Wrestling with Respect

“It’s not what you say, but how you say it”-Sherry Anderson (1943-2016) 
My mother used to tell me this in regards to HOW we would argue, which we were both very good at and sometimes very bad at. I think of that because today I had a phone call from an old friend who I often disagree with on political issues and such but it’s always a fun and enjoyable conversation. It’s never vicious. Maybe part of that is because I know he knows his s***.

Not that I think he is always correct, mind you, but I understand and can appreciate HOW he comes to the conclusions he comes to. I respect his knowledge base and experience and I think he respects mine and so we listen to each other. Different conclusions often but we at least deal in the same facts (or most of the same facts since he has access to facts I never will). And maybe we cut each other slack because we knew each other back when we were just teenagers barely finding our footing in the world and we are just happy that the other is alive and well. Sometimes he calls for no reason at all, just to shoot the breeze and I cherish those moments when we can steal some time to chat. I should add that he and I have not been in the same room together since at least 1988.  As Mom said, respect can carry you far.

This year was probably the end of respect as we once knew it. Sadly, we learned that many people have different ideas as to what “respect” means. For some, it is being willing to hear them speak their piece, and never commenting on it. For some, it is being willing to hear every person’s piece so long as they agree with the piece. And for others, it’s still a mystery. And in some ways, I am just as bad as many.

I do not mind admitting that there are people I have less respect for now than I did one or two years ago. And I do not mind admitting it has less to do with their politics and more to do with their style. And some are saying the same about me, which might be cause for self-reflection, but I think we both find ourselves with the same response: “So be it”.  After all, if 2016 taught us anything it was reiterating that this ride is a short one that can end at any moment. No sense in wasting time over people who complain about your right to protest or argue more than the subject itself.

This brings me to one of the things I always have loved about being a trial lawyer. Not a lawyer, but a trial lawyer. Being on the opposite side of someone else, doing great intellectual battle and then shaking hands afterward or getting a drink together before and after a trial. Socializing with people who are opposites.  Sure, as a prosecutor there were defense attorneys I could not stand. I had a code and those who crossed that code were people I could not respect. “Never lie to me or about me or about my colleagues or about your case” is a simple code. While gamesmanship was fair, deceit was not. And I confess, I never forgave anyone who did it. And as a defense lawyer, I feel the same way about prosecutors and cops. But merely being on the opposing side was not a reason for me to lose respect for anybody. The Opposition is often who we learn from the most.

But in law, there is an expected level of discourse that promotes a more collegial interaction. The rest of society is sorely lacking in that. Many lawyers would offer that we are lacking in it too, especially in certain areas, though we won’t name names (*cough*Los Angeles*, *Cough*Orange County*). But overall it is still one of the best environments for engaging in good debates. Maybe because the law itself is often the result of debates. Maybe it is because the passions that stir in cases has to be somewhat chilled by the actions of zealous, but rational advocates unlike so much of what happens in the lay world where passions trump reason. Or more accurately, where passions create reasons.

Going forward, I can not say I am going to be any nicer. In fact, I expect to show my contempt for poor arguments even more. I certainly expect to be snarkier. And I most certainly will have no qualms making fun of people and places that I think throw reason to the winds. But, I also hope to give more thought to those people and positions that say things that make sense, whether I concur with the opinions and conclusions or not. I expect to get some snark back, and frankly, good snark is always going to be appreciated.

I expect to hit white privilege between the eyes and have no tolerance for people who say it does not exist or use the ridiculous argument of “I earned everything I got”. If you can’t figure out the actual arguments being made, then I have no mercy to give.

I expect to mock every college and graduate student looking for a “safe space” where nobody says mean things. The safe spaces, children, are your wits, guts, and ability to fire back.

I expect to get back to using pro wrestling to illustrate how life and the law work because it is still the place where I learned the most. And because Mick Foley was right: pro wrestling is real. It’s the rest of the world that’s fake.

I expect to share the thoughts of people I do not agree with because they have something of value to say and say it well.

I expect to write more and have more fun doing it. Hopefully, I may even get good at it. If not, I hope you will tell me. Respectfully.

Respectfully yours,