Who cares?

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” (Frederick Douglass)
“Thank you for calling…how may I help you today?”
It was my usual greeting on a usual busy-beehive day at the office where probate files and billing records were calling my name. This was not a usual call.
“Can I just ask you a question?” The voice was young, female, and slightly quivering.
“You may…” I waited.
The story came spilling out about a first-time offense, a class-A misdemeanor, assault with bodily injury to a family member, does she have to go to jail or could she get probation, bi-polar disorder that can’t be cured, please just answer the question! The young voice choked back tears, the fear audible. I wondered how old she was…18, maybe?
“I’m sorry, we are a civil law firm and don’t handle criminal cases. Would you like a referral to someone who could help you?”
She just wanted me to answer her question.
“Do you have a court date?” Yes, in another month.
“Do you have an attorney?” Yes. I suggested strongly that she talk with him or her.
“She’s never available to talk.”
Flashback to a county courtroom some months ago as I watched Robert meet with indigent criminal appointments, calmed them, connected with them, and almost always persuaded the judge to leave them in a better position from whence they came. Then gave them his business card and told them to call if they had any more problems. Case after case of young offenders who saw the light when their attorney couldn’t even see them. Did they need a stern talking-to? They got it. Did they need some compassionate understanding of difficult circumstances? They got it. Week after week at the courthouse I watched a young blind attorney give everything he had as he treated each person as the individual they were and made sure that justice was available to them.
“What do you mean, she’s not available? You call her office right now and leave a message for her to call you, that you need to speak with her. Ask your question until you get an answer. She works for YOU!”
Righteous anger is real. If you can’t give an individual the minimum time to talk with them as fellow-humans, what on earth are you doing in the legal profession? Law is people. Justice is for everyone. Thanks for living it out, Robert, and happy birthday!


It was my birthday. The morning started out overcast with a damp coolness in the air that made a light sweater necessary. We had just picked our way through the various canopies, tables and chairs that were being set up for the day’s Farmer’s Market on Main Plaza, on our usual route to the courthouse. I almost hate to say we were jubilant, because a divorce case is not usually a cause for celebration. We had a couple of extra affidavits to file before we could sign off on this particular one and relieve our client of one of the craziest episodes and burdens in his young life. Robert had done a fabulous job researching all the necessary law (and there was lots of it) that applied to the various twists and turns of the whole insane business, and it was a relief to get the whole thing behind us. Sometimes being so intimately acquainted with the turmoil in other people’s lives can make us really grateful for the relative peace in our own.

As I thought about this, a small familiar-looking red car swerved close to the curb where we were waiting to cross, and I recognized my friend Lupo, fellow church musician and also jazz pianist extraordinaire, waving from within. He told us he would be playing in the Plaza later that morning, so we looked forward to finishing up in the courthouse so we could catch some of the music.

About an hour later, we were back out in Main Plaza, listening to smooth jazz coming from the skilled fingers of Lupo and his friend John on saxophone. The intertwining of “Girl From Ipenema” and “Happy Birthday” is not something you hear every day. Throw in some “Basin Street Blues” and we were having ourselves a pretty great time as the nearby fountains sprayed heavenward at various intervals. From the cathedral across the plaza, the bells began tolling loudly and insistently, and our happy concert came to an abrupt halt. I turned to see the long black body of a funeral hearse pull right outside the church doors, just in front of a group of anti-violence advocates/activists from Pax Christi who were quietly holding signs during their morning vigil. The priests were in procession on the church steps, followed by the pall-bearers with the casket. I had to wonder if these two things were related: could this have been a violent death that made an international organization raise its head and take note? The plaza was so peaceful and beautiful and fresh with the roses beginning to bloom around the perimeter and birds singing their mid-morning greetings. The musicians looked at each other knowingly, mumbled a couple of inaudible words, and launched into their next number.

“I see trees of green, red roses too. I see them bloom for me and you, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

The tune on the soprano sax could just as well have been Louis Armstrong singing the words himself.

“I see skies of blue, and clouds of white, the bright blessed day and the dark sacred night, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Do you ever have those moments when, even though you are detached from what is happening in your surroundings, you find yourself very much a part of them anyway? Beauty mixed with stark misery. Sadness mixed with pure joy and delight. Protest mixed with celebration. The lives we see day in and day out coming and going from the courthouse.

People’s lives.

Life. What a wonderful world.LupoFriend

Good Friday in the City

“Open your mouth on behalf of those unable to speak, for the legal rights of all the dying. Open your mouth, judge in righteousness, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

Who are these people, and what are they doing?
Who are these people, and what are they doing?

Every once in a while, we have what some people would think of as a normal day. You know, hanging around the office, sitting at desks, filing, scanning, making the obligatory phone calls, typing stuff. This was not one of those days.

There is a homeless population in our fair city that seems to thrive on the good will of tourists and charitable citizens. They hang around Main Plaza, the bus stops, various cash and carry stores, the public library and the bathrooms at Whataburger. Sometimes you can find them on the Express buses, trolling for cash from well-heeled suburban taxpayers who they think won’t recognize them. (Note to these bus-types: I ride the bus. I know who you are.) Occasionally, they are given citations for misdemeanors such as aggressive panhandling, public intoxication, interference with traffic flow, etc. The hapless folk who are on the receiving end of the P.I. citation usually end up in “the tank” at the county jail to sleep it off until the following day when they are released back onto the streets.

One such recipient happened to find her way into our office last month, and she had a sad story to tell. She had been picked up for public intoxication and released the following day without her purse. She was heartbroken because the purse contained the only picture she had of her young adolescent son, now living with relatives due to her present lifestyle. Robert made some phone calls and found her purse, along with the discovery of nine more outstanding warrants with the city. We took an hour out of an afternoon to drive over to municipal court to find out what could be done to help this young mother who seemed incapable of making good choices. Robert spoke with the prosecutor and the judge, who agreed to hear her case. It was then set for, ironically, Good Friday.

By the time April rolled around, we had learned a few more things about this homeless woman, one of which was that she had given birth five times, the last time only three months previously. All of her children had been placed in foster care or adopted. She had a drug habit, and although she could read perfectly well and had legible handwriting, she couldn’t seem to rise above life on the street. Her warrants were all a combination of public intoxication and/or aggressive panhandling. She was supposed to come up with $100 before her court appearance, but how this was to be accomplished, we had no idea.

As we pondered these things over eggrolls and soup on Good Friday, the faint sound of a drum beat could be heard above the din of the Chinese tango playing in the little restaurant. The solid glass storefront was a window onto Main Street, and as I watched with curiosity, the drums growing louder, there appeared two Roman soldiers carrying a sign that read, “JESUS, EL REY DE LOS JUDIOS.” (By the way, in this town, se habla espanol. Muchisimo.) Next came the trumpets playing a tune that sounded like something right out of Ben Hur, and people clothed like 30 A.D. Palestinians. Who were these people, and what were they doing? The passion play, for that was what it was, continued down the street, complete with Jesus carrying his cross, the two thieves in chains led behind, a small garrison of soldiers whipping the prisoners, crowds thronging around, shouting in Spanish, and even an appropriately pompous Pontius Pilate. They were headed down another block or so to the cathedral where the mock crucifixion would take place. Here was a sobering reminder of what day it was, and the horrible price that was paid for all of us. Right here on Main Street was the story of the Gift so freely given.

We didn’t know it at the time, but another gift was about to be given, this time to a young homeless woman with a very checkered past and a rather bleak future. When we got to municipal court, which was practically deserted on this Good Friday, Robert met with the prosecutor, received the state’s offers, accompanied our client before the judge, and made the case that this person was in no position to pay any fines or fees; in fact, she would have to re-offend in order to do so. The judge questioned the woman for a few minutes, then gave her answer: if our client would agree to the conditions set by the court, all nine citations would go away. Poof! Gone! Free! Did she understand? She said she did. We hoped for the best. It was her decision.

Just today we saw the woman from a distance as we ate lunch across the street. There she was, back with her most recent boyfriend whom we had met previously, lugging a large suitcase with all their possessions bulging from its tightly zippered compartments. They met up with a character who looked as if he had just stepped off the set of Mad Max and the three went on their way.

Maybe you will find yourself downtown in the near future and think, “who are all these people, and what are they doing?” They are just ordinary people, on what seems to be an ordinary day.

…In Which Justice Has Double Vision

Justice under his desk
Doggie dreams

Not every day is a Courthouse Day. Some days, seeing-eye-dog Justice stays curled up under the desk, situated peacefully between the printer/scanner and the shredder. These wonders of technology can be humming and screaming away at full power, yet Justice slumbers on in doggie dreamland, occasionally kicking his legs as he romps through the meadows of Nod. Dreams are not always pleasant, though. Sometimes he can get a little vocal, whining or growling, probably remembering client meetings like the one where he spent half an hour huddled under a chair in the furthest corner of the probation officer’s small office as the obese man in the wheelchair screamed in pain for what seemed like forever. He was having a seizure, his nurse calmly informed us. The color completely drained from the man’s face as the “seizure” wore on; later that afternoon as we walked back from lunch, we met the nurse again on the street beside an ambulance. “Now the medics think he’s having a heart attack,” she confided calmly. Nice that someone can stay calm throughout these kinds of life-and-death matters. Robert and Justice and I were wound up tighter than a kettle drum by this time. A potential client in an ambulance having a heart attack is really never a good thing. Justice gave a little shiver and sniffed an ambulance tire. We gave the nurse our condolences for her employer and hurried back to the office to pick up a file.

Justice didn’t get to take his harness off or even play a 10-second game of tug-o-war before we were on our way back to the courthouse for an afternoon of navigation through the legal system. This was just too much! A working dog should be afforded a decent nap after such a stressful morning!

It’s only about half a block’s walk across Main Plaza, the common area which joins an historical cathedral, the Riverwalk, various restaurants and the county courthouse in a large square in the middle of the bustling downtown area. So many tourists were out on this particular afternoon! So many smells, coming from all the air currents of the four winds! Every day, we take the same route: across the one-way street, through Main Plaza’s east end nearest the river, through the maze of outdoor tables and chairs and small barricades that prevent traffic, over rough and uneven paving stones, veering west to wait for our crossing light at the next street across from the courthouse. This day was no different…until…

It took me a minute to realize that I was talking to myself. There was no attorney, no seeing-eye-dog, only a southerly breeze gently blowing grit through the grinding noise of buses, cars and construction vehicles as I approached what was to be our crossing point. I glanced around nervously as the double-length Primo bus whizzed past, just a few inches from the crosswalk. Then I spotted them. Justice, his ears perked higher than I had ever seen them and his tail wagging at a 75-degree angle behind him, straining at his harness, nostrils flaring. His master cheerfully walked on, the subtle change in the direction and intent of his guide dog friend barely noticeable. Directly across the street, the culprits innocently waved their feathery tails and pulled their tourist owner closer to the corner crossing. There, in a blinding ray of loveliness, were two of the most beautiful, perfectly proportioned matching blond Golden Retrievers that were ever beheld on a sunny day. A cement mixer rattled past, just in front of the twins. The owner winced at the strong fumes blowing by. Mercifully, the light changed, the traffic came to a halt, and the tourists made their crossing as Justice whined a desperate greeting. I reached them all just in time to explain why Justice had decided to take the day off and that we needed to get back on the straight and narrow before we became the leavings of a Primo bus.

It’s not every day that we get to witness a screaming fit, a heart attack, more tourists and convention traffic whereupon angels fear to tread, or blond twins waving at us from a seemingly unattainable distance. One never knows what goes on in those doggie dreams, but for Justice, every naptime is an adventure.


“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”  (William Butler Yeats)
The morning was cool and rainy. The new leaves were appearing on the trees downtown by the river, and a few brave flowering plants winked up at the gray sky. Flashes of bright Kelly green could be seen on the garb of various downtown workers hurrying along the street: green ties, green cuffs below the wrists of black suits, green and white skirts, sweaters, blouses over neat slacks, and the occasional green wig on a restaurant employee. In the courthouse, a few judges’ chambers were decorated with festive shamrocks and green tinsel. This city was ready to celebrate its Irish heritage! What were the odds that the only court case the Legal Beagles had on St. Paddy’s Day would be a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) with Open Container? Yep, the luck of the Irish.

Upon entering the courtroom, Robert and Justice made their way through the swinging gate to find that the Great Arm of the State had not yet arrived. No matter—why worry about arguing with prosecutors when there was a gallery full of nervous defendants behind the bar? Robert turned and with his built-in amplifier and his best Irish accent (which is pretty darn good, by the way) wished all a very hearty, happy St. Patrick’s Day. “You all look marvelous!” The room erupted in laughter at the man in the shamrock tie who nearly tripped over his seeing-eye-dog as he felt his way from the tables to the bar railing where he could size up the audience a little better. “Remember, true justice is blind, so next time you’ll hire ME.” More chuckles as the crowd relaxed and some even smiled. “It’s going to be a great day!” More attorneys trickled in, the court coordinator and reporter appeared, the bailiff came in and gave his stern instructions about cell phones, hats, standing when answering the docket call, etc. The prosecutors unpacked the state’s files and began their negotiations. The judge himself finally entered and took his place on the bench. “ALL RISE!”
The defendants began to look uncomfortable again as the judge called out their names. As Henry’s name was called, Robert popped to attention and notified the court that he was counsel for the defendant. The young man looked at his court-appointed attorney with a mixture of fear and disdain. He mumbled a few words as Robert introduced himself, and his discomfort showed as we led him to an empty bench out in the hallway for conference. Yes, he had been drinking. Yes, he had an open container in his car. His father was a rotten SOB who had just heaped all kinds of abuse on him hours before. “OK, I get that. You’re not a bad person. People make mistakes. You were just being silly. It’s no fun when you have losers telling you what a loser you are. The question is, what are you willing to do to fix your problem?” This, of course, is the Reader’s Digest condensed version of what transpired as the kid began to relax and realize that here at last was a person who genuinely cared about what happened to him and was willing to spend the time connecting as one human being to another. As Robert laid out the options and we discussed the state’s offer (1 year of probation for 1st time offense, Interlock system on his car, alcohol treatment course, 48 hours of community service, a fine of $750, and a couple of routine evaluations for alcohol-related offenses), the light began to dawn on Henry that maybe this wasn’t The End Of All Things and he wouldn’t have to go to jail, and maybe he could even get his car back eventually.
Back in the courtroom, I sat in the gallery with a much more relaxed and positive young man than the tense, tattooed punk kid with the spikes in his ears whom we had met just an hour previously. “I never thought I’d meet anyone in here who cared what happened to me,” he said. “I woke up early this morning and started praying. I haven’t prayed in a long time. I never knew lawyers could be like that…he’s so happy, and he’s BLIND!” Yeah, how about that? More light was beginning to dawn.

As Henry’s name was called and he stood before the judge, Robert’s hand on his shoulder, he listened to the state’s charges against him. He received his probated sentence, we accompanied him back to the judge’s chambers to file his probation orders, and he shook our hands, smiling. “Thanks for everything. I’m going to do everything they tell me so I can go back to school and hopefully get a better job. Thanks again!”
Would this kid follow through? We truly hoped for the best for him. The alcohol treatment classes would be a good start. Robert had talked with him like a stern uncle. What he needed was some strong intervention in his life and just a little luck. The luck of the Irish. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)

Early one morning in December, before the time anyone usually came into the office, long before the receptionists had arrived to unlock conference rooms, sort mail, or answer phones, the phone rang. Now please understand that on a normal day, the door to the office would have been locked, and I had given Megan our only extra key on the previous evening as I wasn’t sure what time I would arrive. But this was not a normal day. The door had been left unlocked the night before, I know not how, though it probably had something to do with the post-Christmas-party carbohydrate overload. Back to the phone call: I heard the automated voice of the County jail system asking if a call from an inmate would be accepted. Still being a little new to it all and not knowing any better, I accepted. The voice on the other end was a little frantic: he wanted to know his court date for a criminial trespassing offense, and since Robert was his court-appointed attorney, would we please help him find out if his social security debit card had been stolen or used. He was a trustee, and only had one more phone call. This one was about to be cut short, as the automated voice alerted me, so I told him to call back in about half an hour, at which time he could possibly speak with an actual attorney. He said he would try.

The office suites gradually hummed to life over the next half-hour, and the scheduled child-support hearing at the courthouse took our attention for the rest of the morning. The court-appointments were printed out and calendared, and we realized that the early morning inmate didn’t have his hearing until sometime in January; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, to be exact….a holiday. Robert made a phone call to the jail to ask about the man’s personal property and to get assurances that it was safely locked away. The homeless inmate had food and shelter for now. All was well.

Fast forward 2 days: Megan and I were in the office the Friday morning before Christmas, tying up loose ends on the “to-do” list, reviewing the case for the mid-afternoon client meeting, and wondering when Robert’s Christmas cookies would arrive, since we ordered them a few days previously. Aforementioned attorney was down the hall, intensely engaged with a colleague regarding an upcoming case near and dear to his heart. All at once, from seemingly nowhere, Megan looked up, drew a sharp breath and stated very matter-of-factly, “We’ve got to get down to the jail to see Homeless Javier RIGHT NOW.” Within a fraction of a second, as if the communal light bulb had just been switched on, I nodded agreement just before the back of her head could be seen breezing down the hallway. I stood up and put on my coat (which is almost always a signal to seeing-eye-dog Justice that life is about to get hard). Robert came along willingly, and within half an hour the four of us were face to face with our distressed inmate.

As it turned out, his wallet and belongings had not been confiscated by the police. It was even worse: they had been deliberately left behind on the loading dock where he had been sleeping before his arrest. His Social Security Debit card, his Lone Star card and other I.D. papers were gone. All of his belongings, clothes, Bible, personal items…gone. Robert counseled him to get a prisoner I.D. while in the jail and asked him about any contacts he may have had on the outside. Our client had a diagnosis from a physician for not only bi-polar disorder, but schizophrenia as well. Would he take deferred adjudication in order to get the conviction erased from his record? His only other conviction had been public intoxication. Would he rather just go to jail court, accept a conviction, and get out of jail, maybe by Christmas? Yes, he said, he just wanted out. He would take the conviction, he said; just please get him out of jail so that he could try to get his life back on track. We left, thinking out loud to ourselves about how the homeless/mental-health patients in the greatest country on earth could really get the shaft.

Later that afternoon as we sat in a clean, comfortable conference room enjoying our delicious warm lunch from the deli across the street, graciously ordered-in by another attorney friend, U.S. Code 42 § 1983 came up in conversation. The negligence of the police in this particular case was debated. Things could get pretty complicated, really. We hoped for the best. Then came the email: Our client Homeless Javi was suddenly set for jail court on December 24th, Christmas Eve. What better time to spring someone from the smelly Bexar County Jail? But, then we wondered, where would he go? How would he find transportation to get anywhere if he did go? Who could help him with all the bureaucratic red tape necessary for reinstatement of his government benefits?

When Christmas Eve rolled around, we piled into the designated staff car and drove over to the jail for the 10:30 docket. Justice’s nostrils flared as we entered the odiferous court area. There was our guy, his hands and feet shackled, wearing the striped prisoner uniform of the jail trustee and a worried expression on his lined face. After a few words with the prosecuter, Robert proceeded to go through the formalities with the client. His name was called and the judge heard his plea of “guilty.” Robert made sure that the court made a note of the missing items the client claimed were in his possession at the time of the arrest. “What’s your point, Mr. D?” snapped the judge. That pesky U.S.C. 42 § 1983 came up again, but the judge allowed it to stand in the record. Homeless Javi’s facial muscles relaxed as he signed the bailiff’s orders. He shook hands with Robert and wished us a Merry Christmas as he and the other prisoners were led back out of the court for processing. He told us he was headed down to the Social Security office first thing. Again, we wondered how it was all going to come together for him.

As we drove back to the office, I kept thinking that surely there was more that could be done for a lonely, ill homeless man at Christmas with nothing more than the clothes on his back and a prisoner I.D. to his name. I started to feel very inadequate and helpless. That’s when it occurred to me that the Baby born in the lowly manger over 2,000 years ago was announced first to some lowly, dirty, smelly shepherds out watching their flocks in a field one night. That Baby would become a King someday. The King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor. Wonderful Counselor! We needn’t worry, I thought. Javi already had an attorney—a Wonderful Counselor. Was it a coincidence that I just happened to be in the office to take the frantic call on a morning when there was not even a key to open the door? Was it only happenstance that prompted Megan to get us physically down to the jail one day last week when so many other things were vying for our attention? Was it only a fluke that Robert received the Jail court notice that very afternoon? Was it synchronicity that a blind attorney didn’t take a vacation day on Christmas Eve? Or was it….

To quote from one of our favorite movies, Miracle on 34th Street (when the lawyer thought that he had just “proven” that Santa Claus was real), “maybe I didn’t do such a good thing after all!” So there would be others out there who needed a good reminder of Christmas, and the Wonderful Counselor would not withhold it from them, just like He did not withhold it from us. He would spread the cheer around this Christmas Eve by using others as His hands and feet, and we were thankful to have been a little part of it.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Merry Christmas, everyone!



“Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.” (Frederic Bastiat)

“Some days a diamond, some days a stone…,” goes the song. Today we took a break from our regularly scheduled programming of petty theft, child support evasion, and terroristic threats inside the Bexar County Courthouse to meet a real diamond. On our way to lunch, an ancient little man pulled Robert aside to ask about Justice the Seeing Eye Dog, and to reminisce about a wonderful black lab that belonged to him at one time. One thing led to another (as it usually does when Robert gets cranked up) and the man’s wife revealed that he was a retired attorney, in practice for 65 years. They had come to the courthouse just to sit in on probate court “for fun” while on a trip to San Antonio to visit the grandchildren. The man then revealed that he came to practice law because of what happened to him in World War II. We all felt like bowing down and kissing his hand by the time he finished his harrowing story.
The young man’s plane was shot down over Germany, and he was captured by the Nazis and taken to a prison camp which later became known as the notorious Stalag 17. He was starved, tortured (toenails removed) and otherwise severely mistreated in order to ascertain facts about the G-Box contained on board his plane. After this not-so-warm welcome, he remained in the camp until liberation, and the Americans found him, along with other prisoners, in the forest, eating snails and grass just to survive. Mr. C said he determined at that point that he would work to keep people out of prison, and he devoted the rest of his working life to doing just that. His wife pulled out his original black and white POW photograph from his wallet, a reminder of the bad old days. His head was shaved, his eyes sunken, the youthful boyish demeanor replaced by one who well understood the seriousness of the German lettering on the prison chalkboard he held up in front of his thin torso. And here he was, 70 years later, with graying, thinning hair still curling atop a high forehead, a little stooped at “ninety-and-a-half,” as he put it. He confided to me that when he met his present wife (who we at first mistook for his daughter) about 12 years ago, he was taller than she. He looks up to her now in more ways than one, as we found out while he bragged on her PhD accomplishments. Ah, young love!
For those of us who have the luxury of getting up every day from our safe, comfortable beds and stumbling down the hallway for an aromatic cup of morning joe, it’s great to remember that people like this old man have been fighting for our way of life, values, and freedom even after the horrible world war that took his innocence had long been over. As we watched our friends depart, I couldn’t help looking up at the bronze statue of Lady Justice over the fountain in front of the courthouse and thinking what a great privilege it is to be a part of the legal world where good and compassionate people work to ensure liberty and justice for all. There will always be wolves in disguise, of course (or not so disguised); but for the most part the people I have met give me great hope that my children and grandchildren will live in the greatest country on earth because of its laws and those who daily work to defend them or even change them as needed. Sleep well tonight, everyone!