Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gay Marriage - A Change Is A Comin'

Why do we want to dictate to others how to live their lives?  Fear? Yes. Insecurity? I bet. Wanting to be in charge?  Sure.  Probably fear of the unknown or fear of one's own sexual feelings contribute a lot to homophobia.

A few years ago, I represented a man, who was gay, in a car wreck. His sexual preference was irrelevant to the case. I produced my client for the deposition and the other lawyer started asking him if he had ever slept with a man. I was outraged. I yelled and screamed objections. I told my client not to answer.  And then I planned what I was going to say to the other lawyer after the deposition and once we were off the record. As soon as he was done, I blurted, "You are a despicable pig!"  He said, "Come on, Lynne, you would have done the same thing."  I would not have done that. My client was very happy I stood up for him. He was my cousin.

When I was growing up, being gay was not easy.  In high school kids made fun of anyone wearing pink and green together because those were "queer colors."  I laughed along with everyone else. Gays were a source of derision. I know so much more, and hopefully am more empathetic now, than then. I didn't think I knew any gays then. Ha!  How deluded I was.

We need to treat gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals with dignity and afford her equal protections under the law. They need the right to be free from employment discrimination, free to marry, free to live their lives the way they want.  At one time I feared this freedom would never be afforded the LGBT community. Our society moves faster and more justly than I  ever thought possible. And someday, probably sooner than we think, even in Missouri and Kansas, people will be allowed to follow their hearts.  I am hopeful.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Justice is More of a Long Term Goal Thingee

Lately I have been wallowing in the misfortune of family of friends.  I feel that my friends' premature deaths are unfair and sad.  I have been dwelling on the serious illnesses of close friends and relatives, and it weights me down.  Yesterday, after going to a memorial service, I decided that I needed to see death, illness, bad judgments for what they are, human events on this sea called life.  Sometimes we reach shore safely, sometimes we do not.  There are the potential for pirates, sea monsters, fatal illness and mutiny along the way.  But, I hope, that no matter what my future may hold that the lessons I learn from my bumps and waves aid in my better understanding of life.

Although sometimes its hard, I am basically I am an optimist.  Not all of the people around me are, and I need to fight to not succumb to dark and paralyzing moods.  Gandhi said, "The arc of history is long, but bends toward justice."  I take that to mean that some people are going to get screwed, run over by trucks, killed by spouses, have premature illnesses, but we have to look at the whole of us as a collective when considering justice.  It is not about any one of us, justice, to prevail is about all of us.

In the past and now, there have been both individual injustices, such as poverty, lack of education, prejudice, and there have been humankind injustices, such as genocide, slavery, cruelty, tyranny. To consider society's improvement, we must look at the latter and not at the former.  We are all going to die.  Our friends and relatives are going to die.  Get over it. (I say, this because I am having such trouble myself in getting over it.)  Let's look at what has been happening in the "arc of history," even recent American History to really evaluate what goes on.

When this nation was formed, only white male property owners could vote, we enslaved Africans in the South, women could not vote (Africans were certainly not eligible to vote), many Americans hated Blacks, Jews, Irish, Italian, and we won't even talk about Gays.  A small group in this country had power and many of them intended to keep it. Children worked in sweat shops and both children and women were paid little at all.  If you were a rich Protestant White man you might do okay.  Most other groups were screwed.

Here are some major changes in America, some of the more recent ones that are the most encouraging::

1.  African-American slaves were freed by passage of the 13th Amendment in the 1860s.

2.  The bill of rights and the fourteen amendment banning discrimination were passed.

3.  African Americans were given the right to vote under the 15th Amendment in the 1870s.

4.  After a post Civil War setback, civil rights continued to be extended.  Women got the right to vote in the 1920s.

5.  Because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employment discrimination based on race and sex were prohibited.  Later, discrimination based on disability was prohibited.  Age discrimination and other discrimination followed suit.


7.  The racist talk of the 1950s and 1960s became taboo.



10. In some states, GAYS CAN MARRY.  (Within the next 20 years, all states will allow gay marriage and employment discrimination against gays will be illegal - I predict.)  WE ELIMINATED DON'TASK, DON'T TELL IN THE MILITARY.

11.  Women and minorities are beginning to obtain positions of real power in politics.  I am seeing more women trial lawyers than ever before.

We have come so far as a society.  When I was a kid, job ads in the newspaper were divided by gender.  Homosexuality was demonized.   In high school, students made fun of other students for wearing pink and green, the "queer colors."  

Overall, humans can be trusted to do the right thing.  Juries usually get it right, even on the trials where I lost. There are a few lapses, like the Nazis,and Stalin, and Rwanda, Kosovo, etc., but hopefully we can nip those in the bud.  People generally have a sense of right and justice.  Left to their own devices, they want to do the right thing.   We don't get it right all of the time, but we continue to learn and grow.

Looking at the big picture, I have hope and faith in the human race.  In the short run, we are not always so lucky.  I am heartened by the big picture, even though I know work on the big picture will be going on long after I leave this Earth.  Here's to the youth and our future!!!!

P.S.  (Just one little request - can we have a new rock and roll revolution?  Some of the modern music is getting old.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Death and Dying

Last year, I lost a couple of clients, a husband and wife.  They both died from cancer a year apart. They were young, 50ish, vital, extremely intelligent and kind and I became very close to them. They had two college age kids who are amazing. This year the kids are spending Thanksgiving in New Zealand without their parents.  their mother could cook feasts. I think about this family often and how much it meant to me to represent the father. I feel a hole inside me.  I cannot imagine how their children feel. Part of my pain is for these bright, shining kids with no parents. I know the family was loving and the parents did all they could, but I can't shake how the parents are gone.  I have the painting the college aged daughter made for me in my office.

This week, our neighbor died. He and his wife were the coolest neighbors. He played the banjo in a bluegrass band. They had block parties every year and the band played really sweet music. He had a beautiful garden. His wife is heart broken. 

A couple of weeks ago, a lawyer friend of mine, age 41, died in a fiery private plane crash. I know his charming wife who he met while she sold legal books at lawyer seminars. They have a 13 month old boy. My friend was the happiest, kindest man with an infectious laugh.  I feel pain in my gut when I think of his recent passing. 

The husband of one of my best friends is hospitalized in Oregon. He is very sick, having lost part of a lung because the doctors needed to cure his pneumonia so he could undergo a bone marrow transplant for his leukemia. In the mean time, the cancer recurred, so he is undergoing chemo and then will have the transplant. My friend, a lawyer, has had to leave her practice to take care of her husband, and herself.  She has progressive Parkinson's Disease.  I have promised to go visit her in the next couple of weeks. 

And, finally, there's my mom. She is recovering from quintuple coronary bypass surgery. When she feels well she drives and plays bridge and goes to rehab. In the hospital she got C Diff, a contagious bacterial infection that affects the colon. She takes medicine, certain antibiotics, but a few days after she stops, the C Diff returns, causing fever, chills and wreaking havoc on the digestive system. We have got to get this infection under control. We hope to get her into a gastroenterologist. I thought she was going to die in July. I want her to get well. 

I try to be an optimistic person, try to live in the moment, and realize that we all die, to no avail. I want to hold on to these good people. I am sad and scared. I know many people and their families are in much worse shape, but that is really little consolation.  I don't have a pithy or uplifting ending to essay. I guess sometimes I just have to accept being sad and scared and stop running from those feelings. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Disenfranchised Voters in Grandview

I had the privilege of being a poll challenger last Tuesday for the Presidential election  in Grandview. I experienced wonderful moments watching citizens proudly vote. I also watched heartbreaking disappointment when citizens of Jackson County were being disenfranchised by stupid rules.  

Overall, what an experience!  It was so invigorating to be present with masses of people who wanted to exercise their constitutional right to vote. I will always remember the woman, after completing her ballot, ecstatically shouting with raised arms, "I voted!" as she left the polling place. A woman with Down's Syndrome, accompanied by her parents, smiled broadly upon leaving the voting booth. It was energizing to see the voters empowered by their ability to cast their ballots. I was so impressed by the election poll workers, selected from both the Democrat and Republican parties working hard, by calling the election officials and verifying information to insure that everyone who could vote was able to vote. 

What was distressing, however, was how Missouri election laws confounded the election process.  As I learned on Tuesday, for purposes of elections, Kansas City and the rest of Jackson County have two separate election boards, as if they were in two separate counties, like St. Louis and St. Louis County.   Problem is its all one county.  Residents of Jackson County don't know that need to re-register if they move between Kansas City and other parts of Jackson County. The deadline for re-registration was October 10, 2012 and the election was November 6. If a voter moved within Kansas City or within Jackson County, they just change their addresses and vote. The problem is if they move from, say, Grandview to Kansas City, within the same county but between arbitrary boundaries created by the law, with no rhyme nor reason. 

I observed minorities being excluded from voting while stationed  in Grandview, the most racially diverse city in in Jackson City, outside of Kansas City proper. Grandview abuts Kansas City and, since the last presidential election in 2008, many minority voters had moved from one place to the next. Sometimes these moves were a few blocks apart, but to or from Kansas City.  The voters naturally assumed that since they had voted in 2008, and they still lived in the same general neighborhood, they still had a right to vote. If they left eastern Jackson County and moved to Kansas City before, October 10, they lost their right to vote, even though they did not even leave Jackson County.  And how does the election board discover this information?  It's when those voter identification cards are returned to sender, the Kansas City or Jackson County election board. When the cards come back, the voter is labeled inactive and has to explain and sign a form with the explanation. 

Many, many potential voters left angry and unsatisfied because even though they had registered to vote in Jackson County, that was not good enough because of the artificial division of the county into two arbitrary political entities. I observed that most of these disenfranchised voters were African American. They voted last time and no one told them that there were crazy rules they had to follow. At least one out of three voters in Grandview came up inactive. Some could still vote, after explanations of moving within eastern Jackson County or Kansas City, but many, many would-be voters were turned away. Voter turnout in Grandview was high, and a substantial number of American citizens were prevented from casting their votes. 

I suspect that no one will claim the two election boards in Jackson County were created intentionally to limit minority voting, but limiting minority voting is precisely the result.  I suspect not nearly as many Lees Summit or Blue Springs voters move to and from Kansas City compared to Grandview voters, neighbors of Kansas City immediately to the south.  Minorities are drawn to Grandview and it is those citizens most likely to be disenfranchised. 

The easiest solution is to consolidate the Kansas City and Jackson County  election boards. Second easiest, and most fair, is to let voters change their addresses anywhere within the state up to Election Day. They deserve to vote. I don't want to see the crestfallen faces of disenfranchised minorities ever again. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

PLEASE VOTE - And Vote No on Amendment 3

Haven't we all noticed the millions or billions of dollars being poured into the election campaigns?  Is it just coincidence  that, in the first real election since the United States Supreme Court  messed up in Citizens United, very wealthy financiers are trying to buy the election?  I think not.

I, for one, am appalled at the power these rich people are trying to wield over our democracy, at the expense of ordinary citizens.  Hopefully, soon, we citizens will vote to enact a new constitutional amendment declaring corporations are not people and paying money to attempt to buy politicians is not free speech.

In the meantime, those in Missouri, please vote no on Amendment 3 to stop billionaires and politicians from buying our Judiciary. Missouri has the best judicial selection procedure in the nation, in effect for more than 70 years and copied by more than 30 states.  Keep the Gold Standard "Missouri Plan" in place. VOTE NO ON AMENDMENT 3!!!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Football Sucks

Players get permanent brain injuries; fans get drunk and violent; and, most importantly, I have to watch this stupid game played by an awful team instead of enjoying a hilarious situation comedy on television.