24 March 2001

Closing Time

So they thought and they reflected and they discussed and those twelve people in a little room in the sky said their peace collectively. For each juror there was a charge to deliberate, twelve for twelve and they came to their agreements, by whatever means, and decided seven one way and five another. And there’s one final step, always just one more step in a set of stairs that seem to lead nowhere near satisfaction. Penalty. A gentile white haired man in a robe will speak his peace. Everything happens so slowly.

And life has this predictable and yet always surprising way of continuing – even when it doesn’t. It’s like closing time at the bar, everyone knows it’s going to happen but they’re surprised and saddened when the bright lights are turned on them. A collective sigh peals the air and people hide their eyes from that revealing moment and squint.

Shield your eyes boys. It’s last call.

17 March 2001

God's Work

In the halls of justice, two defense attorneys tell me that they love their jobs, “it’s God’s work,” they say with perfunctory pride – like a mantra they learned in law school. I spend a good deal of time ruminating over their blaspheme. The laws of God have nothing to do with the laws of man. God’s work is about the soul. Do they really believe that what they’re doing has anything whatsoever to do with the soul? I let the notion fumble through my head, how perhaps they have come to view the justice system as the soul of America. And I think, the conscience, perhaps, at best, but not the soul. In fact, at its simplest level it’s merely a set of rules – like them or not. It is what it is, a “system.”

We do need rules in order to coexist and we need to agree on those rules. Any peace loving person can be incited to violence when those rules are rejected. We may or may not agree with those rules, but they have their place. They are not to remain unquestioned, but they have their place. They are not to remain unchallenged, but they must be challenged within the context of the communities and societies that created them.

I sit here this morning as a witness for the prosecution in a criminal trial, waiting for the jury to return their verdicts. Twelve people sit in a room somewhere across town discussing the details, struggling with a morass of testimony and other evidence to sort out the truth from the lies. Their verdicts will neither be a victory or a defeat. After all, what is right and what is not right, need we ask anyone to answer those questions for us?

10 March 2001

Something Inbetween, I guess

My head is as messy as this desk on Fridays and sometimes Mondays. This is what I think about your justice. Intrigued. Skeptical. Disdain. Hope.

I have a lingering feeling that you relied on my politics. You thought that on some level you knew me, or something about me and I believe you’re mystified at how wrong you were. Politics, after all, are simply the ideology that supports the infrastructure. No different than religion, philosophy or machinery - a grand rationalization and a tool.

What’s in my head is one thing. There is a logic that rests on thinking and puzzling through a problem. The logic of my skin works its way around my tongue in circles and whispers and this is what I speak. When it starts to feel right, the words surface into air and gives rise to the wind beneath birds. Everything carries something. The weight is never so great or so insignificant as to not leave some space between.

Sometimes you can feel the closeness, the tightness, the perfect fit of the space, the weight and the foundation. The foundation, this too is a grand illusion. Is it the bottom of the ocean, the peak of a mountain, the someplace in between? Is it a rock or some collection of smaller things? If you’ve ever been in an earthquake you know that the ground beneath you is a myth. There’s no such thing as surefooted. Everything, yes everything, is subject to change. Sometimes, to realize this, your very world must be shaken up - hard. It looks like freedom but it feels like death. It’s something in between, I guess.

There are strange blessings in all that happens - learnings, teachings, doorways and windows. Your doorways are different than mine. You’ve come to this moment for different reasons and lessons than I have. But we did choose to come to this moment together. Nothing is an accident. When it comes to what we each believe in, it’s very clear to me that it’s all rhetoric to you and it’s all very real to me. We’re about to make it all real for everyone. How it all shakes out is going to be a revelation to one of us.