Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Ft. Bragg . . . where??? (California)

Most people, when they think of Fort Bragg, think of a military post in North Carolina. The Fort Bragg we discovered several years ago in California has little in common with the North Carolina Fort Bragg.

Our first time in Fort Bragg, as we left Cucina Verona, an Italian restaurant where we had eaten dinner, we were startled by the loud sound of hoofbeats, and the sudden appearance of two riders, galloping hell-bent down the middle of the road in Ft. Bragg. It was one of those adrenaline moments, when you wonder if you really saw what you just thing you saw, followed by all the things that could go wrong when you mix horses, highways, automobiles and high speed.

This time, one of the first things we saw was this sign:

 

But . . . it doesn’t say anything about riding horses, skateboards, or bicycles down the center of the street!

Ft. Bragg has a very laid back vibe. The town is full of couples who look a lot like us, maybe even a little older, maybe a little more hip and less retired military than we look, but relaxed, comfortable in their own skins. We love the vibe. My very favorite activity in Ft. Bragg is at the north end of the town, where they have a place called Glass Beach. Glass beach is where the old town dump used to be, a long time ago, and all the bottles dumped there broke and were washed by the waves, tumbled by the gravel and sand, and became beach glass. Most of what you find is pretty small these days; Glass Beach has been discovered, but if you venture out the the furthest inlets and rocks, you can find some larger pieces, sometimes even a green piece. I found one tiny little blue piece, the grand prize of all beach glass.

We love the North Cliff Hotel, where every room has the same view, looking out over the water at the inlet to the little bay.

We love the hot tub with a view.

 

We love the view. On the morning we were leaving, we looked out and someone had written a huge message on the sand, “Annie will you marry me?” How cool is that?!

Time is flexible in Ft. Bragg. We get up when we want to, we don’t have to drive to any destination, we can be lazy or we can just meander around, which is what we choose to do.

Love this tunnel of eucalyptus trees entering Ft. Bragg from the north:

This yard had no flower but yellow flowers, and a LOT of yellow flowers!

 

 

Just a short drive south is Mendocino, one of the most beautiful little California towns you could hope to find. We were looking for special gifts for two special people, and found them, polished carved natural bay laurel bowls, at this shop.

 

I read a recent article on how California leads the way for the American soul; it gives me hope for the future of our country. California pioneered gay rights, California champions the rights of immigrant children to education and health benefits, and Californians “welcome the stranger,” as all people of the book are supposed to do.

This was in the window of the main grocery/hardware/sundries store in Mendocino. When a woman saw me taking a photo, she asked me why, and I told her, it made me feel welcome and filled my heart with joy to know that it specifically would also make my Arab / Muslim friends feel welcome. She smiled, sternly, and said that they welcome ALL people, that is what California is all about. I was happily chastened. 🙂

 

I want the United States of America to be a safe place for all people. No wonder I love California!

Well, there is another reason to love Ft. Bragg – they have one of the world’s best ice creameries right on the major through street in Ft. Bragg. 

Cowlicks Ice Cream is never not busy. On our first trip (we went twice in one day!) I had a scoop of ginger ice cream. It was a huge WOW. On the next trip, I had a chocolate which was really chocolaty, but I wished I had another scoop of ginger.

As we sat, eating our ice cream, I overheard a stylish but somewhat-frail looking 80’ish woman tell her daughter that she didn’t want to be bothered being married again, she was just looking to have a little fun without the complications of a relationship. Such is life in Ft. Bragg. 🙂

 

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June 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Hotels, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Social Issues, Travel, Values | , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Things You Can’t Make Up

In Pensacola, as in other places I have lived, I have met some very fine people. It isn’t unlike my other adventures, I have had to learn to observe and to adapt. Sometimes I may disagree, but most of the folk I deal with are civil people, reasonable people, and if they don’t agree with me, most of them have the generosity of spirit to just shake their head and chalk it up to my eccentricity.

And some people, you just don’t even bother to disagree. You don’t comment. You look the other way. I was lucky this time, to have my camera with me because if I didn’t have the picture, I’m not sure I would believe me telling the story. Here is what I see:

 

 

I see this and I am a stranger in a strange land.

April 11, 2018 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cultural, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land | Leave a comment

Dancing for Joy: Women Will Drive in Saudi Arabia

(Women have been driving in Saudi Arabia for years. Brothers, fathers, take the women into the desert and teach them so that in an emergency they will have the skills. Saudi women drive outside the kingdom. Now, they will – legally – be allowed to drive in their own country. Hallejujia!

What an irony, that women are gaining rights under repressive regimes, and losing rights in the USA under our current regime)

Saudi government says it will allow women to drive

Saudi Arabia plans to lift ban on women driving
 
The change aligns Saudi Arabia with virtually every other country in the world, including other conservative monarchies in the Persian Gulf. (The Washington Post)
September 26 at 7:37 PM
Women in Saudi Arabia will be permitted to drive in the kingdom for the first time, according to a royal decree issued in Riyadh on Tuesday that overturned one of the most widely criticized restrictions on human rights.

The change may be the most visible sign yet of a modernizing Saudi Arabia, with reforms implemented by the heir apparent to the Saudi throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Signed by his father, King Salman, and broadcast on state television, the decree said that the “majority of senior scholars” had deemed the change legitimate under Islamic law and ordered the government ministries concerned to make whatever legal adjustments are required to implement it by June 24.

For much of the rest of the world, the prohibition on women driving has long symbolized the many restrictions on individual freedoms in Saudi Arabia, particularly those applying to women.

The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Khaled bin Salman, who spoke at a news conference in Washington, hailed the development as a “historic, big day in our kingdom.” He said that female drivers would not need to travel with male “guardians” or seek permission to obtain driver’s licenses, and that women’s li­censes from other countries in the region would be recognized.

The change aligns Saudi Arabia with other conservative monarchies in the Persian Gulf that have long allowed women to drive. It was unclear whether the lifting of requirements that male relatives accompany women or give permission for them to leave their homes, still implemented in much of the country, would apply to activities other than driving.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud speaks at a ceremony on Sept. 20, 2017. (Bandar Al-Jaloud/AFP/Getty Images)

The Saudi government, which has long endured negative publicity over its restrictive domestic policies, was eager to broadcast the change. In addition to the news conference at the embassy in Washington, the Foreign Ministry contacted reporters offering to arrange calls with selected Saudi women to comment on the policy.

The ambassador said the decision was not based on religion but on social and economic considerations, and was part of the modernization reforms being implemented by the crown prince.

“There is no wrong time to do the right thing,” the ebullient ambassador said. With more women entering the workplace, “they need to drive themselves to work.” He said the implementation delay was needed to ensure that the legal and logistical environment was prepared for the change. “We have to make sure our streets are ready” for a potential doubling in traffic, he said.

September 27, 2017 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 4 Comments

Bad Moon Rising – Bend the Knee

 

 

Actually, it isn’t a Bad Moon Rising, it’s my blood pressure.

We’ve not paid any attention to the news for almost three weeks. We would catch a glimpse here and there, but we had other things to hold our attention.

I usually watch news while waiting for our grandson to arrive after school. It’s like an addiction. I can feel myself getting angry and tense, I don’t really think my blood pressure is really going up, but I no longer feel relaxed and content.

I can’t speak for AdventureMan, but together we spent years in Germany and in the Middle East, at military posts and in Embassies, fighting totalitarian regimes who cannot tolerate and who suppress all dissension.

I saw a news story yesterday, about an 88 year old WWII veteran who posted a photo of himself, a white man, bending the knee in support of those who are using the bent knee as a non-violent, respectful way of drawing attention to recent increased racial inequality and injustice in our great nation. His courage brought tears to my eyes. He says “I am a warrior, and I stand for all the good things that our nation stands for. We stand together for justice and equality.” He expressed solidarity with those bending their knees.

I don’t see bending the knee as disrespectful. It’s not turning one’s back. It’s not disrespectful to our country in any real way. It’s an expression that all is not well with the current direction of our leadership. It’s a First Amendment right, peaceful dissension.

I wonder if I bend the knee in support, will someone help me get back up?  🙂

 

September 25, 2017 Posted by | Aging, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Free Speech, Leadership, Political Issues, Social Issues | 2 Comments

Wake of the Vikings: Reykjavik and Thingvellir in Iceland

We can’t believe our good luck, after the clouds and rain in Oslo, Bergen and being shut out of Lerwick, here we are in Iceland, and the weather is PERFECT. Perfect, that is, if you are an Alaska girl who loves to chill 😉 as AdventureMan debates whether or not he needs to wear his long underwear to keep warm.

The cruise director, Aaron Syfert, has told all of us, his cruise-children, to dress “like onions,” in layers, so that we can dress down if possible, and be warm enough when it is really cold. As we enter the bus, we have three or four layers; within minutes, there is a loud outcry from those aboard “Please turn down the heat!” In our full-up onion garb, it is really hot. The driver laughs and said he had wanted us to be warm enough, and turns down the heat until everyone is happy.

We drive through part of Reykjavik en route to our first stop, and the place I have wanted to see the most, Thingviller.

I have a thing about sacred spots, that it seems to me that there are some places in the world where the interface between this world and . . . the next? . . . the former? . . . .the alternate? . . . the interface is thin and perhaps not open, but permeable. Thingviller is a very very old place, a place where all those spread out in rural Iceland would gather to made decisions for the community. It was one of the most ancient forms of democracy, or democracy of a sort, of course it was mostly chieftains making the decisions, advised by their counsel, and while those decision makers were probably mostly men, they made decisions by consensus, and vote, for the greater good of the community.

Some of the decisions they reached would chill you. You will see a waterfall, below, by which there is a pond where violates of the law were drowned. Our guide tells us that most of them were women who had children out of wedlock. “What happened to the men?” one guest asked. “They were beheaded, if they could be found, if they could be identified,” she replied. She added that most of the time, the women went to their death without identifying the man who had impregnated her.

Geologically, Thingviller is fascinating. Thingviller is a huge rift between two tectonic plates, the North American Plate and the Euro/Asian Plate. I had known of “The Thing” the Viking Thing, about the decision making places, but it wasn’t until Digg, or one of the other news sourcing articles I get told me in some spectacular photos from around the world, that I knew about the rift. There were photos underwater, photos of daring young divers with one hand and foot on the North American Plate and the other on the EuroAsian Plate, truly spectacular. I wanted to visit the decision making place, and I wanted to visit the rift.

Last – and not least – Thingviller is one of the locations where Game of Thrones is shot, many of the scenes north of The Wall and of The Wall are shot here. It gives us a thrill, first Spain and the Alcazar and Alhambra, then Dubrovnik, and now Iceland, we are on a roll.

We had a great day, a truly great day, and the weather held. For me, Thingviller was worth the trip to Iceland.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Travel, Weather | , , , , | 4 Comments

Wake of the Vikings: Oslo City Tour

If this is your first time visiting this blog, there are things you don’t know yet. One important thing would be that AdventureMan and I love to travel, and the other is that we are very independent. We are pretty awful about tours. We aren’t very good at following with a crowd, we sort of break off, and often disappear altogether. I have pity for the tour guides who get us; they have a job to do and we are not compliant. We ARE good at keeping the guide informed, like when we are dropping off, and assuring them that we will be able to meet up with them elsewhere.

Having said that, this tour of Oslo was very thorough. Much of it was “panoramic” which is travel industry code for drive-them-around-in-a-bus-and-show-them-things, stop-a-couple-times-to-let-them-take-photos. It did that. What I liked was that the guide really knew her stuff, and gave us a lot of cultural information, a lot of local lore along with the “this is the parliament building” kind of information. We got a lot of information, buildings, institutions, and we also got a lot of information about how the locals live and how the locals view things.

As we drove through posh neighborhoods, the guide told us about how the housing costs in Oslo have forced most Norwegians out of the city; that old buildings and new have spaces rented by foreigners and corporations. For the same price as a small apartment, Norwegians can buy a house out of town. The commute is horrible, but many get up at five and are at their desks by seven to avoid the traffic.

She took us to see a famous ski-jump. Now this is one of those things I would have said “I don’t care,” but when I got there, I could see that it was like a DESIGNER ski-jump, curvy and futuristic looking. I also loved it that there were kids roller-skiing (roller-skiing ? ! ?) and adults doing all kinds of fitness running, jumping – it has become a space where people go for exercise and experiencing the outdoors.

 

I have to stop a minute here – look at the design of this ski-jump. Is that not thrilling, so perfectly functional and so simply beautiful?

 

 

 

At the foot of the ski jump is a forest troll – can you spot him?

People living in the vicinity of the ski jump have a wonderful view of the city and bay:

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Social Issues, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

A Dramatic Beginning to The Wake of the Vikings

It’s not that I am THAT compulsive, but I do like to plan ahead, and things that happen at the last minute that require attention can disturb my sleep.

This is a trip we’ve had planned for over a year and a half. We didn’t plan for Hurricane Harvey, and we are flying out of Houston. We didn’t plan on Hurricane Irma, another all-time historical hurricane, headed toward Florida, and possibly into the Gulf. Possibly into Pensacola.

 

We have a wonderful couple who take care of our house and our cats while we are gone. She called the day before we were leaving to ask if we had any plans for the hurricane she needed to know about. Hmmmm. No, I didn’t. I planned not to worry about it. And . . . at the same time, all around me, people are stocking up on propane, and Sam’s has run out of water, and . . . . some people are preparing to hunker down and some to leave home, heading north.

We got moving. I had an hour before my last meeting, and spent that hour figuring out what really mattered to me (photo albums) and putting photo albums up high and in cupboards, and fragile things, like the crystal candelabra AdventureMan gave me for our first anniversary in the safest place I could think of.

Law and Order Man (our son) said he would take Ragnar and Uhtred, our very young cats, to a safe place, if needed.

AdventureMan braced the garage doors with huge specially made steel beams that bolt into place, and we called our contractor who said if it looked like Irma was heading our way, he would put up all the ballistic window and door covers.

It’s not everything, but it’s something. We all felt a lot better.

And thanks to the ‘net, we know that Houston is up and running, and our flights into Houston and out of Houston will fly.

Around eleven, we hear the front door opening (? ! ? ! ? !)  and it is the couple who are coming to stay with the house and cats; they thought we were leaving at night, not the next morning. We all laughed, got them settled, and went to sleep peacefully.

 

The flight into Houston was the best kind, uneventful. We love uneventful flights. You can still see a lot of standing water, and water damage, but the greatest part of the upswell of waters appears to have subsided.

 

 

“Today is the first day that the airport is 100% up and running,” a Houstonian tells us. We are good listeners, and he tells us that the worst part of all this drama is that the death count continues to mount as rescue-workers go into places where people thought they could shelter in safety. The mold is also hitting hard and fast, and emergency facilities are strapped. They are functioning, and they are prepared, and some things are beginning to run out.

The best, he followed up with, is that “you know how divided we have all been? Once the storm hit, it didn’t matter if you were black or white or Mexican or Confederate, we were all just people, and we helped our neighbors, we helped each other. In that way, it was one of the best things that has ever happened in Houston.”

Who would have thought? Houston-strong!

September 6, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Florida, Health Issues, Hurricanes, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Relationships, Social Issues, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hate Groups: California #1, Florida #2

This map is from the Southern Poverty Law Center Showing the Distribution of over 971 Hate Groups in America.

This is from Fox News:

HATE CRIME

California is No. 1 haven for hate groups, report says

Perry Chiaramonte

The states with the highest number of hate groups may not be the areas of the country that many people would assume.

California ranks highest among the 50 states, with nearly 80 different hate groups calling the Golden State home, says a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Most of the groups are concentrated in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay area and the Sacramento region, the report says.

Data show the western half of the U.S. has significantly fewer hate groups than the East Coast, the report says, but California — the nation’s most populous state — easily has the highest number of hate groups operating within its borders.

The “Hate Map” report shows 917 hate groups operating across the country. It includes data not only on white supremacists, but Black Separatist organizations and anti-LGBT groups as well.

The report also cites numbers from 2016 that show 130 Ku Klux Klan groups and 193 Black Separatist groups active across the county. The SPLC also notes there has been a nearly 200  percent increase in anti-Muslim groups since 2015.

In 2011, the total number hit its peak with over 1,000 groups operating. That number dropped to 784 just three years later, but there has been a steady increase since then. The SPLC also says in its report that the country has seen an unprecedented rise in hate groups since the turn of the century. In 1999 when there were only 457 documented groups in the country.

Florida ranks No. 2 with 63 hate groups, and is No. 1 on the East Coast.

Ranking third is New York state, home to 47 hate groups. Pennsylvania is not far behind, with 40 groups.

States with the lowest numbers of hate groups lie mostly in the Midwest and West. Iowa has only four groups in operation, while Wyoming and New Mexico have two apiece and North Dakota and Vermont have one each.

Data for the “Hate Map” list was compiled using hate group publications and websites, citizen and law-enforcement reports, sources from the field and news reports, the SPLC says.

Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych

August 16, 2017 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Leadership, Pensacola, Political Issues, Social Issues | , | Leave a comment

Bottoms Up!

This is from this morning’s news on AOL. It calls drinking the biggest drug problem in America.

Americans are drinking a lot – and it’s scaring researchers

 

If you’re an American and you drink alcohol, you’re not alone. In fact, there are more people like you now than in the past. But with increased drinking comes increased health consequences – so much so that researchers are calling it a public health crisis.

Specifically, the portion of Americans consuming alcohol during a year has increased 11.2 percent from 2001-2002 to 2012-2013 (65.4 percent to 72.7 percent, respectively). High-risk drinking ticked up from 20.2 million Americans to 29.6 million Americans during this period, and those diagnosed with alcohol use disorder rose from 17.6 million to 29.9 million Americans.

High-risk drinking was defined as four or more regular drinks on any day for women, five or more for men, and exceeding those limits at least weekly during the year. A person was considered to have alcohol use disorder if they met criteria for alcohol dependence or abuse in the past year.

The study took into account about 80,000 people’s individual interviews between several surveys, and was published earlier this week in JAMA Psychiatry.

Women, older adults, racial/ethnic minorities and people of lower income and education levels saw the largest increases, save for a few exceptions.

 

“These increases constitute a public health crisis that may have been overshadowed by increases in much less prevalent substance use (marijuana, opiates and heroin) during the same period. … Most important, the findings herein highlight the urgency of educating the public, policymakers and health care professionals about high-risk drinking and [alcohol use disorder], destigmatizing these conditions and encouraging those who cannot reduce their alcohol consumption on their own, despite substantial harm to themselves and others, to seek treatment,” according to the study.

And it’s not just the study authors who are concerned.

“This should be a big wake-up call,” David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Bloomberg. “Alcohol is our number one drug problem, and it’s not just a problem among kids.” He was not a part of the research.

It’s estimated that 88,000 people die every year due to alcohol-related causes, reports the Washington Examiner – and people can’t seem to agree on how to get a handle on them.

Why is this happening in the first place? There isn’t one root cause, Bloomberg reports. Researchers suggest economic stress post-Great Recession could play a role, in addition to the improved accessibility of alcohol at retailers and restaurants and weakened alcohol tax impact. Today, alcohol is cheaper than it’s ever been since at least 1950 in relation to average income.

August 11, 2017 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Cold Drinks, Community, Cultural, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Sweet Land of Liberty: Religious Rights and Jury Duty

 

Every now and then, God, in his infinite mercy, sends an abundance of blessings, covers us with blessings. In a time in which I have found myself uncharacteristically  depressed and anxious about the path our country is taking, for one brief moment, the last few days, all depression has lifted and all anxieties have calmed.

One source of anxiety has been a personal matter, a family matter, and that has resolved itself graciously, happily, with a great feeling of relief and gratitude.

For Sunday, July 2nd, our priest had prepared us for a new set of studies, kicked off by an examination of Democracy and Religion. There were rules – 1) Be nice (that’s what they say in the South for ‘be civil’) and 2) Try to see the issue through the eyes of someone with whom you disagree.

The church hall was set up with twenty-four chairs. A half hour before he was due to start, people started pouring in, and we started pulling out more chairs, and more chairs and more chairs. He actually started off early with a reflection on our Old Testament reading, the story of Abraham and the almost-sacrifice of Isaac. (My Moslem friends correct me; they tell me it was Isaac. Let’s just agree that it was Abraham and a son, and perhaps the details will come clear on the other side of the great divide.) More people arrived, more chairs put out until we were out of chairs. Toward the end of the discussion on Religious rights and Democracy, I did a quick count of chairs and people standing and figured we had over ninety people – and one of the best Sunday School classes ever.

Our priest took a Socratic approach, asking questions, bringing in current topics. In these times of divided opinions, there was, surprisingly, a lot of laughter. My favorite moment was when we were discussing limits on religious freedoms, and things that there are laws against – live animal sacrifices, bigamy, sale of alcohol on Sunday before 11 a.m. – then one of the lawyers added “How about serving liquor to minors without checking IDs every Sunday?” That got a big laugh. It’s what we do; we use real wine in the communion cup, it’s Anglican / Episcopalian tradition. And yep, even young children get to take a sip. Oops.

As divided as we are, as it turns out, we have a lot in common. It takes a lot of courage to open up such a topic to the congregation. We all behaved. I think we all came away thinking we need more of this.

The very next day, yesterday, I was at the County Courthouse for my first ever call to jury duty. Well, this was my first ever call where I actually was living in the United States and able to show up. While we lived overseas, I would have to get on my VOIP late at night when the Clerk’s office opened and tell them I was living in (Germany. Kuwait. Qatar. Saudi Arabia. Jordan. Tunis. Take your pick.)

Jury duty is an exercise in tedium. At one point when the large selection pool left a courtroom, one of the potential jurors was going “Baaaa baaaaa baaaaa; we are all like sheep.” You park in one place and get on a trolley to the courthouse, you line up to enter the courthouse, you gather in a room and you wait to be called. You get instructions, you watch instructive videos, you get pep talks on your civic duty.

I had my eyes opened in a lot of ways. First, that I would guess more than two hundred people showed up, and this was a Monday between the weekend and the Fourth of July holiday. Many had to take time off from work to show up. We were supposed to be in “business’ dress, but this is Florida, and I guess ‘business dress’ is a matter of interpretation.

Groups would be called to go before judges for jury selection. There were many cases, so almost all of us were a part of one group or another. From my group, juries were being chosen for three trials, so they asked a lot of questions up front that would pertain to all three trials, then the lawyers for the prosecution and the lawyers for the defense would ask questions.

The questions surprised me. They named the witnesses, and the defendants were there in the courtroom; they asked if anyone knew the defendant or any of the witnesses. They asked about our prejudices for or against law enforcement officials, and could we overcome our prejudice to listen to the evidence fairly. They asked about our own court experiences, and they asked about our convictions for drug use, and other things. Many of my pool had served many times on juries and knew how things went. Many were reluctant, yet, there they were. Serving. Doing their duty.

Here is what really surprised me – at least in Florida, the defendant, who is sitting there through all the questioning, gets a say in who will be on his jury. I had no idea! We don’t see a lot of jury selection on TV (although the lady sitting next to me said I need to watch a show called Bull, where jury selection is what the show is about.)

None of the defendants wanted me, and I can understand why. They want people on the juries to truly be as close to their peers as possible, people who can identify with being arrested, maybe even convicted of a crime. They want people who might give them the benefit of the reasonable doubt.

How often have you been arrested? My son, who has been a part of the system, once told me that there are Americans who never have a brush with The Law, other than maybe a traffic ticket or a DWI. Now and then, I ask my friends. None has ever been inside a jail, but these days, a friend or two has a child who has become involved with heavy drug use, and has spent some heart-breaking time in the system.

It was a long day, full of tedium. I thought about the judge, and the lawyers, who go through this day after day, asking the same questions, looking out at groups full of people who maybe don’t even want to be there, going through the process to insure that our system is as fair as possible, day after day, month after month. I had no idea that the wheel of justice ground so finely, so relentlessly, on and on. I had no idea what stoic determination it takes to be a part of that system, and trying to make sure that while the state makes the case, the defendants rights are protected.

I’ve lived, as you know, in countries where justice prevails – occasionally. I remember living in one country, which was peaceful, and thinking to myself that they were educating a lot of people for positions they will never be able to fill, because they are not in the elite.

We have all seen, in every country, that those with the money to buy the best legal protection can often escape the consequences of their crime, but there is hope, for me,  even in making them stand trial.

I had no idea how proud I would feel at the end of the day, being a part of this huge effort, seeing how many of my fellow citizens, at great sacrifice to themselves, showed up. I had no idea what an education it would be for me. I had no idea how often those who least want to serve are those chosen to serve – and they persist. They show up.

I was in a room with maybe two hundred people from all walks of life. We were really just numbers, there to fill a systemic need. Some may even be, like me, a little cynical about how much justice our system really delivers . . . and we show up.

One of the defense lawyers yesterday asked us “Do you know what we are here about today?” and while we were all thinking about the charges, she answered “we are here about this man’s liberty. We’ll be deciding where he will spend his time in the next weeks, and months and years. We’ll be deciding his liberty.”

I’m glad I showed up.

Happy Fourth of July 🙂

 

July 4, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Transparency | , , , , | Leave a comment