Law in Contemporary Society

Essay #1

-- By AndreaMetz - 1 June 2017


In the mornings, my mother’s room smelled like Calvin Klein perfume, lotion, and hairspray. The scents swirled heavily in the air as five (seven, nine…) year-old me watched her get ready for work at the Allstate office where she sold insurance. Her skirt suit hung on the handle of the closet with matching heels on the floor underneath as she put on her makeup, lipstick last, and spritzed herself with perfume. She had teased bangs that she would then fix into place with the hairspray, shielding her eyes with one hand. I loved that smell. It made me feel instinctually safe. 

The refuge of my mother’s bedroom on a weekday morning is a memory. Like many mother daughter relationships, ours is often difficult. I accuse her of self-interestedness and blindness and she (in so many words) accuses me of elitism while she brags to her friends about the fact that I go to Columbia in the same breath. 

Born in 1965 in a small town called McConnellsburg? (population 1,061) in Fulton County, Pennsylvania, my mom was the second youngest of five siblings. She headed off to Penn State Main Campus on an Air Force ROTC scholarship at seventeen, but got pregnant in her second year with my brother, then again with my sister just nine months later, and never graduated. Ronald Reagan was President. He won reelection in 1984 by 512 Electoral College votes.

Unlike some of my peers at Columbia and around the country, I cannot dismiss all Trump voters in one broad sweep no matter how much I would like to. My mother voted for Trump. 84.2% of Fulton County did too. In fact, my mother has voted Republican in every election since 1984, Fulton County has voted Republican in every election since 1964, and Trump won Fulton County by a larger margin than any other county in Pennsylvania. Such as it is, I carry my love for my mother and my home alongside the heavy weights of disappointment and shame. 

I tried to convince her not to vote for Trump. And then I did again. I tried everything I could think of. I tried to be aggressive, I tried to be kind, I tried to use humor, I tried to appeal to her sensitivities as a mother, a grandmother, a woman, and pretty much anything else I could think of. I cried, I yelled, I ignored her texts. Now, after it is all said and done, I ask myself: what went wrong, and how can I be a persuasive advocate if I could not convince my own mother that voting for Trump was wrong? I do not have satisfying answers, but asking these questions is helping me see themes that will be important to me in my career. 


During this election, we witnessed an assault on the truth. Fact and fiction were seemingly indistinguishable when fake news articles were read, believed, and shared by millions of people. After the election, many articles came out about how Facebook’s algorithm kept people isolated from what was happening in separate political spheres because their newsfeeds were self-reinforcing repetitions of their likeminded friends’ and families’ opinions. While my own newsfeed was mottled with pro-Trump fake news headlines, I didn't take them seriously at the time, thinking the outrageousness of the claims would undercut their persuasive value. I was wrong. Fake news had a significant impact on the outcome of the 2016 election. 

In my career, I want to protect the truth. Whether that means investigating corruption, defending the First Amendment, giving abuse victims a voice, or something else entirely I do not know, but I know I want to remain committed to facts and to intellectualism in a world where they are under attack


No one act or thought is defining, and though a single act can tell you a great deal, people are nuanced in ways that one act cannot encompass. Throughout my legal career and my life more broadly, I want to approach people with understanding and compassion. Viewing my colleagues, clients, and adversaries through this lens will help me to not forget that today’s motivations have roots in personal histories and that people are different on different days. This basic understanding will serve me well in a profession that centers around human contact and conflict. 

Perseverance (Working Toward a Sea Change)

I haven’t given up on my mom. I know a change is possible because it has happened before. At fifteen I began dating a woman and my mom was not supportive. Five years later, on a hike with my mom and the woman I was dating at the time, I watched them joke with one another and was struck by how accepting she had become. I was proud of her for embracing my sexuality, and I was proud of myself for being the catalyst. It was a sea change.

But not giving up on her doesn’t mean I have to struggle through every conversation until our relationship is damaged beyond repair. At the beginning of Trump’s presidency, I brought up each terrible thing he did, partly to try to change her mind, partly to say “told you so.” These conversations weren’t productive, and they didn’t help our relationship. Then, at the end of March, I got my heart broken. After a two-hour conversation with my mom about the breakup and nothing else, I was struck by how much I had missed unguardedly confiding in her. The hate and fear I see in the Trump administration’s words and actions do not align with the nurturing side of her that I know well, but it’s that side that I need. So instead of fighting to change her mind, I’ll put my energy toward other avenues for change. I’ll get out the vote in our home state and go door to door talking to other people’s mothers. My mother I will keep close, close enough to be the first to know if she does change her mind.

Words: 1000

You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:

Note: TWiki has strict formatting rules for preference declarations. Make sure you preserve the three spaces, asterisk, and extra space at the beginning of these lines. If you wish to give access to any other users simply add them to the comma separated ALLOWTOPICVIEW list.


Webs Webs

r3 - 02 Jun 2017 - 02:20:06 - AndreaMetz
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM