I’ve got two main thoughts for this week’s post; they’re perhaps not so closely related as they might be, but I’ll put them here for lack of a better place…
The first is what normally pops into my head when I hear the phrase “civic duty”: Jury Duty. I have it this week; my number was pulled Tuesday, and I was within about 8 prospective jurors of getting to experience a full-on criminal trial with a front-row seat. Several acquaintances sent me “tips” for how not to get chosen as a juror; I’m sure you can imagine a few of them. It turned out not to be needed; the jury box was filled and alternates selected before my turn for an “up/down” vote from the counselors was required.
While I was in the assembly room before the jury selection process began, I indulged one of my hobbies of people-watching; it was painfully obvious that of the nearly 50 potential jurors, only a handful were unconcerned about their presence. (I probably would have been, but my employer is reasonable about such things: my time-card has a charge code for jury duty, and I was/will be fully compensated for the day.) No, most of them fairly radiated the “I’d rather be just about anywhere else” vibe, and one or two were even availing themselves of some of the “helpful suggestions” my friends provided.
I’ll admit to being a little puzzled by this. I’m fairly confident that the majority of them would identify as Conservative (this is a dark-red county, and a darker-red town; it’s just playing the odds). They’d probably all claim to 100% support the Constitution. And yet, they didn’t want to participate in our democracy–even more, they didn’t want to participate in a part that is specifically named in the Constitution (“The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury…”–Article III, Section 2). I’d think, if you were truly a Constitution-loving conservative, you’d love to perform a Constitutional duty like this… Unless, of course, you’re playing that old tune, “I’ve got mine, and screw everybody else”–or, in this case, a variation of that…
Civic duty the second: Don’t be stupid, especially not in public. If you read a news article, and it elicits some sort of emotion (especially anger), do the world a favor and look for other articles to either disprove or corroborate it. Particularly if the source of the initial article is Fox News, but any source making you angry about any topic should be viewed as suspect. If it’s a politically-tinged topic, look at articles written with the bias from the other side; even if it doesn’t disprove things, you’ll (ideally) come away with an inkling of where the other guy is coming from.
A thing to note, also: if you find yourself agreeing with everything they say, you should also start looking for disproving/corroborative articles. If it’s done right, and you’re paying attention in the real world, the day you can go through an entire newspaper and agree and/or be happy with everything there is an extremely rare one. The idea of deliberately self-limiting your news to a single source “because they tell me what I want to hear” fills me with alternating dread and revulsion. (While we’re on the topic, don’t believe everything you think, either…)
I’m “officially” taking off for two weeks over the holiday season (pick your holiday–I’m fond of Yule, with the Saturnalia coming a close second). I may or may not post something, as the mood strikes me; at any rate, I’ll be back in the new year, rested and ready to go. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.) I hope your holidays are pleasant, and I hope you’ll stick around, and come January we can all pick up where I’ve left off. Enjoy!