I was recently called for jury duty. At first I was reluctant, but later felt honored to be part of a justice system gathering diverse community people, asking potential jurors to listen closely to the judge and law and to assume innocence until proven guilty. Two questions to the jury made me think: “How do you know if someone’s lying or telling the truth?” and “What one word would describe you as a jurist?”
In terms of the first, I’d answer: I’d look at evidence, facts, history, consistency; would listen to bipartisan, objective witnesses; would determine who would lose and who would win from testimony. In terms of the second, all potential jurists answered open-minded and fair.
In a democracy, we are all jurors, each trying to judge who’s guilty of doing harm and who’s innocent, using our vote and actions to promote justice. I think of these “guidelines” with political issues. Some issues are complex, but some are clear — regulations protecting air, water, earth, consumers, workers — are all being dismantled. Agencies that protect what is precious are ruled by those funded by vested interest: oil, coal, pharmaceuticals, agribusiness. The proposed “reform” tax bill would, according to almost all bipartisan observers, benefit the very wealthy and multinational corporations, would harm the working and middle class and dramatically increase debt. History shows money does not “trickle down” to us. In fact, to pay for the increased debt, programs serving common people would be cut dramatically: Social Security, Medicare, education, infrastructure, research, science, national parks. Follow the money. It’s clear to this juror who is guilty and who suffers.
Hearing people rail against “liberals,” I look up “liberal” in the dictionary: “broad-minded, tolerant, not bound by authoritarianism or orthodoxy. One who is open-minded.” Isn’t that what we, potential jurists, said we would be?
Bernice Mennis, West Fort Ann