To a blond cherubic child,
a courtroom seems a fine place
to explore on hands and
knees, crawling under benches
filled with well-dressed and
solemn adults speaking seriously
about serious things. But he is
held back by his father, who
is nervous and wants to make
a good impression and show that
he is a good father to his adorable
little ragamuffin son.
Meanwhile, a cell phone rings, and
a mother hands the ringing phone
to her adult child, who answers it
while court is in session, and the judge
is talking to someone else, maybe even
her attorney, and she eagerly tells her
girl friend that court is in session
and since the friend is in the area
dealing with a case of her own that she
can run over and join her to chat and
to commiserate about what is going on
in the other courtroom.
In our day and age, we are used to speaking of the adult, parent, or child in ourselves and others, regardless of our age . In many respects, this understanding is due to the tendency we have of speaking about moral issues in the language of psychology. We may recognize that our own innocent but playful aspects of ourselves are surviving elements of our child within. People write books trying to praise the tendency of men to be wild at heart, and many of us who are adults enjoy those times when we are able to live without the stress of having to make so many decisions as we do, and allow ourselves to live naturally. On the other hand, when adults fail to live up to their responsibilities as parents, they often parentize their children, who are raised to be concerned about the well-being of adults and trying to act responsibility for the common good even as the parents themselves act like children whose whims and moods are to be catered to, and who are often not thinking and acting in the best interests of themselves and the little people that they are responsible for. We are dealing, of course, with the dysfunctional families that tend to find themselves in courtrooms dealing with the machinery of the law.
For a variety of reasons, I have long been fascinated by the machinery of law despite my general lack of experience with courts and trials under the sort of normal experiences that we assume from watching procedural television shows and movies. As a child, my parents divorced, and it was an exceedingly ugly trial, but it was only years later when I read the various paperwork related to the trial and gained the insight that those who have the worst cases often have the best representation as a way of trying to even the score. Some people work on improving the facts of the case, while others seek to hire those who are skilled at using the law. Whichever approach is best is not something I can speak to with any degree of competence. Even so, while I was a part of a local teen court program when I was a preteen and teenager, and while I have been involved in a subtle way in courts as an adult, I have not found myself in the sort of civil or criminal trials that people think of when they think of trials. Rather I am most familiar with administrative hearings where questions of fact have generally already been decided and that are focused on the sanctions and steps required for someone whose guilt has already been recognized to earn the good graces of the court and to move on with their lives and hopefully move past all of the unpleasant business that goes on.
In that kind of administrative court environment, there is a great room for the behavior of people to make a large difference in the outcome of particular hearings. Where there is discretion, the cooperation or noncooperation of various people can make a huge difference on how things go. Basic survival skills in dealing with the administrative apparatus of the law includes respect for others. Life goes a lot easier when there is respect present. On the tactical level, showing respect for officers of the court tends to reduce one’s appearance as a threat, which makes everyone else more comfortable working with you and dealing with you. On a diplomatic level, that respect allows one to build alliances with others and be able to pursue one’s own goals with the knowledge that these goals will be supported by plenty of other people rather than opposed by those with more institutional power. On a logistical level, respect allows one to build goodwill and receive help when it comes to navigating the confusing field of law, including expertise and monetary assistance. On a strategic level, respect for the officers of law shows a respect for law and an interest in being law-abiding that would tend to reduce one’s likelihood of being involved frequently in the unpleasant machinery of law that can make one’s life miserable. Those who persist in justifying themselves as blameless in the face of knowledge that this is not the case and who fail to build rapport with others tend to fare worse when it comes to cases where there is wide discretion on the part of judges who understandably appreciate being treated with respect themselves as people as well as the authority figures within a courtroom.
When we think about a poem like this one, it is worthwhile to examine the structural nature of the poem. As is often in the case of writings where an explicit contrast is being made between two people or two situations , it is worthwhile to examine what contrasts are being made. A few contrasts are rather obvious. On the one hand, the first child is adorable and little, not expected to take an interest in what is going on in the courtroom and generally praised for his good behavior and not fussing. On the other hand, we have an adult that acts in an immature fashion by answering a cell phone while court is in session rather than following the rules and preserving the decorum of the hearing. On the one hand, we have a child whose childish longings are restrained by a father who wants to make a good impression on the other people in the courtroom, a rather sensible course of action. On the other hand, we have an adult who thinks only of herself and has no concern for the impression that she is making by having her phone ring in the courtroom and deciding to answer it. We also have a contrast here being made between a properly restraining father who is seeking to teach his son to follow the rules and a mother who is enabling her adult daughter to break the rules, even to her and their detriment. Obviously, this sort of contrast is designed to encourage us to think about our own behavior, as well as the behaviors that we support and encourage in others, especially when one considers the seriousness of being in front of a judge.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: