America is a wonderful country from the amazing amalgam of cultures in cities such as Miami, New York City, San Francisco and Portland to the majesty of Yellowstone and the Mississippi River. We are truly fortunate to have the privilege to live here. As for Peg and me, we are most familiar with two counties in two states, Posey County, Indiana and Osage County, Oklahoma.
Of course, the basic element of all inhabited areas is the same, the inhabitants, and those inhabitants are more alike than unalike wherever we live. I have found this to be true from Russia and Ukraine to Palestine and Bahrain as I have taught judges from several foreign countries and from every state in America. Of course, I have also physically visited a few places around the world. It has been my great pleasure to discover practically everybody I meet is interesting. I understand why Will Rogers who grew up near Osage County, Oklahoma said he’d never met someone he didn’t like.
But just focusing on Posey County, Indiana and Osage County, Oklahoma, the two places Peg and I call home, I find much to admire in both. In Posey County the soil is so rich and the people are so industrious that enough wheat, corn and soybeans are produced to feed much of the world. And Osage County’s Tallgrass Prairie and hardworking cowhands furnish the accompanying beef. One need never go hungry if he or she spends time in either county.
I hope I have made it clear that I truly appreciate the county where I was born and the county where I have earned a living. On the other hand, just as there was a serpent in the Garden of Eden, both Posey and Osage Counties fall a little short of perfection due to the foibles of Mother Nature. I suppose life just requires that we occasionally find half a worm in an apple. Let me explain.
Neither Posey nor Osage County has unbearable weather. Each gets a couple of snows each year and each has a hot July and August along with a rainy spring and fall. Both experience tornadoes. For Posey County, Big Creek and the Ohio and Wabash Rivers occasionally flood as does Bird Creek in Osage County along with the Arkansas and Caney Rivers. But all in all the climate for both counties is fairly salubrious. In fact, the weather in both helps make them more interesting and for Indiana it gives citizens something besides basketball to talk about and for Oklahoma it expands the topics beyond football. Both states used to discuss politics but recently most rational people do not broach that topic.
However, it is not the occasional weather phenomenon that keeps paradise just out of reach for both counties. No, it is Mother Nature’s diabolical sense of humor. Let’s take up spring in Posey County first. You may know that Osage County, Oklahoma has thousands of roaming buffalo (bison). Well, just to make sure Hoosiers remember who dictates what happens in heaven, each April, May and June millions of biting/blood sucking buffalo gnats (flies) descend on Posey County much like the Biblical hordes of locusts. And like beachgoers after the movie Jaws it simply is not fun to be outside.
But Osage County has its own flies and to add to Mother Nature’s amusement She has supplied Osage County with several varieties of scorpions. Gentle Reader, should you never have been stung by a scorpion, as I have in Oklahoma, trust me, it is an experience you do not want. Peg, who is a born Yankee who spent her childhood in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and northern Indiana, has now learned to shake out her boots in the morning to be sure some scorpion has not chosen them as a residence. And the ubiquitous sand rock of Osage County appears to be a scorpion’s version of the Garden of Eden where the scorpions play the serpent’s role.
I guess what it comes down to is both Posey County, Indiana and Osage County, Oklahoma are wonderful places to live. But don’t forget to channel Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen and wear screening over your head and carry a fly swatter in Posey and shake out your boots in The Osage nine months out of the year.
In December 1991 my family and I ate at Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas. There was no trace of the bodies, blood and shattered glass from the October 16, 1991 mass shooting. We still felt their presence. Although I remembered the city riots of the 1960’s and 70’s and had closely followed the violence of 1968, the utter randomness of the Luby’s murders stoked more personal concerns. To slaughter people one did not even know struck me as much more horrendous than the misguided criminal actions of zealots.
While America’s 20th century experience with deadly violence from 1900 up to the 1960’s was extensive and tragic, as Jasmine Henrique reported in her article Mass Shootings in America: A Historical Review (Global Research News, 2013), the victims were almost always members of the killer’s own family or were the unfortunate object of a felonious act such as a specific, intentional robbery that was committed in secret. However, in most of the last half of the 20th century and the first nineteen years of the 21st century America has endured public mass killings of persons who were strangers to their murderers.
Memories of Luby’s came back to me as I participated in an internet class on judge and courthouse security taught by my friend and fellow faculty member Judge D. Neil Harris from Mississippi. Judge Harris along with other faculty of the National Judicial College including me are teaching a six-week course to seventeen judges from across America. Of course, it is not just the judiciary that needs to be concerned about security.
If you recall, when this course on general judicial topics started three weeks ago I suggested in this column there was much we modern judges could learn by examining how courts and judges arose originally. That is when humans considered net-working to be making friends with the folks in neighboring huts. As for court security in those bygone days about all that was required was for the judge to treat people who came to court as the judge would want to be treated. This worked pretty well until the world began to fill up with people who were not comfortable living in a smaller area.
But now, as William Wordsworth (1770-1850) might say, “The world is too much with us”. Or as Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) might have nostalgically wished if he were in charge of courthouse security, “That security system is best that restricts the least”. Unfortunately, we can no longer simply return to nature. The world has moved on.
Whereas in 1950 there were 151 million people in the United States and it seemed space was infinite, in 2019 we have 327 million and it has become difficult to stretch out. Mayberry, our TV town of 2,000, has metamorphosed into what feels like a megalopolis from sea to sea and from Mexico to Canada. Sheriff Taylor, who did not even carry a gun, ordered Deputy Barney Fife to carry only one bullet and keep it in his shirt pocket.
It may be that over population has impacted our behavior. Dr. John Calhoun (1917-1995) studied population density using lab rats as subjects. While many other scientists point out humans are not rats and are more able to adapt as conditions change, it may be our precipitous increase in mass shootings of random victims has come about as, at least, a partial result of population density. In their analysis of Calhoun’s theories, Doctors Edmund Ramsden and Jon Adams in their article Escaping the Laboratory: The Rodent Experiments of John B. Calhoun & Their Cultural Influence (Journal of Social History, Spring 2009) stated:
“As population density (of the rat city) increased it became evermore difficult for an individual to control the frequency of social contact. The result was unwanted interaction, leading to adverse reactions such as hostility and withdrawal, and ultimately, to the type of social and psychological breakdown seen during the latter stages in his (Calhoun’s) crowded pens.”
To solve a problem it helps to understand the cause of the problem It may be there are more valid causes for mass shootings than increasing population density. If so, they should be defined. However, if our teeming mass of humanity is contributing, we should address it and use our Homo sapiens adaptability to assuage the carnage. Regardless, whatever the etiology of increasing societal, including courthouse, violence there is no doubt is is occurring.
As reported by Timm Fautsko, Steve Berson and Steve Swensen of the National Center for State Courts and the Center for Judicial and Executive Security, there were 199 incidents of courthouse violence from 1970-2009 with an increase noted each decade. As they posited:
“We live in a time when threats against judges and acts of violence in courthouses and courtrooms are occurring with greater frequency than ever before.”
As much as I yearn to return to Mayberry and rely upon my mother’s stated advice, “Jimmy, just be nice”, the evidence overcomes the myth. Society, including the judicial system, must face the reality of a 21st century world. Security is necessary. That is why the Indiana Supreme Court in its Administrative Order AD19 requires each county court system to develop a security plan, seek approval for that plan, implement that plan and update the plan every two years.
I do not like it and my guess is neither does the Supreme Court. However, I, and I believe they, know it is necessary.
If you read last week’s column you probably noted the current general topic is judicial education. Specifically, the focus of last week’s session was the definition of what is a judge and how did the concept of judging arise? We went back about 130,000 years to the hypothetical, and questionable, theory that Homo sapiens may have existed in North America before it had a name. The reason we are delving into these arcane mysteries is because the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada has tasked some of its faculty, including me, with teaching an annual on-line course to judges from across North America. By design the course concentrates on general and basic aspects of what judges do and how and why they do it. So let us return to last week’s pedagogical construct of a truly elemental judicial system, that is, caveman justice.
You may recall we visited three hypothetical aboriginal families inhabiting a tiny cluster of huts. A dispute between two of the families had arisen over possession and use of certain flowers. Those two families agreed that instead of fighting with clubs they would agree to submit the matter to a member of the third family for a decision; voila, the first judge and the first court. But why would the dueling litigants accept the judge’s decision? Why not just ignore the judge’s imposed resolution and go back to trial by combat. How could the ancient society have confidence the judge was right, or if not completely right, at least fair? Judicial ethics were born. And that was the subject matter of this week’s NJC class.
If we assume the judge wants his or her family to enjoy the benefits of a peaceful community and we assume cooperation on such things as mastodon hunts by everyone is a benefit to all while bashing skulls is a benefit to none, we can find a basis for accepting a decision by an impartial judge. The rub, of course, is how to ensure the contentious parties believe the judge is impartial. That is why a large part of America’s judicial system places restraints and requirements on the behavior of judges. Judges, just as our caveman judge, have no armies nor do they have the power to raise revenue. All judges have to enforce their decisions is public confidence in the judge, or, at least, the overall judicial system.
So with our nascent judicial system from 130,000 years ago our judge could not play favorites and the two contesting parties would have to have confidence he/she was, in fact, impartial. People can accept a less that ideal resolution of their legal problem if they are convinced it was arrived at without prejudice. Therefore, our caveman judge must not talk to one family about the dispute outside the presence of the other family. And the judge must not accept favors from either family. Also, the judge must not voice any out of “court” opinions about the merits of the case.
Well, Gentle Reader, you might surmise there are a few more legal system details for mankind to work out other than our caveman justice. However, it all comes down to our judges must not only be fair, we must believe they are fair.
Mr. A.H. Holloman owned and operated a gravel pit near the small town of Frederick, Tillman County in southwest Oklahoma. The pit is about one half mile wide and 7 miles long. Holloman discovered numerous artifacts of ancient human occupation in the pit in 1920. The supposed age of the items suggested modern civilized Homo sapiens created them 130,000 years ago. However since this conflicted with the generally accepted theory that Homo sapiens arose in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, Africa 60,000 to 80,000 years ago, the scientific community discarded the archeological evidence at the Holloman dig for many years.
Then Professor David Deming of Oklahoma University published an article claiming modern humans may have originated in Oklahoma. Deming (born 1954 in Terre Haute, Indiana) graduated from North Central High School in Indianapolis, Indiana then graduated from Indiana University in 1983 with a BS degree in geology. He earned his PhD in geophysics from the University of Utah in 1988.
As a matter of full disclosure, I am an IU grad and currently live in both Indiana and Oklahoma. Most importantly, I garnered all my information about Professor Deming and his research from Wikipedia. At least it wasn’t Twitter.
Anyway, as a member of the faculty of the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada I am currently helping to teach an on-line course to sitting judges. The course concentrates on courthouse security, ethics, court technology and what are the proper roles and behaviors for America’s judges with an emphasis on rural courts and judges new to the Bench. A rural court is defined as a jurisdiction having one to three judges and a less urban atmosphere. Mr. Joseph Sawyer, long-time NJC staff and faculty member, is in charge of the course that relies on several experienced judges as teachers.
At our first class session for 2019 which was Thursday, September 12 the general discussion pertained to what cultural purposes do judges serve and what do and should citizens expect when they attend court. In other words, what, if anything, other than wearing black robes and pontificating do Americans perceive judges to do?
Since I had just last weekend read about Professor Deming’s work, as we engaged in class discussions about the proper role of judges, I merged my thoughts of history and modern judicial culture. I asked myself what is it you, that is I, have been doing as a judge for the past 39 years and has any of it mattered other than to provide me a paycheck? Basically, what is a judge and what should be a judge?
While I should have been concentrating on the interesting comments of my fellow faculty members and our student judges I found myself musing about the folks that inhabited the Holloman gravel pit about 130,000 years ago. That’s probably about the time society decided we needed some way other than clubs to resolve disagreements. I envisioned three families of the earliest Homo sapiens existing in proximity in three separate huts. Let’s imagine the wife of the man in hut number 1 decides to decorate her hut with flowers that only grow beside hut number 2. Wife 1 gathers up the flowers and wife 2 takes umbrage. The husbands of 1 and 2 each grab a club and mayhem is in the offing when the wife in hut number 3 suggests a meeting run by her husband, ergo the first judge.
The judge suggests a compromise whereby the flowers are shared and the wives in huts 1 and 2 work together to beautify both huts as well as the judge’s hut with the participation of wife 3 (was this our first courthouse?). Crisis averted. Peace restored. Justice done. A system of justice created.
Gentle Reader, I confess that in my humble opinion, judging really is about that straight forward. All the rest is just window dressing.
*** Update from Peg: After reading this article please see pictures below along with explanation! ***
The Garden of Eden set a standard no other garden can match. All Adam and Eve had to do was wander around fig leaf-less and enjoy earth’s bounty. Well, there was that small inconvenience of avoiding the fruit of one tree, but even with that tree there was no pruning, no Japanese beetles and no cultivation. Not even the concept of weeding and tilling were mentioned. In sum, neither a hoe nor Roundup were issues. There was no need for Adam to devise strategies to avoid his wife’s complaints that Mother Nature was winning the battle over whether fruits and vegetables or crabgrass would dominate. Adam could simply prop up his feet and, if he could have accessed cable T.V., watch football without guilt. Ah, if only Peg’s garden were the same.
“Jim, have you even looked at the garden recently? I have no idea what that stuff is growing out there but it sure is not the late-season vegetables I planted. It is humiliating to see the neighbors’ weed-free plants. Don’t you care?”
I bit my tongue and suppressed a truthful response. “Would you like for me to till the garden AGAIN?” Then I suggested IGA had a cornucopia of ripe and blemish-free tomatoes and onions. “You know, Peg, grocery stores need our business.We should try to be good community members and help keep those folks employed.” That sounded reasonable, to me.
“We buy plenty of groceries that we can’t grow such as paper products, detergent, peanut butter, and practically everything else we need. The stores won’t close if you weed our garden so we can grow a few fresh tomatoes. Is that stupid football game about over?” I did not tell her it was the third game of the day.
As I put down my iced tea and forced myself off the couch my life flashed through my brain. How did this come to be? Did it go all the way back to Eve? Did her seemingly benign offering of a weed-free apple to Adam determine the fate for all husbands for all time? And if it is not too impertinent to raise this issue, why did God include weeds in His grand scheme anyway? It’s probably as simple as He didn’t have a wife so He wasn’t worried.
Anyway, I slowly went from my cool den to my hot barn and found my two-cycle gas tiller. The tiller was about as reluctant as I was to face the hopelessly entwined non-edible vegetation. I primed the engine. I used starter fluid. I pulled on the cord for what seemed like an hour, so much so I caused a blister, before the tiller gave up and started. Then I trudged through the tangled mess that Peg claims is a garden. I completely understood the poetic analogy of William Cullen Bryant’s poem Thanatopsis in which he cautioned against approaching death (or gardening) like one being “scourged to his dungeon”. What I could not do was conquer my desire to dig out my old container of 2-4D and use the nuclear option. Unfortunately, Peg had anticipated just such a course of action and she had already disposed of it.
Okay, after only two hours and one blister the garden was tilled. Perhaps it will be at least two weeks before the weeds reemerge in all their sardonic evil. Once again, I ask you, would it have been too hard to design the whole thing better?
P.S. From Peg:
Folks, don’t feel too sorry for my hubby. Our neighbor, Chuck Minnette, took pity on him and offered to help as per the pictures below!
I understand the irresistible control nicotine can have. The desire to smoke even though the smoker knows tobacco is responsible for thousands of deaths every year may be incomprehensible to those who have never been cursed with it. But I was not shocked by that smoker in Berhman’s Tavern in St. Louis, Missouri who on Wednesday, August 28, 2019 chose to light up a cigarette as a would-be armed robber threatened to kill him if he did not lie down on the tavern floor. Even immediate death from a pistol was not as frightening as dying without a last cigarette. Perhaps the bar patron was envisioning all those old black and white movies where the condemned prisoner is afforded a final smoke before the firing squad does its grisly work.
As for me, a one-time smoker who now would need a gun to my head to make me smoke, I recalled what a death grip nicotine had on me years ago. When I joined the United States Air Force and was ordered to Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas in the sweltering summer heat of 1963 what my country required of me was a rude awakening; no girls, no beer and, cruelest of all, no cigarettes except when allowed by our TI’s (Training Instructors).
We had three TI’s for our flight of 85 men. Each one tried his best to make us feel like Luke in Cool Hand Luke. They left no doubt in our young minds that all of America’s problems were caused by our “Failure to communicate”, that is, to simply already know what the TI’s meant by various shouts and grunts. One such shout was that we had better not even think of smoking without permission. At the same time we were told the time might come when we would be allowed to smoke but if we did not have any cigarettes available at that time, “Too bad!”. Of course, since the TI’s inspected our pockets every day the sadistic sergeants thought we would be unable to smoke even when given the chance. However, my habit was such I stuffed a full pack of Lucky Strikes with two wooden matches down into my left sock and prayed for when relief would come. One 100 degree day it did. At a break in the fun the TI’s were having running us through some nonsense drill one TI suddenly yelled, “If you got ’em, smoke ’em!”. Well, to the TI’s chagrin, I had ’em and passed one out to each member of my 18-man squad and had each one light the next man’s from his. I was a hero to my guys. Unfortunately, my reward from the TI’s was KP for two days. It was worth it even though I almost keeled over due to the heat and the long period without nicotine from those stale, sweat-stained cancer causers.
Anyway, that was then and this is now and while I understand the St. Louis smoker’s Hobson’s choice between going smokeless or maybe getting shot, except for the occasional celebratory cigar, I’ll now voluntarily stick with what the Air Force tried to do for me in 1963.