Jury Duty, Combat Duty

The massacre yesterday at Fort Hood convinces me that Americans have forgotten what “duty” means.

Duty is obligation. Duty is requirement. Duty is being bound to service. If you are an American, jury service is your duty. If you are an American soldier, combat duty in time of war is your duty.

Yesterday a man named Hasan (he has lost the right to be addressed more respectfully) attacked his fellow Americans, apparently because he was angry about being called to combat duty in Afghanistan. It was reported that he is 39-40 years old, which means he was born during the Viet Nam War, sometime around 1969, the year “the music died,” and I guess the year that duty died, too.

Hasan must never have been taught what duty is.

I suspect this mass murderer isn’t the only American under 40 who doesn’t know what duty is. Every day this blog is hit by people searching the web for information on “how to avoid jury duty.”

I heard Hasan’s cousin being interviewed on Fox News by Shepard Smith. This young man insisted that Hasan was “a good American.”

A good American does his duty. When a good American swears an oath to serve his God and his country in the military, and then he is called to combat duty in service of his country but he fears such service is a disservice to his God, he does not massacre his fellow soldiers—he does the honorable thing: he submits himself to martial law, resigns his commission, declares himself a conscientious objector, and goes to jail.

That’s what anti-war activists did until 1969.

Muhammed Ali was drafted into the Army at the height of his boxing career in 1967. A Moslem and a pacifist, Mr. Ali did not punch the induction officers in the face. He went to jail as a conscientious objector. Why didn’t Hasan follow Mr. Ali’s honorable example? The only reason I can think of—other than insanity—is that he and many people under 40 never learned what duty means.

This country is in serious trouble if we can’t count on each other to do our duty.

Which brings me back to jury duty. Jury duty is often onerous, as I suspect military service sometimes is, too. Jurors have few rights (like military conscripts, but we no longer conscript soldiers; they volunteer). Jurors are underpaid (like the military). Jurors are often vilified for their decisions (like the military).

But good Americans are duty bound to one another to serve when called. The jury system is rock-bottom fundamental to your freedom. If you are arrested (guilty or innocent) you will want good Americans on your jury to ensure that your liberty is protected from the power of the government. And if you are the victim of a crime or injured by someone else, you will want good Americans on your jury to give you justice.

The government does not give you freedom. The government does not give you justice. Only your fellow citizens can do that. So, while I often criticize the jury system and the courts, and while I have even written about how you can avoid jury service, it is your duty.

When you receive the summons, obey it. Go to the courthouse happy that you go there for jury duty and not to stand trial. Inform yourself ahead of time about the process. Serve with an open mind. Make sure you defend our freedom by not sending an innocent person to jail. Do your duty.