Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Under Oath

In the long career of being me, I have done a number of different things in order to make a living. I have been everything from a high school chemistry teacher to a chef at a Middle Eastern restaurant, to a tour guide at 'The World's Largest Dry Cave.' Currently, and for quite some time now, I work in law.

I argue for a living. Surprised?

In the course of the duties of my employ, I have argued cases in what is referred to as 'Alternative Dispute Resolution,' or Arbitration. It's fake court. Typically, I'm the one with the paper in front of me, asking questions, and making arguments. Yesterday, however, was a bit different.

Because of a conversation I had three months ago regarding a particular file, I was going to be asked to testify. In order to do so, I was going to have to be sworn in. Not a problem, I can tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the help me God.

Now, I'm not going to rant here for pages and pages about how this is wrong, and bullshit, and arrgh. I am, however, going to share some of my thoughts surrounding this. First off, the oath doesn't REALLY mean anything. It is a ceremony done to remind people that there are greater than average consequences now if you do not tell the truth. I doubt that even the most dyed in the blood of Christ Christian Fundamentalist believes that God's wrath for perjury is swifter than the judicial branch of the United States Government. The oath is a blinking neon sign that there are dangers ahead.

But, and I don't know if everyone knows this about me, I am an atheist. My angry side does want to refuse to say it, which is my right. I could ask for a different oath, I could refuse to swear upon a bible, these are perfectly within my rights.

Of course, the Judge, who is Christian, my boss, who is Catholic, and opposing counsel, who is wearing a cross on a chain, might look at me in a light less favorably if I were to make a big deal over this 'stupid thing,' and would probably never understand my protestation under any terms other than me being an asshole.

It's harder to win cases when you piss the judge off. If I were to make this little protest, I would be doing a disservice to our client, which is tantamount to malpractice. No, the though had never entered my mind that I would not take the oath.

I did get a brief chuckle in my head over the fact that I might be perjuring myself by taking the oath, which essentially says 'I won't lie because I am afraid of God's wrath.'

Well, I'm not afraid of God's wrath, I'm afraid of losing the case.

We drive past church billboards, religion is thrust at us in life at every turn. We can't escape it, and, a lot of times, we can't even fight it. Sometimes I feel a bit like we are trying to scream the tide back. We are so hated, so despised. For the life of me, I can't understand why...I really can't.

I find solace in doing what I do. I write this blog, I do my podcast, I attend my meetings. I spend a lot of my time fighting back, and I'm happy to do it. It's a fight I believe in, because I believe in people.

Every once in a while, though, something reminds me of the depths to which we are hated. This hate does not make me angry. Go ahead and hate me, because I can take it. It's the hating of the people I love that makes me angry. Hurt the people I love, and you can rest assured that I am going to bring a gun to that knife fight.

But hate me? Well that doesn't make me angry, it just makes me sad.

-Paul Wittmeyer

postscript - Since I had argued in front of this judge about 200 times, she thought the oath was unnecessary. So, it never happened.

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