Which is nine dollars, if you’re curious.
I had jury duty today. I reorganized my comp class’s readings for the prior three sessions and cancelled today’s session. I packed two books, one of which was the source for this week’s quotes.
Curiously, I was Juror Number 1. That meant I got to be the line leader as we marched up to the second waiting room and down to the courtroom. In the courtroom they gave us all numbered placards, which we were to hold up if we answered “yes” to any of the judge’s questions. Would anyone be incapable of walking down nine flights in case of an emergency? No response. Is anyone related or closely acquainted with the defendant, any of the lawyers, or the judge? No response. This is a criminal trial for multiple charges. The primary charge is murder. There is a chance – not a certainty, but a chance – that the jury would be asked to consider capital punishment. Does anyone have a religious, ethical, or conscientious objection with the death penalty?
Pause. Do you?
I mean, I have a vague distaste for the death penalty. I think the entire justice system would benefit the community more if it focused on rehabilitation instead of punishment. Punishment might take the criminal out of the world for a little while or for life, but it doesn’t solve the conditions that lead to crime in the first place. That’s as far as I’ve ever gotten when reflecting on the death penalty, except in cases where I was so horrified by the scope of the crime that my gut reaction was this man does not deserve to live.
But to make that call? When someone says to you, Citizen you must look at this man who may have killed a human being. If he did, would you object to the responsibility for killing him in return? Quick now.
Resume. I slowly raised my placard, as did about twenty others in the sixty of us. I’m still not sure if that was the right answer.
Being Number 1 meant that I was first to be called into a little room, where a man asked me why I raised my placard on a question about hardship. (The trial will probably go on for a week, and I would not be able to cancel or find a substitute for all of multiple classes.) Then I read for a little while longer, and by 1pm I was released into the hall with a dozen or so others, and was handed a check for $9.
Interestingly, my reading for this week had much to do with law. I was reading the introduction to Feminist Geneaologies, Colonial Legacies, and Democratic Futures in which M Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Mohanty do more than just criticize the state of globalization and the stumbling development of transnational feminism: they describe what a real democracy might look like. To do so, they have to dismantle some of the preconceptions of Democracy (they capitalize this intentionally) in the US is practiced.
“The citizenship machinery is not ‘blind’ to differences; in fact, it uses a legal apparatus to transform difference into inequality. In its efforts to remain ‘blind’ to differences in the name of equal treatment, the law often perpetuates the naturalization of heterosexuality and the production of psychic economies that conform to the dictates of the ideological superiority of the heterosexual family… on questions of homosexuality the state reneges on its promise to protect all citizens from terrorist violence.”
That’s just the first of several built-in inequalities they pick apart in this introduction. They describe the imagined recipient of welfare as a young black female (although this is not always the case) and the consequent erasure of young black females as citizens due full rights. Alexander and Mohanty both immigrated to America, and they have quite a bit to say about the process of gaining citizenship legally and ideologically. (By the way, how do you love “psychic economies” as a creative way of talking about ideologies?) But the overvaluation of the heterosexual family seems like a good place to start, since ENDA was recently revised in a way that doesn’t sufficiently protect transgendered people from workplace discrimination.
Actually, discussing how not-blind the law is makes a good connection to last week’s quotes about objectivity and who is presumed to possess it… additionally, Thinking Girl recently read an article questioning whether women and blacks could be impartial judges.
The second quote is a good one for me to remember – it’s so easy when discussing the cultures of hate in our own society (not to mention other ones!) to think of the objects of this hate as, well, objects. And victims. The example Mohanty likes to use is the veil… Westerners just love to go on rants about the veil and the seclusion of women in other countries, but the veil can also have significant personal and religious meaning. The trouble is not the veil itself, but the forced choice of whether to wear it or not. Regardless, it’s not useful to think of veiled women (or any women) as victims of the veil or their womanhood, because to do so erases the personhood right out of the picture.
“Women do not imagine themselves as victims or dependents of governing structures but as agents of theur own lives. Agency is understood here as the conscious and ongoing reproduction of the terms of one’s existence while taking responsibility for this process.”