Monday, February 10, 2014

A Senior Looks Back at the Two Roads Which Diverged



The above poem comes from Robert Frost's Mountain Interval in 1920, which he titled The Road Not Taken. It was a big deal in my late 1960s English classes at Ohio University, left, where Jim and I were both English majors. Ironically, it too had the diverging paths leading to the building where all of our English classes were held. At that point in my life I still had many roads to choose whereas at this age, the vast majority have all been taken and this becomes the time to look back at those roads. I think we do not have as much free will as we might think we do when we regard these forks in the road. I know I was very much shaped by the events going on around me and the family, community, church and friends which had seen me come of age.  It really was if all of those elements were rolled into the physical embodiment of me which stood at that fork in the crossroads. It was not a me independent of that past. I am going to explore one road today and in future columns I will explore other roads taken and not. 

Today's focus will be on choosing the road which led to law school and law. Left, is my alma mater, Cleveland State University's Law School. If you had asked me then why I decided to go to law school, I would have given you what I thought were my reasons. These would include that my family thought it was a wonderful idea and paid for it and that it seemed to offer the most practical and obvious path to a successful and respected career choice.  These were reasons but they were not the reason.








Many of us in the later 1960s felt powerless. The country was torn apart over the Vietnam war in a way it never was before or since. This is because the war overall was benefitting the economic well being of our country and that our parents believed that this was a necessary war in fighting for our dominant world presence and position in the ongoing Cold War. Since we were the generation expected to actually fight this war, we were against it. Since our parents had all been in World War II, this stance was disgraceful. Running parallel with this issue were the ongoing racial wars at home where inner city after inner city erupted into riots. In the midst of this, we lost Bobby Kennedy to assassination while we were in college, just as we had lost Jack when we were in high school. I personally had never felt so powerless or pulled in so many different directions as I did during that time period.

All of the above led to a horrible fight in my family.  We were visiting my father's mother in Maine.  The Chicago riots over the 1968 Democratic National Convention were erupting over the tv set.  My grandmother started ranting over we were all a bunch of Communists and I exploded, saying that this was not some Communist motivated plot but a war in which a great holocaust was going on of both Asian civilians and our soldiers. To leave Vietnam would not "give" Russia its win of the Cold War. With that she threw us all out of her house and told my father she would disinherit him for having such a traitorous daughter. She was killed months later in a car crash before anyone made up. (She had not changed her will.) Vietnam had really come home to me in an explosion of words over events on a tv set, the way Vietnam occurred for most Americans. Within a few years of this event, I started law school. Next time I exploded with words, they would be words that counted. What I saw in Law School was a way to forever take back feeling so powerless again. I would learn how to fight back in the event I was ever caught in this position again. At age 65 it is very clear in my mind that this is why I went to Law School.

It worked.  I never did feel so powerless again but the reason behind going to Law School would reappear once I got mired in the nitty gritty of actually practicing law. Then I would face an entirely different fork in the road.

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