Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The D Word

There are a few places in America where you inevitably have to go. Everyone has to go, they have no choice in the matter.

One of those places is a court of justice for jury duty. The other is the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The two institutions are tied together, of course. You go to one, you're going to get called to the other.

I've had my share of adventures in both venues. The last time I had jury duty (it's always petit, and it's always Camden) I got called for a murder trial in which the defendant was African American and the victim African American. While on a break outside the selection room, I heard a young white guy in a Budweiser baseball cap say, "I hate n*****. They'll never put me on that jury." At the time I was standing with an African American man in a crisp suit who said, "I work for the government in a classsified manner. I have to be in Tokyo tomorrow morning. They'll never put me on that jury." There was also a creaky old lady I recognized from Snobville standing there with us. She was the one who wound up on the jury.

Have you ever looked around at a jury room or at the DMV? That's where you see the total cross section of America.No one can send someone else to get their driver's license. And so they come, everybody.

These are the people who form our democracy. And now I ask you, why should we even expect it to work? When you see a big room full of Americans of all stripes, it's stupefying.

Yes, yes, I live in a major metropolitan area, Camden County, NJ, which probably has a vastly more differentiated population than, say, Smalltown, Kansas. Still, I imagine everywhere there are educated people and uneducated people, rich and poor people, religious and irreligious people, people who hate minorities, and people who are tolerant, people who are gentle and kind, and people who are flaming assholes with loud voices and ugly opinions.

On any given Election Day, those people go out and vote.

Democracy is a tough enough proposition in countries with much more homogeneous populations. In America, it is bound to crash and burn, especially if it can pick up fuel and oxygen from dirty tricks, fake news, empty promises from second tier celebrities, and dissatisfaction with the trajectory of employment trends.

Bottom line: Even the Founding Fathers worried about all the stupid white men who would queue up to vote. They foresaw issues. They were right. Even when the only voters were white men (a much more homogeneous grouping than today) it didn't go well.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating dictatorship. But if you ask me, looking around the DMV or the jury room, I would have to say that democracy is one shaky motherfucker of a ship, just waiting to be swamped by a dictator, or anarchy, or civil war.

I hope I'm not right about this. I've been wrong about lots of stuff, so there's hope.


anne marie in philly said...

I LOVE your labels for this post!

Bob Slatten said...

Don't say that 'D' word and _____'s name in the same sentence.

Goddess knows what will happen.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

You guys need to get rid of that Electoral College system. It sucks.

Leeanna Henderson said...

Have you noticed that everything that has happened is the exact reverse of the norm. Yes, the exact opposite of what should have or be happening. Strange stuff my dear.

Ol'Buzzard said...

I marvel that the U.S. can even function. We have a huge majority of uneducated people that are vocal and now organized. Just look at Congress, the Senate and now Trumps Cabinet picks.
It is sad.
the Ol'Buzzard

Lucretia said...

Democracy may be shaky, as you put it, but what would you rather have in its place?


I'm with Debra..