Monday, February 22, 2010


Roger Cohen has an interesting piece in today's New York Times about what he calls the "Narcissus Society." Community, writes Cohen, has vanished or eroded. Instead we have "frenzied individualism, solipsistic screen-gazing, the disembodied pleasures of social networking and the à-la-carte life as defined by 600 TV channels and a gazillion blogs." It's a perhaps hackneyed sentiment, but what makes the piece interesting is the fact that these feelings were provoked by serving on jury duty. Cohen writes" "Thrown together for two weeks at Brooklyn Supreme Court with 22 other jurors, I was struck by how rare it is now in American life to be gathered, physically, with an array of other folk of different ages, backgrounds, skin colors, beliefs, faiths, tastes, education levels and political convictions and be obliged to work out your differences in order to get the job done."

Sounds like "jury duty" might be a good candidate from the Arsenal of Inclusion. Indeed, "jury duty" is included in Interboro's list of 101 things that open the city. Interboro writes:

Jury Duty is the obligation of a citizen to serve on a jury to jointly render an impartial verdict in a courtroom trial and set a penalty or judgment; it accrues from the constitutional right to be tried by a panel of one's peers. As an instrument of direct government participation, it asks all formally recognized citizens to judge each other based upon a presumption of innocence and the rational weighing of facts. The summons process and the spatial organization of the jury chambers are such that they do not discriminate based on background, wealth, or ethnicity.

Jury Duty is in the Arsenal of Inclusion because it brings together a heterogeneous cross-section of the community to exercise an important civic right and responsibility. The shared tradition, practiced in small-town community courthouses and metropolitan judicial centers across the country, has long been a window onto the diversity of the American populace.

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