Trial by Imagination

FullSizeRender (89)The anticipated trial schedule was up and fuzzy on a projector screen for all prospective jurors to consider and shrink from. It’s hard to be a good citizen doing good citizen stuff when you’re looking at 3 months. Literally.

The summons to jury duty likes to use the language of noble sacrifice; it’s all a privilege, to be invited to sit on a jury. Once you get there, the vocabulary tricks end. It’s all about obligation and requirement. Well, you can try and make me feel obliged all you want, but it’d take a small miracle to get me to commit to 3 months of sitting on a jury.

There was – and is – no way I could do it and survive financially. I could barely stand the one day it took to go through the long jury selection process. That is the truth. Voir dire, indeed.

The more disturbing question is whether I could do it, anyway, if scheduling and making money weren’t issues. It was a murder trial.

My brain can handle it. My brain feels strongly about justice and fairness and our jury system. My brain appreciates where the burden of proof lies and those doubts and the collective wisdom of peers. FullSizeRender (88)

The rest of me, though, is less reliable.

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In the last couple of years, I’ve developed a peculiar taste for crime shows. Netflix has them in abundance. A. teases me and says I shouldn’t tell ANYONE (not just lower case anyone, but the big guy anyones) – the crap I watch, but I merrily ignore that suggestion. I watch them because the FBI-CSI-Made up I-Hawaii FiveO people are good, noble, savers of civilization. Heroes. Yes, yes, yes. I know, I know, I know. Fictional heroes.

My brain isn’t watching these shows. My brain watches PBS and documentaries. I can hardly resist a documentary and a documentary series is a little like a promise of ecstasy (and, just for the record, there are plenty of unexceptional docs. Plenty.) No. The part of me that watches these programs wants that satisfaction at story’s end, when the good, noble and heroic win.

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‘Oh, yes,’ people say, explaining me to myself, ‘your art is your therapy.’ They don’t really want to discuss it, but that’s one I have to correct. Have to. It’s not therapy at all. I don’t paint until I’ve already arrived at a place where I’m feeling things like safety, enchantment, possibilities. Not physical safety – creative, mind safety. I need to know exactly what i’m feeling.

I wonder sometimes if we’re a culture that knows that any more. We know the big, broad words. We know the ‘approved of’ feelings. But the nuance is what counts. To me. I want to know what I’m feeling and I want to be settled on it being legitimate and useful.

Last week, a French friend called me. She’d asked a number of people and, while she was at it, Google translate, but evidently she couldn’t figure out how to access the French. She was calling so I could put in the word. She spelled it carefully. She wasn’t finished before I gave her the translation. (Oh, this paragraph makes me sound all fluent, doesn’t it? Yah, well …) It was too easy. Jubilation. (Trust me. The French is just about the same). We don’t use that word in conversation, though. We use happiness. In fact, I said, we use happiness for glee and mirth and joy and …

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It will take me as long as it takes me to sort through what it means to decide an alleged murderer’s fate. Well, fates. There were two being tried. Two young men, two defendants all cleaned and suited up and quite handsome. They have also, clearly, been coached for the last two years. Educated, actually. They were charming. Gentlemen.

I was discharged from formal jury duty, but I’m still a fellow citizen of the world and there are things I have to think about.

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14 thoughts on “Trial by Imagination

  1. Oh the same thing happened to me last summer and I was delighted to be excused. I found the whole experience very interesting – not the least of which was listening to all the other potential jurors’ takes on things.

    • Wow! Were you a little bit wanting to sit on the jury? Or were you focused on getting the hell out of there? Delighted to be excused. That made me laugh. :)

      The interesting part – that was dangled, luring the undecided towards the light of the courtroom. Who doesn’t want to spend 3 months being interested? Well, except for that murder bit. :\ Me, too. Delighted. But also disturbed. The two defendants were all cleaned and suited up and quite handsome. They have also, clearly, been coached for the last two years. Educated, actually. They were charming. (Oh, I’m going to copy and paste that into the blog post.)

  2. Yes, both wanting to be chosen (I’m retired, so it’s easier) and dreading having to do it – both.
    Coached, educated, handsome and charming defendants – it would be interesting to find out how the case turns out and if the evidence against them outweighs all those things.

  3. Yes, it is a bit of a push-pull thing, isn’t it? I am never chosen. Once they find out my father was a career police officer, I’m politely shown the door by the defense using one of their allowed “strikes”. If the defense would ever ask a few more questions, they’d find that they’d be ecstatic to have me on the jury, as the things I’ve learned about how our institutions have been structured over history would cause me to be much more fair-minded than they give me credit for, and it should be the prosecutors rushing to usher me out the door instead, but … they never ask any more questions after that one.

    Very interesting, the bit about art not being your therapy and the state of mind you want to be in before arting.

    • Oh, I can see what a great juror you’d be so easily – just the way you balance ideas and your own standards and yet still have such forgiveness for other people’s … um, let’s call them weaknesses. Yes. I’m good having weaknesses, instead of those other things there’s no hope for. Ha. They missed out on you.

  4. I’ve been called lots, never chosen…is chosen correct or is it “picked?” I watch the ID channel, Forensic Files, lots of Datelines, 48 Hours and the Prime time gore too. See, jury duty is at least an 10 hour day….early morning to late afternoon because the judge, lawyers and the jury need a 2 hour lunch. I can’t do that and vacuum every day. Our crime in the little hamlet of Sandpoint is made up of DUI’s, drug manufacturing waaayyy up in an area called The Van Dyke (no one really cares what “those hippies” do up there; it’s when they come down the mountain that trouble starts) an few break-ins and a car chase one in a while. No one here cleans up either….the defendants wear Carhart or jeans and boots…no chew allowed. I wouldn’t mind jury duty but….I’d have to start at 11 and be home by 5. In our local paper there is the “log” of local police activity. A few years back there was one posted at this time of year….An intoxicated witch was found lying in a driveway and refused to leave the property….see, exciting stuff here.

    • Haha. Everything wants to get in the way of vacuuming, doesn’t it?

      Your crime sounds idyllic. We have a friend from a little town in Wisconsin who posts snippets of the crime page. It never fails to make us laugh out loud. Half their crime is imagined stuff.

  5. Questions: Was your art ever therapy and not necessary? I wonder if enchantment really is achievable…I don’t think I have ever been enchanted by anything except maybe my children’s laugh. Do/have you ever painted something that wasn’t safe? You are such an amazing artist, a complex person (I guess everyone is complex to some level)….if I had one ounce of your talent, damn….I’d be painting everything from cats to the Pope! Every watercolor of yours I have seen….the telling is in the face and the hands…..well, that’s not always true…sometimes it’s the width of the shoulders, a little lift there, anyway…..your art is enchanting. May I ask…who is A?

    • No. Never. It’s never been therapy. And never ‘not necessary.’ Uh-oh. I lied. In the beginning, when I was learning, I just painted to practice but very quickly, I knew I needed a story, a narrative. I appreciate art that doesn’t have it, but … this is what I have to do.

      I knew nothing, nothing at all, about the ‘how to do it’ of painting when I started. Oh please. Ask any of our friends. They’ve been encouragers and champions since the day I started and through much awfulness. Of course, my technique got better (it had no other direction to go), but it’s *what* I’m painting that makes what I do … well, what I do. And what a thrill to know you like it. Not that you like it. You can NOT like it and I’d be fine. But I think – in real life – people feel the things I imbue the paintings with. This is not new age stuff, either. It’s just true. And that, Rosie, is enchantment.

      A. is Andrew, my very significant other. He’s one of the wittiest people I’ve ever met, so it all works out.

  6. Never been called upon, which I always thought was the statistical norm but lately not so sure after hearing of people’s multiple callings. I think I would be horrible at it. Attention span, wondering when the next smoke break would happen, and I had never even considered the financial repercussions, which I now find terrifying. And also, the whole, “deciding a man’s fate” thing. I mean, it’s important and necessary and I get that, but it’s power I’d simply rather not have.

    • I’m clearly picking up your slack. I urge you to call your local jury wranglers and tell them that. Please. I don’t care if you’d be horrible at it. It’s only fair, so hop to it. I can not go one more time. I can’t, I just can’t. I spend the whole time counting my minutes being wasted. Either that, or talking with my fellow jurors which is a dodgy proposition. I talked for a full hour (that’s 60 minutes) about a woman’s job. This was undoubtedly my fault for saying I thought her job sounded interesting. I said that because her job did not sound interesting. In any way.

      I don’t really want you to have to take your jury duty back. I’ll be your martyr. Me, too. (I bet that’s the wrong way to say it.) I don’t want that power. I don’t. I don’t, I don’t. I DO want to be available for ensuring the justice part, but not the rest. I’m not a big fan of revenge. Even when I feel vengeful, I think I’m just being a snake.

      I’m printing this whole thing out and taking it with me next time I get called. I will hand it to the deputy and let them show me the door much earlier. I’m positive this will work.

  7. occasional weekend get-a-ways to psychiatric facilities in my 20’s, has assured that my name will never be called to decide the fate of another human being. Which, obviously, was my plan all along. As for the crime dramas, I can’t allow myself to be exposed to that much hot, fresh nightmare fuel. It’s gotten much worse since my decision to actively engage in arting. My ability to stay open to hot, fresh inspiration means red alert for all that gore and savagery. Also there is the small matter of me being a colossal wimp.

    • I know not how I missed this, but I did. Those psychiatric facility visits really did work out for you, didn’t they? Do they even send you a ‘We’re Thinking of You for our Jury Box Gala Event’ invitation? I am sorry you can’t do the crime drama thing – it’s pretty cathartic for me. Oddly, I can get a little particular … I need no cheap threads flying around, unattached to anything, for instance. And it can’t be horrifying. As previously discussed. No horror. Not a bit. Ick ick.

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