I’ve learned a lot about modern man and law recently. Sadly, the most I learned reaffirmed and cemented my opinion of the legal system in this country.
I thought in that moment about Atticus Finch, and how it’s all fallen down now.
I swore an oath to a god I’m not quite certain I subscribe to. As I was swearing to this god, I was again pondering why or how he/she/it has time to manage all the important goings-on in the universe, and trivial lawsuits, the goings-on with my penis, the penises of the world, and complimenting vaginas of others, dirty thoughts and who is naughty or nice etc., my ongoing confusion between Santa Claus and God and maybe the Easter Bunny and now, the law.
Anyway, I swore not to lie to anyone, including this very busy god.
I found the swearing to tell the truth and nothing but the truth concerning and in the busyness of being grilled for almost six hours, I frequently found myself questioning what exactly the truth had to do with this entire escapade. Truth in the legal system is a subjective truth. As a boy squirming and wiggling in church and getting slapped and told to sit quietly, I was told the truth, especially this god entity’s truth, was absolute. In the years that have passed since the era of that sweaty and squirmy and dirty little boy, I’ve learned that truth was nothing more than a part of the narrative. A colorful bit of fun snuck in between words and questions to hopefully fit a legal defense or someone’s story.
It was astounding to me to hear the question asked and within a few seconds of silence, to be forced to decide what part of the narrative this question was trying to support, and what picture were these words trying to paint. Answer in short and cryptic sentences but tell the truth and don’t elaborate.
I watched two men, two men who must be far better men than me, because they seemed to be the keepers of this elusive truth at five-hundred dollars an hour—each—use the same short and terse words that had just passed my lips become molded and fabricated to completely different explanations, again angled and injected into part of the larger story. As a writer, I was quite impressed by their handiwork.
While I had fun wearing a tie and answering questions to the point that my throat was actually sore, my opinion of the judicial system plummeted.
How can anyone, armed with the information fabricated, twisted and polished in this manner, be presented as unvarnished fact and evidence, and then decide the fate of another human being?
This has been my position for decades, that I am not fit to serve on a jury, and my new revelation that I’m not fit to serve as a witness either.
I wanted to speak the truth, not some speculative truth, but an absolute truth, the absolute truth. But that wasn’t an option. I spoke of the truth as I understood it. What a sad state when one is incapable and as confused as me, must somehow now be a defender of and keeper of and witness for some truth that seems elusive at best, and more realistically, fabricated and twisted right down until its very essence is gone. Only empty and hollow words can remain.
I told my truth, and my truth was as close to the truth this god was looking for as I could possibly make it, but I’m not sure it was the whole truth and nothing but the truth because that truth did not not seem to be any part of the presented questions.
I hope I caused no one any undue harm and I hope I did some good, but I’m sure the god who is summoned at the outset of such spectacles and ceremonies must be a very sad and disappointed god…
If this nation has failed, the failure started when truth became a commodity, bought and sold at five-hundred bucks an hour.