Dividing and Conquering: the Sanford Jury

17 Jul

In the series “The Winds of War” Herman Wouk provides a heartbreaking look at the subtle ways Nazis would pit people against each other.  

As State Department employee Leslie Slote is trying to lead a group of Americans from Italy to safety through Fascist-controlled territory, they enter Germany by train, with guarantees for safe passage from the German government.

Unfortunately, the out-of-control SS “machine” gets hold of this group and a petty bureaucrat at the train station in Germany demands to know which members of their group are Jewish (“not for discriminatory reasons, since you are Americans and all, but just because we have to fill in a block on everybody’s form”).   

Heroically, Leslie Slote says, “Then just check Jewish on everybody’s form.”  He almost gets away with his heroism.  

A few members of the group, however, decide to distance themselves from the two Jewish people among them.

They loudly argue with Leslie Slote, “You can’t write Jewish for me.  I am not a stinking Jew.”

The SS men, at this point, have the group members right where they want them.  They proceed to divide and conquer, asking each of the very vocal people whether they will point out the Jews in the group.  They actually refuse to do that.  In the end, the SS men figure out who the two Jewish people are and try to detain them . . . 

Sound familiar?  Divide and conquer is still a technique that is used a lot because people are still as tribal as ever.  They will quickly proceed to slice and dice other people if it means saving their own skin.  This particularly works if they can create an “us vs. them” scenario in which they can portray people as members of a group that is different from their group.  

I was thinking about that this week as one of the jurors in the George Zimmerman trial tried to distance herself from the other jurors in an interview she gave anonymously.  

She mentioned how she and two other jury members supposedly voted for Zimmerman to be convicted, until the other three members convinced them to vote for acquittal.  

What was she thinking?  In fact, in response to her interview, four of the other jury members immediately signed an affidavit stating that their memory of the jury proceedings does  not match this juror’s memories at all.

United we stand, folks.

It is never sound policy to blab jury proceedings (or your selective memory of jury proceedings) in a case this controversial.  They are meant to remain quiet forever.  You don’t get fifteen minutes of fame and a book contract from them, despite the mistaken interpretation many people have made of that concept in the past.   

There have been threats made against these jurors already.  

Does the woman who spoke to the press believe that, by saying she initially voted to convict Zimmerman, she will be spared the wrath of any mobs that act on those threats?

Not likely.  

She may be testing the waters for a book contract.  

But her mouth is going to end up getting all six jurors into more danger than they are already in.

In a case like this, we should all claim to be Jewish and just move on with it . . . 

No, she will not.  In the end, all six voted for acquittal. 


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