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Pensive on the Stars Tonight

Pensive on the Stars Tonight

Sonnet XIV

Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck,

And yet methinks I have astronomy;

But not to tell of good or evil luck,

Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;

Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,

Pointing to each his thunder, rain, and wind,

Or say with princes if it shall go well

By oft predict that I in heaven find.

But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,

And, constant stars, in them I read such art

As truth and beauty shall together thrive

If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert:  

Or else of thee this I prognosticate,  

Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date. –

William Shakespeare

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Thus Be It Ever –

Thus Be It Ever -

I absolutely love this book.

The title is lifted from the full verse of the Star Spangled Banner – the poem, not the song, but is also an allusion to an alternative phrasing of Sic Semper Tyrranis, “thus be it ever to tyrrants.” Set forth fully as Sic semper evello mortem Tyrannis (a little grade school Latin).

Consider this excerpt from Letters from a Draftee to His Father, when his father asks what can be done for soldiers:

“I don’t want free cigarettes, or a carte blanche to heroic suicide. I want a real Democracy to return to…Too many men have died for an ideal that never was. I don’t want to join their ranks. I haven’t had a chance to think this all out and I’ve expressed it poorly, but you know what I mean.” – Roger, 1942.

Some of these essays / stories are remarkable for their perspective of total war. A vast sense of numbness, of people disappearing one by one until there are none, permeates some of the literature of this book. They address war narratives of which our generation is wholly unaware: British children evacuated from London to the United States under attack by U-Boats, Questions on the Freedom of Speech in war, and so much more.

It in fact contains some of the most unique reading experiences I have ever found, in the tradition of For Esme with Love and Squalor. Compiled during World War II, essayists : Stephen Vincent Benet – Poem “Litany for Dictatorships” Elspeth Huxley – The Only Woman in the Lifeboat Fourteen Points by Woodrow Wilson and the Four Freedoms by FDR, Langston Hughes, Fortune Magazine Articles. There is more literary gold and poetry in this little unknown book. A must for anyone interested in History, Political Philosophy and Wartime Literature needs this book.

The Woolwich Decapitation Attack, the Oresteia, & The Law of an Eye for an Eye

I wrote two weeks ago a draft as follows: The Oresteia, gives us the lens of an older, ancient system of justice: the lex talionis, the law of revenge. This is the law as set forth in Moses: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Here, it is a life for a life, the blood feud, initiated by child deaths, when Iphigenia was sacrificed for good winds to sail to war. The ‘elders’ – the old gray men tasked with enforcing the laws – failed to condemn this act. Consequently the ancient laws sought their own revenge.

Just when I begin to believe a text like the Oresteia has lost its relevance, enter Woolwich Decapitation Attack in London. If you haven’t seen the video – and I’ve watched it so you don’t have to – after delivering the coup de grace to soldier Lee Rigby, the attackers street filmed themselves in the street giving their manifesto – replete with blood stained hands while an indifferent shopper brushes by – proclaiming that they’ve struck an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth for the lives lost every year in Nigeria. I don’t say anyone should see this. Just that they should know in fact that the ugly debris of colonialism has washed up on our shores in its bloody, primitive law. Heart of Darkness meets the Oresteia, in its structure and narrative, this video shadows the freakish stage delivery of a fifteen-hundred year old text.

The Oresteia is a play structured in four books – the fourth comedy having been lost. Apparently, this was the art of Greek Tragedy, to be able to integrate from horrific acts into a comedic denouement, although I have no idea how, since I haven’t read it. The play portrays classical Greek patriarchy as overlaid upon an older matriarchal society with ancient laws – perhaps the laws of psychology. In Book I, Agamemnon – hero of the Iliad, has returned home victorious from the Trojan War. In addition to the blood of war, it is time for him to settle up his debts with the older, darker vengeful deities for killing his daughter for the war effort. Agamemnon answers to her mother, Clytemnestra, with blood for the death of Iphigenia.

Agamemnon brings with him the spoils of war: the beautiful and cursed Cassandra priestess of Apollo and princess of Troy. Although she is doomed, Cassandra tells the bloody history of Agamemnon’s house: small children were killed and fed to their fathers, releasing the intergenerational curse on the house. Cassandra also dies, and the grounds of her curse of prophesy are given to us. In Book II, Orestes avenges his mother for the death of Agamemnon, then is pursued by the furies of revenge into Book III, where he seeks sanctuary at the shrine of Pallas Athena, representing wisdom and persuasion. There, the beauty of the Oresteia unfolds in its transformation from darkness to light, as Pallas Athena delivers to Athens their jury system. She includes the concept of restorative justice, and the furies of revenge – who’ve been denied their ancient justice in blood – are offered a new role as the patron deities of Athens. They take the deal, transforming from dark to light, and introducing the concept of restorative justice.

Back to the Woolwich attacks. The attacker in the video speaks with a British accent, without Nigerian cadence. My understanding from the news is that this is a man of “Nigerian descent.” I take that to mean that the atrocities he speaks of he has not witnessed, but has only heard of, and I’m unsure the connection to modern British soldiers outside of his delusions. This is important to me, because I am wary of the twisted psychologies that comes to our safe shores in the hearts and minds of the refugees of war. He speaks of having engaged in this atrocity in revenge for what people supposedly see every day in Nigeria. I am unaware, to be truthful, of British involvement in Nigeria since the 1960s. I could be wrong though. My understanding is that several human rights groups have called for prosecution of internal atrocities, but I have no accurate information.

But the man there, the one in the video, hasn’t faced the truth of his call: An eye for an eye is not satisfied with only one death for a death. Instead, a new claim for new blood is founded by each act of revenge. Under his law, the laws of psychology, the lex talionis system is renewed, where each actor is equally culpable and justified in his involvement. And that cycle justified the violent, outraged backlash against the British Muslim community.

Britain, for the record, historically independently developed its Common Law for the same purpose of preventing blood feuds and vendettas during the days of kings. I can’t find answers in the biblical canons, nor the Talmud or Sharia, about what to do with a man like this, as these systems appear focused on sin and compliance with divine laws. I simply don’t know what they do with the evil they find in the world. But evil is in Britain through this man and his motives, not personified as a character in the bible. The lex talionis is a psychological system governing contact with evil but can’t regulate it, relying on action in retribution, I suppose. But a judicial system, on the other hand, is designed to halt the cycles of retribution. Each is judged on his actions and charges and reasons and mitigating factors and aggravating factors, but each is a “final” judgment.

How I Learned to Love Melville

How I Learned to Love Melville

Inspired by my friend Cameron. 

Lack of Protective Capacity in John Irving’s “Until I Find You”

Here is the First Commandment of Motherhood and the Law: Thou shalt demonstrate protective capacity.

Simply: I don’t often see self-protective capacity, let alone the capacity to protect others.

I finally read “Women Who Run With the Wolves” due to my burgeoning love of Jungian analysis in myths. (Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen’s Ring of Power was my personal ah-ha moment regarding dysfunctional family histories, I highly recommend it and its look at the Wagnerian Ring Cycle). I missed it the first time around when it was published and republished in the nineties. That was my time of waiting tables at a macrobiotic café while studying anthropology, listening to Dead Can Dance, and trying to understand the emic perspective from my Persian employers who fled Iran for the US when the Shah was deposed. How I missed that monumental work of nineties perspective is beyond me.

Like “Until I Find You”, “Women Who Run With the Wolves” is long, surrealistic, and at times very tough to get through – I admit to skimming parts and it having a longer-than-usual shelf life next to my bed. But it has an important point, illustrated in her analysis of Blue Beard: Stalking the Predator, which is the concept of self-protection and the ability to “sniff out” predators, to rely on instincts, and to teach this diminished skill to our children.

Then I read “Until I Find You” by John Irving, and every novel I ever read by Joyce Carol Oates came haunting (which is why I quit reading her, she’s excellent, but a bit uncomfortable). I had another aha moment. Here’s the boiled down reviews from Amazon:

1. You will love it or hate it, no in betweens.
2. It largely repeats the themes of Irving’s earlier novels – just a little more autobiographical.
3. It is long – over 800 pages – and I admit to skimming for action verbs (how I handle tedious parts).

I concur with everyone of these. The Novel was set in the 1970’s as the sexual revolution went mainstream. Sex is the focus, and everyone is having sex – even shockingly the boy, who is graphically molested in the novel by a grown woman. I give Irving kudos, it takes a brass pair to describe these acts, then to propose the provocative question: was I damaged even if I wasn’t hurt? It’s his question folks, not mine, rightfully his question as only a survivor can ask, and he does answer affirmatively “yes” through his story that these are thieves of innocence.

Irving inverts gender stereotypes. Men are simple, safe and loving, it’s the society of women which are dangerous. Men manifest their losses on their bodies. Women convert their losses into a sinister pain to be inflicted on others as proxies. Telling his tale of loss of innocence (coming of age) which history is inverted and retold in the end from an adult perspective – even in his Jack-as-child narrative we find a chilling tale: Lack of Protective Capacity.

Although his history is later inverted, Jack starts from here: His mother is a victim who did not demonstrate self protective capacity. She listened to a young man who said he’d love her forever but didn’t. She became a fallen, single mother who drags her son through Baltic Europe looking for his dead-beat father through the network of tattoo artists. Once the story is inverted, she is portrayed as a perpetrator, while the other female ‘lead’ Emma inflicts versions of her own abuse until she is diminished into a friends and protector. Leslie merely quashes innocence, until she too is neutralized into another role.

Not one of these women demonstrated protective capacity. The men in this novel are entirely helpless. Irving draws two worlds: the inside emic perspective of these women, which Jack is brought up in in early childhood – and then out of as etic “truth” from men’s perspective is written into the novel, causing Jack to abruptly lose his neuroses in a Freudian theme of individuation. But what about these women?

I don’t know if Irving knew this or meant it, but not a single woman in his autobiographical novel knew or demonstrated protective capacity of themselves or others. It is a skill, an art, to teach loss of innocence rather than to have it stolen. I do not blame victims, but I see so many opportunities each day for self-protection to be taught. Teens appear to have an inability to grasp the inherent evil existing in the world around them. Daughters and sons are not taught ‘the rules’ to safely go out and have a good time without getting hurt: Don’t walk away from your drink – drink it or buy another, everybody who came together should leave together, they’re not your friends if they won’t watch out for you or take care of you and vice versa. Kinda simple stuff like safeguard your heart, don’t fall for bad-boys: pirates, rogues, or other ne’er do wells, jealousy is not loving. For sons: don’t believe if someone tells you they’re on the pill, not becoming a dad is your job. Avoid people who are always victims. Be careful of who you call a friend. Don’t be afraid to judge to your own benefit. Relating to my post, first amendment options: watch what you say online. Don’t take privacy for granted, but definitely use your settings. Don’t friend everyone who asks. We anticipate mistakes, everyone makes them and they are the best learning lessons of life if they’re not too bad. I sure wish there were less trial and error though, and a little more wisdom.

First Amendment Options

This might be an odd thing for me to post in my literati lawyer page, but I simply must have somewhere to say it – this will be a spoken word post.

Last month I read Aeschylus’ the Oresteia although I have not yet gotten around to posting about it.  Suffice to say this written word was made in approximately 500 B.C., about 2500 years ago, and has outlasted the pillars of stone carved at the same time.  (For the record, the fourth installment – the comedic denouement- has been lost, and I am immensely sad that the guardians of the word were not able to preserve it).  In all truth though these plays have been preserved because it took an act of effort and the sense that there was something worthwhile to preserve.  I salute the unnamed guardians of the written word, rushing to save these oeuvres from burning libraries through the centuries. 

But now there’s the Internet, where in the words of my late Uncle: “The Internet never forgets.”

I write this article because I am working to save a young man from the unforeseen consequences of his words.  I believe that over-connection is the 21st Century Issue, as important as Civil Rights in the 20th.  To prove my point, I point to the early Benghazi media reports: At least initially, the attacks on the Libyan embassy were reported concurrently with Middle Eastern protests concerning the trailer of the “Innocence of Muslims” – not even a film I say – which was posted on You Tube, accessed in the Muslim world immediately, and caused its own crisis. 

That is unprecedented history.  This is massive change in motion.  This means that not only culturally but legally the protections of the First Amendment – which only counts when people are hotly offended by the statements – reach across borders simultaneously to places where those words are fighting words – i.e. not constitutionally protected but also immediate grounds for vendetta, retribution, prosecution and persecution under the laws of those places.  Sometimes in your own places, such as Stubenville Ohio.

The comforting  news to me in this digital hyper-sensitive space, is that Salmon Rushdie knows what that is, Jyllands-Postens knows it, and our own founding fathers knew it – news of treason in the form of our founding Declaration of Independence spread pretty fast, even in the day of news-by-schooner.

I myself am pretty media shy – I always give my clients a social media gag order on pending cases except the pleadings.  They can post the pleadings wherever they want.  I do not allow my clients to go the media, for reasons that shall obliquely be referred to as “The McDonalds Coffee Lady” effect.  Daniel Kahneman studied snap judgments (heuristics and intuitive thinking, for those whose intellectual courage leads them that way) and received a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for explaining snap, hasty judgments.  Assume this: assume your audience will hear three words of what you say.  Assume that those three words are only the most provocative words in the story.  Assume that from those three words they will build an image of what you most resemble.  Before you hit send, what say we re-think that? 

I can honestly say that I didn’t learn start to learn discretion until I was almost thirty.  Indeed, there are some professional colleagues who will say I still don’t, although the difference is now I truly agonize over every provocative word I write – and I admittedly write some truly provocative things – not here of course, you’d have to read some of my briefing – and every time I do, I weight the dangers of “going there” against the consequences of “not going there.”  In the case of a young man I recently submitted into evidence the definitions of Tupac Shakur’s distinction between an N-Er and the casual youth N-A (yes seriously) to attempt to show that how to a young man of color was not racist in the use of his N-A word, but that it was a generational gap and a significant event of linguistic reclamation.  And I truly believe that I angered the Judge by submitting these words.  And yet I stand by my rational analysis: had I not “gone there” my client would have been hosed on the basis of the words.  

In the words of my friend via text: “OG.”

I’m posting the link to story by the woman of the Manti Te’o catfishing story: she’s smart.  She’s right.  She points out that lives are ruined over on-line material.  She states what  should be done: we need to be more self-protective.  Online and I would add in real life.   My next post will discuss the concept of self-protection.  Please remember: E = Evidence.

How the Judge Sees Family Law

How the Judge Sees Family Law