Ethics Hero: Criminal Defense Lawyer/Blogger Scott Greenfield

Scott Greenfield’s post yesterday on his blog Simple Justice was fortuitous, coming as it did shortly after my musings (item #2) about a trusted and respected legal ethics colleague whose ugly past ethical breach I only recently learned about. Greenfield isn’t quite discussing the same issue—my dilemma involves trusting someone’s judgment and integrity, his involves pure friendship—but his post is helpful nonetheless, and admirable.

In fact, it reminds me of my father.

Greenfield, who, like most criminal defense attorneys I know, leans well to the left side of the political and social values spectrum (rationally and thoughtfully), revealed that two of his longtime friends are far-Right provocateur and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, and far, far Left pundit Elie Mystal, who is also, among other things, an anti-white racist. Greenfield writes in part, (do read the whole thing)

How is it possible to like both of these guys?…[H]ere I am, a guy who tends to abhor radical insanity, feeling friendship, brotherhood, with two rascals like Cerno and Elie. How can this be?

Tolerance of people who believe, think, say and do things with which you completely disagree is one of the more difficult principles for a liberal to hold dear. It’s hard to be tolerant. It’s hard to know, even if you don’t talk about it, that someone with whom you’re friends thinks something you know to be absolutely false. How could a reasonable person believe such an unreasonable thing? Even worse, how could that person believe something dangerously nuts?

Liking people is more like preferring maple walnut to chocolate ice cream than it is wanting to do a group project with them for your grievance studies class. There is no rational reason for it, nor does there need to be. It’s just how you feel, and feelings are not rational. Most of the people we interact with regularly, like or not, are people whose politics or views are unknown to us….

When did people decide that they were so dedicated to their religion, to their cause, they couldn’t tolerate being friends with, maybe even in the same room with, someone who didn’t agree with their wildest view? Today, college students won’t room with students who would vote the “wrong” way. …As for me, I like my old friends just because I like them. I don’t always agree with them, and sometimes I vehemently disagree with them, but they’re still my friends…

Having friends is good. Having friends who span the spectrum of views helps you to remember that people see things differently, and while you may ultimately agree or disagree with them, you will be more inclined to consider ideas that come from friends before rejecting them out of hand. But most importantly, even when they’re completely wrong or batshit crazy, they’re still friends and you can enjoy a meal or a potable beverage with them, laugh, relax and have fun. And if people don’t like you because of who you have as friends, fuck ’em.

That last sentence is pure Scott Greenfield, and also spot on.

I have always tried to have the same attitude regarding friends (and relatives too); it is another legacy from my father, whose best and oldest freind—call him Bud— was morally and ethically the opposite of Dad, a clinical sociopath. I know I mentioned this here before, but at Dad’s friend’s funeral, a second wife and set of kids from Australia showed up. Yes, he was a bigamist, and led a double life—at least. Nobody who knew Bud was surprised, even his American wife. I say I have always tried to have the same attitude as Scott and my father regarding friendships; I cannot say the same for all of my friends through the years, especially on Facebook.

Well, fuck ’em. Greenfield’s prescription for tolerance is not enough alone, but it must be significant part of this nation’s recovery from such wounds as President Biden despicable and dangerous speech last week.

3 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Criminal Defense Lawyer/Blogger Scott Greenfield

  1. The word tolerance is thrown around a lot. Do those who use it so often really know its meaning? One can tolerate bad behavior yet still identify the bad behavior for what it is. Tolerance is not accepting or normalizing bad behavior and then demanding others to do the same. EG- If I am at a fancy dinner and someone pores red wine into a white wine glass or uses the wrong knife to butter his bread, I can tolerate that but neither I nor he, cannot demand my red wine be poured into a white wine glass nor can I use the steak knife to butter my bread.

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