I recently obliged to a jury duty summons. Upon reporting the first morning everyone had to complete a simple questionnaire. One of the questions asked whether we had any religious, ethical, or moral beliefs that would hinder us from maintaining fair judgment on a trial. Check yes or no. I didn’t quite know how to answer. I wasn’t even sure what the question was asking.
Do they want to know whether I have any “moral, ethical or religious beliefs?” Who DOESN’T? (Or who doesn’t at least hold some kind of “right and wrong” doctrine.)
Do they want to know whether these beliefs could hinder us from keeping a fair mind? How can they not?? Certainly they at least effect our opinion of what “fair” is.
WHAT IS FAIR??
That was the begging question in my head. I was stuck. I wanted to know by whose definition of fair I should answer the question. I can’t believe that we all could have the same standards of justice. It seemed like an impossible question to answer. Maybe I was obsessing over the word too much, but I was not going to pretend to know what “fair” is.
Of course I have religious, moral, and ethical views—-so does everybody to some degree. Of course my views effect my idea of what is fair—-that’s true for everybody too. How can anyone check no? Yet there is a “no” check box. The question assumes that the answer could for some be negative. Was I misunderstanding the question? Afraid I may be thinking about it way too much, I checked yes and moved on.
For the next couple days I waited in the hallway outside the juror’s lounge, trying to read but unable to concentrate. (I scarcely have the time to read at home and here I had two full days to waste and couldn’t turn a page. How aggravating!) Two seats to my left sat a woman who seemed to have a strong personality. She liked to talk. Her voice could be heard the entire corridor. She talked to no one in particular, just anybody who’d give her their attention. She started out boasting how she tries to do one good deed everyday.
“But not to my kids” she quickly specified. “I don’t do good deeds for my kids. They don’t deserve it.”
(Is it a “good deed” if it is deserved?) I kept my mouth shut and let the woman proceed with her ramblings.
“My kids are annoying.” she went on. “My daughter doesn’t think I can hear her. She’s always yelling—-right in my ear too! My son is mean. He’s always shoving his sister and pushing her down. My boy is seven and my girl is four. He’s always pushing her down. So I push him down! Fair is Fair, Right?” She exclaimed, inviting our laughter. “He’s bigger than his sister and he pushes her down. I’m bigger than him, I push him down. Fair is Fair!” She thought herself so clever.
Some of the jurors chuckled or at least smiled at her logic. Was I the only one listening? Do they really think this woman’s logic is funny—-or were they simply amusing her? I was the ‘Angela Martin‘ in the room—-while everyone else smiled, I kept a somber face with a conscious effort to not show any scorn.
I understand my ‘sweet, adorable’ little girl will not always be ‘sweet and adorable’. Someday she will be seven—-though I won’t need to wait that long before she begins to pull stunts to test my boundaries and push my buttons. And my reactions to my daughter’s behavior will not always be just or effective or good.
But this woman’s rationale disgusted me. I don’t know…if I were a seven-year-old and I shoved my little brother or sister, and my mom responded to my behavior by echoing it…I think I would learn that shoving is okay–after all, mom does it!. And I probably wouldn’t learn any other way of resolving conflict. I’d grow up to be an immature brat who gets what I want by shoving others around. There are enough “grown up” immature brats already. I wanted this woman to consider what she was modeling for her son but I dared not open my mouth. I’m a very new first-time mom who knows better than to share her inexperienced opinion.
The woman’s statements confirmed for me that human ideas of ‘fairness’ are indeed flawed. Fair is fair, right?
Who knows what fair is—-already I met another juror who differs from me on the subject. Remembering the stumbling question on the questionnaire, I knew I’d checked the right box. The answer can only be yes. My guess, however, is that the woman checked “no” to the same question. Impossible.
There is only One who judges perfectly. There is only One who is truly just.
I don’t believe I over-analyzed the question. Maybe the people who wrote the question should give it more thought.