Monday, March 05, 2007

Voir Dire

I had jury duty today. So did my friend Daisy, so we met at a coffeeshop by the G to take the subway together. We accidentally got off at Hoyt-Schemerhorn instead of Jay Street/Bourough Hall, and a nice lady outside the subway assumed we were from -- get ready -- NASSAU COUNTY! and pointed us in the right direction, clutching our half-drunk coffees and summonses -- Romy and Michelle's Civic Duty!

I was assigned to 320 Jay Street and she to a GRAND JURY at 360 Adams, so we parted ways. I went through security and parked myself in the jury waiting area, happy that my knitting needles had not been confiscated. [Trey's wine key was deemed contraband by the Manhattan City Hall security the day we applied for our marriage license, so you never fucking know.]

I am sure many of your have had jury duty in at least one of the five boroughs. If you have, I hope you remember that incredible orientation film they show -- I saw it when I had jury duty in Manhattan in 2002, and they showed the same film again this morning. It is the one featuring Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer explaining our judicial system and the importance of the citizen's participation in the process. It begins with a dramatization of "trial by ordeal" whose casting, acting and production values make Passions seem like The Magnificent Ambersons.

It is insanely moving.

Even more so to hear Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer expound upon the importance of every citizen's right to a fair trial by a jury of their peers, while the President has annhilated habeas corpus and is having thousands of people tortured around the world for no reason. The President of the "United States of America."

I am kind of a sap because I teared up during the fucking jury duty video THAT I HAD ALREADY SEEN. Yeah, Lillet, get knocked up already, we are sick of your crying! What moved me though was the extras, playing every-people, talking about our justice system, and that as long as the human element was present that it was destined to be imperfect, but it was the fairest and best that we had. That every silly and vulnerable person deserves the dignity of having their say, of participating, of us all doing the best that we can. I wish that more people would understand that what has made this country great is not big fake tits and guns and shitty food and satellite dishes and the flagflagflag but the secret underlying truth that there is the possibility that if everyone got off the fucking couch we could all have our say. And you see that goodwill at jury duty: and especially at New York jury duty, where

the man from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines who works as a skycap and

the Teamster from Greenpoint with the earring and the five friends busted for drugs and

the new dad-of-a-one-year-old with the handlebar mustache who works in advertising and is not gay after all and

the woman whose kids went back to Trinidad and

the girl who got excused because her brother was shot and

the aspiring journalist with the blush and the unpronounceable Thai last name and

the doctor who does math in his spare time and has seen enough gunshot wounds that he feels he must recuse himself and

the woman who is single and has lived in Park Slope for 26 years and teaches school and wants to be a historical novelist and had a mugger break 2 of her fingers:

They are all willing to try, to try to be fair, to try to give this guy a fair trial, of his peers. Who can ever know if we are ever any each other's peers but at least we fucking TRY.

We try, because as Lisa Carver said it so much better than I: There is no Other, there is only us, and we are a motley crew.

I love, I fucking love jury duty. I love jury duty for the same reasons I love Trey, I love anything, because it is about loving particularity, because it is a colossal manifestation of everyone hoping that saying a conscientious "yes" is better and finer than saying "whatever," that even if we all have our prejudices and boundaries and limits that we will try to reach a civilized agreement. Because I love being embodied and the only honorable truth you are going to get at is through embodied engagement as opposed to bullshit, weak-ass faux-gnostic retreat. Represent! Re-present yourself over and over and over. One foot in front of the other, you show up you show up you show. Up!

I used to think Wings Of Desire was a piece of indie crap, but now I am not so sure, because I think Peter Falk's godawful post-lapsarian patchwork leather coat may very well have a summons in the pocket.

I think I also love jury duty extra much because being at 320 Jay Street reminds me of why I fell in love with New York and knew ten years ago sleeping on the floor of my shitty apartment I would have done anything to belong to what this city is really about: and because since it is now a dying city, jury duty is like mainlining that quality I hungered for, the goodbye fuck, if you will. Jury duty is what Stuy-Town used to be, is talking to your cabdriver, knowing he is Haitian because he is listening to NPR. Jury duty is being really livid that you were almost mown down by a Hasidic guy driving a minivan, and yet loving that you know that Hasids are shit-ass minivan drivers, and you know this because you CO-EXIST and have the EMPIRICAL DATA FROM JUST BEING ALIVE WITH PEOPLE DIFFERENT FROM YOU AND YOU ALL ARE TOTALLY FUCKING FINE! Jury duty is being able to acknowledge everyone's humanity and separateness at once, is being able to put yourself in the place of the other as city-dwelling people have to do every single day. It is not existing alone in your car with your satellite radio, it is riding all in the same car, of knowing that if that guy were you you would want to know someone was looking out for you, and knowing if the subway broke down you would all riot together to get the hell out of there. It is how the people who were actually here on you-know-when were all incredibly nice and kind and practical with one another, and the fact that the sheer beauty of this city's instant and unmediated response was instantly perverted into to a steaming pile of propaganda is a massive injustice, is evil. It is why New York is the friendliest city in the world, because people here know, or knew, that there is no other, there is only us.

Snow was falling hard as I left. I had to call work and deal with some silliness, and tried to go through the turnstile while explaining some compliance issue to the woman temping for me, and ended up swiping my card to no avail, the girl behind me swiped hers too soon, and I accidentally went through on her dime.

"Oh no! Damn!! Did I just take your fare?" I said, from the other side of the metal full-body turnstile. She nodded.

"Here, please take mine?" I thrust my card through the bars. She swiped it and handed it back.

"Wow, I am sorry! That would have really sucked," I said to her. She smiled. I knew automatically that she would have returned my $76 monthly farecard, just as she knew I wouldn't try to steal her fare and make her wait 15 minutes in the freezing station. We didn't really have to say a thing.

We just knew.

2 Comments:

Anonymous z. said...

Love it. Great post, ma'am. You're totally right.

:)

10:07 AM  
Anonymous annie said...

This might be of interest to you, JD lover. ;)

http://jurylaw.typepad.com/deliberations/american_gallery_of_juror_art/index.html

8:05 PM  

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