Phil Harris

There is a paradox at work in this election. Maybe it can be chalked up to a lack of wisdom, or a disregard for wisdom amongst newly minted adults, (a.k.a.) the youth vote. When polled about who they trust (by occupation), people have consistently ranked Doctors and Teachers at the top of the list, and Lawyers at or near the bottom.

In a 2006 Harris Poll, lawyers would have maintained their position at the bottom of the trustworthiness barrel, except for the fact that the Pollster included Actors as a new choice. Actors are now at the bottom of the list, bumping Lawyers up a notch to second least trustworthy.

I suppose lawyers are inherently bound to be untrustworthy. Their duty to advocate for clients requires the use of blinders and shaded glasses. The de facto standard for all other people on the planet is that honesty is a non-negotiable precondition to good citizenship. Holding lawyers to the same standard would mean criminals could never obtain adequate representation in court.

Lawyers are trained to put the truth in their back pocket, lest they be tempted to violate a client's right to representation. Not withstanding the fact that lawyers will argue the notion, many will have a difficult time finding the contents of their back pocket outside of the lawyer-client setting. Everyone tends to become what we practice. Physicians are not expected to leave their medical knowledge at the clinic.

It seems that in order to maintain a sense of normalcy, lawyers have no choice but to adopt an altered view of truth. One of the highest-resolution mental snapshots of this phenomenon at work was in the case of Bill Clinton, defending his blatant disregard for honesty while giving testimony to a Grand Jury.

Remember: "…it depends on what the definition of IS, is".

Americans have a lot of common-sense wisdom in their gut, and in that light they have ranked lawyers near or at the bottom of the trustworthiness scale. Nevertheless, voters have consistently put those they find least trustworthy (lawyers) in power. Fifty-nine lawyer Senators (59%) and one-hundred seventy-four lawyer Representatives (40%) were elected to the 110th Congress.

None of this makes a bit of sense. Americans have entrusted their most precious asset (this unique country) to people they trust the least, and according to recent polls, voters are thinking about putting another lawyer in power, Barack Obama.


Phil Harris

Phil Harris is a software engineer, author of Cry for the Shadows and blogs at Citizen Phil.

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