The Real Me (or Ten Ways I'm Not Like Ally McBeal)

This is not a poem or a literary landmark. It's simply a list.
A list of "Ten Ways I'm Not Like Ally McBeal."
It's not even original commentary, but a response to one.
Normally, I spend my time
writing letters to government officials
asking their help to preserve the redwoods
in northern California
or the Freedmen's Town district
near downtown Houston
but today I took time out
to write a personal statement
at the request of my friends, Angela and Bernadine,
who are starting a media group
and production company.
Bernadine, along with my brother Roland,
happened to comment one day
that I should watch Ally McBeal on TV,
because her character reminds them so much of me.

I finally managed to catch the show,
and even sat through it all, for Bernadine and Roland,
but I failed to see the resemblance to me, Emily Nghiem.

Here is the judicial reasoning behind my opinion,
based on the episode I saw last week:

I. Within the first five minutes of appearing before a judge, I would have made a First Amendment argument either for the free exercise of religion, the freedom of speech, or in Ally's case, the right of a couple peaceably to assemble at their workplace. I would argue that sexual harassment policy is a moral issue that belongs in mediation and not in the courtroom, that the parties have equal rights to their own personal viewpoints, and that no judge has authority to rule in favor of one person's values over another. Thus, I would argue that any binding decision must be based on consensus, reconciling the moral or religious beliefs of both sides. However, I still would have fallen flat on my face, overruled. That is one thing Ally McBeal and I might have in common.
II. I would not have told "Billy" (or whatever his name is) to keep his true feelings to himself I would have yelled at the guy for not confronting me three episodes ago! (And for compounding the problem by getting a third party "Georgia" involved whom I would call on the phone before asking yet a fourth character for advice). The only rational argument left (to prolong the dialogue, or to get the last word) would be that huge companies are paying tons of money for commercials between these senseless spats. If conflicts were resolved logically, instead of dragging them out for weeks, the producers couldn't support the series, and the actors would lose their jobs. That's what I would need to see characters fully aware of the powers controlling their fate via corporate America and our consumeristic culture. That's real life. (And why I don't have time for TV.)
III. I would never run on a wet pavement in the rain. Not even for dramatic effect. I'd be too scared to slip and fall, since I bruise easily and don't have health insurance. And I won't visit the doctor without crying and fussing. The last time I busted my chin, I let it scar rather than get stitches. As I've told my family and my friends (and hereby put it in writing): If anything ever happens to me that requires surgery or hospitalization, please just let me die. I'll recycle in another body, but let this one go. Save your money and medical resources for people who want to live. I'd rather not. I'm a tired old soul who can't wait to graduate from this planet. When my time comes, cheer for me. Don't weep or cling, or make any big deal. But in the meantime, spoil me rotten. Wrap me in a "blankey" and rock me like a baby. Make the world safe for me to live in. Or else let me sleep.

IV. I wouldn't kiss another character or actor I wasn't married to or madly in love with. If I'm not cast with Hugh Grant or Mel Gibson (or some guys I know who look like them), I'd rewrite the script. (Maybe that's why I'm stuck here typing this list, instead of working for film and television. Ha!)

V-X. Throughout the course of an hour, I would have been caught on camera saying one or more of the following phrases at least once (if not repeatedly with variations, minus the cursing in brackets):
v. God, get me off this [ ] planet.
vi. What do I have to [ ] do to [ ] save Freedmen's Town.
vii. Can't I live in a world that doesn't run on money?
viii. Why can't I sleep all day, like a baby in a blankey? Do I have to deal with all this [ ]?
ix. Oh, my God, I'm going to die. [ ], [ ], [ ].
x. [ ]! How soon can I die and get off this [ ] planet!! [ ]!!!

VI. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

VII. In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

VIII. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

IX. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

X. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

I threw in these amendments in case you didn't count item number five (V) as six separate points (V-X). Never mind. I'd much rather use this space to advocate for legal literacy and political freedom giving people laws in writing so we can enforce rules for ourselves. I believe people should hash out personal differences in mediation, and stay out of courtrooms and jails. Making peace is cheaper than lawsuits and physical violence, plus it's better for the mental and spiritual health of the parties in conflict. (Not to mention the lawyers, judges, jurors and taxpayers. No wonder our mental institutions are all booked up!)

The same way literacy revolutionized the church, when people no longer depended on priests but could read and follow the laws by themselves, I believe the state shouldn't resist, but should welcome a similar liberation that has already begun. I see the government as a parental authority afraid to let go of its own grown-up children people fighting once more for their independence, the freedom to govern themselves as equal consenting adults. It seems that only big corporations, with no personal accountability, are allowed to make their own laws, while the rest of us in society don't have a voice. This is not equal justice. If judges and lawyers won't represent and protect people's interests equally, perhaps, like the priests in the temple, they should let go of their monopoly on laws and legal interpretation and let the people represent themselves. Until that happens, I won't step into court, as a lawyer or anybody else, without a huge protest.

That's why I'm not like Ally McBeal.

But that's what makes me
the real Emily Nghiem.

For Angela Williamston, Blowin' Up a Spot;
Alma and Bernadine Williams, Amazon Xociety media watch;
Roland Nghiem and my sisters in California;
and the producers of the Ally McBeal show,
In issuing a challenge to scriptwriters
in Houston, L.A., and New York
to write and produce a television episode
in which Ally McBeal and her law firm
take on the corporate developers destroying Freedmen's Town --
a national historic African American settlement in Houston, Texas --
thus setting a judicial precedence
that inspires the nation
to seek creative solutions
to political problems.
TITLE: Reparations? What!
by Emily Nghiem 2001

If no real-life lawyer is willing to fight for justice,
on behalf of Freed Slaves and other immigrants
who sacrificed their lives and their liberty
to build this great country,

I'd like to see what the lawyers
on television can do!

Let the winning legal argument
that liberates Freedmen's Town
serve as a lasting reminder
that "Equal Justice Under Law"
does not exist on its own,
but depends on human faith and imagination
and compassion behind the words.
May the best argument win.
And the best writers be proven.
Good luck.

Emily Nghiem "Ten Ways I am Not Like Ally McBeal" (e) 1999.
All rights reserved. All wrongs reversed.
P.O. Box 981101
Houston, Texas
vmb: (713)867-5998

NOTE: Special thanks to Pam Rooney and the Fourth Ward Center for Youth for the PRINT SHOP PREMIERE EDITION GRAPHICS featured on this and other poetry pages. For software information, see