Why I'm here...

It's been a confusing few weeks here in hollywood. Disorienting, taxing, if often wonderful. Surfing in the morning with pods of dolphins breeching and leaping delightedly over the waves is hard to beat. And then there is the relentless sunshine and the delightful distractions of eating well, meeting people and having fun in a new city. The work is exciting too. Breaking stories and working for the first time with a group of talented writers is a challenge I've warmed to. And of course, working for Steven B is a dream.

But in the quieter moments, stuck in LA traffic, or listening to the comforting white noise of the waves, I do wonder about the legitimacy of this entire enterprise. It's so far from the lives I used to touch, the people I used to know, the succor I used to provide that it's hard to reconcile with my life long goal of living well by giving more than I take (and of course being me, taking abundantly). There is an immediacy that is lacking. The artistic enterprise as end in itself has never been a particularly persuasive philosophical point of view, and I don't think I'm much closer to adopting it then I was when I came out here. All of which begs the question of what is the point of doing what I'm doing?

I haven't answered the question for my self, but two things in the papers today helped a lot. The first was this spectacular piece from the creators of "The Wire." It leverages their work in a radical and inspiring opinion piece published this week in Time.

In it they say "This is what we can do — and what we will do. If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun's manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens."

It is a manifesto of Jury Nullification written by people who for five years have brilliantly helped to shape the public understanding of the drug war. And it's the sort of convincing statement it takes a platform like theirs to publicize.

The other piece was the NYTM's cover story this week. It discussed the outsized (and rather absurd) influence of pop culture on real philanthropy, the way in which celebrity, even of the fleeting or secondary sort nonetheless provides opportunities for real world influence, particularly in the philanthropic universe. The artistic enterprise as radical reform.

The sun is setting, Catalina is swathed in an luminescent pink haze. The last surfers are staggering wet, and happy from the lineup. Even taken together, I'm not sure these articles provide me a convincing answer, but on day marked by reflection and sometimes even bafflement, they sure felt like good omens.


David Tarrell said...

Don't feel guilty about living well. Whether your mission involves working directly with clients or with telling stories far from the courtroom, you're contributing to the vision of organizations like NCDC.

One frustration I had as a p.d. was that I felt a little like the little boy on the beach who was throwing starfish back into the water and not listening to the old man who was telling me I couldn't make a difference. I always felt that I could occasionally make a difference for that one, but also knew that the old man was right and that, unless change was made at a much higher level, it was a losing battle.

Barry Scheck told a story about lecturing Peter Neufeld on his first day because he didn't know movies well and Scheck knew he would have to to influence his pop-culture influenced jurors.

For too long, t.v. dramas melodramatized the issues the justice system deals with, turning crim defense attorneys into stereotypes and prosecutors into seasoned, intelligent, dedicated professionals. While I laughed at the disconnect between t.v. and reality, most people took it as the truth and brought those beliefs into the jury room, where they usually saw something quite different.

So don't feel guilty. Perhaps you're having more of an impact now but providing a real element to fictional t.v. and creating something that goes beyond the old, tired, law and order shows where "loopholes" (the Constitution) are exploited by sleazy defense attorneys.

Just as your book took your message to a new level, perhaps this more widely distributed medium will win over more juries than a team of Bronx Defenders could ever do.

Storytelling is essential in the courtroom, but if people aren't being told better stories via the mass media, they drag those schemas into it and it becomes harder to defend your client, let alone the Constitution.

Edintally said...

But the little boy is making a difference. That the problem is never ending doesn't lessen the contribution. ;)

Anonymous said...

What break are you surfing at?
Long board or short?
What is the crowd like-(a) size, (b)attitude?
How have the waves been?

Last week in New York, waist to chest, clean, no crowd. Water 49 degrees

Indefensible said...

First of all, thanks to all you guys. It's heartening and I really do read these and they do mean a lot to me.

Hopefully at the end of this, if nothing else, you'll see a PD on TV who truly cares about his clients, who is brash and passionate and good at what he does and is able to articulate a thoughtful critique of the system. And even if others in the show don't agree and have their own reasons for doing what they do, Jerry is at least able to give voice to the PD perspective.

As for the all important surfing question, though I'm too busy to get into the water nearly as much as I want, when I do go, I'm actually going in right in front of my apartment in Santa Monica, There's a nice mellow shore break, though thanks to a bum knee, I'm just on a body board now. Everyone is actually pretty cool, every once and again there's a bit of attitude but all in all, it's nice.

So thanks all. I'm grateful for the support.