Old Bailey and Lady Justice

Old Bailey and Lady Justice

I received a summons from Tarrant County last month to appear for jury duty.  Last Friday was the time appointed for my appearance.  I was juror number 48 of 60 called for a trial for which 12 of us would be selected.  So the likelihood of me serving was actually pretty slim.  Mostly it just ate up a Friday afternoon and the following Monday afternoon while that reality worked itself out.

One thing I realized through the experience is that our society demands very little of its citizens.  I couldn’t think of any other civic duty which is required of all citizens.  I suppose paying taxes could be viewed as a civic duty, but it is mostly a passive activity since the payments normally take place through payroll deductions.

So death and taxes aside, is there anything else we require of one another as US citizens?  Krista pointed out that we were required to go to school as children, but that seems less like a civic duty than a benefit.  We receive an education from our participation in school, so while it requires our time, effort, and attendance, the activity is ultimately to our benefit.  The benefit to society from this activity is clear, but no action is actually required.

We’re not required to vote.  We’re not required to serve in any kind of public service.  We’re not required to serve in any kind of public office.  We’re not required to serve in the military.  So all I have to do is pay my taxes and show up for jury duty and it’s all good.

Only it’s not all good.  When I hear the lofty description of our government “of, by and for the people,” It seems as though it should require more of us than paying taxes and showing up for jury duty.  With this as my background for the week, Gavin Newsom‘s new book Citizenville caught my attention as the beginning of a conversation to engage people with governing through technology.  I’m feeling hopeful about the possibilities.