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Lessons I Learned From My Parents: Part VI

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As Justice Harvey Brownstone says, "When you start a court case, you are starting a war." When you think about it, nobody enters into a battle, fight, game, or other adversarial situation with the intent to lose or even tie. Rather, everyone involved "plays to win." Unfortunately, unless there is a tie (stalemate), there can only be one "winner." Generally speaking, anyone other than the "winner" loses. However, when families are involved, nobody "wins," despite the perception that someone may have "won." Moreover, even if the matter results in a "tie," the damage has already been done and cannot be undone.

Now, consider what occurs when the passion of love and/or hate enters into this "war." It is frequently said that there is a fine line between love and hate. However, what most people may not realize is that truer words were never spoken. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that "there really is a thin line between love and hate - at least in the brain...." A study has revealed "that the brain's 'love' and 'hate' circuits share identical structures.... Professor Semir Zeki, who carried out the brain scan study at University College London, said: 'Hate is a passion that is of equal interest to love. Like love, it is often seemingly irrational and can lead individuals to heroic and evil deeds....' The 'hate circuit' was found to include structures important for generating aggressive behaviour, and translating angry thought into action.... Professor Zeki said: 'A marked difference in the cortical pattern produced by these two sentiments of love and hate is that, whereas with love large parts of the cerebral cortex associated with judgment and reasoning become de-activated, with hate only a small zone, located in the frontal cortex, becomes de-activated. This may seem surprising since hate can also be an all-consuming passion, just like love. But whereas in romantic love, the lover is often less critical and judgmental regarding the loved person, it is more likely that in the context of hate the hater may want to exercise judgment in calculating moves to harm, injure or otherwise extract revenge.'" Thus, when hate is involved, people are fooled into believing that they are acting rationally, when the reality is quite the opposite.

We have all heard it said that "All's fair in love and war." The meaning of that idiom is "In some situations, such as when you are in love or waging war, you are allowed to be deceitful in order to get what you want."

As destructive as hate and war are by themselves, they are a lethal combination. If "bad behavior" is somehow justified when people are in love or waging war, consider what happens when the war involves people who either hate each other before the war began or grow to hate each other during the course of the war. As has been said, nobody wins the war when families are involved, even if the parents don't hate each other. If you add hate to the mix, the situation becomes "no holds barred." This means that it is "free from the usual limits or rules," at least in the minds of the participants.

Under the circumstances, is it any surprise that litigating family law matters is typically so destructive to families?

The lessons I learned from my parents regarding this harsh reality involves the contents of a sealed court file and thus not information otherwise accessible to the public. I have spent a great deal of time debating with myself whether or not I wanted to open this long sealed tomb of horrors and share the information with the public. As you can tell, my willingness to share my personal experiences for the possible benefit of others ultimately won out in that debate. The information I am about to share would never otherwise have been known to the public and since it does not necessarily show me in a positive light, I have absolutely no reason to misstate the truth.

Throughout this series of articles, I have shown the progression of my own family's experience with divorce and how it brought out the worst in my parents and helped to transform the relationship between my father and his children from one of love to hate. Those who believe that my experience was unique are terribly mistaken. In an effort to demonstrate this sad truth, let me share with you some quotes from a book titled "Broken Circle -- Children of Divorce and Separation," Photography by Karen Klein and Commentary by Broken Circle participants. "The Broken Circle project gives voice to young adults talking about how their parents' divorce or separation impacted their lives then and now." In her story, Jessie said, "I've had a hard time forgiving my parents for the aftermath [of their divorce] and how the whole situation turned out..... The thing that has affected me the most is the amount of lying and deceit that came out of it." Ingrid described her situation as follows: "I tried taking on the role of the family mediator, but ended up as the family punching bag." Cherish says, "I believe children shouldn't have to be witness to their parents' dysfunctional relationships; it takes away their innocence."

As bad as my father's behavior was before he came to hate us, it became "no holds barred," once he realized that he could not control his children like pawns and that the results of such efforts are unpredictable. You see, pawns are inanimate objects and children are human beings. However, when parents fail to recognize that reality during their familial war, it's not difficult for love to turn to hate.

As I mentioned in Part III of this series, I transferred from Brandeis University to UC San Diego for my sophomore year in college because I could no longer afford to attend a private university after my father stopped paying my tuition and essentially "divorced" me for not severing all ties with my mother. I also mentioned that I ultimately transferred to UCLA for my junior year to be with my mother, who was fighting breast cancer. After her diagnosis and prior to my transferring to UCLA, I returned home almost every weekend to be with my mother.

On one particular occasion, my mother asked me to drive her to and from a luncheon she was attending at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Since she sometimes had difficulty driving because of the effects of the chemotherapy, I was more than happy to oblige. When the luncheon ended, my mother called me to pick her up. During that call, she also mentioned that my stepmother was there and suggested that I come in and give her my regards. If you have been following this series of articles, you would already know that my stepmother is the epitome of the "evil stepmother."

Upon my arrival, I entered the hotel to find both my mother and stepmother. I first spotted my stepmother standing in a cluster talking with her friends. I approached her and placed my arm around her shoulder and said, "Hi witch, how are you?" I then walked away, found my mother and we left.

The next thing I knew, I was being criminally charged with assault and battery. I don't recall how we first learned of it, but I do recall being given the option of either turning myself in or being arrested in public. In order to avoid the embarrassment, I turned myself in at the Beverly Hills Police Department. I was fingerprinted and processed, but was so traumatized by the experience that I don't recall anything else that occurred prior to my returning home.

I then recall attending a hearing with the Beverly Hills District Attorney. He had scheduled a hearing on my matter in order to determine whether or not to prosecute me. Prior to the hearing, I could not fathom on what basis I was being charged with a crime. At the hearing, I learned that the "facts" had changed and that I apparently punched my stepmother in the back and said, "Hey Bitch, this is for you." I also learned that she had "witnesses" to this fabricated story. In addition, I learned that she required back surgery as a result of the fabricated punch she sustained to her back. Other than my stepmother, I didn't know anyone who had witnessed the incident and therefore it was my word against theirs. I recall being completely horrified to learn that a woman I had known my whole life and who was now married to my father would create "facts" in order to have me prosecuted for a crime I didn't commit. I recall hearing the District Attorney say that this was really a family squabble and that he did not want to prosecute me. However, my father looked directly at me and said, "We want him prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law." Thus began one of the most stressful and frustrating experiences of my life.

This real life soap opera I call my life will be continued in the next part of this series of articles. Meanwhile, I want to mention that I met with my stepmother's ex-husband before he passed away from cancer and learned that she had a long history of back trouble and had contemplated undergoing surgery ever since he had known her. At the ripe old age of 19, I learned just how easily love can turn to hate and the despicable things people are willing to do when they hate someone, even if that person happens to be their own child or stepchild. I also learned that people can and do use our criminal and civil system of "justice" order to "harm, injure or otherwise extract revenge" against those they hate or if they believe they can somehow play the system for their own personal benefit. I am absolutely convinced that if a parent is willing to do these things to their own flesh and blood, they are most certainly ready, willing and able to do similar things to the spouse they are divorcing. My father and stepmother taught me this lesson long before I ever became a lawyer and it is a shame that so many of my lawyer colleagues either intentionally or unintentionally turn a blind eye to this harsh reality.