Post # 471 GREAT EXPECTATIONS

The number of real- life Court Cases, generally embracing the following, fictional fact pattern, are no less than legion.

Let us propose, that there are two sisters. The slightly younger sister, known for her somewhat, selfish character, happily marries and enjoys a fulfilling and happy life; a well to do, doting husband, three darling children, and a pet dog, all of whom reside, together in a well- furnished and comfortable, country house. The older, sister, is less attractive but, widely known for her especially, generosity and empathic nature, who, sadly, has been unsuccessful in her desire to acquire a husband and a family of her own.

The sisters have a wealthy, maiden aunt, who by reason of poor health, in combination with advanced age, is no longer capable of easily caring for herself. The older sister, in keeping with her empathic and loving nature, often visits the lonely aunt, bringing food, willingly performing services for her and often expressing her sincere concern and love for her. The other, “slightly younger,” sister, visits the aunt on rare occasions, and, even then, spends little (“boring”) time visiting with her.

In a few years, the wealthy, maiden aunt’s health further deteriorates, so that she is no longer capable of living alone, and caring for herself. The older, sister, still unmarried, sister, responsive to the special request of the aunt, departs from her own residence, to reside with, and care for, the disabled aunt.  Such significant sacrifice and major life change is, lovingly, but hesitatingly, agreed to by her, fully cognizant of the complete sacrifice of her privacy, the undefined limit of her responsibility, and, of course, the loss of any opportunity for marriage. The married sister, visiting, only infrequently, would, on such occasions, bring flowers or cookies, for which, the sick aunt would, emphatically, express her profuse gratitude and affection.

The disabled aunt, together with the empathic, self-sacrificial sister, live together for an additional period of nine years; nine years of constant requests for daily a d nighttime assistance by the aunt, dutifully and cheerfully, rendered, by the unmarried sister. At the expiration of such period of time, the aunt, unexpectedly, dies in her sleep. The caretaker sister, heartbroken, makes the necessary arrangements for a memorial service and burial, and engages the Aunt’s attorney to handle the usual legal matters, inclusive of the Probate of the aunt’s Last Will and Testament, he had drafted, in accordance with her wishes, five years previous to her decease.

Nothing was said, at all, between the two sisters, when it was revealed that, [perhaps as the reader had anticipated] the aunt’s substantial estate, except for the old house, was bequeathed by the wealthy aunt, to the married, well to-do, sister. We will relate the reason for such apparent ingratitude and major injustice, after noting that, empirically, this unsurprising, grossly unfair, fact pattern is not uncommon. The relative length of this, true to life, stereotypical story, can be contrasted, with our lamentably, brief explanation, which we will offer, as the intended theme of this writing.

The self-sacrificing sister, received, relatively, little, in gratitude, because, in the mind of the deceased aunt, that sister, unsurprisingly, fulfilled her usual and expected role, as the empathic and giving, sister. The unmarried sister’s selfless and more-than generous sacrifice, and her years of tireless service, were fully consistent with the saintly portrait, publically painted by herself, and thus, considered, normal. Stated somewhat differently, she, was relegated to her self-made, saintly stereotype, responsible for her sacrifices and dedicated services, which was therefore, perceived as unremarkable.

The married sister, by comparison, had consistently evinced a persona, demonstrative of a selfish preoccupation with oneself. Consequently, by an unjust, quirk of human nature, the result, was the perception, that the infrequent visits and occasional floral gifts, were particularly noticed and seen by the late aunt, to be especially generous and thoughtful.

Lawsuits involving virtually identical fact patterns, as stated, are numerous, and often based upon some legal theory, such as implied contract; attempting to demonstrate, an unspoken, but tacit, mutual understanding and assumption, that the sacrificing party would be rewarded, for her substantial sacrifice and services, by testamentary, remuneration (“legacy”). To our knowledge, all such lawsuits have been unsuccessful; fairness, per se, or demonstrated devotion, have never been determined by the Law, to be contractual.

If the reader would but take the time, he will, predictably recognize, the nature and degree of the many expectations and inclinations he, himself, takes for granted, relative to his fellow societal, and family members. These fixed assumptions, may be accurate or otherwise, (see previous writing). Examples: A. is “mechanically gifted”, B. is “prudent, concerning investments”, C. is “unfaithful,” D. is “untrustworthy”, E. is ”unaccountably ambitious”, F. is “generous,” G. is “stingy”,” I wouldn’t trust F”., and so on, ad finitum, ad nauseum.

It is difficult, to digest the fact that, similar to the scenario first presented, people seem to be assigned labels, as moral or immoral, loyal or disloyal, honest or otherwise, which designations, appear to define the type and extent of our expectations of them. Expressions, such as, “Well, what can you expect of (name)”, reveal that, like the beginning anecdote, expectations, are unreasonably, and often unfairly or incorrectly, created, concerning the perceived persona, of others.

It is the case, but profoundly unjust, that people, shown to be unquestionably, moral and well-behaved members of society, are granted much less leeway, for any occasional, minor errors or immaterial, mistaken conduct, than others, of whom, virtue is, less empirically, expected. There is illogic and injustice, in the practice of “cutting some slack,” or specifically, tolerating, and even, normalizing, unacceptable behavior, for those those, who we perceive have the natural potential for miscreant behavior, as contrasted with the less forgiving, expectations assigned to the moral pillars of our community.

We have been greatly concerned, that the result of the regular, public, demonstration by our Nation’s current President, of daily misdeeds, interference with the established tenets of American democracy, his incapability, arbitrary and despicable behavior, his unashamedly public demonstration of unmitigated vice, will, consequently, be seen as creating, for himself, a dangerously, unique, low bar of expected  (ergo, tolerated), immorality. Donald Trump’s unabashed trashing, of all that is virtuous and existentially vital, for a free Nation, (like “truth” and free journalism) could, frighteningly, become, in his special case, normalized and expected, and thereby, seen as an acceptable, license for him, to despoil the uniquely admirable, American ideal, and traditional way of life.

-p.

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plinyblogcom

Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Literature Student and enthusiast.

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