Let’s Get On With It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

It was a national campaign of the US Department of Homeland Security. If you see something, say something. The enemy is here. It is us. We pulled it from an episode of Grace & Frankie. Old folks have hair that grows in places it ought naught. Frankie plucks a hair from Grace’s chin. “How long has that been there?” Grace exclaims. “Frankie, if you see something, say something!”

Yesterday, I had a collision of experiences at the courthouse during my jury pool swim. First, I read an article in The Atlantic, by Tom Nichols, Afghanistan Is Your Fault. He wrote, “The soldiers who served overseas in those first years of major operations soon felt forgotten. ‘“America’s not at war” was a common refrain among the troops. “We’re at war. America’s at the mall.”’

He continued, “A serious people—the kind of people we once were—would have made serious choices, long before this current debacle was upon them. They would today be trying to learn something from nearly 2,500 dead service members and many more wounded. They would be grimly assessing risk and preparing both overseas and at home for the reality of a terrorist nation making its way back onto the international map.

Instead, we’re bickering about masks. We’re holding super-spreader events. We’re complaining and finger-pointing about who ruined our fall plans.

Next, I was among the many chosen for voir dire (the jury selection process). I was in the last group selected so the odds of my serving on the jury were slim. I sat in the courtroom and watched an amazing moment unfold. The judge said something that all Americans should hear. It aligned perfectly with Tom Nichols’ thoughts. A potential juror, a young man, claimed serving on a one-day trial would create hardship. He’d miss a day of work. The judge questioned him to get more context and then sat back, considered for a moment, and said this:

“Democracy is hard work. When I was young, there were three things that we had to do: pay taxes, honor the draft if called, and serve on a jury if called. All of those things create hardship. Taxes aren’t easy. The draft changed the lives of thousands of young people. Serving on a jury interrupts life. It creates hardship. Giving of yourself to the common good means serving something greater than yourself. It is an interruption. Today, there are only two of those things because there is no draft. My point is, giving of yourself to make this gorgeous system work is not easy. It is hard work. It creates hardship to ensure that our system, the oldest democracy in the world, thrives and survives for the next generation.”

America is at the mall. Meanwhile, democracy is hard work.

For a serious people, there is a center to our commons and, keeping it alive, takes a bit of self-reflection and sacrifice. Giving of yourself to the common good means serving something greater than yourself.

Divided we fall. It is a cliche’ but could not be more relevant.

The enemy is here. It is us. Bickering about the lesser while the greater slips from our fingers. “If you see something, say something” is predicated on an assumption: we are in service to something greater than ourselves. We are on the same team with a common, shared interest.

The judge sat back in his chair after his lecture and asked the young man, “Are you less capable of handling hardship than anyone else in this room?”

“No, sir,” the young man sat back in his chair, resigned.

“Good!” the judge exclaimed. “Now, let’s get on with it.”

read Kerri’s blog post about SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING

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