Liberty is Fleeting

I am one of the few soldiers that actually patrolled the Iron Curtain between East and West Germany during the Cold War.  During that period I witnessed a divide between freedom and controlled environments. What separated two ideologies was a death strip filled with land mines, razor wire, metal spike crosswalks, and East German border guards that would shoot first and ask questions later. As an American soldier, I was proud that I didn’t live in a nation that habitually lied to its people, denied freedoms, embraced a one-party system, and would jail its citizens based merely on suspicion.

 

Fast forward today, and for some reason, I feel that I am in the middle of lousy reality dream. When I hear the President wants to build a wall along the border I can only think about how we spent decades, at the cost of lives, to tear down a wall.  Police are arresting people based on suspicion without evidence similar to how the Stazi arrested East Germans. Shootings or the use of tasers by law enforcement are often and highly questionable. Listening to our elected leadership habitually presenting false or misleading information all while dismissing the press is a bit disturbing and sounds like the days of Erich Honecker. It is as if we as a nation are told we have inalienable rights only to become the revised version of East Germany and the Soviet Union all over again. The recent United Nations withdrawal from the Human Rights Council should be a wakeup call that our seat of influence to the world has become an observation post where we have no real voice or teeth to promote freedom.

 

There was a time in my life where I could quickly recognize military uniforms and present a level of absolute respect and honor. Today, I witness police emulating military styled clothing closely resembling military uniforms adorned with ribbons, awards, and rank that were usually privilege and expressly used by the military. Overnight we have transformed our police departments into Soviet styled organizations and dressed police officers in military garb because it looks cool or intimidating. It is a stark reminder of civil service versus military service and how the two should instinctively be different visibly from one another. If police persist in wearing military uniforms and camouflage, then perhaps I should invoke my third amendment right of consent. Afterall, if the police want to dress up like military soldiers, then it is high time that this nation pushes back and hold those accountable that tarnish the uniform mixed with its stolen valor by using our third amendment right. The last time I looked, there were specific laws against the militarization of the police and adulteration of the standard police duty uniform.

 

Public buildings once the highlight of tours and open society have been quickly militarized with body scan devices, authenticated access points, and anti-ram bollards that have been institutionalized by a post 9/11 society. Former President Bush suggested that we continue to go about our business, but stay vigilant. The fear-based society of politicians and conspiracy theorist with no formidable data began the terror machine of identifying everyone as a threat. It started to develop registries and checkpoints such as no-fly, offender, terror watch lists, REAL Identification and so forth. These actions are no different than how the Soviet Union and communist countries continue to monitor and control its citizens today.  Specific controls are reminiscent of how Soviets and communist-based neighbors grew suspicious of one another by not becoming vigilant but turning into self-imposed informants. No facts are needed. Just a self-induced form of hysteria that something could happen is all to create a recipe of additional and unwarranted controls.  Lessons learned from history that showed Soviets and East Germans were taught to believe anything said by western media was false. The stigmatic message was that western news was manufactured to be a threat towards communist democracy; at least from their viewpoint. However, capitalism has a strange way today of acting similar to what communists claimed decades ago. Interesting that the Berlin Wall was meant to keep invading forces of the west out. Ironic that no westerners were ever shot for crossing into the east. Moreover, when the Berlin and Iron Curtain fell that unification efforts didn’t put nations into debt. In fact, it created a robust economic powerhouse where America is discovering difficulty in keeping up with the Germans.

 

As a soldier, I was taught and reminded of freedoms all around us both visible and invisible. I am told each time I see the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, that it embraces the embodiment of freedom from all forms of oppression. An interesting fact is a broken chain that lies Liberty’s feet. It reminds us that we are not prisoners of our beliefs or pursuits. Liberty became an icon of freedom and of the United States and was a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad that all are welcome. But with an impending wall on our border, immigrant children separated from families, using religion as a precursor towards public policy, or prison populations higher than most national census seem perhaps fitting that we return the Statue of Liberty to France. Apparently, we are losing our vision, integrity, and accessibility with regards to freedom and how this nation was created.

 

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”
– Gen. George C. Patton

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Wall of Misinformation

Over the past year, our news has been filled with information and misinformation ranging from alternative facts, fake news, to downright bizarre statements. An interesting observation is that such information bias has been going on for centuries. If nobody has learned lessons from the Trojan Horse, Bill Clinton’s Affair, or The Watergate Scandal then perhaps the ordinary citizen has become desensitized and accepting of half-truths.

In fact, our attention to half-truths is palpable when we watch the evening news. The first indication of our prejudices and preconceived bias is when an accused is splashed across the television screen. No matter how small or insignificant the issue the belief we have adopted is “they must be guilty because they were arrested.” At no point do media, journalists, or the public identify a segment dedicated to whereas those accused are mentioned as pardoned, dismissed, or exonerated. Doing so could bring discredit upon journalism or perhaps adjust future news feeds as after the fact. However, many countries report only guilty findings well after trials. I am not suggesting that method would be acceptable. What I am suggesting is that perhaps we need to take a step back in how we as a nation embrace innocent until proven guilty. The current scheme that society adapted is insinuating people are guilty by arrest, outrageous bond assessments and merely being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Perhaps the worst part of fake news and half-truths is when someone accuses another individual of a crime that didn’t occur. There are numerous protections both from law and media that place anonymity to those that claim to be victims. But a Trojan Horse moment is when the Duke Lacrosse players were exonerated after spending tens of thousands of dollars to prove their innocence. It was only then that the “victim” was mentioned but was never criminally charged. The wall of misinformation didn’t suddenly collapse. A reason it didn’t crash is that we are desensitized and accepting of half-truths. Instead, more half-truths and false allegations began to increase because the scales of justice protect the victim with no consequences when bogus and fictitious information is presented to police, prosecutors, and the public. The only occurrence where the wall can crumble is when the accusation affects you personally. That is when you begin yelling in a room to be equally heard and provide a rationale defense only to be silenced by numb and disinterested parties.

In today’s social media world it doesn’t take a sex offender registry to make an innocent person guilty in the eye of public opinion. In fact, a look at those accused without trial is immediately detached from the public view never to be mentioned again; unless it’s about allegations. The victim either quietly builds a coalition under the protection of anonymity or leaps into stardom without challenge or inquiry from journalists or hosts as to not bring additional scorn, discomfort or backlash from overly sensitive viewers. Prosecutors and police typically thank victims for being brave and courageous despite only taking the individuals word rather than profoundly investigating for potential holes or irregularities. Prosecutors and police are protected from immunities as well even if there is no evidence whatsoever. But if police or prosecutors discover an impropriety or issue that could exonerate an individual, it is quietly and conveniently omitted to shield its agency or division from further liabilities or internal review.

A lessons learned moment is that the general public doesn’t give a rats ass about the accused versus victims. Society enjoys entertainment value even if it has harmful effects on others.  The notion is that our judicial system is fair despite gripe about overload and cumbersome bureaucratic systems usually embraces a dark message of “you cant fight government” or “government always operates like that”. Again, we have become numb, desensitized, and far-removed from what doesn’t affect people directly because we accept wrongs as a norm. It is not uncommon for people to interject idioms such as “if you lie with dogs you will catch fleas.” However, the lowest level of humanity is slowly becoming the normative behavior as anyone can say anything without proof, evidence, credibility, or inquiry. We are quickly becoming an anarchy society with an absence of fair and reasonable government combined with a complete loss of basic rationale.

I predict a future where the sex offender registry will no longer be relevant. Instead, we will live in a world where social media and the internet will decide who is allowed to engage. There will be no need for a criminal background check because Facebook, Yelp, Google, Microsoft, and phone apps will best determine with its analytics who fits the mold of acceptable behaviors. This is not to meant to sound like a conspiracy theorist or alarmist. It is a fact that these social media indicators are already relevant and working today. With the over fifty different and propriety offender registries and police records managed differently by each state will eventually become a crazy mishmashed data service connecting to Facebook or other media providers.

Why do I say this? Because ordinary citizens have become desensitized and accepting of just about anything that sounds like the truth. We are products and no longer people essentially because some rushes to social media to voice outrage yet do nothing to actually make a difference.

Registry Advocate Site Sometimes Toxic

Over the past year, I have taken the time to personally take notice of each and every comment left on social media and offender registry websites. A common trait found within each posting is angered, choleric, frustrated, outraged, and worked up individuals. Naturally, it is rightfully so because of constructive methods the offender registry has caused and its effects on families, friends, and advocates. It is, after all, a severe topic matter leaving no wiggle room for positivity or light joking banter just to escape a moment of sanity. Most interesting is how one toxic comment can have an adverse effect on followers or allies. My discovery and rumination of registered offender comments perhaps are fueling the flames of consumption towards self-destruction and initiate disharmony by becoming overly critical of one another. Afterall, registered offenders are listed en masse without division or reasonable classifications that the public comprehends. To the ordinary viewer wishing to understand the dilemmas of registered offenders, is typically not introduced with efficacious dialog. Instead, it is a blended catchphrase cycle of coded information leaving future advocates, allies, and perhaps scholars feeling there is no representation of sounds individuals without becoming too personal rather than informative.

 

Let’s be honest about the elephant in the room. Sex offending is something that is on the one hand very serious but on the other hand, has been intensified and amplified. To the average citizen, the charge or allegation of sexual offending or registry requirements must indicate a grievous crime. The art of investigative technique is so arbitrary with the victim’s name removed for privacy sake and the details carefully scrubbed by prosecutors and police working in conjunction that it makes any allegation rather one-sided and guilty appearing. Of course, people are angry. But the accused has a duty or at least is told to remain calm and say nothing. Once trial comes and passes the indicted quickly learns a valuable life lesson that public opinion and plea bargains will continue to be the routine of the day. It is then that the registry requirements mixed with anger, disgust at a system that accepts tissues of tears instead of evidence or facts. The once calm and compliant accused is now labeled forever as the registered guilty offender with little to no support system to vent or seek a remedy to reverse a poor judgment or poor verdict. The anger should be redirected towards how media, justice, and public opinion has overtaken the balance of justice rather indifferent methods not found within any other trial standard – unless a witness protection program has been introduced.

 

This is where registered offenders take to the internet to voice a barrage of toxicity and vile about a system that has failed them. The the new second class citizen trying to figure out how to survive, cope and move forward with a syllabus listing of requirements to follow that often changes without notice. The rage and anger online overtake the critical message that people are suffering and require a moment to be heard. To the average joe that stumbles upon an offender, advocacy website is either introduced with a bombardment of anti-patronage issues or anger filled rhetoric. It turns off the potential learner leaving less informed and lessor of an advocate. There is a right way to exhibit immediacy, directness, passion, and emotion without scaring off a much-needed target audience. I too have accidentally fallen prey to my own unthought words in the past. I guess what I am trying to say is that caution is critical when attempting to discuss sensitive topic matters. Registry advocates shouldn’t appear to be in an “us versus them” standoff. Instead, the dialog should center at rationale and reasonable justice education.

 

What may work to educate the public is easy to read graphics, charts where offenders are prohibited to live/work/reside, a quick card of restrictions per state, a map of lifetime states regardless of a misdemeanor or low-level offenses. My point is that anger and disgust must develop in actionable policy with something indisputable and easy to read. News articles, blogs, social media, and passion rants eventually fade and die away. I fear that is what registry advocacy websites may be unintentionally doing. Offender sites must learn to play fair with one another and those that leave comments. Sometimes the comments are a sign of distress and help that may require some other intervention if we are going to be candid about mental health issues. Sometimes I bite my lip or roll my eyes at caustic comments between offenders, allies, and visitors. I’ve learned to read beyond the noise and try to understand how they feel. At some point, the anger and frustration must become a positive so that others can achieve hope or a bit of light when they need it most. Just because you are angry doesn’t give license to make others mad with you. In fact, I would like for all those affected by the registry to become educators. Tell your story, honestly and with conviction to influence others to become advocates, allies, and campaigners towards a change of this horribly constructive registry. Basically, learn to hone your interpersonal skills and become a bit more inclusive – even if you don’t want to be. The key to fighting the registry is to work together instead of tearing others away because they don’t think like you?

 

Don’t be ashamed of your past or something you cannot change. Turn that shame into constructive energy and learn to not only advocate for yourself but for others. You don’t have to be a perfect speaker, but you must learn to reign in tempers and going off script. Don’t worry about what the opposition, police or district attorneys say. Use your first amendment right to reach down deep and become a positive message for just one moment. Learn to say thank you once again, like someone on social media, follow them, repost to social media an article to garner attention to a particular cause. If someone wants to troll and express a dissenting position – let them, and don’t reply. Show the higher road and educative level of regaining your life, dignity, and sanity in return.

 

This particular blog is not intended for any individual. For the most part, registry websites do a wonderful job of getting the message out. It is the anger from within those affected by the registry that can bring more harm than good. But I completely understand and empathize that offenders need a platform to vent or rage. But think critically about who you may abandon at that unfiltered unparliamentary language? Use social media ‘like’ buttons rather than hate-filled rants. Do not give the opposition any platform whatsoever because they are not relevant – they are NOT on the registry. The most credible noise that should come from the registry is from people affected by it. Therefore they should be the voice that delivers how the registry has affected them, family, friends, advocates, and allies. Once we have a battle mission as to all agreeing together then will it be possible to win more allies and voices of rationale and change.

Anthony Bourdain

For those who don’t know, Anthony Bourdain was an author and a TV host who dealt with food as cultural harmony, food as empathy and unity. He traveled about the world introducing us to different cultures, different ways of life, and presented our commonality as humans. We all eat, right? I enjoyed Anthony Bourdain’s work and often […]

via Anthony Bourdain — See, there’s this thing called biology…

Coincidental Trump Followers

Over a year we have rehashed and overanalyzed the Presidential election of Clinton vs. Trump to the point that the average citizen is sick, tired and wishes to move on. Additionally, there is almost a bizarre method to attempt to get into the mind of voters and dissect why they voted the way they did? What was intended to be a landslide victory for one party took a sudden turn to elect what people describe as a country critically divided and with outside election influence?

While it may be true that the nation is politically and socially divided. There may be some rather obvious reasoning as to why there are Trump supporters? I remember a time where Senator Jesse Helms would win by a landslide in a state where Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans. Yet if you asked any North Carolinian how they voted you wouldn’t hear the name Jesse Helms at all. It is a cryptic and secretive voter scheme to protect the politician that people love to hate. It is somewhat like a Trump rally. You may not know any Trump supporter but are surprised to learn of an unsuspecting individual that attended. This is how and will remain the taciturn election cycle.

But the Trump election is somewhat similar to the Helms scenario. Perhaps Trump supporters are slightly xenophobic, conventionalists, or seek strict societal controls? Trump supporters are far less inclined to care about who is not telling the truth, facts, sexual improprieties, corruption, political correctness, or free press. Sure, these descriptions follow an ethical rule, but to Trump supporters, these issues don’t put food on the table or hold much merit.

I was recently at a Target store and overheard two African American women carrying on a conversation. What made this particular conversation stand out was the two were using colorful words such as fuck, bitch, shit, motherfucker and other expletives somewhat loudly where others could hear – including children. I looked over at other patrons watching body language and facial expressions which ranged from deep glares to curled lips. As the two women walked towards the checkout, I could overhear a woman saying to another man “people like that are the reason our country has so many issues.” It was a stark and loose comment that perhaps Trump supporters may have considerable prejudiced viewpoints mixed with authoritarian aggression such as social manners and common courtesies while in public. However, I wonder what would have happened if the two African American women would have been Caucasian? Would anyone notice or express similar facial expressions? Trump supporters will argue that the ‘N’ word should never be used. Yet pop culture continues to frequently use the ‘N’ word in lyrics and conversation. It fuels the opposite as double standards amplifying a further divisional standard.

This brings me to the Trump allegations of sexual harassment and improprieties. The typical Trump supporter doesn’t give a hoot about Stormy Daniels or the list of Trump sleepovers or issues. Why? Because most Trump or conservatives firmly believe consent between two people is just that. It is the attitude that private matters between two parties are none of our business.  Basically, you can claim to be a virgin one moment but cannot declare a mulligan to reclaim your virginity. It is not up to public inspection. The average conservative politician may voice concern about a sex allegation but usually finds the words, “the victim shouldn’t have allowed herself to become vulnerable” or something closely related to that effect. Conservatives and Trump followers think that sex crimes belong in one category where overwhelming evidence demonstrates the classical rape sequence. Anything beyond that is he said – she said story. Social justice warriors are attempting to change that by challenging judges that don’t rule the way they deem necessary and fair. But time will ultimately tell when Trump styled judges eventually find their way to the bench to dismiss or overturn based on evidence or conditions.

As for facts, free press, and corruption it can be argued that politicians have been violating this for eons and will continue to do so as a right of passage or interpretation. Let’s face facts that lobbyists and dollars run the nation – not politicians. American political corruption has been the core of our institution, and a catalyst for pop culture television shows ever since the introduction of the West Wing. As Americans, we love a scandal so much that the Trump administration has made a complete four-year live television series keeping scandal in news headlines. It is so compelling that we have no idea what legislation has been introduced and passed over the past year. In fact, we can barely name any of the Trump cabinets – unless they are under investigation.

A reason the country is divided may be because of how we have separated the dialog. Our advocates are the press with questions not of the typical American individual – but representing particularly social justice or trending feeds. The average American is not glued to Facebook, Twitter, or other social justice sites. Americans are fighting legal battles, high-interest rates, watching Family Guy, and just barely above water avoiding any mention on social media as it may be the result of not having a job. In contrast, the Trump supporter is engaged with any tactic necessary to introduce or forward anything that appears real, truthful, and conventional. Afterall, that is what typical America seems to want no matter what the cost.

What is a landslide is how we embrace media and television to watch a scandal unfold and change right before our eyes. We are no longer concerned for the poor, homeless, wrongfully convicted, starving, needy, and the impoverished. As long as we have our reality television show filled with distractions and unfounded analysis so will the rhetoric of blended real and fake information.

View from the Gloryhole

Growing up I learned a lot about having to cover for whom I really was. Thirty or so years ago there was no such thing as the LGBT community in the public view. In fact, merely saying that you were gay, lesbian, bisexual or experimenting could be the difference between life and death. During that same period, I witnessed witchhunts in the military, at school, in the church, and community of those that didn’t fit the straight model citizen approach. Any person not straight or straight-acting learned quickly to lie or make up any excuse from being identified as gay, lesbian, or any deviation from the public norm. Back then it was a matter of pure survival in a world filled with machoism and legalized beatings based on fear.

 

As I grew older, I began to find people somewhat like myself. There was an unwritten and complicated code of “people like us” or “friends of Dorothy” styled references that would ultimately allow ones guard to be let down for a brief moment. That guard was immediately restored if something traumatic or raised suspicion within the close-knit community. It was an era and continues to be, a somewhat traumatic for those raised during a period of pre-LGBT history.

 

As people would let down their guard and become comfortable there were two sets of identities to utilize. One would be your gay friends. The others would be those that would never meet your gay friends – thus the alter-ego of straightness. While songs by the Village People, Soft Cell, Indigo Girls, and Culture Club could let you off the gay hook, one had to be careful not to be singing Madonna loudly “Like A Prayer” or Cher “Believe” with drag styled hand motions. Otherwise, your secret is no longer a secret.

 

While LGBT issues appear to have significantly improved over time so has the opposition that demands nearly criminalizing anything gays have tried to highlight. As the wall of guilt and shame eventually were removed, it was straight people that began to outnumber gay patrons at predominately gay establishments (talk about a confusing time to differentiate who is gay, really gay, with the girlfriend, or secretly wishing they were with a guy instead of the girlfriend, or the dreaded “this is my first time here” liner). Gay marriage finally passed, but straight people are still trying to figure out who is the groom or bride in some weird traditional comparison. Of course, wedding cake makers seem to be devout Christians for some strange reason, and we seem to be living in a world where anyone can wear a rainbow shirt. But that is where the party ends, and queer life goes back to being really gay leaving the community divided, displaced and minimalized.

 

I watched a world where AIDS was joked upon by President Reagan and fear from contracting HIV was similar to blaming the cat for the spread of the plaque. Today HIV testing is buried and defunded yet infected rates continue to climb. Hate crimes are still relevant today with gay club shootings or random killing acts that capture the headlines of the evening news that are quickly forgotten. The George Michael days of public restroom cruising, Gloryhole arcades (yes, they called them arcades), exclusive LGBT hookup sites such as Craigslist, Men4RentNow, and many others have been forcibly removed because of claims of possible sex trafficking. Much has changed over the past decade. What has incredibly changed the most is how LGBT issues and rights are once again becoming a campaign moment that somehow “the gays are responsible for terrorists” ideology? Despite all the religious-right talk, there is very little of people actually countering to argue back. Keeping silent is pretty much just as the same as agreeing with the rhetoric.

 

There was a time were acquiring condoms, birth-control, or other sex-related items primarily came from people in the LGBT community – sometimes for free to promote safe and responsible sex values. However, today sex education is removed from the educational curriculum or most meeting establishments. Those free condoms, birth control or other informational handouts have been criminalized leaving all communities vulnerable.  Once again, the gays seem to take the blame.

 

One upside to the gay community is that more men are allowing themselves to become a bit more promiscuous because of the #metoo movement. If you think your man is over at a buddies house watching the game? – Think again! Some men are actually fearful of engaging in conversations with the opposite sex or having one night stands for fear of being sexist or possible false accusations. Therefore, the gay community is once again open for business to take care of what straights usually fuck up in the first place. But without condoms, education, and a way to become connected with a buddy system so will the rise of hate crimes, STD’s, false allegations, sex crimes, and other violence will undoubtedly begin to trickle again making the gay community the villain in these cases. That’s just how politicians want to paint that canvas – but the gays know how to add vivid color!

 

It is funny that history always seems to know exactly how to repeat itself. There are no real official spokespeople for the LGBT community. There are many advocates and high profile celebrities. But rarely will that celebrity status be used unless it benefits that individual. I don’t visualize Tim Cook, Peter Thiel, or Lady Gaga gunning for LGBT issues – unless of course, it profits their wallets. The new gay has become the professional and closeted gay saying, “what happens in my bedroom is none of your business!’  That may be true and valid, but society has a vulgar and graphic way of depicting any image it wishes to pursue. The facts remain that children that are LGBT are usually subject to abuse, homelessness, depression, PTSD, living two lifestyles, and disconnected from mainstream society. The programs once with highlight and mantra of the LGBT community has become an app or some weird paid online subscription trying to fix someone that isn’t quite yet broken but looking resources.

 

The gay bars, bookstores, gloryholes, dance clubs, anthem icon singers, and follies of gaydom seems to finally have ended. A few remaining protestors continue to fight to be the instantaneous posterchild for fifteen minutes of fame before becoming the lightning rod of the Republican party or religious-right groups. Perhaps we need to bring those infamous Gloryholes back? It could stimulate the economy and excite a few returning Republican Party members and religious-right patrons- as they were the most significant contributors to the Gloryhole society.