Stone Heart; a short story

Seal of New York.


Here I am at Central Jury, sitting among the many here from everywhere in the city, from all over the world, I never imagined the jury process being so democratic. I look up to the front and see the seal of the State of New York looming official above the officials far less than official in their business and duties; a five foot two inch tall woman in my mind only increases the chances that deadly force will be needed if such a time should come that force is necessary to subdue someone who does not hold even my understanding of what it means to serve the state.

The Seal of the State of New York above the rulers of desks less than golden in their rule–those who lead are lead.  Here I am in court with others here not wanting to be with the others around them.  Yet, there must be those who would like to do this duty, who relish the idea of being on a jury. The motto of the state is Excelsior, which simply translates, ‘higher.” This is an irony that does not escape me. 

It is not so much the idea of serving the state in some small way as a temporary member of the public that I object to, but what masquerades as authority and how that authority parades itself here before us–I do miss the old pomp, the old circumstance.

Police Officers in my mind were better when I didn’t think I could beat the shit out them standing next to them with a contempt barely managed. There is something contemptible from most police officers and their manner and attitude. I did and still do expect police officers to be big, fit and not fat. The purpose of the uniform is to impose, to set an example by symbolic referencing. However, this was the same with banks. I liked it better when banks were big limestone buildings with pillars or relief pillars. They were imposing; they set themselves up as the edifice of security. I wonder if the reverse symbolism has had any effect on Wall Street and banking over the last generation and a half.

There was something more honest about those huge limestone buildings; the same effects that the Capitol building is supposed to have, ad yes, the Pyramids at Giza, and the Lincoln Memorial, the Great Hall at Grand Central Station.

There is something phony about American politeness, niceness, gentleness, in some places, that is; it is more about advertising than ethics. I’m sure of this, and I don’t have my gut alone to go on.

To do your duty is the requirement of every citizen, I assume; I had been taught to believe this. I have not abandoned such a notion, although I still hold as categorically distinct the roles of myself as one of the people and the other as a member of the public. I have asserted this many times and you will read it here in this review throughout several essays on American politics and American sociology.

The state says, Do your duty, and I recall in passing a friend when I was a boy whose grandmother used to say the same thing to him, sitting, as he would, not exactly as I do today; or, is it the same? To shit or not to shit on command of the state.

The State of New York, through the masks of its officials–an ancient comedy, perhaps, tragedy others see; there is  no mask for the Theater of the Absurd except the human face. Comedy would have to be our persona here today, though, otherwise I’d cry; and yet, at the end of the day long tedium, I laugh.  There is something from Wilde I remember, something about the Devil and having to laugh when you saw him because only a man with a heart of stone could not laugh at the Devil himself in hell.

With irony seized, I know I face only the absurd here at Central Jury.  Again, when I do laugh, although not openly, and not in mocking derision, I do so, so as not to do otherwise and worse.  This is a closet play, one we keep in our heads, for safety, mostly.  There is nothing quite so dangerous as half-intelligent authority; and here again I see working for the State, those I have become sure would never work for the state in France or England or even Russia, but grass has always been greener everywhere but in my own backyard?  Sometimes. The police in Paris, Montreal, or Barcelona are much more official, look healthier and stronger, which is what makes so many police officers in New York less than brave, more than bullies sometimes, lazy mostly.

Yes, I  laugh when the State of New York says to everyone in the meeting/waiting hall that this is our duty, that this is our privilege, that we should be honored that we are called here not exactly like cattle–I have been to the meat packing district; we look nothing at all like the sides of beef that were hanging then in the wholesale butcher markets.  All existence is a reductio ad absurdum, unless we delude ourselves, which is what we do when we suspend our disbelief concerning the stagecraft of statecraft.

Honor–we always do everything for honor whenever we do anything for the state, as the United States of America is mostly and persistently a government of the state, for the state, and by the state.  That will certainly never perish, I’m sure.  I used to tell friends of mine who had immigrated to the United States that they firstly and foremostly immigrated to the federal government and not America, that what they saw first was the state and not the country.  I believed this then of them, and can continue this argument effectively; the difference today is that this is increasingly becoming true for me as well, a native born citizen, whereby I live in the state more often and more encroachingly than I do in my country, a place where we are expected daily to increase our devotion to the state and to the Public while abandoning all hope of ever recovering the people, a people of the people, by the people and for the people without fear of perishing except through abdicating our responsiblity to the people.


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