I confess, I wasn’t going to try a second essay. I needed so much help with my first effort, I didn’t feel it was worth the goodhearted commentary and support it engendered. But often, good comments save a halfbaked effort of composition, so here goes!
We have just experienced (and are still experiencing) what amounts to the latest in a series of show trials. I call show trials those that have the status of the classical ones – Socrates vs. Athens, Jesus vs. Pontius Pilate, all of history’s confrontations between government and an individual, in which the purpose has been quite clearly something other than a demonstration of justice. And now we’ve had the trial of George Zimmerman, which on other excellent forums has been described as an orchestration of similar nature.
I can’t possibly undertake a legal explanation of this or any other trial. I am not a lawyer. However, positioning ourselves above the fray for a moment, I believe it is important to reflect upon what this trial and others presently ongoing in the public eye or out of it, and potential trials to come, say about us and about our present government.
The place to begin, I believe is with the following conversation between Tim De Christopher and Bill Moyers:
And really, the importance of this conversation (which starts partway into the actual video) is right there in the first exchange:
BILL MOYERS: So when did you know for sure that you were going to be convicted?
TIM DECHRISTOPHER: During the jury selection of the trial. That was what really did it. There was a moment during the jury selection – we had this huge jury pool because it was a high profile case. And there was a moment where the prosecution and the judge found out that most of that jury pool had gotten a pamphlet before they came in on the first day from the Fully Informed Jurors Association. And it was a pamphlet that didn’t say anything about my case, but it talked about jury’s rights. It talked about why we have juries. And it, you know, quoted the founders of the country on juries being the conscience of the community. And the prosecution flipped out over this. It was the only time I saw the prosecutor completely lose his cool during the whole process. And we went into the judge’s chambers and the prosecutor was screaming and saying, “We should have a mistrial here.” And wanted to just throw the whole thing out.
There are three layers of justice in every trial – the layer imposed upon the community by the state: to keep order, to stay in power, to prolong empire, or, in a not-very-often-happening to provide for the common good. The second layer is that of the conscience of the law enacter – the judge, or in the cases we’re looking at, the jury. Then there’s the third layer – we, the people – how we assimilate the teachings of a trial, how we think and speak about it, how we react. That third layer is very, very important.
As I said above, we the people of the United States of America have more trials upcoming and ongoing in the pipeline. It may very well be that this is the declining moment of the great American US of A empire – because show trials, it does seem to me, occur during last stages of empire, historically speaking. They are a last ditch effort to maintain order, which in the case of empire means to manipulate public opinion in the favor of those who rule.
It doesn’t always turn out that way. In fact, I would argue, it never turns out that way.
And that’s justice.
Please do take this as an opening comment and feel free to give your own take on how things are and how they might turn out. I look forward to the conversation!