Saturday, January 31, 2009

Making Law

In January, 2009, the Fox network introduced a new series titled “Lie to Me.” The program centers around a group of scientists and experts that uses body language, voice intonation, and other physical manifestations to determine guilt or innocence in a variety of circumstances. Beyond science, however, the program’s characters are turned into quasi-detectives as they search for the reasons behind the physical manifestations they detect. The cast of the program consists of the group’s chief, Cal Lightman, his second-in-command, Gillian Foster, and two younger members, Eli Loker and Ria Torres. Given the subject matter of the program, it is perhaps not surprising that there are frequent overlaps with law and the justice system throughout the weekly plots. Two storylines from the episode airing January 28th, “Moral Waiver,” present particularly fascinating studies.

In the first storyline, the team is asked by the Army to investigate a rape allegation at Fort Meade. The allegation is made by Specialist Lake against her commanding officer, Staff Sergeant Scott, days before their platoon is scheduled to redeploy to Afghanistan. In an interview with Lake, she stresses the difficulties of being one of four women in the platoon before she recounts the details of the alleged rape. By the end of the conversation, Lightman walks out of the room and states that, based on her facial expressions, he believes Lake is lying. Lightman and Torres then interview Scott, who is full of rage, first pointed at Torres and then at Lightman after he invites Scott out for a drink as a test. When Lightman asks the other female members of the platoon to come in for interviews, it is noticed that all members of the platoon show facial expressions of disgust for Scott. Lightman surmises that Lake is lying about the rape allegations and he and Torres confront her about this; she eventually admits that she lied but repeatedly yells that she was “protecting her platoon” as she is taken into the custody of the military police. The adamant tone in Lake’s voice convinces Lightman that she is telling the truth about protecting the platoon and he decides to pursue the investigation further. A review of platoon files indicates that a female member of the platoon went AWOL at about the same time that a harassment claim was anonymously filed against Scott, and Lightman and Torres go in search of the missing woman, Private Metz. They eventually locate Metz, who explains that she was coerced into having sexual relations with Scott during their previous deployment to Afghanistan and that she went AWOL as soon as the platoon returned to the US in order to escape from Scott. Metz is taken into custody by the military police and has another interview with Lightman and Torres, in which she explains that she thinks no one will believe her story because she did not actively protest during the incidences of sexual abuse. She goes on to explain that Scott was in charge of deciding who drove the lead convoy truck (said to be the most dangerous position due to IEDs) and that if she crossed him she knew he would make her drive in the lead truck as punishment. Metz is still convinced that no one will believe her, however Lightman insists that she will be believed after a polygraph test. Prior to the test, as we find out later, Lightman gives Metz valium so that she can lie and avoid detection on the polygraph. During the polygraph exam, Metz lies about whether she actually was required to drive lead and, when Scott protests, Lightman goads him into admitting that he would not have made her drive lead as long as she had a sexual relationship with him. Scott is then taken into custody by the military police and his commanding officer states that he will be charged with rape.

This storyline takes place within the insular community of the Army, where the legal and societal relationships that make up the community have a different quality than in the civilian setting. The social contract within this community is more highly regimented, and the appropriate relationships and interactions are clearly established. An offense against another member of the community creates a situation where the life of that person can be in jeopardy and so can the lives of many others by way of destroying the social contract. At the same time, when the social contract is broken but the rules of the community make it difficult for the victim to bring forward an allegation, this storyline shows a fascinating way of construction, or one might even argue making, justice and preserving the safety of other members of the community. This is of particular note as Lake, a member of a minority within the military community, is seeking to protect the larger community of her platoon as well as the discreet minority of women in her platoon of which she is a member. In her own way, Lake attempted to make justice in order to both right a wrong and protect her community by lying about the rape. Metz herself might have lost her voice, or simply preferred not to use it out of fear of the larger community’s response, but Lake’s allegations were a way of restoring the outrage of the minority and majority communities at the wrong committed by Scott. Interestingly, however, Lake did not co-opt Metz’s story and give it life through her; rather, she constructed a believable story which also protected Metz from any obvious connection to the allegation and crime. Lake was again protecting the community of female members of the platoon, and the larger community, by using the established framework of the military community, even though Metz chose to run from this framework out of fear.

At the end of the episode, we see a montage of the daily activities occurring at Fort Meade. In the midst of these activities, we see Lake preparing for redeployment with the rest of her platoon, as Metz, now free from imprisonment, drives by. For a brief second, Lake and Metz make eye contact and Metz salutes Lake, who acknowledges this act of thanks and then returns to her platoon. On a personal level, this is touching. In the broader framework of the storyline, it demonstrates that the community has been restored to its normal function, albeit without Scott, and that Lake was successful in her attempt to make justice for the safety of her community.

The second storyline involves a talented college basketball player who is suspected of taking money from a booster, which violates the rules of the fictional college sports association. Again, the community that has asked the team to investigate an allegation is a closed community with its own rules and requirements. After an investigation by Foster and Loker, the basketball player admits that he took the money because he has developed a form of arthritis which will make him unmarketable in the professional leagues. The booster’s payment was the only hope he has of a large compensation and, since he is caring for his little brother as well, he opted to take the offer of financial stability even though it violated the rules of his community. The basketball player is removed from the team and his scholarship is taken away, effectively ending his collegiate basketball career. Once these penalties are announced, Foster visits him and informs him that she has convinced the dean of his college to put her fee in a trust fund for his benefit. She explains that she knows he is intelligent and should pursue a college degree. Although the trust amount will not allow him to stay at his current college, it would allow him to attend another area school. Their conversation ends with a question as to whether he will actually take the offer of the trust fund.

Again, this storyline unfolds in an insular community that has established its own system of governance. It is stated throughout the storyline that many people disagree with particular elements of those rules and yet they are still the governing structure of the community. The denouement of the story from the point of view of the community is simple: there was a violation of the rules and the player suffered the known consequences. However, within the community, the college president took the unusual step of agreeing to provide for the education of the violator. In this sense, the college president is in much the same position as Lake in that he tries to make justice within the overarching system established by the community.

Information regarding “Lie to Me” can be found at:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Defiance and Filmmaking

In many countries, filmmakers have the ability to make films about a whole series of controversial but otherwise pressing topics without significant let or hindrance from the state - although this doesn't preclude sometimes violent and vehement reactions by non-state actors. See for instance the violent protests of the Hindu Right towards the screening of Deepa Mehta's Fire and subsequently the production of her film Water. In many other places however, creating films about controversial issues can constitute a form of resistance to the state itself particularly where the state seeks to limit artistic outlet.

A recent article in the Washington Post by Faiza Saleh Ambah charts new trajectories of film that criticize and resist certain norms in Saudi society as well as government laws against the viewing of films (and perhaps by implication their production). One example is Mohammed al-Khalif's short film "Garbage Bag" - that illustrates the dilemma of a Saudi woman who is stuck in a public restroom because her abaya (the full coat which covers the female body) is stolen. The protagonist somehow acquires a black garbage bag and walks out covered under it. The point of Garbage Bag, according to the filmmaker is "to use film to ask why it has become such a shackle for Saudi women." Naturally this is a challenge to state and non-state norms and actors who endorse and enforce the requirement of women to wear such garments - limiting their liberty and freedom of choice.

Although the article suggested that some loosening has occurred allowing for the limited screening of select or censored films, there is still significant opposition to their viewing and exhibition. Here the resistance has two dimensions. First it is the creation and exhibition of films in a cultural climate that is hostile to viewing such cultural productions. Second, the subjects of the films are in many ways aimed toward questioning cultural norms that are stringently enforced - the wearing of certain clothing or the duty to submit to arrange marriages.

Cross-posted at:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Incomplete realities

Is an incomplete presentation of reality – or the reality upon which a fictional television show’s plot is based – better than no presentation of that reality? This is the central question of this posting.

Over a month ago, the television series “24” aired a preview episode, which was followed up by four episodes which aired on the 11th and 12th of January. As is common with 24, a myriad of plots and sub-plots have been presented thus far. The plot addressed in this blog is the genocide occurring in the fictional state of Sangala, which appears to be a rehashing of the Rwandan conflict. One of the opening scenes in the preview episode takes place in Sangala, where a group of young boys has been rounded up by a warlord’s militia and are indoctrinated into the militia through a combination of mind control, possible intoxication, peer pressure and fear. As viewers, we do not see the rounding up of these boys beyond their riding in a truck and then appearing at the militia base. The idea of child soldiers, and the repellent nature of using children for warfare, is reinforced at several points after these scenes. The first is when a group of children, including some from a boy’s orphanage where Jack Bauer has been working and hiding, is targeted for recruitment by the militia and violently taken away to join the militia. The reality of the threat to the boys at the orphanage continues, when they are hunted down by the militia and ultimately saved by Jack and the headmaster of the orphanage, after Jack is tortured by a militia leader seeking information on the whereabouts of the boys. When Jack is leading the boys to the American embassy – after their headmaster sacrificed himself to save them – he is confronted by one of the children first seen in the indoctrination ceremony scene. The child holds a gun to Jack, who is ultimately able to talk him into putting the gun down and leaving the group alone. Finally, in the Sangala montage, Jack trades his freedom for the ability to guarantee the boys from the orphanage safe passage to the United States. While Jack is attempting to access the American embassy, we see a woman and her young child pleading to be allowed into the embassy and onto a helicopter. She tells the embassy official that her husband was killed in a prior war in Sangala and that staying in the country would surely be a death sentence for her child; ultimately, she is refused entry to the embassy.

During the January 11th and 12th episodes, the new president, Allison Taylor, makes a decision to send American troops into Sangala after 200,000 people have been killed in the genocide. The former Prime Minister of Sangala, who is a resistance leader to the genocide, stresses to President Taylor the need for intervention in order to save the lives of his people. When, later in the plot, it is revealed that the leader of the genocide is in possession of a device which could cause the deaths of untold numbers of Americans, President Taylor must make a choice between pulling back from Sangala to comply with the demands of a genocidal regime or going forward with the knowledge that she is endangering the American public in doing so. In discussions with her staff and the former Prime Minister, the constant reference is to the people – including several thousand women and children at a refugee camp –who will be killed without US military assistance.

In its first episodes, 24 has done an admirable job in addressing the problem of child soldiers in conflict. While the issue has become increasingly important in the international law realm, it is still a relatively new issue for the public at large and inclusion in a popular television series is a compelling way to elevate the issue within popular discourse. Additionally, the focus on the consequences of Rwanda-like conflicts on the mortality of women and children is admirable, as well as compelling. However, while these elements of the Sangala plot do portray the reality of past conflicts, such as Rwanda, and current conflicts, such as Darfur, the Sangala plot does not portray the full realm of reality in these and numerous other conflicts. The missing element in this incomplete reality to which I refer is the use of sexual violence in conflict.

Rape as a weapon of war has grown to truly staggering numbers in conflicts across the globe. From Bosnia to Rwanda, rape of women, girls, and in fact men and boys, was a hallmark of the brutalities inflicted. These communities are still dealing with the after effects of systematic rape in conflict, as well as other attendant forms of sexual violence, from sexual slavery to forced pregnancy to forced abortion. Rape and sexual violence feature prominently as weapons of war in current conflicts as well, and indeed the occurrence of rape in Darfur has been identified as an epidemic. When child soldiers are recruited, it is often after an attack on a village or other area in which the families of the children are raped and killed. And boys are not the only ones taken to camps. Women and girls are often taken to camps and used for sexual slavery as well as domestic work and, on occasion, as fighters. Thus, in order to convey the complete reality of the conflicts upon which the Sangala plot is based, it would be necessary for 24 to delve into the issue of rape and sexual violence at some level.

Certainly, these are not easy subjects to address on primetime television. However, in constructing Sangala and making it such a central role in the plot – as well as the moral issued raised – raising the full compliment of horrors of the conflicts upon which the Sangala situation is based would better inform the public as to both the issues faced by society and law during and after these conflicts as well as the full range of moral issues involved in the question of intervention in such situations. There might not be an easy answer to the question posed by this blog post, however, given the ability of television series to educate the public on otherwise lesser-known issues, it is a vital question.


24 Show Details,
Five Years On: No Justice for Sexual Violence in Darfur, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, April, 2008, available at (last visited Oct. 31, 2008).
Sexual Violence and Its Consequences among Displaced Persons in Darfur and Chad, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, April 2005, available at (last visited Oct. 31, 2008).
Seeking Justice: The Prosecution of Sexual Violence in the Congo War, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, March 2005, available at (last visited Oct. 31, 2008).
Struggling to Survive: Barriers to Justice for Rape Victims in Rwanda, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, September 2004, available at (last visited Oct. 31, 2008).
The War Within the War: Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in Eastern Congo, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, June 2002, available at (last visited Oct. 31, 2008).
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: Kosovo: Rape as a Weapon of “Ethnic Cleansing,” HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, 2000, available at (last visited Oct. 31, 2008).
Shattered Lives: Sexual Violence during the Rwandan Genocide and its Aftermath, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, available at (last visited Oct. 31, 2008).
War Against Women, the Use of Rape as A Weapon In Congo’s Civil War, CBS NEWS, Aug. 17, 2008, available at (last visited Oct. 31, 2008).

Friday, January 9, 2009

No More: When Resistance Turns to Terrorism

Outside of institutions or programs of formal legal education (e.g. law schools, bar prep courses, and continuing legal education), many lawyers and non-lawyers receive their daily or weekly doses of informal legal education through legal dramas on television and/or film. Yet, awareness of law sometimes emerges in unexpected places, ways, and times. In those moments, the unexpected scene can have a greater educative impact (intended or not) in addition to carrying a considerable and longer lasting resonance with a viewer because of its impromptu nature – in comparison to the steady and expected representation(s) of law that might appear on a weekly television drama like Law and Order. In the case of the latter, viewers may be bombarded week after week with a variety of interesting legal issues that nevertheless bleed into one another over time – diminishing any long term lessons that could be generated from such exposure.

As I shall discuss here, one of these unexpected instances of legal awareness took place in a documentary film capturing a rock band’s concert tour through the United States – U2’s Rattle and Hum. During the second to last live performance of the film (Sunday Bloody Sunday), Bono injects a striking and powerful statement about law, justice and the reasonable legal limits on actions taken during a resistance movement. Through Bono’s impromptu speech before and during the song we hear a powerful and emotional statement about when resistance turns into wild acts of terrorism and lawlessness.

There is a context. The song was filmed and performed on Sunday, November 8, 1987, in Denver, Colorado. Earlier that day, a bomb planted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded in a town in Northern Ireland called Enniskillen during a Remembrance Day event. Consequently, 11 people were killed and many others injured. As would become evident, this tragedy was on the minds of the band members that day.

Bono introduces Sunday Bloody Sunday in the context of Irish immigration in America dating back to the Great Famine of the mid-19th Century to the present. He explains some of the more contemporary reasons (circa 1987) for Irish immigration:

You know there are more Irish immigrants in America today than ever - some illegal, some legal. A lot of them are just running from high unemployment. Some run from the troubles in Northern Ireland, from the hatred of the H-Blocks and the torture - others from wild acts of terrorism like we had today in a town called Enniskillen where 11 people lie dead, many more injured, on a Sunday, bloody Sunday.

The band begins the song sombrely with the Edge on guitar playing arpeggios unaccompanied by the militaristic drum beat of Larry Mullen Jr. that normally begins the song. Bono sings the lyrics with Edge’s guitar as his only accompaniment for the first two verses and chorus. As the band is about to begin the 2nd chorus, the drums and bass join in with a noticeably excited and aggressive beat followed by Edge’s guitar solo. After Edge finishes his solo, he continuously strums away at a chord while muting the sound with his left hand giving an aggressive cadence.

At this stage, Bono addresses the crowd angrily, passionately:

And let me tell you something. I've had enough of Irish-Americans who haven't been back to their country in 20 or 30 years come up to me and talk about the resistance, the revolution back home...and the glory of the revolution, and the glory of dying for the revolution. Fuck the revolution! They don't talk about the glory of killing for the revolution. What's the glory of taking a man from his bed and gunning him down in front of his wife and children? Where's the glory in that? Where's the glory in bombing a remembrance day parade of old-age pensioners, their medals taken out and polished up for the day? Where's the glory in leave them dying, or crippled for life, or dead under the rubble of a revolution that the majority of the people in my country don't want? No More!

There are two aspects of Bono’s speech in particular that are worth discussion – one explicit, the other more implicit. First, Bono’s speech expressly speaks to the limits of proper conduct during war and resistance – and specifically from the perspective of law and justice – limits on the killing of non-combatants and protected persons under humanitarian law. Bono does this by invoking two compelling images. First, he speaks about the horror and trauma of a husband/father being murdered in front of his spouse and children (and by implication the horror and trauma of the family in having to witness the execution). The imagery of terrorists invading one’s house and gunning down a victim in his/her home and particularly the bedroom – normally considered a safe and (secularly sacred) private space – carries the gravity of the violation home to viewers.

The second image that Bono invokes is the targeting of a parade of elderly pensioners killed at the Enniskillen bombing. Once again, Bono refers to the murdering and injuring of individuals who are non-combatants – protected persons who are targeted during a public setting honouring their sacrifices. In both contexts, the killings are shown for what they are - craven acts targeting civilians and violating basic norms of human conduct.

The second overall aspect that emerges from Bono’s short speech is the support of diasporic communities for resistance and violent activities in the home country. Although Bono doesn’t directly address it (he refers simply to Irish-Americans glorifying the resistance), what is implicated here is the material, financial and moral support for the activities of the IRA amongst Irish-Americans and Irish nationals living in America – and by extension their sustaining the type of murder that the IRA has committed in the examples he illustrates.

Although set in 1987 in connection with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Bono’s speech still has resonance today on some pertinent legal and political issues. First, it implicates matters dealing with the treatment of civilians in contemporary conflict zones whether by government forces and/or resistance groups. Second, Bono’s speech draws attention to support by diaspora communities funding state or non-state terrorism and/or otherwise questionable military actions in “home” territories as well as the legal and moral implications that arise from all this.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Idol Jury - Part I

In recent years, much has been made of the “CSI effect” on jury decision-making. With the annual rite of January upon us – namely the return of American Idol for a new season – it is time that we look beyond the programs such as CSI if we are to fully discuss the impact of television on American jurors. While the internet might be regarded as the first truly democratic form of medium, American Idol is certainly a close second. It draws viewers each week and, more than drawing passive viewers, motivates them to serve as active participants by voting for their favorite contestant. This, at first, might seem to be the connection between American Idol and juries – each involves voting for (or potentially against) someone, although the consequences for the vote-getters are drastically different than the parties to a court case. However, there are arguably other aspects of American Idol that not only mirror the jury process but also have the potential to influence it.

Since there are many points at which American Idol has relevance to the American jury system, this is the first in a multi-part post. Each post will occur before the next phase of the American Idol contest, in the hopes that it will raise issues that readers will look for during the contest.

The first weeks of the program follow the judges from city to city as they start their quest for contestants. However, the focus of these episodes is often more on those who failed to secure a coveted ticket to Hollywood than those that did. Throughout the years, a series of contestants with dreadful singing ability, horrendous attitudes and sometimes disturbing self-delusions have paraded across the audition stage. Some do it for attention, some for amusement, and others out of a serious hope of success. Each year, it seems that a greater percentage of time is devoted to these contestants than on those who actually can sing. Entertaining, perhaps, but what does this have to do with juries?

First, the subtle message of these episodes is no longer directing the viewer towards the quality of the singer and the competition (analogous to the central acts and issues of a legal case). Instead, the focus is on the peripheral and the unusual. Obviously, the girl who can’t carry a tune should not advance, but neither should the girl who is dressed in an outlandish costume. Thus, the television show recenters the audience’s attention from the core of the competition to the extrinsic attributes of the contestants. While the demeanor and dress of defendants, victims and witnesses has always been an issue at trials, this recentering of the audience’s attention validates the idea of judgment based on facts that are irrelevant to the thing being judged.

Second, it emphasizes the difference between the viewer and the contestants. When watching a horrendous audition on American Idol, one might easily think: “How could you let yourself do that?” or “How could his family support him?” This emphasis on the difference between the viewer and the contestant validates the easily made sense of difference between a juror and a defendant/victim/witness (ie. “I would never have put myself in that situation, why should I believe her?” or “My son would never do such a thing”). Such a difference in place and/or decision-making is natural and yet dangerous to a justice system dependent on juries. In providing a forum that encourages attention-seeking people to “do their own thing” while others watch for entertainment, American Idol reinforces the idea of difference and otherness as something which is amusing at best and to be ridiculed or judged critically at worst.

Third is the role of the judges in the audition process. By now, the identities of the judges and, more importantly, their personalities, are well established to the viewing audience. Simon is harsh and sometimes rude. Paula is nice to the contestants and nurtures them. And Randy is the balance between the two extremes. All of these traits are active personality traits, and the audience would likely be shocked if they were changed. In one sense, this can be seen as reinforcing the place of judges generally. Law judges are themselves known to have their own sense of style and method of running a courtroom. Once that style and standard is set, it becomes an established practice for jurors – as well as lawyers – to rely on. In this sense, the role of the American Idol judges can reinforce the place for judicial behavior seen by jurors and potential jurors. This reinforcement makes it alright to expect something from a judge, and indeed such behavior can be seen as comforting in its dependability. There is a much larger discussion to be had on the subject of disagreeing with the Idol judges and the impact on jurors, however that discussion will be reserved for later posts throughout the season.

The beginning of another season of American Idol offers us a chance for entertainment and for a discussion of the unheralded potential impacts of program on areas of law and civic participation in law. We hope that readers of this blog find the latter as much of interest as the former.

Information regarding American Idol is available at: .

Thursday, January 1, 2009

"Your Inalienable Rights": Melissa Etheridge and "Tuesday Morning"

For many, music is strictly a form of entertainment. Yet embedded within the lyrics of many popular songs are powerful narratives that speak to larger themes of rights discourse, equality, and resistance. One song that explores these issues within a five-minute timeframe is Tuesday Morning by Melissa Etheridge (see full lyrics reproduced below). Tuesday Morning narrates the heroism of Mark Bingham, one of the several brave passengers traveling on United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 who attempted to regain control of the hijacked plane from the terrorists who were holed up in the cockpit. Ultimately, rather than relinquish control to the passengers, including Bingham, who were attempting to storm the cockpit, the terrorists opted to crash the plane in a field in Pennsylvania, murdering everyone on board.

Tuesday Morning is more than just an important narration of the heroic efforts of Bingham and his fellow passengers aboard the plane to thwart a greater disaster - the likely and presumed goal of the terrorists to fly the plane into a populated building. It is a critique of the failure to accord gay Americans equal rights and to recognize them as equal citizens. The connection? Bingham was gay - "he loved his man".

The song in part humanizes and stresses Bingham's commonality with his fellow citizens. Etheridge sings: "He loved his mom and he loved his dad; He loved his home and he loved his man; But on that bloody Tuesday morning; He died an American." Importantly, it emphasizes the ability to have a normal and loving same-sex relationship while still consistently maintaining the fundamental and indelible everyday relationships and ties that others have - love of parents, love of home and country and furthermore - from a patriotic sense - the honour of dying for one's country.

As the song progresses, Etheridge closes in on the denial of equality and identifies the nature of the discrimination: "Even though he could not marry; Or teach your children in our schools; Because who he wants to love; Is breaking your Gods' rules." The verse links this specific type of bigotry to the religious views that continue to be the idealogical foundation for denying same-sex couples the right to marry in many states across the union. The denial to allow openly gay teachers the opportunity to teach also speaks to the paranoid association between homosexuality and pedophilia. Implied here is the failure to separate the views and norms of religious faiths from the laws of the state in contravention of the very principles that underly the First Amendment's establishment clause.

Etheridge then juxtaposes this rank bigotry toward gay Americans against the bravery of Bingham's acts on September 11th. She posits: "He stood up on a Tuesday morning; In the terror he was brave; And he made his choice; And without a doubt; A hundred lives he must have saved." Etheridge closes in on the injustice of denying individuals such as Bingham the right to marry his male partner or obtain full and equal employment opportunities even in the face of his willingness to sacrifice his life to save fellow citizens, some or many of whom would deny him the very rights they possess - "And the things you might take for granted; Your inalienable rights; Some might chose to deny him; Even though he gave his life."

After framing the narrative of Bingham's courage and resistance to terrorists against the backdrop of discrimination waged against him, Etheridge then arrives at the following question - "Can you live with yourself in the land of the free; And make him less of a hero than the other three; Well it might begin to change ya; In a field in Pennsylvania." The verse raises notions of justice and equality that are at the heart of the American sense of self. Etheridge implicitly asks her fellow Americans how they can construct and perceive themselves as a free people who believe in freedom and equality yet so easily deny one of their own, a 9/11 hero no less, the right to equality and equal protection. Put another way, the song holds a mirror up and calls for the American people to consider how it can observe the heroism of Mark Bingham while still continuing to pursue and implement discriminatory laws against gays and lesbians that would have denied that very hero of various rights had he lived.

Tuesday Morning, at its core is about identifying a fundamental inconsistency in the American conception of justice and equality. It asks a pressing question - can homophobic bigotry, whether originating from the state or from society, be justified against a class of people defined by an immutable characteristic. To put a name and a face on the discrimination, Etheridge identifies one of America's most noble heroes who stood up to terrorism on one of the most tragic days of its national history. The question is of significant importance when we consider how many gays and lesbians are serving in the United States armed forces to defend their country but who can be or have been discharged when it is or has been discovered that they are gay - under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". They are asked to shed their blood in defense of their nation as long as they conceal part of their fundamental makeup as individuals from others. "Stand up America; Hear the bell now as it tolls; Wake up America; It's Tuesday morning; Come on let's roll."

Tuesday Morning

Up and down this road I go
Skippin' and dodgin'
From a 44

10:03 on a Tuesday morning
In the fall of an American dream
A man is doing what he knows is right
On flight 93

He loved his mom and he loved his dad
He loved his home and he loved his man
But on that bloody Tuesday morning
He died an American

Now you cannot change this
You can't erase this
You can't pretend this is not the truth

Even though he could not marry
Or teach your children in our schools
Because who he wants to love
Is breaking your Gods' rules

He stood up on a Tuesday morning
In the terror he was brave
And he made his choice
And without a doubt
A hundred lives he must have saved

And the things you might take for granted
Your inalienable rights
Some might chose to deny him
Even though he gave his life

Can you live with yourself in the land of the free
And make him less of a hero than the other three
Well it might begin to change ya
In a field in Pennsylvania

Stand up America
Hear the bell now as it tolls
Wake up America
It's Tuesday morning
Come on let's roll

Envisioning Jurisculture

Law is embedded in every facet of our many cultures, although its visibility is often not as universal. By law, we are not simply referring to the hard law constructed by national and sub-national governments and enforced by state actors or to international law, with the many actors and enforcement mechanisms it embodies. Certainly, national and international law form part of our conception of law, but simply regarding these forms of law as the sole norms that govern states and society is to ignore the richness of law which surrounds us. Indeed, in a practical sense, societies and individuals are governed by many normative legal structures that regulate their quotidian existence. This includes norms that, while not emanating from the state, have an impact (and perhaps a more substantial impact) on human conduct and behavior - e.g. rules of the family household, norms that regulate conduct and behavior in the workplace and/or other institutional settings like school and universities. Human beings, however, are not simply receptacles that receive legal norms and obey them. Some have a broader vision or concept of what a norm or set of norms ought to be in given circumstances and, accordingly, take steps to project their visions into the public sphere in a variety of ways. One frequent and extremely ubiquitous way to transmit these visions is through popular cultural mediums such as film, television, music, literature, news media, and other creative and/or otherwise communicative mediums.

Facts and narratives are at the heart of many cultural mediums. Whether in the form of a song, book, or film, the framing of a story and the deftness of the story’s narration provides the recipient of the medium with the ability to understand the medium itself. Similarly, in many legal cultures, law is fundamentally understood within a specific factual context and transmitted through narrative – including judicial and quasi-judicial decisions. Again, it is the use of facts and narration to provide a frame within which the intended audience receives the law that is so crucial to understanding the law. Alter the facts and one potentially ends up with a different legal rule or result. Similarly, alter the facts of the underlying story and the Barber of Seville becomes La Traviata.

While there are no shortage of television shows, films and/or other mediums that deal with the practice of law and how law is exercised and applied, our goal here is to look at law more broadly and how norms play a regulatory and advisory role in everyday life. This might include observing how rules of conduct may be created and extrapolated from the conduct of individuals. Imagine, for example, a television episode that displays a manager's proper or improper handling of an incident constituting sexual harassment in the workplace without ever dealing with a litigation that could arise from such facts. In so doing, the television program still engages in legal storytelling and conveys something about what norms should or should not be pursued.

Accordingly this blog will examine how law is presented, understood, constructed, and interpreted (or certainly misinterpreted) through a transmission of facts transmitted in these cultural mediums. While some cultural productions simply reflect the status quo, others seek to (re)imagine law more dynamically. Additionally, other productions are directly involved in the crafting of a suggested solution to legal and socio-legal problems in such a way that the audience is barely aware of the suggestions being made. These productions will be discussed and analyzed as part of the blog. Although new forms of media – and the use of media – are constantly emerging, this blog will also examine the ways in which cultural and popular media have been related to and are reflective of law throughout history as well.

Alexandra R. Harrington and Amar Khoday