My father marched at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He went to Washington to see Dr. King speak. His work as a defense attorney has helped demonstrate the unjustness of the death penalty and his was one of the cases referenced by Gov. Ryan when he issued a moratorium against capital punishment. In my mind, I still sometimes imagine my dad like I did when I was ten: the Good Lawyer protecting the innocent from Evil Cops, fighting for Civil Rights and Other Important Issues Warranting Capitalization.
Life rarely that simple. Family certainly isn’t.
There was a slowly dawning sense of discomfort during my teenage years, as I started to notice the times my dad would talk about clients he knew were guilty but would receive reduced sentences based on police misconduct. Now, to be perfectly clear, I think police misconduct is almost always a greater societal problem than the guilty person getting a break. Better ten guilty men go free, and all that. I still believe my dad is one of the Good Guys, and that even the guiltiest among us deserves fair and competent counsel. But my dad is also a more nuanced and complicated individual than I as able to acknowledge as a child.
Still, I sometimes expect him to see all civil rights and justice issues the way I do. Which made speaking with him tonight something like banging my head against a wall. The discussion began, as so many do, with talk of breasts.