Monday, October 3, 2011

On civic responsibility...

I got this piece of mail a few weeks ago, notifying me that I MUST appear tomorrow at the courthouse for jury selection.

It makes it quite clear that, if I choose NOT to fulfill this civic responsibility, my alternative is to appear in a courtroom under quite a different set of circumstances. Or to pay all sorts of unspecified fines and fees.

Both of these alternatives are quite STICK-y.

I can handle a little bit of stick, you know? But generally, I appreciate there being some CARROT ALONG WITH IT.


Well, to be fair, I guess I get DISCOUNTED PARKING in the parking structure downtown. But that, in my opinion, is not much of a carrot. It's more of a moldy old turnip, especially when paired with the added necessities of waking up 3 hours earlier than usual and driving downtown during RUSH HOUR and paying for parking in a PLACE I DON'T REALLY WANT TO BE ANYWAY.

But I guess I'm just pouting, because, after all, it's my opportunity to fulfill my responsibility as a citizen. Even though I'm self-employed, and, if you're self-employed in Colorado, "you must compensate yourself for the first three days." (The theory is that most trials only last three days; after that the state pays all jurors $50/day).

Compensating myself for the first three days of time spent hanging about with criminals and lawyers (which, mathematically speaking, are overlapping sets, a belief that...hmmm...JUST MIGHT exempt me from jury duty) is not much of a carrot in my book.

I understand civic responsibility. I really do. I vote. I try to stay REASONABLY well-informed on the issues, at least as much as one CAN, given how unreliable and biased almost ALL current "news" outlets are.

I even READ those multi-page blue booklets that come out in Colorado prior to every election, the ones that hypothetically summarize the pros and cons of each measure in exhaustive detail. Unfortunately, from years of being an expert researcher and policy advisor, I also know how BIASED those summaries are, and how much the devil is in the details of policy implementation. So I don't trust much of what I read.

But I do think the "corrections" system is grossly mis-named and based on arbitrary and dysfunctional laws. So I'm not sure that the greatest good here is for me to sit for three or more days on a criminal jury listening to arbitrarily selected bits of information so a group can come to a fairly arbitrary decision that will not, in all likelihood, rehabilitate the criminal or recompense the victim. Especially when, instead, I could be doing something CONSTRUCTIVE. Like painting peoples' pets and building my business.

But it's my civic duty to go along with it (as I have been reminded by the BIG STICK wielded by the state). So I will have to show up.

But honestly, ever since I have gotten this summons, whenever I think about it, NINETY-FIVE PERCENT OF MY ATTENTION IS IN HOW I CAN GET OUT OF IT.

But that doesn't quite seem workable for me.

So I've got a different list. Along with possibly flogging my PhD. (somebody told me once that lawyers don't like people with advanced degrees), I'm thinking about talking about religion and my cynicism about politics and the justice system.

Princess Leia will be my last resort.

And, of course, I will SUCK IT UP if I HAVE to. But I'm really hoping that I won't actually be selected.

The last time I was summoned for jury duty (and dismissed), I was not painting puppies or writing kids' books; I was writing a series of very dark, macabre short stories.

This is a partial summary of a short story, the treatment of which I wrote WHILE I WAS IN THE COURTHOUSE WAITING ROOM,about a juror who avidly WANTED to do her civic duty (which, of course, demonstrated that she was not HUMAN, but instead was an odd life-force sucking vampire). After the first trial (which went very long and ended with violence and all 11 other members of the jury aging about 10 years in 2 weeks), this woman came out looking younger and plumper and sleeker. And then she kept coming back, with new IDs, serving on new juries, sucking out their life forces, and coming out younger and younger every time. I will spare you the ending (there was a bit of a twist) but it was NOT PRETTY AT ALL.

Maybe it will not be so bad. But does anybody else feel this way?

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