Friday, April 27, 2007

Teachers, keep on teachin'...

As I read The Buffalo Creek Disaster, I am more and more convinced I have no desire to be a lawyer, and as I near the end I am actually questioning more and more things about this triumphant lawsuit. Like, maybe we *should* distinguish the "psychic impairment" claims of the thirty-three plaintiffs who were not even there the day of the disastrous flood from the claims of the hundreds of plaintiffs who were present and experienced the trauma. I understand that these "absent plaintiffs" also lost homes, property, loved ones, and so forth. But I think their claims are different. When I say this, it puts me on the "side" of the Evil Greedy Corporate Lawyers who represent Pittston, the deep pockets of responsibility. And that's lame. Because as with most polarized things in this world, I smell a false dichotomy.

And maybe, just maybe that's part of my problem with the lawyering and litigation process. It's really, really funny that I didn't think about this until just now. And not funny-ha-ha, but funny-freakin'-scary. I hate the "two sides" approach. Example: I hate the two-party political system. And not just because our two parties of choice are full of jackasses (as opposed to just the one party that has a jackass for a symbol). I think the two-party system is ridiculous and I resent being asked, "Are you a Republican or a Democrat?" What if I'm neither? Better yet, what if I'm both? And what if I'm both right-brained and left-brained? What if I liked English and math all through school while everyone was trying to draw some line between science people and humanities people? What if someone is both gay and straight? Kinsey would say many of us are in between, you know. What if I like L.A. and New York? What if I'm "a little bit country?"

OK. So. Litigation. This is where it gets complicated. Sometimes the art of lawyering is beautiful. Example, in Torts class last semester, where brilliant Professor Walker demonstrated clear, precise logic in all its beauty. ("What explains the coincidence is the quail." Ahhhhh.....) But today, reading about Buffalo Creek, I get angry, because sometimes I read Mr. Do-Gooder Lawyer's tale and while I love that he stands up for the citizens of Buffalo Creek, who really got screwed over, I also resent the implication that I should be on the legal "side" of the plaintiffs in the face of a good point made by the Pittston corporation, and I further resent that I should then be considered to be denying the plaintiffs' suffering. This is immature, Bush-like thinking: "If you're not with us you're against us."

Which brings me to William of Baskerville, in The Name of the Rose. He left behind the messy business of being an Inquisitor. He's wicked smart and doesn't want to go around torturing people. What's more, he recognizes that this "two sides" business is crap. In the maelstrom of debating popes, politicians, abbots, emperors, philosophers, magicians, scientists, and so-called heretics, William explains to Adso that sometimes everyone is right or no one is right and, most importantly, doctrines are bled together.

Furthermore, the fact that people are often wrong when they try to slap on black and white labels does NOT mean that there are no absolutes. I hate when people mix that up, too. Of course there are moral absolutes. Of course there are things that are inherently wrong (lying, violence, war) I hate when people are like, oh yeah, because you hate either/or labels you must think EVERYTHING is a shade of gray. No. I hate labels that show immature thinking. That show someone is incapable of thinking through the matter or the complexity of the situation. Whereas our boy William is eminently capable of thinking through complexity. Man, I like him. I so feel like I'm hanging out with him and Adso. I am positively savoring this book. Which is why it's OK that it's taking me so long to read it.

Well, that's my preliminary statement on the matter. Clearly now is not the time to abandon The Name of the Rose. In fact, it might help me get through final exams. William is like a beacon, something to strive for, a man who uses his learning and powers for good instead of evil...

"Powers, keep on lyin'
while your people keep on dyin'
World, keep on turnin'
'cause it won't be too long.

I'm so darn glad He let me try it again,
'cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin.
I'm so glad that I know more than I knew then.
Gonna keep on tryin' till I reach the highest ground..."

--lyrics by Stevie Wonder


Brian said...

I love your law school and "The Name of the Rose" connections; I cannot help but agree with your analysis. Anyway, (if I didn't tell you too), I answered to Laura that, when she asked "Are you still reading that?," I was "savoring" it myself.

linda said...

It's all sooooo very lovely and savorable.