Sunday, October 18, 2009

TLC: Even The Melodrama Feels The Same

One of the benefits of foreign travel and time away is a much-needed sense of perspective. Struggling with a foreign tongue, struggling to see from a different perspective, being steeped in different mores: These are all good things. Even moreso, if, as my wife and I did on our recent trip, you happen to struggle through a week or so bout with the flu.  We return to a world in all respects identical to the one we left, save only for the slight changes wrought in ourselves.

My Internet connection was intermittent. For the later portion of our trip, I was out of touch, and blissfully so. Logging back into the stream of consciousness we had fled was jarring. There were some 60 comments backed up on this blog page alone, together with an email account overloaded with messages.  Many of the comments here referred to pieces I had recently written on the Trial Lawyers College: Some thanked me for writing, some scorned me for sniping from afar and others, well, to be honest, others I could not really decipher. I would read for but a sentence or two, and then simply publish them. I am grateful to be read at all.

The most abiding impression from all the comments about TLC? Virtually all of the comments are anonymous. 

Mark Bennett, himself a TLC grad and blogger, foreswears publication of anonymous posts on his page. He requires a person to own what they speak. That struck me as unnecessarily fussy when I first learned about it. Why such a requirement?

I suppose it screens hypocrites. Several writers on this page call me out as a coward. If I have something to say, I should not say it here, they imply. I am weak, deluded, vainglorious, diseased, and other such things because I speak my mind on a page bearing my name. The folks troubled by that and calling scorn down upon me? Mostly anonymous. Go figure. "Mirror, mirror, on the wall; what has become of my two balls?"

Apparently, things are rocking and rolling at Thunderhead Ranch. There is a new board, and with it, new wounds. Old favorites have been discarded like lover's whose kiss ensnares rather than enthralls. New board members now sit and give counsel to new dreams wrapped in the same old wine skin. At the September class, students protested the fare; enrollments were so low for an October workshop that alumni were apparently invited back free of charge. If Gerry Spence be truly gone, what will attract students?

One writer contends that the college's new counsel, Rex Parris, recently told the board he has no respect for me, that if ignored, I will simply go away. So while questions have been raised about the college's financial footing, those questions shall go unanswered. Is this the same Rex Parris who wrote me but three weeks ago saying that he missed talking, and that we should remedy that soon? What credit shall I give to this anonymous gossip? Should I view an old friend's words as suspect? Was Rex merely dropping a line to tether me? Such cynicism, unless, of course, Machiavelli was right and keeping enemies close is wise policy for a courtier?

And then notes about the silencing of dissent. The college will no longer post links to web pages, having ceased doing so shortly after questions it does not want to address began to appear in print. Joane Garcia-Colson raised questions on her blog page about loyalty. Better to erase her page and others like it. Put enough wax in our ears, the new leaders seem to say, and we'll all hear the melodious hum of contentment.

Another writer tells me that I am a captive to the ranch. I cannot shake myself free, and, hence, I write, obsessively. Another near miss. For many years I kept silent about the place. But then I visited the ranch again, and what I saw and heard shocked me. Proud warriors once gathered there. Today the same place has the look and feel of of a rehab center. One newbie boasts that although he practiced law for some twenty year before becoming a student, he only became a human being after a few weeks beneath the Wyoming stars. Oh, my.

But I digress. It is my style. I am losing interest in the ranch and its doings. It's been nice to be away. And returning is always tough. Being a steward for other people's troubles takes its toll. There are only so many hours in a day, and not nearly enough days.

I will try to be kinder, I promise. But something about the rancid odor of hypocrisy stirs me. I would respect the college more if it were less evangelical in its goals: It is not I who sought the college; the college rather seeks out all of us. It wants to educate a new type of lawyer. It claims to have discovered new things, things of value. Having made such claims, it invites scrutiny.  

Ad hominem attacks by anonymous writers are merely more proof that for all the college's claims to have discovered something new, it is merely another ant heap filled with struggling creatures.