly. if you comport yourself with civility, respect the people around you, do the right things, live a good life and try to be kind, you're "better." if you don't, no amount of inborn "specialness," be it american citizenship, gender, or even being a virginian (please read in the sarcasm - i'm straining to get it through here), is going to fix your bad choices. end of story.

so judge? allow me to civilly, respectfully disagree with every word that left your mouth yesterday. we're not special because we're virginia attorneys. we're special, if we all even are, because we choose to live by a set of standards. we're supposed to be the good guys because of the oath we took. not all of us are, nor will we be. but those of us who choose to try? being virginian didn't make us that way. being good people and making good choices did. end. of. story.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

dura lex, sed lex

the law is hard, but it's the law.

this is an old legal maxim, hence the latin. (we lawyer types just love us this dead language. there's even a special term just for this sort of thing. we lawyer types also really, really love ourselves and our little world.) this one is a favorite of my favorite (HEH) supreme court justice, one antonin scalia. he uses it to justify all manner of awful things, citing it to shirk his responsibility to defend the constitution and put off his role onto an often-unresponsive congress. it's a rigid, draconian version of the role of law in life. it's essentially the legal world's version of jeez, that sucks. hate it for ya. it comes up a lot more than you'd think, too.

now, i'm all for the rule of law. it's what makes us who we are as a country, and a leader of the world at that. i just don't see life, the law, or much of anything in that strict of terms. i think our founding fathers were smart enough to build our nation and its framework in such a way that if something new comes up, we've got the flexibility to deal with it. so i have a certain amount of trouble embracing this idea as a valid construction, whether applied to the law or to other parts of existence.

i wish other people agreed with this. the longer i live, the more i run across people who have bought into the rigidity, the calcification of dura lex, sed lex. even if someone's worldview is flexible and open in most ways, it sneaks up in rather stunning, and often disappointing, places. i've had some pretty excruciating conversations with people i love in which they betray startling levels of rock-hard disdain for anything other than my way or the highway, and there's NO room for debate here. the issues to which these people apply their rigidity - up to and including reproductive choices, for the love of god -  shocks me, and sometimes it breaks my heart. i try so hard to be open, to be accepting. as an inveterate pessimist (apparently - stay tuned for that meditation later), that's not always easy. but my job demands it. my outlook on life demands it. other people don't see things that way.

the "law" in people's lives varies wildly. emotion and reason often clash in spectacular fashion, and decisions made aren't always what you'd expect from the outside looking in. i refuse to make that kind of snap judgment on someone else's life based on things that i would do in mine. that's the basis of my worldview and my professional philosophy: it's why i'm pro-choice, a liberal, a feminist and an avowed enemy of strict constructionism. i believe that a lot of things in this world can't be strictly judged. i wish i could make other people understand the value of that.

Monday, February 28, 2011

friday night lights

a few weeks ago, i got suckered - er, invited to watch friday night lights with the man. i know that tons upon tons of people just love them some of this show. i'm totally OK with that, too... for them. to me, it's just a complete and total boy soap opera. (and boy, does the man get ornery when i call it that.) it's a melodrama with football inserted to divert from the fact that it's a melodrama. but that's not really what i wanted to get into. he and i watched the series finale together right before he left. i was more than a little emotional over the increasingly taxing events of february 2011, and without getting into details (because unless you have direcTV, you have not seen anything of the fifth season of the show), the finale of this show may as well have been called let's see how many mags-specific emotional triggers we can cram into one episode of a football-themed melodramatic boy soap opera. just one after another, with no mercy whatsoever. i bore up as best as i could, i really did...

and then it happened. i found myself sitting in a chair in the man's media room with tears silently streaming down my face, unable to stop. when he noticed, he immediately insisted that we stop what we were doing and talk about what in the name of all things holy could possibly have been bothering me. (had to have scared the hell out of him - in all the time he's known me, i had never, EVER done anything like that in his presence.) we went upstairs and shut the door to his bedroom, at which point i sobbed like i never had before.

once i got it out of my system, i looked up at my worried boyfriend and started talking. [and i mean this: if you really don't want to know what happens at the end of friday night lights, stop reading now. i can't dodge spoilers anymore.]

the one thing i've read about the show that i think is true, and highly complementary, is that it's one of the more honest depictions of marriage out there on television. and at the end, there are marriages starting and thriving, relationships ending, and people sharing and sacrificing for one another. there are poignant shots of women's wedding jewelry, meant to memorialize this emotional heavy lifting. and at the sight of the woman's wedding ring passing to the daughter's engagement ring, it drove the point home that, hey, girl, you FAILED at this. BIG TIME. i just sat there watching this, hearing the word failure over and over again in my head, and i just couldn't take it. good christ. how much of my past is going to bleed into my future? how do i know, how could i ever know, if i will let the man down the way i failed my last marriage? am i ever going to be good at this, good for him, again, or am i just locked into being a bad wife, a bad partner? this is the speech that came tumbling out of me amid the sobs, spoken into this poor man's shoulder, who really just wanted to watch how his show came out in the end.

he lifted up my head, looked me square in the eye and said, darlin', you really, really need to stop beating yourself up over this. he told me how it wasn't just me, how both sides failed at the old relationship, just like all failed relationships, and how i needed to learn how to forgive myself for the sins of the past and go forward. but i pulled the trigger, i told him. yeah, you did. but he loaded the gun. and just like that, it hit me: yeah, he's right about that. i did some things i wasn't proud of. i gave up on my ex long before i left him. i checked out years ago. but i didn't do these things in a vacuum. if things had been right, i wouldn't have gone down that road.

so the clouds lifted. i felt a little better. (and the man finished the show. he was satisfied with the ending. good for him.) and a boy soap opera gave me more clarity than i ever could have imagine.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

it's over.

the trip is over. he's back with me. thank. god.

that's all i have to say about this.