Ku Klux Klan
A large dark cloud hangs over my head.
But I will not exit the pool until I hear thunder or see lightening.
I sit on the bottom step as one rain drop slaps the water’s surface.
I wait and watch for another.
When the next one hits, it creates a bubble—a perfectly formed beautiful bubble that floats on the water and pops.
Why it pops so quickly, I haven’t a clue.
A minute later pitter-patter, pitter-patter, pitter-patter.
A 100 drops hit, a 100 bubbles form and a 100 bubbles pop.
A crescendo of heavenly drops.
Transfixed, I marvel at this choreographed water ballet.
“Who can question the existence of a higher being?”
I see lightning;
I hear thunder;
I exit the pool.
Under the protection of the porch, I dry off and watch the last drops hit the water.
I focus on another dark cloud hanging over my head.
A work crisis.
I’m an attorney for Legal Services of Greater Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
At Legal Services, we represent poor folks that can’t afford a private attorney.
My area of practice is Domestic Relations.
I run a unit consisting of one lawyer (me) and one legal secretary.
I interview a stocky, unemployed 30-year-old man, who wears a crew cut and blue overalls.
He wants custody of his 10-year-old daughter.
I ask, “Is there anything in your past or present that your wife can use against you in this custody fight?”
“Yeah, I’m a member of the Klan—the KKK.”
“I’m one of the leaders of the Baton Rouge chapter.”
Without flinching, I write a note on my legal pad as if most of my clients are racists.
In my head, I write a note “Study his pockets to see if he is carrying a gun.”
In my head, I wonder, “Does this Kluxer know I’m a Jew?”
“When he walked into my office, and introduced himself did we shake hands?”
I feel an urge to go to the restroom and wash my hands.
Maybe he’s one of those rednecks that never met a Jew.
Maybe he wouldn’t know one if he met one.”
Maybe he understands the adage, ‘Beggars can’t be choosers.’
I decide not to tell him:
That both of my parents, two of my grandparents and two of my aunts were slaves in concentration camps;
That I lost uncles, grandparents, a great grandfather to the Nazis.
That I hate everything he stands for and that I’d like to see him die on a burning cross.
But I didn’t.
That night, for two hours, I wrestled with my conscience.
What would my parents advise me to?
What would my deceased loved ones say?
What would my rabbi counsel me to do?
What would Martin Buber recommend?
Can I represent this man?
Can I represent him to the best of my abilities?
I rationalize, “I am not representing neo-Nazis seeking a permit to march through Skokie.
This is only a custody fight.
His wife might also be a Ku Klux Klan?”
In law school, the professors taught us that, “lawyers have duties above their personal values:
Lawyers have ethical duties to the court, their client and society greater than their personal values.”
Would my duty to the court be paramount?
The professors compared a lawyer’s duty to that of a Jewish doctor seeing a Klan member dying after a car accident.
The Hippocratic oath wouldn’t allow the physician to neglect a dying patient just because he’s a member of the Klan.
I had taken an oath and I was not going to break it.
For three hours in that Baton Rouge courtroom, we battled over who was best suited to raise this 10-year-old.
I gave it my all and my client, the Klan leader, lost the custody fight.
Later that day, I’m back in the pool, sitting on the bottom step, studying the surface of the water.
Not a cloud floats above my head.
I know I’ve been tested.
And in my eyes, I passed the test.