I've spent the last week serving on a jury for a criminal trial at the County Courthouse in Santa Ana, here in California. (If I tell you any more, I'd have to kill you, but that's not important right now.)
I'll be honest with you: I'm not enjoying it.
I have been sitting through hours of testimony and evidence and exhibits one through twelve. But I'm not happy about it.
I may not discuss the details of the trial with anyone. Which makes me feel a little crazed.
I have to sit completely still. And be quiet. And listen attentively. For hours.
For a chatty and friendly and active Cuban woman such as myself, all of this adds up to cruel and unusual punishment.
But I remember this….
It was in this very courthouse that I was sworn in as an American citizen in 1974. I was 19 years old and very proud and sober and serious about the oath I was taking in this same courthouse:
"I hereby declare, on oath,
that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen;
that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;
that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law;
that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law;
that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion;
so help me God."
That's right. I took An Oath. And I said, "So help me God." And I meant it.
So, while I'm not happy to be serving on a jury because of my own selfish, personal discomfort, I feel extremely proud and privileged to do so.
In Cuba, as in many other socialist nations, there is no such thing as "being innocent until proven guilty."
There is no such thing as a "jury of your peers."
Simply stated, there is no such thing as freedom.
I voted today. In free elections. Because I live in a Representative Republic and I have a voice.
I know that I happen to be using that voice to complain (loudly!) about having to do my civic duty. And that's part of the beauty of this: it's my right to complain if I want to.
But ultimately, it's my joy to serve, because I remember that it's not that I have to serve in the judicial process….it's that I get to.
Go Vote. It's your privilege as an American citizen. In other words, you get to.
(cross-posted at Babalú blog)