Thursday, December 08, 2005

Frame of Reference

On Halloween I wrote a post entitled "Old Age Approacheth." I'll seriously need to revisit the title of that post, because truth came crashing down upon me this weekend:

Old age is already here.

I volunteered to judge a moot court competition at a local area law school. I was particularly excited about this one because it was a high school competition: local area kids would be arguing a faux appellate case to test their skill in thinking analytically on their feet, and I do so enjoy watching kids squirm seeing our youth succeed.

The point of moot court is that it simulates appellate argument; in order to do well, you have to be able to hold fast to a position, with logical support, while a panel of judges grills you on why this case is different or the same as previously decided cases ("But doesn't the XXX case control, which holds that your client loses?"), and what the ramifications of a particular holding will be ("If we hold the way you ask, doesn't that mean that blah blah blah other cases will reach bad results?"). I won't bore you with the details regarding the fact pattern or what the kids were arguing in this endeavor, but one of the issues involved whether wearing a particular type of "protest clothing" was or was not likely to lead to serious problems like violence or a breakdown of order. During the course of the argument the following exchange took place [paraphrased from memory, of course]:

Counsel: In this case, the audience mostly agreed with Mr. Smith's actions. They cheered and applauded him for wearing what he did. So the risk of violence was obviously very low.
Me: That's not necessarily true, is it? Just because people agree with the controversial speaker doesn't mean that the event will remain nonviolent.
Counsel: Well yes, Your Honor, where the crowd agrees, there is less of a chance that anyone is going to get violent.
Me: No, I have to disagree. For example, the fact that most of a section of Los Angeles "agreed" that the police department was racist didn't result in a calm protest against racism, it led to looting and rioting and burning cars and assaulting police officers....
Counsel: Uh... could you repeat the question?
Me: [suddenly losing all color in face] Woah... you're too young to remember what the hell I'm talking about, aren't you?

I was the oldest person in the room that afternoon. The other judges were all law students or more recent law grads (approximately 25 on the outside), but they had an understanding of my allusion. But in the end I wasn't able to come up with another more relevant example of "agreement leads to violence" so I abandoned that line of questioning completely.

This aging this always knocks me for a loop. It's life sending me a reality check that, despite my personal delusions, I'm not a spring chicken anymore.

Those kids I was grilling are the spring chickens.


Sub Girl said...

chickens are yummmy...

Dennis! said...

Sub: I'm so afraid to respond to that comment.... LOL.

Reya Mellicker said...

Dennis if these people didn't know what you were alluding to, then shouldn't they be reading contemporary history a little more carefully? There was a definite teaching opportunity at hand - you could have given them an overview of the riots.

It creeps me out to think of law students who haven't studied contemporary history, it really does.

BRAVO to you for bringing it into their fields of vision, at least.

Steve said...

I think it's great you're taking part in events like this. But yeah, when your age is looking right at you like that, it's a *major* bitch-slap.

Dennis! said...

Reya: The kids who were arguing were actually high school kids. I think they were born between 1988 and 1990 or so. So they weren't law students, just kids looking for a challenge (which I commend them for). I'm sure eventually they'll learn much much more about the riots.