Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How To Not Go Crazy At Work, Vol. 1

I've made it no secret that I struggle. When you spend as much time at work as I do (doing the kind of work that I attempt to do), you inevitably end up wanting to throw yourself out the window. The past month been extra special window throw-y. Add to that my being the only lawyer in the office today, and I'm suddenly needing some things to keep me sane. I have plenty of work to do, don't get me wrong, but I thrive on taking small breaks by talking to my coworkers, and I don't have that release today.

Sometimes, you just can't deal, and you need that extra something to get you through the day. I've decided to share a list of things I do in my office that keep me from stripping naked and running full-fledged spider monkey down Garrison Avenue.


Do handstands.

Lay on my boss's credenza and act like it's a therapist's couch.

Play Songza's Scared to Look: Original Gangstas mix. And proceed to rap like no suburban white girl ever should.

Read appellate opinions that have nothing to do with any of the Department's cases on appeal. #lawnerd

Reorganize my office. Because messy desk, messy head, or some such shit.

What do you little kittens do to relieve work stress?

I'm always up for more "grownup" alternatives. Or whatever.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Only Children Weep: My Brief Thoughts on Ferguson

It can be hard for me to disagree with the modern court process, which makes my views and opinion on the Darren Wilson non-indictment confusing, to say the least. I have to, at least to some extent, believe that the proceeding was fair. Deep down in my heart and soul, I don't believe that at all, but I have to have some sort of faith in the mechanisms of American justice in order for my profession to have any sort of meaning. The day I lose trust in the fundamentals of the justice system is the day I need to start reconsidering my career, because like it or not, I often work to uphold laws that don't equally protect its constituents. As a lawyer, I'm somewhat uniquely situated (at least relatively speaking) in my analysis of what happened last night. I know how the law is supposed to work. I also know how the law actually functions. My desire to feel fairness in the justice system is to feed my own need for meaning in my work, not because it is actually so. 

What differentiates me from those rioting in Ferguson is that I have the option of having faith in the system. Because the system, 97% of the time, works for me, based simply on the color of my skin (not on my gender, but that's an entirely different series of posts). Because I am an educated, upper-middle class, (partially*) white woman, I have the luxury of choosing whether I want to respect our system of justice and have some sense of confidence in its outcomes. 

*I am a mix of Caucasian and Choctaw. I have a Dawes Roll number, a CDIB card and vote in Choctaw elections. I don't solely identify as a white woman, but for the purposes of discrimination, I have never been made to feel differently because of my race and ethnicity. 

Rioting has nothing to do with petulance. It is the manifestation of a well-deserved frustration with a system of justice that consistently, routinely, and arbitrarily betrays a great numbers of those it purports to protect. How can you respect and subscribe to an ideology that regularly and systematically betrays you? There is no justification for rioting because rioting does not need justification. That is the point of chaos. The shooting justifies the riot, not the other way around. Those wondering why the destruction is necessary simply further the concept of white privilege. I simply don't believe that you can make snap judgments about the actions of people who have suffered what they suffer, and then are told that the problem doesn't exist. When your voice isn't heard and your rights are not protected, why abide by the laws that repeatedly forsake you?

The truth is, I would never want to be a law enforcement officer faced with a split-second decision of potentially harrowing consequence: to fire or not fire. For that, I will be eternally grateful to those who, every day, go back out to make those decisions and protect me. That is the second difference between me and those rioting in Ferguson: in that sense, I can believe that law enforcement protects me. I have the luxury of knowing that law enforcement will, statistically, fight for me and not against me. While I realize that the majority of law enforcement officers do not behave in the manner of Darren Wilson, I also recognize that I would never have to worry about it if they did.

The problem is in transparency; or, in this case (and most like it), an absolute lack of transparency. In making the indictment announcement, the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said that the grand jury is "the only people--- THE ONLY PEOPLE--- who have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence." 

The grand jury who needed nine of twelve votes to make a decision.

A grand jury who had exactly nine white people on it.

He moves on to chastise the American public for forming an opinion without knowing the facts--- facts that both the St. Louis County PA's office and Ferguson Police Department actively concealed from the public. The overarching problem will always be that a white officer shot and killed an unarmed black man, but fuel to the fire and salt in the wound is media having to fill in the blanks with sensationalism because they can't get the facts out of the only source that holds it. The public will never know the truth because there was no indictment. There will be no trial. They won't tell us how or why they voted. We won't see the evidence, and we will never have answers. Transparency would keep everyone safer, both the protectors and those who are purportedly being protected. A vest cam not only keeps officers safe, but it keeps the rights of civilians safe.

For the record, I don't believe the grand jury got it right. Justice is an imperfect system because it is based upon imperfect people. I don't necessarily believe that Officer Wilson murdered Michael Brown, but I sincerely believe there was more than enough for an indictment. Michael Brown deserved a trial, and what he received was yet another showing that no one is looking out for him or those who look like him. And this will happen again. There will be another Trayvon Martin. There will be another Michael Brown. And unfortunately, there will be another Darren Wilson. Because we are setting a dangerous precedent that you will not be held accountable for your actions unless you're a person of color.

At the end of the day, there is a mother grieving the loss of her child. The man who, justified or not, took his life is at home in his bed. In the days since Michael Brown's death, Officer Darren Wilson has walked free, gotten married, and become almost a half-million dollars richer. Tell me, where is the sense of justice in that?

Are you mad? Then stay mad. Stay passionate. Stay motivated. Stay loud. Make noise. Don't forget. Don't let it die down. Don't minimize. Show empathy. Show tolerance. Be kind. Be helpful. Never doubt that a small group of impassioned people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Carnival Backflips and Anxious Writing

Extended vacations are nice, but toward the end, you start yearning for home a little. You miss your own bed and your dog, and you're tired of eating fast food and want to sit on your own couch. No matter how much you needed a break, home is always the best. Which is what has happened with my little break.

I think it's been hard for me to write because I haven't really felt like myself (but at this point, I'm not sure exactly what that means). I've made it no secret that I see a therapist weekly. To be honest, I'm surprised it took this long to do it. I'm the master of the smile-and-cover-up, the burying down of all the shit because it seems too icky to come to the surface. And that worked for me, in a sense, at least until it hit a breaking point. Therapy has almost made some of it worse (at least, in the start) because it's made me deal with a real whole lot of crapola in my head that I haven't ever really processed. It's funny, I spent so long writing on RRR, trying my hardest to never write about anything remotely serious, and here I am talking candidly about a struggle with depression-tinged anxiety. I think that for a little bit, I only had broken-record heaviness to put down, and there could very well be an end in sight. I'll leave the details alone before I get too Susanna Kaysen on everyone, but things might actually start looking up soon, and with that comes the will to write.

(a little heavy for a Monday, right?) 

+ Work has been .. work. My boss once told me that I wasn't a real lawyer in our business until I got sued in federal court for a civil rights violation (note: I'm still not a real lawyer). I haven't quite made it there yet, but with the way the past month has gone, it wouldn't shock me if it happened before the close of 2014. I sometimes wish so badly that there was no such thing as confidentiality so I could tell y'all some crazy stories, but since there is, just trust me in saying this job ain't for the weak of soul.

+ I was wandering through the Little Rock Fair drinking beer with a fellow ex-gymnast and we all happened across a mobile trampoline pit. In spite of its rickety appearance, we managed to schmooze the nice carnival man into giving us a two-for-one, and then proceeded to do double backs. ON THE CARNIVAL TRAMPOLINE. Over concrete. After drinking.

And we did them well. Hashtag I still got it.

I love these brats so much.

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