Vaccination Privilege

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Yesterday I registered through my county’s vaccination coordination platform. I’m not eligible to be vaccinated yet. At age 61 I’m still too young. But I was feeling helpless and frustrated as, one by one, my older friends and acquaintances started texting about the joys of getting their vaccination appointment, or posting photos on Facebook and Instagram to celebrate that first blessed shot. Yes, I am happy for them. But it’s hard not to feel a bit jealous, too.

So I went to the platform and registered. It took less than three minutes to provide some basic contact information and answer a few questions. It took less than a minute to receive confirmation that I wasn’t yet eligible, but would be notified about making a vaccination appointment as soon as I was. I felt much better being able to do at least that.

But then I realized that my ease in navigating this process was made possible in large part due to my white, upper class privilege. My education draws me to newspapers and official government websites that provide information about the availability of the county platform and how to use it, instead of relying on word of mouth. My wealth provides me with a computer (and a smart phone, and a tablet…). I have reliable, available internet access in my own home, and I have used technology for so long it does not intimidate me one bit. As a U.S. citizen I don’t fear sharing personal information with the government–even though the county platform does not ask for citizenship or immigration status.

When it is time for me to make an appointment, technology and internet access will help me make one. And when I finally get that appointment, I will be able to drive the car I own to wherever I need to go for my vaccine. I will not worry about whether I have enough money to put fuel in it, enough to keep it running in a super-vaccination site parking lot so I can stay warm while I wait. I won’t have to take time off from work to get vaccinated, but even if I did I wouldn’t need to worry about it. Throughout my career I received plenty of leave time to access health care without losing any pay.

These significant blessings are not readily available to everyone who needs and deserves a vaccine just as much as I do. So while I’m happy to be registered, I also feel a little bit ashamed at how relatively easy getting that shot in my arm will be for me. And I also feel mad. Because the racial and social inequities pre-baked into this whole COVID vaccination process are staring back from the screens of our smart phones and computers. Am I the only one who sees them?

My Constitutional Celebration

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This morning, for the first time in more than a decade, I had to appear for Superior Court jury duty. The last time I was summoned I got to call a juror hotline the day before to see if I was needed, and I wasn’t. This time, there was no call in option–I had to show up.

A lot has changed since I last had to appear in person.  The jury assembly room has been modernized with big-screen TVs, free WiFi with decent bandwidth, and free access to e-books and magazines courtesy of the county library. There are tables and workstations and quiet rooms to allow people to function while waiting to be assigned to a courtroom. There’s even a cafe next door that serves reasonably good coffee.

The last time I was summoned I was working full time and jury duty felt like a major inconvenience. I was distracted by everything happening back at the office. I worried about the work I was not getting done. And I knew that even if I managed to get selected for a jury, I would most likely be excused because my job required me to interact regularly with police officers and as a result, I respect their work.  Plus, my education and analytical thinking skills tended to make defense attorneys nervous about having me in the jury box. I have never served on a municipal or superior court jury, and it would have been easy to see today’s service as yet another waste of time.

But all that changed when I learned what our President did yesterday. Over the last week (and even before the end of his impeachment trial, really), Number 45 has made it abundantly clear he does not respect the rule of law and the institutions of justice created to uphold it. Yesterday he trashed the 5th Amendment to the Bill of Rights when he threw out pardons like cheap Mardi Gras beads to a bunch of felons, all of whom had been convicted by juries of their peers.  Our President does not understand (or care) that juries comprised of ordinary citizens like you and me are what keep our justice system fair and impartial.  As Superior Court Judge James Crandall stated so eloquently in his welcome this morning, “Jury duty is a constitutional celebration.”  

But with yesterday’s actions, our President basically said my jury service today doesn’t matter. Because he can use (abuse) his power to pardon anyone he wants to, any time he wants to. He can do this even if their illegal behavior ruined lives, endangered our country, corrupted our democracy or worse.  Yesterday he thumbed his nose at the scales of justice, because he doesn’t believe they should apply to him or anyone he likes (which apparently only requires a big enough donation to his re-election campaign).  I don’t know about you, but that really pissed me off.

So  I arrived at the courthouse this morning eager to serve. I was ready to willingly change my plans and appointments if I was lucky enough to get in the jury box for a trial. Because being an impartial, thoughtful juror was one way I could help prop up those scales of justice. Because we need those scales of justice to be working properly if we are the ones ever a accused of a crime. Because if I were a defendant, I want someone like me deciding my fate. And because fulfilling my civic duty as a juror was one simple way I could say “F-you!” to the President and his abusive power. 

Late this afternoon I was excused from service. The court cases that might have required jurors simply weren’t ready for us.  I was a little disappointed, even though I got to go home.

Many people around the world live where there is no fair, impartial justice system in place. We ought not take ours for granted, no matter what our idiot President does with his power. Because in our corner of the world, justice and truth still matter. And it’s up to normal, ordinary citizens like us to keep it that way.

So the next time you get called for jury duty, don’t think of it as an inconvenience. Think of it as a way to contribute to the “constitutional celebration” our country desperately needs right now.

 

 

“When Home Is the Mouth of a Shark”

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Now that the White House has announced its plans to cap the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States at 18,000, the lowest number in almost 40 years, we need to stop and reflect on what causes people to become refugees in the first place. Why do they leave everything behind except what they can reasonably carry? Why do they trade the life they know for the uncertainty of life in a place they don’t know at all? Why do they flee, despite the dangers of migration? Why do they keep trying to come even when they know it may lead to imprisonment, family separation, persecution, and hate-filled, dehumanizing rhetoric combined with horrible living conditions? Why isn’t that enough to keep them home?

The answer is found in this beautifully sharp and powerful poem, written by Warsan Shire, a British writer and poet born to Somali parents. Stop what you are doing–take a break right now–and read it for yourself. I promise you’ll never see refugees quite the same way again or wonder why they risk so much to leave their home.

“Home” by Warsan Shire

Then when you’ve finished reading, consider supporting one of the many nonprofit organizations working along our southern border, trying to bring justice to the plight of those refugees. Click here for a list of Charity Navigator’s highest rated charities providing services and resources to individuals and families seeking a better outcome in the United States than they experienced in their home countries.