Thursday, June 23, 2016
Kevin's characteristically good-natured response to the abstract of my paper, "A Catholic Way to Cook a Hamburger? The Catholic Case Against McLaw," not yet to the paper itself, in which I argue that there is a Catholic way to do law, evoked memories of a wonderful trip I took long, long ago.
The trip was memorable for many reasons, but the relevant one concerns toilets. A good friend and I took an overnight train from Budapest (where he was living) to Brasov, Romania, in Transylvania, for several days of backpacking and camping. The train ride, on that hot summer night, was long, especially so because the air-conditioning wasn't working in our car on the train and the windows in our cabin were stuck shut. We were traveling "First Class," but in immediately post-Communist countries and the decimated infrastructure bad government had produced. More to the point, the toilets on the train were not working. I don't know why, but they weren't. Naturally, this made things dicy for all concerned, and there were many concerned on that long train on that long trip on that long night. I'll never forget it. By the time we reached Brasov soon after dawn, my friend and I were each desperate to use the restroom. Our first hope, to use the facilities at the Brasov train depot, was dashed by our not having the Romanian coins that would allow entry. The adjacent fields were a possibility, we feared, but we started the walk from the depot to downtown Brasov hoping that there would be a more dignified alternative. Shops and the like were not yet open. Not ten minutes later, we saw a billboard for a McDonald's that was advertised to lie a kilometer or so ahead, at the heart of historic Brasov. We were elated at the prospect of relief that would not occur in the wild. Sure enough, McDonald's was open earlier than every other commercial establishment, the bathroom facilities at that McDonald's were *remarkably* similar to those of every other McDonald's I've visited. We were grateful, indeed, not to be disappointed by what McDonald's had promised and then, in fact, allowed. My friend said at the time, and I recall it distinctly, that this was part of the genius of McDonald's, its uniformity and, therefore, reliability.
Kevin's desire for uniformity in the workings and products of federal courts, even, as I see it, at the price to be paid, inevitably, by doing things in a way that contradicts the way human intelligence is intransigently structured to deliver, if it is to deliver, progressive and cumulative instantiations of the good, doesn't cause me to doubt the good that the reliably working restroom at the McDonald's in Brasov delivered in the relevant respect. On the other hand, (1) the McDonald's in Brasov, just as all others, did not serve food in the focal sense of the term "food"; (2) that McDonald's was a blight on the organic integration of the city; and (3) doing actual justice in law is not at all like the successful flushing of a toilet, even in a federal court.