Monday, April 04, 2011


One of the most pernicious myths white Australians (and through them the rest of the world) have about Aborigines is "walkabout." Whether in the nicer version celebrated in Nicholas Roeg's film of that name, according to which Aboriginal lads go on a sort of solitary spirit quest in the magical wastes of the red center, or in the nastier version of ranchers who thought that Aboriginal men had an irresponsible tendency to just up and leave for no rational reason at all, it's bunk. Boys approaching initiation leave society but not alone or unsupervised. And hunters follow prey, not an abstract calendar. What's interpreted as proof of a fundamental lawlessness is really response to the call of Law.

I mention this, because I'm going walkabout for a week. The Law - in this case, the jury system - has claimed me. I went in thinking going through the motions was sufficient - when the trial attorneys learned there was a professor in the group they'd drop him anyway - but well before I found (to my great surprise!), that I was to be a juror, I had decided that the claim of the justice system trumped other claims, and was even sorry that participation in this rather awe-inducing process was closed to me - until it became clear I was invited in. No walk in the park, I now know, and will know even more fully in the coming days. But a noble profession.

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