When I was an undergraduate student, I was not yet a citizen, but I was blackmailed into registering for the Select Service, aka “The Draft”, in order to receive financial aid. This was a huge motivation for me to become a citizen. I wanted to have some say in the political process that might send me to fight wars in distant conflicts. I had no objection to being subject to conscription, but I found the notion of being denied a voice in the political process that might effect conscription especially unpalatable, repulsive even.
In 1995, therefore, I became a United States citizen and immediately registered to vote. The satisfaction of exercising the political voice whose absence effected the immigration of my family to the US has repeatedly been spoiled by the drudgery of jury duty, however, and today is my third trip to the enervating practice of “justice”.
Although the process has been dramatically improved over the last 10 years through the advent of computerized random sampling, it feels more and more like a dreadful anachronism, which it indisputably is. Two centuries ago, when the process was instituted, juries did not have to deal with anything as complex or as convoluted as modern contract disputes, patent disputes and crimes as bizarre as identity theft. Criminal accusations are ultimately born out or refuted by evidence that has been properly collected and complex civil disputes are best settled by those who have expert understanding of the heart of the matter.
As I am enduring the propaganda video exalting the validity of justice dispensed by juries and arguing the ecstasy of the process of serving, I am haunted by the following question: can we find a better reward than crappy politicians and jury duty for the privilege of suffrage in a democratic society?
Maybe I’ll catch up on my reading a little.