Trump at The 2019 G-7: Ultimate Chutzpah!

Prologue:  The countries with the largest advanced economies began summit meetings in the1970’s to discuss global  issues.  Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, The United Kingdom and The United States of America.

In 2014, Russia took over Crimea and was excluded from future meetings of the G-7.

In 2018, the meeting took place in Canada where President Trump insulted the host, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau as well as others at the sessions.  Since Trump’s basic motto is “America First”, he refused to sign the final communiqué that was always a joint statement of all the members. A famous picture shows him seated at a table with his arms folded tightly as Angela Merkel backed by other members stand and try to persuade him to join them.

Trump at the G-7 in August 2019.

First: a definition of the word “Chutzpah”  –  a display of outlandish NERVE flouting the norms of society.  Yiddish.

The meeting was held in France with President Macron as the host.  He and his wife greeted the U.S. president and Melania warmly.  From there, it was downhill  from beginning to end of all the sessions.

Macron had planned the topics for the different meetings , including  Iran, climate change, and the effects of trade wars among the nations.   Trump had pulled out of the Iran Treaty signed by six nations  to limit Iran’s production of nuclear weapons.  He had also taken the U.S. out of the Paris Pact that set yearly targets  for each country  spewing carbon dioxicide and other gases into the envioronment.  Finally, the U.S. trade war with China would be a concern of all the participants economies.

What happened in the days that followed was summed up in the lead editorial in The New York Times:  “Group of 7 Minus Trump: “  “The leaders of the major economies tiptoed around the irascible and unpredictable American president.”

Friday, the president had left the U.S. saying that Xi, the  president of China was “ the enemy”.  On Monday, he described him as “ a great leader and a brilliant man”.  When asked about his order that American businesses leave China… three days later, Trump said , “That’s the way I do business to get a deal”.   Never mind that issuing his order by tweet had caused the stock market Dow Jones Average to plummet over six hundred points immediately.   “Sorry,” he told reporters. “That’s the way I negotiate.”

When Climate Change was on the agenda for all leaders and their staffs, Trump never appeared at the session.  It was clear that his decision to exit the Paris Pact was based on his refusal to accept that carbon dioxide and other gases in the air and water affect nations all across the planet. He has never accepted the research and conclusions of the world’s leading scientists on the polluting effects of gases ejected by factories and power plants .  It is ironic that Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was instrumental in organizing what became the Paris Pact of nations committed to saving the planet.

It became clear during the sessions Trump did attend that the other leaders had learned from past meetings with Donald Trump how to approach subjects they disagreed on.  Boris Johnson, the newly elected prime minister of Great Britain spoke to Trump deferentially, saying , “ We’re in favor of trade peace on the whole, and dialing it down if we can.”  Most of the other leaders used flattery at first before they disagreed with any of his positions.  Macron in a master stroke had not planned a joint communiqué to close this entire session.

On Sunday, Trump said “The lunch was the best hour and a half I ever spent with him.” and the dinner Saturday with the other leaders was “fantastic.”  Also, “Mr. Johnson was “ the right man for the job”.

The dinner had included a “lively discussion” about Trump’s desire to bring Russia back into the G-7.  The other members rejected doing so until Russia reversed its intervention in Ukraine.  They said it rewarded Russia’s aggression.   Trump had been touting that proposal at home for months to see it fall completely flat.

Ultimate Chutzpah:  The United States is the country where the 2020 G-7 meeting will take place.  Before he left France on Monday, he offered The Doral Golf Club Resort near Miami, Florida which his company owns as the site for the meeting!

At a news conference, he boasted why Doral should be the host site, “ With  Doral, we have a series of magnificent buildings, we call them bungalows, they each hold from 50 to 70 —very luxurious rooms with magnificent views. We have incredible conference rooms.  incredible restaurants.”    “And what we have also is Miami and many hundreds of acres for parking or all the things that you need, the ballrooms are among the biggest in Florida and the best.”

A follow up tweet by the official White House account appeared to  present the site selection as a done deal.

Reactions to this proposal were immediate.  Was it ethical or legal for a president of the United States to host the G-7 meeting  at his Resort and make a profit for his corporation?   Deepak Gupta, an ethics lawyer told The New York Times, “Trump would basically be compelling the foreign governments to be spending money at his personal resort, while promoting the resort on the world stage.”

This raises the issue of whether Trump would be violating the emoluments clause of The Constitution that prohibits presidents from profiting from public office from foreign countries.  There have been lawsuits already that have not been successful in federal courts on this matter. A third is still moving through the courts.

When Trump was asked whether he would be profiting from his offer, he replied that the presidency is a money loser for him, estimating   that it would cost him “anywhere from $3 to $5 billion.”

The host country leader usually makes the arrangements for the official visit.  It is very possible that Trump waited to float this offer at the last minute to avoid any questions raised there or at home or  while he was in France.

We will have to wait and see if the Doral Golf Resort is the setting for G-7 in August 2020 ……right before Donard Trump will find out if he wins or loses the Presidential Election.

…………………………………………………..Joyce S. Anderson

 

Ken Cuccinelli Rewrites Emma Lazarus on The Statue of Liberty!

The latest foray of the Trump Administration into the ethos of this nation is now under way.  Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration is hawking the  “public charge” philosophy  of Donald J. Trump.   On NPR when being interviewed,  Cuccinelli  said that the famous words inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty should now read: “ Give me your tired and your  poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

Millions of Americans who love “The New Colossus”, the poem by Emma Lazarus,  were dismayed that nothing was sacred anymore with the Trump Administration.

Cuccinelli  set off an avalanche of criticism from members of Congress as well as U.S. citizens who found this  a shocking  new policy that would reject the poor for green cards.  Cable television featured historians who cited John F. Kennedy’s “Nation of Immigrants” book to stress that except for Native Americans and African Americans  who are 14th generation since their ancestors were brought here as slaves, the rest of our population came as immigrants, seeking a better life. And most Americans today are descendants of immigrants who came in the one hundred years between 1850 and 1965.

Exclusion laws began with The Chinese Exclusion Act in l882 followed by Laws in 1924 that favored immigrants from Northern and Western Europe over Southern and Eastern Europe.  Quota systems lasted for each country until 1965.  People waited for decades and families often came in shifts when money for tickets was not available.

Ellis Island was the main port of entry and The Statue of Liberty became the symbol worldwide , holding her torch high as the welcoming beam to guide them safely here.

Stephen Miller who wrote the president’s “American Carnage “  Inauguration Speech created the new public charge policy. He was described in The New York Times as  ‘ the architect of Trump’s immigration agenda.”  Cuccinelli reflects Miller’s view that immigrants should not rely on financial government support like food stamps or Medicaid.

Donald Trump’s negative view of immigrants was heard in his first words descending the escalator in Trump Tower in 2015 that Mexicans crossing the Southern Border were “rapists and murderers”.  In his three bans on Muslims entering the country, he continued to denigrate immigrants.  He also hyped imaginary caravans of thousands of immigrants coming before the midterm elections.  An Invasion!  After it was over, the caravans disappeared from his tweets.

Advocacy groups estimate that 26 million legal immigrants living and working in the United States will reconsider their use of government benefits because they would fear that acceptance of assistance would affect their ability to remain in the United States.  Several immigration groups have pledged to sue the Trump administration .  Over the past several months, tens of thousands of people opposed the new policy in a public comment period.

Cynthia Buiza ,  Executive Director of The California Immigrant Policy Center, said, ‘Shame on the Trump Administration for expanding a rule with racist roots in a shameful ploy to rig the immigration system for the wealthy.  We thank all who stood up against the administration’s hate filled agenda, and we will continue to fight for our values of community , compassion and concerned humanity.’’

Epilogue:  Emma Lazarus came from a prominent New York Jewish family whose ancestors settled there before The Revolutionary War.  She was an established poet and donated her poem “The New Colossus” to raising funds for the Pedestal of The Statue of Liberty.

It was being built in France as a gift to the United States by the sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.  He called it “La Liberte eclairant le monde. Liberty Enlightening  The World. ‘’

The closing words of the poem as written by Emma Lazarus:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send them, the homeless, the tempest tost to me.

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Her entire poem is engraved on a bronze plaque on the Pedestal of The Statue of Liberty.

……………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

Trump Insults Elijah Cummings and Baltimore

As I read the latest insults the president hurled in his tweets, castigating Elijah Cummings, Chair of The House Oversight Committee, I could hear the words of the famous poem, “Incident” by the African American poet, Countee Cullen.  1903 to 1946.

INCIDENT

Once riding in ole Baltimore

Heart filled, head filled with glee.

I saw a Baltimorean keep looking straight at me.

 

Now I was eight and very small

And he was no whit bigger.

And so I smiled , but he poked out

His tongue and called me “Nigger!”

 

I saw the whole of Baltimore,

From May  until December.

Of all the things that happened there

That’s all that I remember.

 

This poem captures the Impact of a racially insulting name yelled at an African American boy many years ago.  We know that poets have the ability and power to describe truths that will last for years to come.

Today, in 2019, there are children and teens in Baltimore hearing and seeing on television, and reading in newspapers the president’s virulent untrue descriptions of their hometown.  How does that make them feel?

I doubt they will ever forget what Donald J. Trump said about Baltimore.

………………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson

Orchid Fever

 

Twenty six years ago, when I first ventured into Waldor Orchids, the lush greenhouses a few miles away, to find one perfect white phalaenopsis, Bill Off, the owner fixed a practiced eye upon me and pronounced, “You are going to become an orchid junkie!”  “Now, how do you know that?” I asked. “This is the first orchid I have ever bought. I don’t even know how to grow them.”  His answer reminded me of what Justice Potter Stewart said when he was asked for his definition of pornography.  Bill just smiled and said, “I know one when I see one.”  And that was that. Of course, he was right.

Today, Bill and I are close buddies. I’m in the greenhouses on a regular basis. And the orchids are taking over our house. I certainly have not become an expert, but I have learned a lot about the growing and care of the amazingly hardy plants. And I’ve discovered a new dimension of nurturance and creativity along the way.

First, let me share that the first orchid, the one I call my “oldest living baby” is alive and well, putting forth seven to eleven exquisite flowers every year on a single, long graceful stem.  Each identical white bloom has a dark purple center and lasts for up to six or seven months, delicate and ephemeral in appearance, yet actually strong and hardy requiring very little care. Bill had given me a culture sheet that spelled out the optimal conditions of light, shade, water and food that a particular variety need.  Two hours attention a week take care of the twenty plus plants we now have.

Maybe it was luck that my first orchid plant did so well.  Or maybe it was that  walking into that greenhouse was for me what the Greek poet Kazantzakis meant about having one’s “brush and colors and painting Paradise.”  In I went and what an aesthetic treat it has been. Most of my orchids live on the floor in the family room next to the sliding glass doors in full southern light. Some of the most popular varieties require 4 to 6 hours of sunlight, and our indoor garden is three rows deep to catch the best light. Never mind that we cannot reach or open those doors. A small casualty for the cause.  We can reach the deck through the sliding doors in the adjacent kitchen.

Other orchid varieties reside on tables next to northern and western windows in the living room, southern windows in the dining room and arrayed around the Jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom. Where there’s space and light, there’s room for a new baby. My husband has been very cooperative and I’ve steered clear of his office.

So, why do all this?  And what does “requires very little care” mean? Most orchids need water and food only once a week. Different species thrive with different light, temperature and humidity, all detailed on the culture sheet. Food is a liquid mixed with water at the sink in a large plastic pitcher. Thursday is usually Orchid Day at our house, taking about two hours. All the plants are brought into the kitchen where they sit in plastic drain dishes on the counters. Each is then taken to the sink to water, feed if necessary with Grow or Bloom depending on their progress in a yearly cycle, and thoroughly drain.  Water should be tepid and added until it runs out of the hole in the bottom of the plastic or terra cotta pot. All reside in lovely decorator pots during the week.

Wow! Sounds like real work. Yes, but nothing compared to the rewards. Each Thursday, I may spot the beginning of a spike or efflorescence on at least one plant , just a tiny green nub pushing its way out at the base of the leaves or between bulbs.  I call my husband and he oohs and aahs with me. The next week, I check to see the extent of growth of the stem that has already grown two to four inches.  Over the months that follow, buds will emerge on the lengthening stem and develop into flowers. Once they are ready, a flower may open overnight. One can almost watch the petals unfold.  Thus, each stage of the yearly cycle has its pleasures for the grower. Very different from buying an orchid plant from a florist with flowers in full bloom.

Bill says I should consider a small greenhouse attached to the house on the back deck . I told him I’m not ready for that kind of commitment yet. This love affair with the oncidiums ‘Dancing Dolls’ , exquisite yellow flowers, and ‘Shary Baby” , tiny lavender blooms with the aroma of chocolate, has to be kept under control. But when ‘Kaleidoscope‘, the spectacular phalaenopsis whose petals are coral with fuschia stripes, and ’Golden Elf’ a yellow cimbidium with a lemon scent bloom at the same time, I know I may be weakening.

Meanwhile, I’ll just drive over to the greenhouses to walk around and enjoy the hundreds of gorgeous orchids in bloom. Chat with Bill a little. He always takes time. Maybe, bring one new baby home. There’s always space for one more on the family room floor. It’s a beautiful sunny day. Why not?

………………………………………………………………………………………………Joyce S, Anderson

 

 

 

Race: Man’s Most Dangerous Myth

Prologue: When I began to teach at Atlantic Community College, the country had witnessed the Watts riots in Los Angeles in l965, inner city riots in Detroit and Newark in l967, and prolonged riots in cities nationwide after the assassination of Martin Luther King in l968.  The pattern was the same; burning buildings and looted stores while most of the victims were the black residents of the neighborhoods that were destroyed. Police strategy was to contain the violence and destruction to the inner city area. The Kerner Commission that investigated the riots gave a comprehensive analysis of the underlying causes of the riots as well as the precipitating incidents. At the heart of their report was the deep anger and frustration of the black population within the inner cities who faced discrimination and prejudice in all areas of their daily lives — work, education, housing and police intimidation.

 

It is now 2017 and the issue of race and racism is emblazoned in the headlines once more. When thousands of white supremacists invaded Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday night, August 11, they brought racist bigotry and deadly violence with them. Ku Klux Klan, Neo Nazis and Skinheads were met by counter-protestors the following day. President Trump at a press conference the following Tuesday blamed “both sides” for the mob violence that ensued.

 

Today’s events brought back what happened in l968 when race exploded across the country. I approached the Dean at Atlantic Community College to see if I could prepare a course syllabus on Race, Ethnicity, Prejudice and Discrimination.  The country was exploding and I wanted to do something constructive in my new position.  He asked me to give him a book to read before he made his decision. I gave him “Race: Man’s Most Dangerous Myth” by the anthropologist Ashley Montague. After he read the book, Dean Young gave me the go-ahead and I began teaching “The Individual and The Group” in the Spring semester of l969. It was offered until 1983 when I took a leave of absence.

 

Twenty seven students signed up for the course offering, a night class once a week. I will never forget that first class. The average age of community college students was 28 and most of the class members were mature working people. There were also two Atlantic City High School seniors who were taking part in Project WILL, inter-racial learning and living.  She was black and he was white. The future black mayor of Pleasantville and his wife were in the class.  There were Vietnam veterans as well as a fire fighter and a couple who were attendants at the state hospital, Ancora.  There was almost an even number of black and white students. I learned as much that semester as the students.

 

History: The heart of the course, presented in both lecture and discussion was the night for “Race: Man’s Most Dangerous Myth”. I began by asking the class , “ Please jot down in a phrase or sentence what the word ‘race’ means to you.” Their answers included: “ Different groups of people.”  “Skin color.” “Different religions.” “Different backgrounds.”  “Black, white, red, yellow.” and “Different nationalities”.  Two people wrote There’s no such thing as race.”

 

The lecture that evening took the students back to the l8th century when the concept of race as we know it began. Before that time — for thousands of years —  discrimination and group hostilities grew from religion, class, caste, political and cultural differences. The man who inadvertently created the modern concept of race was a Swedish research botanist, Carl Linnaeus. In his passionate study of plant life, he developed a system of order — a way to classify according to kind and type — genus and specie.  After he classified all plant life in The System of Nature (l735), he went on to classify every known animal as well. Finally, he came to humans whom he named in Latin: Homo sapiens – man the wise.

 

Linnaeus then took the next step and divided Homo sapiens into four sub groups.  Europaeus albus, Asiaticus luridus, Afer niger, and Americanus rufus.  He linked geographical location with skin color: white, yellow, black and red. (The latter described only native Americans.)  He then added, from his ethnocentric point of view what he thought were characteristics of each group.  Europaeus albus — superior, creative and lively. Asiaticus —haughty, stern and opinionated.  Afer niger – slow, negligent and cunning. Americanus rufus – easily contented, free and tenacious.

 

Linnaeus had used objective evidence when he classified plant and animal life. However, when he reached Homo sapiens, he became completely subjective and drew upon hearsay, random anecdotes and his imagination. He had never traveled to Asia, Africa or America.  Nevertheless, the stereotypes were formed and the classification was picked up by other scientists who were intrigued with measuring physical differences among human beings.  A veritable frenzy ensued, measuring cranial indices, ears, noses, hair texture and other permanent features of adult humans.

 

Linnaeus did state that his categories were arbitrary groupings and he never used the word race. The term was coined by George Buffon, a French naturalist, for the first time in l749 when he decided there were six groups of human beings.   It is supremely ironic that skin color was chosen as the prime measure of difference …since skin color is NOT a permanent trait. It is an adaptable trait, affected by such factors as sun, disease, emotion and pregnancy. It is also clear that true colors — white, black, yellow and red of a painter’s palette never appear in actual skin pigmentation, Complete lack of color in an albino is the closest to white. The genes that transmit skin color are very complex in contrast to the genes for eye color. And most significant, there is a range of skin color within every human group that is far greater than the differences between the groups. These are scientific facts based on deep research studies.

 

Ashley Montague called race the “witchcraft of our times.”  He knew that people believe in myths.  And if something is defined as real, it is real in its consequences.  The two skeptical students in my class who wrote, “There is no such thing as race.” sensed what was correct.

Now, in 2017, we need to separate reality from the myth of race. Human qualities are the result of genetic endowment and nurturing as we grow from infants to maturity, often called “Nature and Nurture”. Racism — the result of centuries of defining people by their skin color — permeates our society and our lives. It is linked inextricably to our country’s history with slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction as an aftermath. We need to separate reality from the myth of race. . Our democratic society has many levels of class and economic conditions. Where one is born and to whom, has an enormous effect upon the level of education, opportunity and success one will achieve in one’s lifetime.

Epilogue:   It is now 2019 and Race remains a central issue in our lives.  The president has sent a tweet telling four young Congressional women of color to “go back to where you came from.”   In addition , he continues his condemnation of immigrants trying to come  from Central America to escape the danger in their homelands.  Most are women and children walking thousands of miles seeking a better life in America.

Nancy Pelosi, The Speaker of The House of Representatives, has accused Donald Trump wanting to “make America White again.”  Three of the four women are natural born citizens; one became a citizen.  All were elected by voters in their districts to represent them in Congress.  They believe America IS GREAT RIGHT NOW.  Freedom of speech is in the First Amendment to The Constitution.  Amen!

Joyce S. Anderson

Will The Supreme Court Save The DACA Dreamers?

Prologue:  On August 15, 2012 during The Obama administration,  U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ( USCIS) began accepting applications for DACA  (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). As of June, 2016, USICIS had received 844,931 initial applications for DACA  status.

Since 2012, over 800,000 thousand young men and women have completed their educations and worked in their communities, paying taxes.  They have hoped   that a path to citizenship would be initiated in the United States Congress and they would become American citizens – thus their name The Dreamers.

November, 2016: Donald Trump was elected President and the future of The Dreamers changed.   His first campaign statement coming down the escalator in Trump Tower was that immigrants crossing the Southern border were “murderers and rapists”.  During his rallies , he promised  “ We will build “a Great Wall to stop these people  from coming to the U.S.  And Mexico will pay for it! “ He described gangs of men arriving in “caravans” by the thousands.  But the majority were women and their children walking thousands of miles to escape persecution and death from gangs.

On September 5 of 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was phasing out the DACA program.  It permitted only those recipients whose benefits expired between Sept. 5 of 2017 and March 5 of 2018 to renew for a final two years.  Young immigrants rushed to file for renewal.  Democrats in Congress and members of the public were dismayed by the new policy.  The Dreamers had captured support across the country.

On January 17 of 2018, it was reported that the Justice Department was appealing a District federal Court Judge’s ruling to save DACA at The Supreme Court.  Judge William Alsop in San Francisco had imposed a nationwide stop to the program until litigation could be heard.  The case to save DACA had been brought by the University of California and Janet Napolitano, its president.  It was then decided at the Appeals Court Level against Donald Trump’s attempt to end the DACA program.    They could continue to get work permits and go on with their lives.  Finally , the Trump administration filed a petition to The Supreme court to hear the Appeals Court decision which was turned down.

On January 23, 2019  an article in the  New York Times by Adam Liptak described how Trump had taken inconsistent positions on DACA  at the same time he was trying to end it.  He had called a meeting of interested members of Congress and department heads to discuss possible solutions.   He called upon Congress to give legal status and a path to citizenship to The Dreamers.  His offer to extend the program in exchange for concessions on building his Wall at the border never materialized.

Throughout 2019, the Trump administration continued their separation of families at the Southern border with increased media coverage of children in cages without proper care.  One official described the situation as “summer camp”.  Others were appalled … “No soap or tooth brush…. Sleeping on the floor…babies unattended by  an adult!’

On Friday, June 29, The Supreme Court announced it would consider how President Trump has tried to end the DACA program since he took office. Once again, The Dreamers will live in fear until a decision is reached.

Federal courts in California, New York and Washington D.C. have blocked the president’s efforts to end DACA.  In August,  Judge John Bates on the D.C. Circuit who had been appointed by a Republican president,  wrote a harsh critique of the administration’s  reasons.  He ruled that the rationale that they put forward was “arbitrary and capricious under federal law.”

The American people are strongly in favor of DACA as reflected in opinion polls over the years.

However, The Supreme Court has changed since 2017 when Trump became president.   He chose two new members highly recommended by The Federalist Society : Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh.   There are now four conservative members and four liberal members.   Chief Justice John Roberts usually votes with the conservatives.  He broke from them in June and joined the liberals on the crucial vote that delayed adding a  Citizenship Question to the 20/20 Census.

Will he do the same to save DACA and The Dreamers?

………………………………………………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Grand Juror

A summons for jury duty runs neck and neck with the reminder for your annual dental examination as the most unwanted item in the daily mail. As I read the crisp language and scanned the dates I would be required to appear, the calendar of planned events in my life crumbled. All else would have to be rearranged.

On the following Thursday at 8:30 a.m., I appeared along with about one hundred other chosen citizens to learn my fate. The session did not start on time. Not an auspicious beginning in contrast to the formal aura of the summons. We waited until several people arrived at the front of the room, bustled about arranging papers and microphones, and finally said “Good morning” to us.

The judge who entered was tall, imposing, clothed in black robes and serious. As he explained the process we would follow, I was impressed by his manner and the substance of his presentation. I started a learning experience that would continue through the eight weeks of grand jury service. I would learn about the law. I would learn about the other jurors, 23 to each panel. I would learn about the assistant prosecutors who presented each case. I would learn about crimes that range from forgery to aggravated assault, and the differences between theft and robbery, and robbery and burglary. In short, I would learn that serving on a grand jury might be an irritating disruption of one’s normal schedule, but it could also stretch one’s mind, experience and point of view about the courts and the law.

The names for each panel were drawn and I found myself a member of panel B, to meet on eight successive Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  There was a chance to talk with the judge if a prospective juror had a reason or conflict to prevent serving. I shared with him that I was the chief prosecutor’s 8th grade teacher, but I had no problem with this as an influence pro or con. He agreed. I did not share with him the lingering memory I held of a 13-year-old boy who could not concentrate on his work and spent most of the time looking out the window. I had followed the prosecutor’s work and he had matured into a hard-driving aggressive official. In the weeks ahead, we did not meet the chief prosecutor. A steady line of assistant prosecutors, most of whom were women in their early 30’s, presented the facts of each case we heard.

The state of New Jersey requires that a criminal case must be heard by a grand jury first. Then the jury decides whether to bring an indictment (true bill), not to bring an indictment (no bill) , or remand for municipal court action. The vote is a majority vote. Twelve or more must agree. As the cases unfold, we learn that real life is not “Perry Mason”. And the grand jury is not a petit or regular jury. Our job is not to decide guilt or innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. Our job, based on the facts presented by the assistant prosecutor and witnesses, is to decide if there is prima facie evidence  –sufficient evidence to bring an indictment. Only the state’s case is presented. The grand jury does not hear from the defendants.

One of the most salient events is the transformation of 23 strangers on that first morning into a cohesive group by the second or third meeting. Leaders have emerged beyond the foreperson and assistant foreperson assigned by the judge. Certain jurors ask questions. Others appear to be bored. Several develop buddies with whom they banter during breaks. Seating patterns emerge. Many chew gum, unfortunately, cracking and popping at moments of serious deliberation. The smokers band together outside the building in self-imposed purgatory during breaks.  All jurors wear name tags, first names only, as well as an official number of the 23. When the votes are taken, the motion is made and recorded by number. We get to know and think of each other by number as much as by name.

About four weeks into our service, some of us are beginning to enjoy the sessions. We have learned the basics of the different criminal statutes. We know the difference between simple and aggravated assault. And the sub-categories that include “serious bodily injury, with a deadly weapon, and status of the victim.” We are becoming knowledgeable and I am reminded that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

But the assistant prosecutors are very good at their jobs. Fairly young, intense, well-organized and female, they are a new generation of lawyers reaping the rewards of the women who pioneered in the profession before them. They define the charges precisely and read us the relevant law when questions arise. They give us what we need to make decisions.

The witnesses, in most cases, are police officers and detectives. We are impressed with the variety of men and women who hold these jobs. They are a cross-section of age, ethnic groups and appearance. Some are undercover narcotic agents, dressed for the role and reminiscent of TV cop shows. Others in suits and ties could pass for bankers or insurance brokers. Any stereotype of what a police officer or detective should look like is permanently erased from our minds. These are real people and their jobs can be dangerous and unpleasant.

Certain of the cases we hear are shocking. Stalking. Conspiracy to terrorize. Child abuse. Sexual assault. In graphic detail. There is no joking during the breaks on those days. Several jury members leave the room and abstain from cases they find too hard to handle. Those of us who stay will have a hard time forgetting what we have heard.

The number of drug related cases is legion. We learn not only about heroin, marijuana and cocaine, but also about the use of pagers by the sellers for instant business. And enhanced penalties for distribution within 1,000 feet of a school. The work of the undercover agents appears endless and our consciousness of the drug epidemic in our society is heightened.

During one of the breaks, a juror remarks, “With everything we’ve heard, we’re learning how to be criminals.” His comment probably was meant as a joke. However, for most of us who served on panel B of the grand jury, this has been a serious introduction to crime and the workings of our law enforcement and justice systems. The “cop shows” on television seem pale in comparison  with what we have witnessed and heard in the real world.

…………………………………………………………………………..Joyce S. Anderson