Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Blindness and Betrayal

I am thinking about blindness and betrayal. I am working on this courtroom drama  based on a true story about a jury case I tried in Federal Court in 1997. The first time the phrase 'predatory lending' was used in court. I read the whole manuscript of the trial when I started working the play and I have to tell you I come across as kind of a racist on the spectrum. I mean we won so there's that, but I have been thinking about my blindness in that time. I am not claiming to have perfect vision now, but at the time, I had been deeply acculturated into thinking that a hoop jumping Harvard Lawyer working at a top firm really did know better than everyone else.  I dismissed a certain percentage of what my client Mr. Williams told me as fanciful. As untrue. Or an exaggeration. 

For instance he used to tell this story (which may not make it into the script) 

EARL:          Where I live more of a war zone.

RUBEN:         Objection.  Relevance.

JUDGE:         Sustained.    

EARL:          (Oblivious) I remember one summer, some crack heads took over a tore-up housing project over to N Street.  It was a Friday night. Police try to shoot them out.  Now that don’t work. Those crack heads in a concrete bunker!  So the National Guard they sent in some tanks plow right in there and they set up these lights, these real bright lights like they use for the Oriole night games. Shined it in to drive the crackheads crazy. And they played music. They played some white musicall hours. (SINGING) “IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN ---- da-da DAH dah, dada dah dah dah; dada DAH dah, dada dah dah dah. ”   

REBECCA:       Earl, stop. Sorry, Mr. Johnson, the objection was sustained. That means you’re supposed to stop talking. Remember? What happened at the money places on Georgia?


I used to think he was making this up. Tanks? In a neighborhood? I mean come on.  Surely that would be in the papers! That's what I thought.  No! He’s making that up.

A month ago I watched the opening sequence of Straight Outta Compton which takes place the same year (but in L.A. not Washington).  It is exactly what Mr. Williams described. I sat in my living room alone shaking my head for a long time. There was a tank. I mean the whole thing. So you know, I really had no idea how bad it was out there for some people even though I thought I was this do-gooder. Now that I have some marginally greater level of insight that comes with age and reading The Economist  I still am pretty blind. The trick may be to know your own understanding is limited, and what other people tell you about reality should in fact be taken as helpful in understanding it. This is of course a pain in the ass. But if you want to be a good human, that’s really the only deal on the table.

If we can start with the logs in our own eyes that might be good.

Betrayal. I recently read a quote from a French philosopher (not really sure of the source) who said that moving forward in life requires that you say goodbye to things and people and projects, and viewpoints and habits. That everyone should daily practice this painful art of making room for the new by saying goodbye to the old.

What I see in this is that it is time to say goodbye to the things that do not serve us, and honest to God, that includes the current UK government.

It may be that it can be fixed, but honestly, we must betray the government in its current form for the sake of the people we are blind to.  Not because we don’t love our country but because we do. For the sake of our children. Out of love for pure justice and the rule of law. Because this is the land of the Magna Carta.  

Betrayal hurts, it feels ick, it is frightening, you are depriving yourself of something that was once a part of you, but if we want to move forward as good humans, this is what we have to face.

Because the earth is ill and sixty-five million have no homes and we are mired in endless war, serving at all and every instance not the needs of our humanity and our planet but shareholder return. Corporate interests. Growth.

I watch this election in the States and the refugees and it is increasingly unbearable for me to benefit as I do from the bank-serving state while the victims of the state are unaided. I don’t have enough Rawlsian faith in the system. Why are we putting up with it? How can we put it behind us and make room for something new – something reformed – something that serves the earth and the humans.


We see where we are blind and we betray what is to make room for what we want to be.

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