When you think about it, what does a jury of one’s peers really mean? Legally, I suppose it means that because all individuals are theoretically equal under the law, one’s peers in a litigious sense means other equally theoretical equals.
A peer might be anyone who shares with me age, gender, ethnicity, race, education, geography, nationality or religion, in some combination. But considering any of these factors in isolation does not make sense to me. This does not seem to be the basis by which I identify my peers on a daily basis. For example I do not consider all men to be my peers, nor all southerners, nor all people who did not quite graduate from college? Not on a typical day.
For me, a peer is a fellow traveler. Not someone on the same path as I am, nor someone who has been where I’ve been, but someone who has been faced with the same kinds of dilemmas, made similar choices, and lived with the consequences of those choices in order to a achieve a similar goal. That means that in order to decide who my peer group is, I have got to get the order of the questions right. Often, we ask “who is going with me?” before we ask “where am I going?” As a result, whether or not the traveling companion is suitable, advantageous or even compatible for the journey cannot be in any way intelligently determined.
Who are my peers, then?
People who have lived in more than one state. People who have been divorced. People who read books daily. Curious people. People who vote their conscience and intelligence and not the party line. People who believe that life and death can be defined as energy borrowed, energy returned. People who feel that art, beauty, kindness, compassion and doubt are essential elements of human existence. People willing to get their hands dirty. People who recognize that all ethical systems are based on the principle Thou Before I and actually, where possible, live according to that standard. People who believe that love is not ownership. People who seek commonalities, rather than differences. People who seek beyond institutionalized anything (schools, churches, governments) in order to discover how Universal Truth becomes Personal Truth. People who see beyond all of these Aristotaliarian compartmentalizations. People who know there is no such thing as prehistory, who draw outside the lines, who accept personal responsibility for who they are, where they are, and how they got there, who believe that a meritocritous egalitarian society is not only possible, but achievable, one person at a time.
If my life were on trial, I would insist that 12 such individuals be found to weigh my fate.