Avril Brown Presents:
Last week I participated in what some refer to as the most important responsibility one has as a citizen of the United States of America.
Namely, I had jury duty.
For years I was able to escape the clutches of the American Justice System by being tied up in school or some other equally laudable excuse, but they finally caught up to me. Naturally I bemoaned my fate and received sympathy from those around me who’ve served, but as it shockingly turns out, my experience was really nothing to complain about. We were settled into a room with rather comfy chairs, made welcome to the Cook County Courthouse by a woman with a sense of humor who was either new at her job or just plain awesome, watched a video made in the eighties enlightening us to the general system of jury duty (and partially narrated by Lester Holt, a name and face familiar to Chi-towners), and waited for less than three hours before being informed there was only one case being presented that day, none of us were required and we were free to go.
“Gotta love the American judicial system,” said the woman next to me with a smile on her face as she packed up her laptop. No complaints here; I made a decent dent in my latest Harry Dresden paperback and used my free afternoon to hit the bars with my $17.20 check. However I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to serve on a jury. Now I am certain my curiosity will be satisfied to the point of wishing I had kept my big mouth shut the day I do actually have to serve on a jury, but as of right now I ponder how it would feel to be one of those people who decide if a person is guilty or innocent of their accused crime. In spite of the tales of woe, the crappy pay and the massively cheesy “Why You Should Love Jury Duty” video, I must agree that serving on a jury is one of the most significant acts we as citizens can partake in.
Lawyers perform, judges preside, and juries determine. No one can accuse me of being a die-hard patriot; there is too much hypocrisy and bloodshed staining the history of this country, but the same can be said for many other nations. Yet we must acknowledge there is something to be said for a system of government that puts such power in the hands of its people. True many individuals are flaming imbeciles, though ideally for every moron there is a compassionate and concerned citizen dedicated to bringing a tiny bit of peace and justice to their corner of the world.
Some of my favorite comics ever written have nothing to do with explosive battles between good and evil or invasions from hostile alien races. Rather they involve superheroes out of costume, doing normal, mundane things such as having a cup of tea in a shop, going camping with a loved one, or being called in for jury duty.
Clearly I have not read every single comic ever created, but in my memory I cannot recall reading a superhero comic book where the leading man or woman served on a jury. I know these characters are superheroes and are supposed to be doing superhero things, like punching rogue asteroids back into space, but most of them have secret identities designed to help them blend in with the rest of society, and that means they are also citizens of the United States. And being a registered voter or licensed citizen means being summoned for jury duty.
Having a superhero serve on a jury would make a fascinating one-shot story because it creates an unusual conflict that cannot be solved by throwing a truck at a bad guy or tearing down a building. If say Peter Parker was called into jury duty and picked to serve on a misdemeanor trial, by law he is required to do so. Yes he has responsibilities as Spider-Man to swoop in and save the day whenever some mentally unbalanced guy in a green cape launches his latest nefarious scheme, but his responsibilities as Peter Parker dictate he show up to court on time in appropriate attire, listen to the arguments presented to him, and make an educated decision as to what really happened. So would Peter sit through a week’s worth of eyewitnesses and evidence showing whether or not the defendant broke into someone’s home, or would Spider-Man don his tights, slip out the bathroom window and stop a hold-up in progress?
Superhero or citizen? The truly well-rounded characters are those who don’t pick one or the other, but rather take up the obligations of both and perform the required tasks with equal passion and commitment. Deciding the fate of one person in a courtroom should be just as important to the future of this world as stopping a gigantic Earth-shattering bullet, otherwise what is the point in saving this planet and all its inhabitants?
Finding a workable balance between being a costumed crusader and a responsible resident is what makes a true hero.
Besides, if we have to accept a shitty paycheck with a smile, then so should they.
Copyright 2006- 2010 Marc Mason/Comics Waiting Room. All rights reserved