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JURY DUTY
November 4, 2010
 
I'm here, but I know they won't empanel me. They never do. So I sit in the waiting room with a hundred fellow citizens, and we have just taken our oath of office as jurors, administered by a judge who removed a wad of chewing gum from his mouth, befitting the solemnity of the moment.

As always, I allow myself to imagine myself in that tiny community of people who will hold the fate of another person in their hands. We would be carefully instructed as to what was and what was not our task. Some among us would forget, though, impatient with our constraints, and anoint themselves detectives or self-taught judges. Some would consider this afternoon a chance to "send a message" -- a message not directed at this courtroom or the parties in it at all, perhaps, but intended for a wider audience, one which might exist only in their imagination. Some would be highly intelligent. Some would not be. Some would hate being there. Some would love it.

We would be a jury of peers, for anyone who came before us: a mixed bag of commitment and anxiety, well and poorly equipped for this work. We would be little better or little worse than the people who looked to us for fairness. Most of us will sit here all day and then leave, never having had the chance to present the mixed bag of our service in an actual case. They say we won't be back for three years, but they said that a year ago, too. The last time I was called.

We divide power in here in the United States, forcing a check on any one part of us, insisting on balancing responsibility among us as best we can. Our judges don't work alone. Neither do our presidents or our legislators or our generals. The result may be clumsy affair, but it is ours.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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