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.
The rest of me, though, is less reliable.
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 …
** ** ** **
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.