BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
I recently heard a story from a friend about difficulties stemming from jury duty – something I think is incredibly important. I find it repugnant that so many people, especially in our community, try to avoid doing their constitutionally mandated service.
However, the importance of jury duty does not give license to the courts to behave irrationally, impractically, and insensitively. While improvements have been made in recent years, such as the one-day-one-trial system and calling in to find out if you must report for duty the next day, more work is needed. The courts, too, are confronted with a dilemma – too many people do everything they can to avoid jury duty which means there are fewer people to compose juries from.
The solution? It’s the typical sledgehammer-to-kill-a-fly approach. Lately, courts have been rejecting almost any excuse a citizen gives. So my friend’s situation was utterly ignored. Being a small business owner with two part-time employees only one of whom can even be called upon to run the shop and having to care for two elderly and frail parents did not matter.
When the state is unreasonable in this way, citizens become disgusted and civic mindedness goes out the window. In this case, if courts and the judges, lawyers, and administrators who are their primary elements were a little more humble, there would be far fewer tensions. Why should the need for potential jury members be determinable only at the last last-minute? If instead of forcing hundreds of citizens to put their lives on hold, judges, lawyers, and their clients would make their commitments in advance, then everyone’s scheduling problems would be reduced to negligible levels. But judges and lawyers, much like doctors, seem to harbor the arrogant notion that their time is more precious than anyone else’s. Wrong!
Analogous pig-headedness, in a far more extreme form, is what bedevils citizens of our quarter-century-old re-independent Armenian republic. As this happy occasion is celebrated, we should concentrate on developing the civic mindedness that will build that still young state. Happily, it exists when it comes to military service. The oligarchic, repressive, system currently in place and layered atop the cynicism born of Soviet times do much to squelch rather than enhance people’s civic mindedness and engagement, when it comes to politics and understanding that life can be improved through participation.
Those of us in the Diaspora have had much more exposure to and participation in civic life. We must share our experiences with our compatriots in the homeland. We serve as examples. So it was very disappointing to see a mere handful of Armenians in an otherwise already small crowd that went on September 20th to North Hollywood’s Regency Theatres to view “Killing Ed” – a documentary film about the Gulen movement’s charter schools in the U.S.
The producer of the film was present and an illuminating discussion followed. Educators – teachers, a superintendent, a school board member, union activists – concerned about the future of not only the children being given deficient education by unqualified, imported-from-Turkey “teachers” that populate Gulen schools, but also the future of public education, constituted a big part of the audience. Contact information was exchanged. California education politics, ballot measures, and Gulen activities were discussed.
Coincidentally, the Los Angeles Unified School Board was hearing from Magnolia Charter Schools at the very same time as the movie was showing. Magnolia is one of the tentacles of the Gulen network. It has ten charter schools under LAUSD’s jurisdiction. They were seeking renewal or expansion for their schools.
Returning to the film, it is well worth seeing. The abuses documented across the country are frightening. You’ll get at least two more chances: Glendale Film Festival – October 2, 7:00 pm, MGN Theatres, 128 N. Maryland, Glendale; AFFMA Film Festival, November 3-6 (exact show time not yet set) at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. It looks like a vigorous and interesting discussion will follow the Glendale showing with some big names possibly in attendance.
Go see “Killing Ed”. Get angry. Get motivated. Start working on yanking the charter school status of these Turkish propaganda centers. Do this as a manifestation of not just your Armenianness, but your sense of civic duty to fellow citizens who know not what chicanery is being foisted on them. Do it as an example to inspire ever more people to become permanently engaged in the civic life of the two Armenian republics. Do it so you have a moral leg to stand on when contesting the inappropriate actions and policies of government, whether the courts, legislature, or the executive branch.