Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

The Value of Books

I left jury duty at 10am to-day. I'd been there for three hours, and I think that's the shortest jury duty I've ever had. Apparently Thursday being the slowest day of the week at the courthouse combined with the fact that to-morrow's a holiday led somehow inevitably to all trials to-day being cancelled and the jury pool sent home. So I guess I'm free and clear until next year. I mean, it was Feburary 2010 I last had jury duty. Before that was August 2008 and before that was July 2006. So they're getting gradually closer together. What are you trying to do to me, court computer randomiser? Can't you bother someone more diurnal? Anyway, the one time I actually ended up in a jury box one of the lawyers wanted me excused, I'm not sure if it was because I seemed half asleep or because I was being a smartass. I'm pretty sure it would go down like that if I ever ended up in the jury box again.

To-day was probably the most prepared I've ever been for jury duty. The worst part about it for me is knowing it's going to happen rather than experiencing the thing itself--I'm like that about a lot of things. I've been having trouble sleeping and have been anxious for weeks. I haven't had alcohol in over a week, I started shifting my sleeping schedule on Saturday, aided somewhat by Daylight Savings Time ending, but waylaid by the Interpersonal Communications class that actually didn't get out early for once. So I got up at 10:30am on Tuesday, but managed to get up at 6am on Wednesday and 5am to-day, a full three hours before my appointed time. I didn't really sleep but I waited in bed nearly all night.

Again, the virtues of the Kindle were made apparent when I was able to take in one slim notebook sized object most of my school text books, the complete works of Charles Dickens, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and many other things. I was in no danger of running out of things to read. I also brought a Maison Ikkoku manga and a deck of cards to play Solitaire with but all I ended up doing is reading a chapter out of my history text book and five pages of manga. It's weird how much better the Maison Ikkoku manga is from its anime.

I have history class on Mondays and Wednesdays--the teacher was absent on Monday and yesterday he came in fifteen minutes late looking quite ragged. I suppose he's been sick, I don't know. He sat down and asked for a show of hands, how many people had read the chapter assigned for the day. As usual when he asked that question, four or five people including me raised their hands. The teacher somehow looked more ragged then. "Can--can you just tell me . . . what I could do, to get you to read the chapters?"

No-one spoke, of course. I guess the question didn't really apply to me, but I almost said, "It's not you, it's them. They're a bunch of lazy privileged kids." Maybe I'm crazy but reading a history book seems like a pretty reasonable part of the curriculum of a history class.

I say kids, which makes it odd to me that four of those kids who never read the book are war veterans, one of whom had a rather striking reaction to discussion about the U.S. decision regarding the atom bombs being dropped in Japan. I had been rather talkative that day, and I was making the case that dropping the bombs had been unnecessary, that the U.S. failure to accept Japanese surrender without dropping the bombs was largely due to dysfunctional bureaucracy--Under Secretary of State Joseph Grew, who was the most knowledgeable person in the president's circle regarding Japanese culture and politics, having served as ambassador in Japan, was largely ignored when he told them the Japanese would surrender if the emperor was allowed to retain his title and position. Apparently it was entirely because Grew wasn't well known in Washington and was outside the president's clique. Considering the U.S. did allow the emperor to remain in place after the war, it seems an even more foolish stipulation in hindsight.

One of the veterans in the class then spoke for the first time, arguing in favour of the bombs having been dropped, because, he said, he'd "been there and war is nasty. I watched my buddies get killed right in front of me." To a girl in the class who'd argued against the bombs because there had been women and children in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, "I've seen women and children with guns. And this might not sound nice but if we hadn't dropped those bombs--they would've fucking come here and raped your mothers."

When I mentioned again later that the Japanese would have surrendered without the bombs if the U.S. government had behaved more responsibly one of the other veterans, the same guy who thinks the human race is three thousand years old, smugly said to me, "They did surrender."

There are a lot of troubling parts to those responses. One guy's conflation of the Japanese and the people he fought in Iraq or Afghanistan--one amorphous "enemy"--and the other guy's unmitigated pride in the use of the atomic bombs. I guess it's an odd story for me to tell the day before Veteran's Day, but it might be a good time to think about what kind of impression war has on the young people who participate.

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