There are some jobs that, for the sake of my own mental health I’m exceptionally glad I don’t have.
Before I start, a warning: The story I’m linking to isn’t a pleasant read, but it’s an important one.
By way of context, it’s taken me several goes to get through it.
Partly because it’s very long.
Mostly, however, because the other word I could use to describe it is harrowing.
The following story is HARD reading, and in the modern context, I should say that there’s trigger warnings for abuse of just about every kind.
We Saw Nuns Kill Children: The Ghosts of St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage
The headline is a warning in itself, but at the same time, it’s a story that just keeps on hitting you in the guts, over and over again.
I had to stop and cry more than once reading through it. Exceptional journalism, though, and wonderfully laid out for maximum impact while you’re reading it.
Good writing should make you think, and this certainly has.
Over and above the evil that people and institutions can be responsible for (not to minimise that in any way), about the nature of the law, and how you defend actions that, on the basis of what’s presented, seems indefensible.
I’m certain I couldn’t do it. Just reading that story had me shaking with equal parts of rage and revulsion. There’s just simply no way I could handle that kind of matter, day in and day out in a capacity where it was my job to lessen the impact of witness statements of this kind.
And yet, this is what lawyers do.
Now, the lawyers as presented in that piece don’t come across all that well, and that could indeed be a matter of both presentation and interpretation on the writer’s side. I guess some folks can compartmentalise, or simply choose not to believe.
But in a broader sense, there’s the flipside: I do think that everyone deserves the right to the presumption of innocence, and to have representation to defend themselves in legal matters.
That will, by its nature, mean that lawyers will have to defend folks who may (or may not) have done despicable things.
This isn’t meant to be a scream at lawyers in general, because by its nature that’s not going to be an easy task to settle against your own inner mental health. Indeed, I’m glad it’s them and not me.
I know a few lawyers (although none, to the best of my knowledge, who do this kind of work anyway) and they’re great, bright, empathetic people. Anecdotal evidence, I know. Always dangerous, that stuff.
Still, cliched jokes aside, lawyers are human beings too, and I wonder how they sort that kind of work out inside their own heads.
It would utterly destroy me.