Roger L. Simon

The View from the Juror Assembly Room

Note: Stock photo may not be entirely accurate reflection of current jury assemblage.

I am typing this in a juror assembly room at the Los Angeles Superior Court where I am awaiting a jury assignment. For a workaholic like me, no time is good for jury service, but I have no choice, having postponed so many times.

It is also the day it was announced that our country has its lowest labor participation rate since 1979. In benighted California the situation is undoubtedly worse. Some are reporting the real unemployment rate is 23 percent. Here in the Golden State it might be pushing thirty, if anybody really knows.

Looking around the juror assembly room I wonder how many of these people are employed. What do they do?  A few, the more middle class, while away the time on their iPads and Kindles, but most look grim, sitting there doing nothing, eyes straight ahead hour after hour, waiting for their names to be called.

The postponement line is shorter than i have ever seen it.  Why postpone when you have nothing else to do? And jurors here are paid fifteen dollars a day plus thirty-four cents a mile transportation reimbursement.  These days that’s a good job.  If David Stockman is to be believed — and I’m not one to doubt him — that’s where we’re all headed.

In Los Anqeles’ civic buildings everything looks tatty and run-down, not quite Cuba but on the way.  New facilities are almost always constructed of some unaesthetic material like melmac to resist the weather and graffiti.  The lights are all still fluorescent, net yet the yet more unappealing green kind, but they’re coming, I imagine.

The clerk calls the names for the first panel.  I am not mentioned and I watch the forty or so people file out to the court room in sheeplike fashion. One of the names called, oh ghosts of the L.A. Superior Court, is Nicole Brown 00 but it seems not to be the same person.

Are we already in 1984 or Brave New World? At least then they gave us soma. Or are we in a pre-revolutionary society?   Will the U.S. soon be like Egypt, disaffected youth rioting in the streets.  Los Angeles has enough potential soldiers in that not yet existent war to staff several competing armies.

But who will be our secular and who our religious, who the students and who the Muslim Brotherhood?  If you asked someone like Chris Matthews, he would have an easy answer for you.  He would know who to call a racist and who not from among the myriad racial stocks that make up the City of Angels.

I find the situation to be too bleak even to be angry at him.  Or at Barack Obama who appears to alternate between campaigning and vacationing while the citizens he governs sit on their couches imbibing whatever self-administered soma is a hand.  What else do they have to do?

His presidency has been unquestionably the least successful of my lifetime. Its only accomplishment is a healthcare plan that nobody understands let alone wants.  Americans are polarized as never before.  Mass unemployment has become the new normal.

Back when I was a child of the sixties, revolution appealed to me (a little bit anyway — though not as much as Robert Redford, evidently).  It seemed at the time it might be good to shake things up. Now — in my sixties — I’m rather less interested in government overthrow.

Ironically, America appears to need some kind of revolution now, much more than it did back then.  But not of the kind envisioned by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin or even Bill Ayers or Bernardine Dohrn. More the type envisioned by Thomas Jefferson.  After all, he was the man who said:  “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. ”

I’m not quite ready to take Jefferson literally.  I’m not even sure he took himself that way.  But I do know the country I live in now is not the one in which I grew up.

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