Last night, I met a friend after work. She’s bright, kind, giving and an overachiever, like me. I’d brought my trusty portfolio with me to a meeting. It’s gorgeous … brown leather and handmade. At the bottom right, my name is stamped. I am proud of my portfolio, a gift from an incredibly smart, talented and successful mentor. She asked me where I got it, and when I told her it was handmade for me in Israel, she promptly said she didn’t want to talk about Israel. I stood there for a moment and, after confecting a careful response, simply said, “neither do I.”
An hour later, as we waited at her bus stop, she looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Okay. So. What’s your opinion on Israel and Palestine?” I stood there for another moment (feeling a déjà vu), confused about why she was asking me about Israel when she’d clearly told me she didn’t want to talk about it. And then this is how the conversation went:
Her: Okay. So. What’s your opinion on Israel and Palestine?
Me: I have no opinion on Israel and Palestine.
Her: What do you MEAN you have no opinion on Israel and Palestine?! You’re a LAWYER! You HAVE to have an opinion!
Me: No. Actually, I don’t have to have an opinion.
Her: But. I mean, you have to have one. You have one. You have to.
Me: No. Really. I don’t have an opinion on Israel and Palestine.
Her: *stumped* Hmph.
Me: You know, it’s not my job to have an opinion. As a lawyer, I am required NOT to have an opinion. My job is not to tell my opinions. My job is to be a voice for people who do not have a voice, who need a voice. My job is to advocate for their needs, their rights, not my own. I don’t want an opinion. In fact, I make a conscious choice not to have an opinion. I choose not to know enough to make an opinion. I deliberately do not read all the news and everything there is to know about a subject until I have to.
… a pause … [Checking myself: Now is not the time to go into media portrayals and mainstream opinions.]
Me: So, no. I don’t want to have an opinion. It’s not my place to judge another for their actions, or to judge whether a country is doing right or wrong by attempting to maintain its sovereignty. I want to be an advocate, yes, even a zealous advocate, but for another – not for my own agenda.
… silence …
Me: Okay, so maybe I do not agree with genocide or female genital mutilation or even feet binding, but that doesn’t mean I have to tell everyone about it. [I recognize the irony in writing this on this blog, btw.] If a potential client came to me and said to me, “I am being persecuted because I am doing something that my culture and my laws says is legal and I need help,” I would help them. Not because I agree or disagree with the fact that perhaps that thing is deplorable, but if it’s legal and they need a voice, then I will be that voice. I don’t want to have an opinion. Period. I can’t do my job properly if I have an opinion.
Her: Honey, you’re ready to be a lobbyist.
As I walked home, my words pounded in my brain. Is it true? Do I really choose not to have an opinion? Yes. A resounding yes. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I actually had an opinion about something political. Perhaps it was undergrad. I was a Sociology student in undergrad, with an accidental minor in Women’s Studies. I took all of the classes. I learned all of the theory. I felt empowered. I felt enlightened. I felt opinionated. But opinions are only that: opinions. Opinions do not change the world (unless you’re a Judge, perhaps), but what opinions do mean, though, is that you spend a lot of energy on something about which you probably have no control. At some point in my life, I decided that I would not stress about things that I had no control over, and I would not stress about things I did have control over. Everything in between is just filler. Politics.
I guess the other piece to this is that I am also a social worker. That old adage, judge not lest ye be judged … it is prevalent in all of our actions. Do not judge another. It is not your place. It is not your right. Unless, of course, you’re the Judge.
When I was sworn in, I took an oath. An oath to uphold the law, to respect another, to be a zealous advocate, to be a voice.
I,SOLEMNLY SWEAR OR AFFIRM
I will support the Constitution of the United States // and the Constitution of the State of
I will maintain // the respect due to courts of justice // and judicial officers; I will not
counsel or maintain // any suit or proceeding // which shall appear
to me to be unjust // nor any defense // except such // as I believe to be honestly
debatable // under the law of the land;
I will employ // for the purpose of maintaining // the causes confided to me
// such means // only as are consistent with truth and honor // and will never seek
// to mislead the judge or jury // by any artifice or false statement // of fact or law;
I will maintain the confidence // and preserve inviolate // the secrets of my client // and will
accept no compensation // in connection with a client’s business
// except from the client // or with the client’s knowledge and approval;
To opposing parties and their counsel, // I pledge fairness, // integrity, // and civility, // not
only in court, // but also in all written // and oral communications;
I will abstain from all offensive personality // and advance no fact // prejudicial to the honor or
reputation // of a party or witness // unless required by the justice of the cause // with which I
I will never reject // from any consideration // personal to myself // the cause of the defenseless
or oppressed // or delay any person’s cause // for lucre or malice.
SO HELP ME GOD!
So, no. I don’t have an opinion. I just want to be the voice to yours.