My Constitutional Celebration


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.

The Perils of Ignoring “Credible”

nature summer yellow animal
Photo by Pixabay on

One year ago today I spent the day watching Dr. Christine Blazey Ford testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her story of being assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was compelling, sobering, and for those of us sexual assault victims, triggering.  Immediately following her testimony, even some Republican Senators said she was “credible.” Remember that word? “Credible”? Of course that was before Mr. Kavanaugh gave his own defiant, angry testimony, announcing his affinity for beer, complaining bitterly how his life and his reputation and his family would be “ruined” if he was denied the big, professional prize, that Supreme Court seat.  As we all know now, Dr. Blazey Ford is the one whose life was ultimately ruined. By eleven white men.  I wrote this poem a year ago, but it seems fitting to publish it on the anniversary of her testimony.

11 White Men

Eleven white men sit in silence
afraid of optics
and history repeating

Eleven white men cede their time to a female prosecutor
cede expressions of empathy
until the witness becomes a man

Eleven white men push aside the prosecutor
comfort restored
optics no longer matter

Eleven white men vote in favor of the man
a credible accuser’s words
simply not enough

our divided nation watches
women’s voices be assaulted by
Eleven white men


Yesterday we heard that word again–“credible.” This time it was applied to a complaint filed by a courageous federal whistle-blower. “Credible,” said the Inspector General who reviewed the complaint and completed its initial investigation. “Credible,” said the Acting Director of National Intelligence yesterday, as he testified before the House Intelligence Committee.

There are consequences when our leaders ignore “credible” things. September 11th happened because “credible” threats were ignored. A tainted Supreme Court Justice sits on the bench because “credible” allegations were ignored, not only by the eleven white (Republican) men on the Judiciary Committee, but also by the FBI who was asked to dig deeper into Justice Kavanaugh’s behavior while he was drinking all of that beer in college, but ultimately did not contact any corroborating witness.

I realize that “credible” doesn’t automatically mean “true.” But when that word appears in the context of something important to our nation and its future, it is worth taking seriously. This latest “credible” allegation, which not only describes our President pressuring a foreign leader for personal political gain but also its apparent cover up, is no different. We should be paying attention to and supporting those who do take it seriously. And on November 3, 2020 we should pledge not to vote for those who don’t.

Be Bold and Speak the Truth

Sometimes another writer’s work is so close to my own thinking, I can’t help but wonder if  they have been secretly hanging out inside my head. This week’s “WRighteous” column by Amy Ferris is one of those pieces. I envy her boldness, her directness, her ability to capture the multiple contradictions so evident in our divided America, speaking truth to power in such a creative, articulate way. I sometimes hesitate to share my more powerful poems, worrying too much about whether people will think they are too strident, or too “political.” But a wise woman once told me, “Change comes when the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same.” Our country is in so much pain right now. An effective way to ease the pain is to find our voice, find our courage, and be as bold in speaking truth to power as Amy Ferris is. I’ll try to be bolder–and I hope you will try too.