Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Trial is Friday

 On Friday at 1:30 p.m. in the studio at Heritage School, The Crown Court of Nursery Rhyme Crimes will convene a jury to try Goldilocks for criminal trespass and theft. I will be the judge. Other parents are playing the witnesses in the trial: the nosy neighbour with a vendetta, the astonishingly incompetent arresting officer, the defendant Goldilocks and the star witness, Papa Bear, head of the Bear Family.

My son goes to Heritage School and I can't think of a part of his actual heritage that is more important than the rule of law. Remember that idea? That old canard? The idea that individuals, those in power and even sovereign nations themselves are bound to act under a moral code.  I think this mock trial will be a decent reminder of the idea of the rule of law - constraints on behaviour in the interests of fairness - constraints that bind authorities as well as people. This is really something we could usefully get behind these days. Trials are in their best carnation paths to truth and justice given us by our Greek ancestors but preserved and embellished by Christians from Bury St. Edmond to Jackson, Mississippi. Directly from the Christian tradition sprang the idea at the heart of a criminal trial: that even the lowliest, most hated member of the community has a right to be treated fairly. This idea of rights were imbued by nothing else than God's perfect and equal love for everyone, and especially the least of us. At least I think this is really what motivated the barons who swore the oath at Bury St. Edmunds on the altar of the church to fight King John for the concessions of power that became the Magna Carta.

Some of the first concessions signed at Runnymede were the best: habeus corpus, protection of individual ownership of property, and, yes, you guessed it, jury trials. Jury trials weren't new, but they were - and to me continue to be - the best way man has devised of getting at the truth while here on earth - two sides, adversaries, presenting facts and making arguments, and the ultimate decision of guilt or innocence put to disinterested peers, who swear to be fair and try to figure out the truth.  To live in community is to all figure out the truth together, under the rule of law.  So either Goldilocks is a honey addict who has been knocking off ursine residences in the woods for years, or she is a lost little girl, hungry and alone and frightened by black clouds and thick, threatening trees into a lovely magical cottage with an open door beckoning. The jury will have to decide.

We did the same trial two years ago and Goldilocks was convicted, although I thought that one little boy, given enough time, could have pulled a 12 Angry Men. This year I predict that Goldlocks is convicted - it's a real law-and-order crowd at that school. I don't really mind, although I would like to see a Goldilocks acquittal one of these years, because there's a huge burden of proof issue you could argue for the win.

I got into this racket at Skadden when I volunteered to put on a mock trial for Take Your Daughters To Work Day. Which at Skadden was more like Let Your Employer Feed and Entertain Your Children So You Bill Hours Day.  It was so fun, and the kids were mindblowingly good. So when Owain moved to Heritage School with their Friday Enrichment Programme, I volunteered to write a new one: Crown v Goldilocks. Rest assured I know nothing of the specifics of English law. But I do know that my husband has a polar bear costume and when he wears just the head, hands and feet and a business suit, he makes a hilarious Papa Bear.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Letter to Secretary Clinton

To me the most interesting question of our time is whether Hilary Rodham Clinton will run for president in 2016. The prospect is really wonderful, so much so that women are planning and hoping in Washington right now.

I hope with my whole heart that she runs. First because she could set in motion great advances for our country by rising to the bipartisan reconciliation that I think she would be capable of. In my mind, she would be capable of running and winning as an independent, perhaps even creating a new party. Perhaps even being like the very revolutionaries she admires. She and the President already have a big place in history. There is no question they have been public servants who have earned their place in history.

But how big a piece of history can they claim? Not enough. America's greatness is being stifled by the locked-down party system and the need for voting reform. Lobbyists choke lawmaking.  The middle class is being choked out and is soon to retire. All those issues they dealt with back in Arkansas need their help again: the aging, the medical system, the schools. The people Secretary Clinton took care of her entire political career are in jeopardy because of the new slavery. The burden of our time is that corporations are people and money is speech. That is the new slavery from which she could take us.

If Hilary Rodham Clinton would step away from any political party that requires deference to banks and run a true populist campaign, the mothers would listen. The young would listen. Our elders would listen. And think if the President campaigned for her. She  more than anyone else I know could fearlessly tackle wealth inequality- grasp that freedom and change our world. If she set big ambitious goals to make our country and our world much better for our children, women would help. The young would help. She knows what she is doing. Who else has been a senator and Secretary of State? She should dream big, be an idealist, be the leader. She doesn't need to log ten million flight miles. No way. Look, W was President and he never worked more than three hours a day.  A healthy and peaceful lifestyle (hopefully free of Jay-Z) could be built into the job.

I don't know what she wants in her heart, and I respect whatever that is, but maybe she doesn't know exactly what she wants. Maybe she wants some input. Not about the gamesmanship required in political compromise (for God's sake, she was willing to listen to Dick Morris on that one), but about the big picture. The perspective of a playwright. Emile Zola would be writing to the papers with this kind of thing and since he is my hero, I'll blog, even though I do not know if Zola himself could get past the creep factor inherent in blogging.

The big picture is that the story of Hilary Rodham that started at Yale and became a warrior for children and families is not finished.  She could be the first woman president.