Saturday, December 24, 2011

Is "Gender Equality" Really Possible in the World As We Know It?

Do American efforts to teach "gender equality" in third world countries make a difference?  The American government and American contractors are seeking gender equality experts to teach Afghanis how to treat their women. I have read tales of Afghani women imprisoned for adultery or fornication after being raped by an acquaintance.  

Recently a young woman jailed in Afghanistan was forced to agree to marry her rapist in order to gain her freedom from prison.  I watched a documentary on HBO entitled "Pink Saris" in which "untouchable" women were routinely beaten and raped by the in-laws with whom they were forced to live.  Recent reports in the United States indicate that one in four women in the United States are victims of sexual assault and this is hardly a third world country. 

I discovered years after the fact that a woman who is very close to me was raped by a former boyfriend. This woman, by all outside appearances is strong willed and appears able to fend for herself.  Yet, she was sexually assaulted and I never suspected at the time. By the time I found out, three or more years later, there was nothing I could do. Or was there?  Could I have prevented the assault?  I am haunted by these doubts. 

If I couldn't prevent a sexual assault of someone close to me in the United States, am I capable of making a difference in a culture where sexual assault is fairly accepted by those in charge?  Can anyone make a difference?  Maybe, over decades or centuries, sexual victimization will be rare. It's common now, and it pains me to realize this.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Favorite Quote of the Day

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
- Albert Einstein

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Let's Hear It for the Underdogs!

In America, we love underdogs.   Who is an underdog, you might ask.  We are all underdogs, that's why we love them.  This is a nation of underdogs, filled with  people expelled or mistreated by others, immigrants or badly treated native peoples.   We pull ourselves up from our bootstraps, we prevail against amazing odds, we fight.  That is why we love us, Americans.  Fighting as underdogs is what we do best. 

I am watching the Kansas City Chiefs play the Green Bay Packers.  My husband has been sure we were going to lose and lose badly.  We still might, the game is not over.   All predictions have been that the Chiefs will lose: a) the Packers are the defending Super Bowl champs; 2) the Chiefs have played HORRIBLY this season; 3) the Chiefs fired their coach last week after a particularly horrendously played Chiefs game; 4) the Chiefs don't have a starting quarterback; and, 5) Arrowhead stadium is packed with Packers fans.  The Chiefs are ahead now and they may ultimately lose, but this is a classic UNDERDOG game.  Ergo, the Chiefs will probably win. 

The Underdog Syndrome is a common phenomenon in American society. We love underdogs and want to be underdogs.  Let's talk about which groups in this country relish in their underdog status:

1) Tea Partiers, harkening back to the Revolutionary War days when American Patriots were outnumbered by the British loyalists;

2) Occupy Wall Street (and the Occupy movements in all major cities) - we are all part of the 99% of underdogs, except for that 1%, who largely want to be in the 99%, e.g. , Warren Buffett who wants to pay taxes like the underdogs but Congress won't let him. 

3) Any sports team whose owners pay less money and who aren't the New York Yankees.  Don't most of us want those Steinbrenners to get their comeuppance?

We relate to underdogs because most of us have had to work hard to get what we have.  We have no royalty in this country and we have little respect for those who are handed wealth or power with no work.  Why else is Warren Buffett giving most of his billions to charity, so as not to corrupt his kids.  Why do Americans love Harry Truman, Bill Clinton, and Barak Obama - three people who worked hard to achieve.  No inherited power or money for those Presidents.

We love Rocky, the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, and Lance Armstrong the cancer survivor. When an underdog wins against great odds, we believe that he or she is our standard-bearer, and maybe, just maybe we can win against great odds, too.  When an underdog wins, we believe we can win, too.   We can beat Walmart in lawsuits, or the banking giants. Whistleblowers can prevail if they do the right thing and their cause is just. Powerful companies can be defeated when they hurt individuals.  Underdogs keep us believing that maybe there is some justice.  The big, mighty and powerful don't always win.  Underdogs keep us fighting.

I really don't care that much about football, but I am deeply involved in this game. It is important to me, right now, that the Chiefs win.  They may not win but, gosh I hope they do.  Go underdogs!  Go Chiefs!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Why Lawyers Should Hate Themselves

My last blog was why people hate lawyers.  I touched on a few reasons why lawyers are reviled.  Since then, I have thought about the many problems with lawyers and our legal system.  Unfortunately, the system needs fixing and lawyers need to take a good look at themselves. 

This is what I propose we need to examine -

1.  Lawyers in it for their ego (and let's be truthful, aren't all trial lawyers, myself included, guilty of an overactive ego).  In the lawyer's mind the case becomes about him or her and less about the client. Some ways you can tell when a lawyer thinks he or she is the bee's knees is when he lawyers reports things like, "in the deposition, I got him to admit...". Every good thing that happens becomes a reflection of the lawyers skill, not the righteousness of the case, the character of the witness, etc.   All trial lawyers do this, me included.

2.  Lawyers more intent on winning a "game" than furthering the case.  For instance, lawyers fighting about where to hold depositions, obstructive objections, nastiness in general. 

3.  Lawyers whose primary concern is lining his or her pocket book.  This goes for both sides.  For the defense attorney, many of whom have boldly told me it was too early to settle a case because they didn't have enough in fees, it is needlessly delaying case.  For the plaintiff's lawyer, it is thinking about the client as a commodity that should turn a profit rather than a human being needing justice.   From the plaintiffs' perspective, you can spot these lawyers when they refer to their case in figures (6 figure case, 7 figure case), etc.

4.  Lawyers so insecure that the only person they are interested in listening to is themselves.   Probably the most important trait for a lawyer is being a good listener, yet lawyers has a whole are the worst bunch of listeners on the face of the planet.  You have to forget about yourself to be a good listener.  The best lawyers are those secure enough to give up being the center of the stage to listen to their clients, the witnesses, and ultimately the jury.  

Lawyers would be well served to, in addition to the annual legal education requirements, take a course on empathy, listening, and humility.  Someone needs to shake us every once in awhile to keep us on track.  We are facilitators of the justice system.  The justice system is not about us.  In fact, a few of us may need more than just a gentle shake.  Perhaps a slap might make us pay attention.  But, that's a battery and would be illegal.   I fear that some of us won't get back on track.  I really, really would like to slap them. Oh, how I would like to slap them.  Yes!  ... Oh, were you saying something?  I wasn't listening.