INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - Last week I flew to Arizona to face a jury of my peers in a Phoenix courtroom. The charge? Publishing racist literature back in the 19th century under the penname of Mark Twain, the Honorable Judge Michael McVee presiding. The Plaintiff? Mrs. Allen's AP English classes of Deer Valley High School in Glendale. These kids were not only ready for Mark Twain, they bought new clothes for the occasion.
So off we went in a yellow school bus for the courthouse, Mrs. Allen, full of composure and confidence, a few scholars from the prosecuting team, a few from the defense, a few appointed witnesses to call, and forty members of the jury, all but the defense burning holes in my white suit with their eyes. Me worry? Not me. .. nooo.
As judge McVee entered the courtroom we all rose respectfully and he gave us our instructions, whereupon, these light-hearted high school juniors turned deadly serious, and my troubles began.
The charge of racism in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn I was able to fend off without breaking a sweat. But then came a barrage of charges involving the "Goshoot" Indians in Rouging It, immediately followed by the "Concerning the Jews," where all I remembered saying was, "The Jews are the world's intellectual aristocracy." They even dragged the French into the fray, when all I said was, "I think statistics will bear me out, every Frenchman above the age of sixteen and below the age of 116 has at least one wife to whom he is not married."
Suddenly I was starting to feel a little damp under the arms. My argument for using satire to expose racist attitudes of a society were falling short, as was my argument that by definition "racism" assumes an attitude of superiority, of which I harbor none. "I have no prejudices as to cast, no prejudices as to creed, and no prejudices as to color. All I need to know about a man is that he is a human being ... he can be no worse than that." Albeit, I was dropping feathers into the Grand Canyon, hoping to hear an echoes when they hit bottom.
The verdict was unanimous -guilty as charged. Judge McVee sentenced me to 20 hours of public service which I am going to begin performing tonight by watching the Saints-Falcons game at a local pub with some pals. That should knock a couple hours off right there.
This was the fourth Trial of the Century with Mrs. Allen's Deer Valley scholars, we are now two and two. I can't wait for the rubber match next year. I'm determined to be exonerated, though I know I'm going to have to study harder and longer than they do, and yet somehow I don't know if that is possible.
Meanwhile, I'm inspired to call my esteemed stock broker, Russell Cory, and ask him to invest my portfolio in stocks and bonds and derivatives for the future of this next generation...
- Learn more about McAvoy Layne at ghostoftwain.org.