I plead the 6th

I haven’t posted very frequently lately, and I think that’s because I’m past the ‘strangeness’ stage of moving, for the most part.

I’ve gotten used to things like ‘spicy seasoning’ being labeled as ‘blanding’ and hardly even giggle I walk past something that says ‘mad klubben’. I mean, I still gotta giggle a little because it’s hilarious, but for the most part things have stopped feeling overwhelmingly alien. This means my usual discussions, which mostly consist of me saying ‘How does this make any sense? What’s going on?? Explain!‘ have been replaced by normal discourse, primarily in the form of talks about US vs Danish life, society etc.

I think I’ve realized more about my personal attitudes in these talks than I had before. While it still trips me out to say ‘I live in a socialist monarchy’, it sounds less weird to me than it did before. I think the most amazing thing I’ve realized, though, is that I have a favorite constitutional amendment: the 6th. Ok, maybe it’s not my favorite-favorite, but it’s in the top 3 (trumped by the 1st and the SF version of the 21st). So, I thought, in honor of election day, I’d express my appreciation for the 6th amendment.

6th amendment, you rock. Truly.

It’s the one that guarantees you a trial by jury. I always thought that was a no-brainer. I mean, what’s the other option? Trial by fire? Turns out it’s not as obvious as it seems. I mean, we’re rounding up 12 people who we’ve specifically chosen to be ignorant of the law to make a legal decision. Why would we do that? Someone asked me that a few weeks ago. I really thought about it and realized how awesome the reason is: it keeps the laws in check with social common-sense. It’s like the ultimate anti-bureaucracy move. You can be found guilty of a crime, but not be punished because the average lay-person in society doesn’t think it should be a crime [1]. It means you don’t get blind application of the law, but instead get to stop and ask whether something should be a crime, and if so, how severe of a punishment it really warrants.

The other option would be to be convicted for something silly and be lost in the system until the law adapted. Of course, if you’re a judge or a lawyer, you can’t just say ‘Off you go son, this law is ridiculous and I’d be an ass to enforce it!’ or else your career would be over. A jury, on the other hand, is free to exercise all the common sense they want. We see this in modern times with juries (occasionally) acting against overly harsh drug laws [2]. There’s also the flip-side to this, where you could have committed a racist crime in the deep south and gotten away due to a sympathetic jury, but that’s just unfair jury selection [3].  If you can get a fair cross-section of society, I think that it’s an awesome and amazing way to put people’s voices back into the system.

Shit. I just realized I wrote a mini-civics essay. With citations. For fun. I must be more homesick than I thought…

I guess my point is that there’s some really awesome things about our system that we take for granted, and it really pains me that I wasn’t able to figure out the absentee system enough to vote this time around. Yes, even though it ‘doesn’t count’, and yes, even though there’s a bunch of broken parts to the system, it’s still something I miss and something I hope everyone back home at least participates in. Hey, even if all you get is a bunch of “I voted!” stickers, at least you’ll get some common sense in your criminal trial after stealing those stickers.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification
[2] (just an example case) http://mywebtimes.com/archives/ottawa/display.php?id=374236
[3] http://www.personal.psu.edu/jph13/JuryNullification.html


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