Monday, April 14, 2008

Vox et Praeterea Nihil – A Voice and Besides That Nothing

It is obvious, to me anyway, that I am not competent to judge anyone running for public office on his/her character, antecedents, race, color, creed, friends, or how the ladder was climbed, any more than those who have written about those factors. Like my friends, I listen to my gut when it gurgles, and have a hard time changing initial impressions, those first ones that are more often than not lasting. In my lifetime of work, I found it relatively easy to speak during depositions or in a courtroom, be it a jury or non-jury trial, or on the appellate level, when and if prepared. Once the bathtub of my mind was filled with the case and its issues, the words came. I had prepared yellow pads with notes, but almost never referred to them while clambering to my feet.

In later life, when writing became the way for me to communicate --- no live audiences around in the apartment and the soap boxes were gone from the public parks --- the same thing happened: words came, if and when I was prepared, and came better, if and when they were edited, rewritten, rewritten, honed, deleted, toned down, practices absent from the oral life led before retirement. Often, I was not prepared but yacked on anyway, and in writing, often did I send out what had been written as quickly as the thoughts tumbled out, even without a spell-check. On those many occasions, it was evident to me that I was: Vox et praeterea nihil ---A voice and besides that nothing.

As a lawyer, it was so easy for me to find our antecedents in the ancient Sophists, the speakers, the advocates for whomever: a mind quick enough to grasp the issues and a tongue glib enough to spill out the solution favored by the client, regardless of which solution was favored. A lawyer friend of mine was accosted by the Chief Justice during an appellate argument, "Brother, you said just the opposite last week in another case. Which one do you wish us to follow?"  My friend answered, "I am an advocate. For clients. You are judges. It's up to you to decide." I think that later he said, "You win one, you lose one."

To me, about myself, when aware of the flow of words, I could always sense whether it was Prepared advocate or Vox et praeterea nihil. The former was OK, sometimes with an authentic ring of sincerity and earnestness mingling with the timbre of the voice. The latter was glib, shallow, gilt, based often on what I had assumed the audience wished to hear, and just as often sickening to the speaker, me. Knowing my own vox et praeterea nihil so well, I always found it relatively easy to spot its tone and the rush of its words in another. Gilt is not gold. Glib is not pondered. Shallow has no depth.

I see and hear that in and from Barack Obama, my gut tells me so. And lately I have begun to hear the gurgle groan into a growl when he shows an adept ability to attack opponents, whether ad mulierem for the other gender
or ad hominem for an older man. His honed skills show by simultaneously denying that personal attacks are being simultaneously uttered, because vox et praeterea nihil often requires two tongues for double-speak, three for innuendo, and four to keep up the impression of being on the high road, above us all.

As of now, our choices for President are three. In the fall, there will be but two. Next January, the horror of the Fall and Decline of the United States of America may be arrested, even reversed, depending on the Vox and our gut's reaction to it.


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