Published on January 4, 2008 by Michelle Wirth
I was a young kid bored in the back seat in a traffic jam in Brooklyn. I sat smooshed between my siblings, sedated by the heat, hypnotized by the cacophony of engines, horns, overheated drivers and swiftly moving people. Across the street, his stillness caught my eye. He was dressed in layers and layers of faded brown clothing, worn and untucked. He matched perfectly, fruitlessly, the wall of the brownstone church he leaned against with both hands, his head bowed, almost imperceptibly rocking. The cord from his headphones dangled down at his side, attached to… nothing. His palms pressed flat against the walls of the church, he rocked and swayed to sounds only he could hear. The rest of us did not exist.
I have spent years honing my public speaking skills only to realize that the true creative power is in the listening. For example, “God said let there be light, and there was, and it was good.” What disappears from view in that sentence is the unspoken – the listening. Consider the possibility of God as the phenomenon of no gap between speaking and listening; divine communion. Closing the gap between speaking and listening creates agreement, creates reality. First we agree, and then we hold these truths to be self-evident. When we lose sight of that, we lose sight of our creative power.
Law exists inside a way of listening. In Plessy v. Fergusen, the rationale for segregating “Negroes” from other train riders was considered so obvious by the court that it declared elaboration unnecessary. Years later, in Brown v. Board of Education, the court declared the “mindset of the time” of Plessy v. Fergusen had passed and current awareness of equality as self-evident would henceforth supersede. The court of public opinion held a new truth to be self-evident, and thereby influenced judicial interpretation of the constitution. In response, the Court used the language of law to speak a new reality into existence, expanding possibilities for all Americans. Our modern parallel is the current public debate over the meaning of “marriage.”
Although in America religious marriage is available to all, civil marriage is reserved for those couples who fit the way our society commonly hears the idea “marriage.” I contribute to shifting the way people hear the word “marriage” by communicating that I am married to my same-sex partner. People listen for certain context clues and piece together a story. Our wedding photos, wedding bands and use of the word “spouse” tell the story of two women who are married to one-another. Six and a half years ago, weddings like ours were an unusual occurrence in Pittsburgh. Last month, however, I attended the inter-racial, same sex wedding of two of my friends, in a local church. The pews were packed with witnesses. As the public debate grows louder, people’s ways of hearing the word “marriage” continue to broaden. It is my belief that one day soon the validity of same sex marriage will be self-evident, and laws to the contrary will be put to rest as anachronisms.
By shaping how people listen one shapes what is heard, touching off the next round of discussion and progression. Whether
declaring the value of a human to be 3/5 versus whole or negotiating the meaning of the word “marriage,” creating, interpreting and implementing laws creates a particular reality. I see Law as the international language of commerce; the business of human endeavor, the codification of values and relationships. Law is an ongoing, evolving conversation in which resources are recognized, valued and distributed. I intend to use the language of Law to continually close the gap between speaking and listening, to create a reality in which what works for one individual or corporation, is that which benefits all. There will always be a new possibility waiting to emerge.
Published on December 28, 2007 by Michelle Wirth
Carlisle: I study the language of the law.
Pittsburgh: Ma amoureuse etudie la langue de l’amour.
Carlisle: I sit three feet from my electric ceramic heater.
Pittsburgh: Mr. D warms my lap and purrs like an engine.
Carlisle: No television.
Pittsburgh: I recognize the guy in the Afrin commercial from the D.U.I. p.s.a.
Carlisle: Eat standing up at the kitchenette counter before running out the door.
Pittsburgh: Share a bottle of wine with Love over a dinner of broiled salmon, roasted turnips and red cabbage salad.
Carlisle: Go out drinking with friends once a week and talk about intricate legal or classroom issues.
Pittsburgh: Sit on the couch next to farting dog and stare at a box with moving pictures on it.
Carlisle: Laundry and grocery shopping, or Federal Income Tax and editing?
Pittsburgh: Tell Love I went out drinking with friends and discussed intricate legal or classroom issues.
Carlisle: Move the pile of advocacy textbooks from the floor so I can sit at my desk.
Pittsburgh: Sit on the couch and blog.
Carlisle: The bed all to myself, and the electric blanket up as high as I want.
Pittsburgh: Love telling me to roll over, Mr. D curled up between my knees, Mr. C hiding under the bed, and Sopha-girl farting in her sleep on the floor. Heaven.
Published on December 8, 2007 by Michelle Wirth
“I’m making myself sick. I just gave Scalia mad props and slapped O’Connor in the face. I have to take a break.” ~N.P.
Published on December 7, 2007 by Michelle Wirth
“YIPPEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! …thus ends my moment of enthusiasm. Back to work.”
~SP, upon learning that Eric Bergsten acknowledged receipt of our Vis memorandum.
Published on December 3, 2007 by Michelle Wirth
- of clean pants;
- to Walmart, to get laundry quarters;
- of fresh food. Everything’s tinned and boxed, and some of that is also frozen;
- of time. One week of class left, with eleven writing assignments due in the next eight days, including the Vis memorandum; one, thirty-page seminar paper; two self-evaluations for advocacy; four transfer memoranda, one journal assignment, one final case review memorandum and one course evaluation for Clinic.