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The persuasive and life power of loving ourselves and all, even our perceived enemies

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I loved my first tie-dye shirt. I wore it proudly at my summer day camp and beyond during the 1971 summer before third grade. I guess I had not read the t-shirt closely enough before, in response to my annoying a camp counselor about his getting publicly mushy with his girlfriend, he pointed out that my tie-dye t-shirt included "love" alongside "peace" and the peace symbol. All this talk about love surrounded me my whole life, in rock songs, in the Ten Commandments, in movies, and more.

I ultimately started understanding the importance of love in the romantic sense and the family sense. At the Trial Lawyers College and later on its listserv, a bunch of people were saying "I love you" to me and others, to the point that I wondered if the phrase were becoming meaningless in their words.

Then I met Ram Dass in 2003 and Sharon Salzberg in 2012. Ram Dass, by now one of my key teachers, underlines that life and handling its challenges is all about love. Sharon and Bob Thurman even came out with a book recently — Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit — that, as I read it, tells me that we must love ourselves and all people, because to do otherwise will be our undoing. Bob Thurman goes as far as to emphasize that in an important sense, the only enemies we have are within ourselves.

I do not believe in blindly following anyone or their views, but the sources of Ram Dass and Sharon Salzberg make me pay all the more attention than if the message were coming from some schmoe on the streetcorner.

At this stage, I do better focusing on being compassionate to all instead of being ready to say that I love the prosecutors, judges, and police who most step on my clients’ Constitutional rights. Nevertheless, I remain repeatedly influenced very much by Ram Dass’s message of love and Sharon’s of metta/lovingkindness. Another way of approaching their message is to treat even the worst-seeming of human transgressors as humans first and not to judge them. With that in mind, I recently was reminded of the magic of doing so when I was speaking with a prosecutor whom I initially many years ago decided was a horse’s a__, Just when I thought that I had gotten beyond that with him over the years, recently in court he was again speaking in terms that challenged whether I would again use the same phrase to describe him. I recognized the importance of taking the higher road. Calling him a horse’s a__ to him, to myself, or to my client was not going to help my client. Keeping my eyes on the battle prize is the goal for my client.

Curiously, with my having thrown no additional coals in the prosecutor’s negative fire, of his own accord he switched later in the morning to speaking to me with a kind tone of voice, even calling me "Mr. Katz" (nobody needs to call me by my last name, by the way).

Another prosecutor whom I decided early on a few years ago was a heartless person now freely and good naturedly jokes around with me, making it all the easier for me to open his ears to my settlement arguments. This only happened after he told me something about himself personally that I was able to connect with, to remind myself that he was a human before he became a prosecutor.

Not long after the foregoing turnaround, I was with another prosecutor in another county who seemed coldly to approach me, having taken the baton of the case from his colleague, trying to grill me about a few discovery matters, and expressing deep irritation that I would not yield an inch on a discovery matter. Rather than telling my client or myself that he is an a__hole, I told my client to remain patient about what would transpire on the discovery matter — whether by prosecutorial cooperation or judicial order — and his case, because time is a commodity. Sure enough, in less than an hour, the prosecutor fully complied with my discovery request, even providing me some information to which I am not automatically entitled under the Virginia discovery rules.

It sometimes seems easier to fight fire with an equal amount of fire. However, when one wants to win in court and in life, a fighter needs to beware having that fire blow back on him during a windstorm.

I should not have to be reminding myself at this stage in life about the power of the foregoing approaches, but these reminders and this approach work. Moreover, Sharon and Bob are right including "the Anger Habit" in their book title; old habits can die hard. The foregoing lessons are simple to understand, but often require much work and self control to apply and achieve. That is a key part of the t’ai chi battle.