Jury Duty, In God We Trust and Kabuki

26 05 2010

I was called for jury duty on Monday for the first time ever and it was a fascinating glimpse into the American legal system.  I reported to the Bronx Hall of Justice located in the Southeast Bronx near Yankee Stadium, and the trek to the SE Bronx was just as interesting as my time spent there.

While on the train, I noticed a young boy (maybe nine years old) who appeared to be quite sick.  Sitting next to his mother, he leaned forward, opened his mouth and proceeded to let out globs and globs of phlegm, which landed right on the train floor.  The reaction to this incident was fascinating.  If I had been in Riverdale or Manhattan, I would have expected people to pull up their noses in disgust and perhaps mutter something unflattering.  But not on this train.  There was a sudden eruption of Spanish, everyone rushing to diagnose the boy, pass him tissues, practice breathing deeply with him and give the mother advice.  Instant family and an interesting East Bronx vs. West Bronx experience.

In the juror room, a short video was screened that explained the significance of our assignment and put the juror system in historical context.  (The video described ‘trial by ordeal’ and the evolution of the judicial system over time).  I was selected for voir dire in two cases:  a DUI and a sexual assault.  I was pardoned from each one as the cases were expected to last two to three weeks, and Jay and I will only be in the Bronx for one more week.  Though both sounded like interesting cases, I think that I would have felt uncomfortable and perhaps biased against the defendant in the sexual assault case due to the nature of the accusation.  Interestingly, the cases were from alleged incidents in 2007 and 2008 – a fairly significant delay of justice.

The building was stunning – walls made of glass, tons of daylight and views overlooking the whole city.  What surprised me and bothered me more than I would have thought was the “In God We Trust” letters emblazoned on the wall behind the judge’s seat in each courtroom.  In nearly every Faces presentation that I make, I reference the existence of religious symbols in the American court system, but seeing it for myself made me incredulous.  It doesn’t matter if you believe in God or not – when you step into a courtroom, you are being judged according to New York’s laws with federally protected rights.  God’s law doesn’t really matter as far as your sentence goes.

For those of you with ignoble intentions looking to evade jury duty, here’s what I accidentally found out:  There are no penalties for arriving late.  What if you arrive at 10:30 AM instead of 8:30 AM on your first day?  No worries.  They throw your name in the pile whenever you arrive.  How about if you arrive at 11 AM instead of 9:30 AM on your second required day of service?  They dismiss you right away and you can go home instead of waiting around until 5 PM, but your first day of jury duty absolves you from serving again for at least five years.  I was actually looking forward to serving and hope to in the future, but if you’re looking for the easy way out…

Finally and on an unrelated note, my family’s puppy (Kabuki) is sick.  I won’t get into the specifics of her condition and the doctors still aren’t certain of what happened, but my parents and little sister have been caring for Kabuki around the clock.  They’ve been superhuman care-givers, but were exhausted from the constant monitoring and accepted our offer to do a shift with Kabuki on Monday night.  We were happy to help (Jay was a hero and took care of Kabuki for most of the night), but this experience seriously reinforced our decision to put off having children.  I felt like we were young parents up all night with a newborn baby, and I’m just not ready nor interested in that right now.  Kabuki seems to be improving – we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

posted by amybetho

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9 responses

27 05 2010
rach g.

Really interesting about jury duty. I’ve always wondered what it’s like.

Re: Kabuki. Your comments made me laugh (in a friendly way, not at you), though obviously the dog’s illness is not a funny subject.
You definitely have the right idea with not rushing into a family if you’re not ready, but it amused me that staying up all night with a sick dog felt like taking care of a newborn to you.
Staying up all night with a newborn is not fun, but at least you love it, and feel like you’re investing time/effort which will pay itself off a million fold in the future when the baby can play, laugh, grow up, be a person, etc.
The payoff from dog-care is so much more limited, as is the attachment, which makes the caring-when-sick that much more of a chore.

27 05 2010
amybetho

I can imagine that the mother-child connection is stronger than the pet-owner relationship, but I don’t necessarily buy the argument that parenting ‘will pay itself off a million fold in the future’.

All parents dream about and idealize their children’s futures and their future relationships with their children, but few parent-child relationships meet that vision in reality. Parents invest years of their lives and their money, and sacrifice much of their time and their interests in what could be a fantastic product or what could also be the most risky investment you’ll ever make. What if your (not specifically your) kid is a total screw-up, on-drugs society menace? More realistically, what if your child decides to move to a different part of the world, doesn’t want to keep in touch as much as you do, or just thinks that you’re plain annoying? I know it’s hard to imagine when you look at a beautiful and perfect baby, but something to think about.

The risks are there at any age of parenting and the parenting experience might be a worthwhile one in itself regardless of the ‘finished product’, but I’ve seen enough messed up parent-child relationships to be jaded about the million fold benefits. (Sorry if that was intense.)

27 05 2010
joey

i often used to find myself babysitting for a friend, and i really enjoyed taking care of/playing with the baby and being a pretend dad for a couple of hours.

now they have two babies, and i recently babysat with allen. “One baby, one person, two babies, two people,” right? Wrong! It was sooo emotionally draining and challenging…. I’ll be sure to wait a LONG while before I can even think about having kid….. let alone kids.

also, i definitely don’t want my kids to think i’m annoying ….. ;D

30 05 2010
jayhorowitz

“also, i definitely don’t want my kids to think i’m annoying ….. ;D”

Just give them until at least their third birthday to start teaching them Alexander’s Trick. 🙂

27 05 2010
The Wandering Cartographer

I say this with love, as a mother, and a dog lover:
The payoff from dog-care is so much more limited” – I feel that tending to anything with a “payoff” in mind makes love a business, as opposed to an experience…

27 05 2010
The Wandering Cartographer

I also meant to add, which I feel was the crux of Amy’s point, experiencing anything lovingly is what it is…there is no need for comparisons at all when one is feeling love, the only time we generally invoke duality (i.e. dogs vs newborns) is a verbal tool – to translate what her experience of tending to a living being felt like to someone who may not yet understand the depth of what it feels like to provide to any of God’s creatures, and can more easily latch onto the concept of a baby. I feel that she merely wants to involve everyone in her joy. Sorry Amy that I am talking about you in the third person, is that weird? I love you!

27 05 2010
mopps

hi amy!

i guess that i am “outing” myself by posting this message, but i did want to respond to some of your points.

taking care of kabuki( while challenging) was an opportunity to “step up and do the right thing” and accordingly a no-brainer. when you love , you do what you have to, and thankfully, our collective results seem to be paying off. any pet owner who reads this will understand. any caretaker to an older parent will get it. anyone who loves someone else will know it too.

and as an aside to rachael: from one mother to another, i understand your “mother’ comments and second them. one of the special aspects of being a grandparent is seeing how tenderly your own child nurtures her own child and there is great joy in being a part of that.

with respect to child rearing: this is what i have learned as you girls have grown up : i have learned that my parenting role was to provide you with a strong base of values ( which in our family means a strong religious foundation )that would carry you forward into the years ahead and allow you to change and grow into the strong and independent women that you all are today. you may not be taking the life paths that i would have forecast-it is true that some kids turn out poorly- but that isn’t what parenting is about.

as the mom of three adult daughters, my expectations are to be involved/included in the lives of you “girls” to the degree that you will allow me to, to share your joys and disappointments as you make you own decisions (and which you must be responsible for if you screw it up).i had that bond with my mother and i want that connection with each of you (and between each of you) individually. it is that bond which makes it all worthwhile-sleepless nights and all.

and in closing, i must add that no one is telling you that NOW is the time to have children ( or for that matter, not to have). you will decide one day for yourselves and-speaking for bernie and roberta as well as for dad and me- when that happens, we have no doubt that you will be wonderful parents and we-collectively- will be the “best-est” grandparents ever.

30 05 2010
jayhorowitz

Heya!

I should clarify. Amy and I don’t feel pressure from anyone to have kids now. Or any time, really. Don’t feel like you need to reinforce that. We know that you all love and and support our decisions. (Well, at least those decisions.)

Now that you’re out, you can comment on other posts too. The lurkers emerge! (I found out my mom was reading a post the other day.) 🙂

Love,
Yair

2 06 2010
The Wandering Cartographer

Hey you,
I feel like I am learning about myself through your blog every time I read it, it’s awesome! No pressures, pure enjoyment! insert stars and hugs here: ____________________________

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