Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday Musings, 12 March 2011

Good morning,

Last evening, I heard a singer whose voice had a lilting, Spanish accent stealing the attention of diners at a Mexican restaurant in Waldo. My first listen caused my brow to wrinkle. But when he switched from American pop covers to the cadences of his birth land, his voice mellowed, and the diners set down their forks to genuinely listen.

I am continually struck by the differences that make our world sometimes joyful, sometimes disturbing. Conservative, liberal, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, brown, beige, pale: we strut around pushing our small rocks of weight against each other's space and demanding attention. I sit and listen to the rousing, rough debate -- in Wisconsin, in Washington, around the nation and the world. I hear the words "stalemate", "reckless", and "unconstitutional" intermingled with the words "freedom", "stability" and "liberty". I wonder if it matters. I worry that it is all given more importance than it deserves, and that the drive to win improperly colors the judgment of those who compete.

In a nearly empty courtroom this week, I watch a small, fretful woman twitch and toss a head of unnaturally blond, pressed hair. She glared at the man on the stand whom I represented, bursting out occasionally in protest at his accusations. When she took the stand, she admitted her drug use in ferocious, swaggering tones while begging for her son to remain in her home. She must have known -- as my client knew, and I knew, and the judge knew, that her addiction precluded such result. No one condemned her. Everyone pitied her. She slunk down from the witness stand and trudged the few feet to her chair, crumpling into it and sinking back into her leather jacket, pulling its collar over her face. No one spoke except the judge, who closed the proceedings with a few gentle comments, taking it under advisement, though his ruling came within a day. Motion for change of residential custody, granted. I felt it as a shallow victory, though perhaps a child had been saved from the folly that might otherwise have awaited him, in the clutches of an addict who thinks nothing of taking him with her on drug buys.

When I returned from court that day, I texted my own son, wondering which of my choices exposed him to potential harm. I pulled several files toward me, and, with the push of an inexplicable drive, I worked each one. With untiring ferocity, I sent paper into the outer limits of the Internet for review by clients. I tendered letters into the morass of the postal service, left voice-mail messages, and reviewed reams of paper sent by other lawyers from other desks, in other offices, driven by other unseen forces. By the end of the day, I had touched each of my cases, pushing the boulder just a little farther up the hill, propping it with a strong lever.

Yesterday, I heard a story on NPR about a recently written book detailing the events of the attempted assassination of President Reagan. I listened to the author describe the actions of the operating room personnel, and to the Secret Service agent who saved the President's life quietly tell why he decided to change the course of our history by diverting the limousine to the hospital despite Mr. Reagan's mumbled assurances that he did not need medical attention.

I reached my destination as the story ended. Sitting in my car, I closed my eyes and recalled, as I had not remembered for years, the split second when I reached for a seat belt just before a car slammed into the door of the vehicle in which I rode. Because I had not yet restrained myself, the powerful impact turned my body sideways, and my hip bore the crush of the other car's wheel instead of my pelvis. I thought about the force of another car, a decade later, that sent me flying high enough to be seen by a woman her in second floor office, who called 911 as I sailed back down and slammed onto the hood of the car that hit me. The woman in that office visited me in the hospital, just to be sure I had survived. Years later, she died a savage, lonely death at the hands of a man bent on committing a vicious, senseless act. Her body settled in the bed of a river, and there it rested for a long time, while her family and all of Kansas City searched for her, hoping to discover that she had simply gotten lost, or suffered amnesia, or merely absconded.

The world turns. In a split second, its cracks shift and a country reels. Its oceans rise and slam into the acres of cement and steel that we have constructed. A body slumps. A child dies.

On the table in my dining room, the shell of an amaryllis bulb thrusts out a shoot long after I had decided its life must have ended. In another few days, a bloom will appear, bright pink on a vivid green stalk. As I eat my breakfast, I gaze upon the sturdy frond rising above the pebbles in the crock, and I dare to think that somewhere, in a neighborhood not too far from my home, a twelve-year old boy secretly sighs in sweet relief, to be waking in a home with a sober parent.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.