People Are People

There is a time in our lives where meeting someone we may be attracted to leads to some somewhat embarrassing moments. That particular moment is when you approach someone at a bar or social setting and ask them out only to learn that they are gay or lesbian. Immediately the apologies and blushed faces are apparent where the brain exclaims, “I wish there were labels to identify who is who?”  Our obsession with labels or our own personal gaydar has become slightly problematic that when someone hears pansexual, gender non-binary or aromantic. It becomes a lesson defining moment sometimes leaving us more confused than educated. Even for the LGBT community, such labels create a learning moment. At least LGBT members embrace most anything thrown at them to learn and assimilate. It is a shame that same quality isn’t shared in the heterosexual community as a whole.

But when labels transfer away from sexual identity towards registered offenders, those on parole, individuals with criminal records, or just everyday humanity, then the labels become forms of weapons with mass destruction appeal. Often we hear of the stereotypical and somewhat sexist, racist or name-calling tone of “Tyrone, that black dude that looks like he was just released from prison” or “Chris, the guy that looks like a molester.”  There is no basis as to why people enjoy appalling and unpleasant descriptive values when attempting to describe one another. But such sarcasm spills over without defense from humanity to uncomfortably laugh at such descriptors. It is slightly similar to how Nazi’s attempted to label Jewish citizens by nose size, eye and hair color, or particular skull features. It was all hocus-pocus noise however people actually believed it – and some supremacists still do today.  Perhaps our obsession to label is a convenience? Somewhat like unofficial nicknames were given as a child that stuck with us. However, if someone has a criminal record, is a registered offender, or is a member of the LGBT community shouldn’t be the sole basis to stigmatize or label individuals. Doing so is not only wrong and hurtful but is nothing more than adult versions of bullying. The past is the past, but adults should learn to act like responsible adults.

I don’t introduce my friend Martin as, “this is my black friend Martin.” Instead, I introduce as “this is Martin.”   I don’t say, “this is my dike friend Carol.” Instead, I say, “this is Carol.” If an individual wants to learn more about them instead it is an LGBT or perhaps rumor that need put to rest, there are times and appropriate places to continue that conversation as long as it is respectful and allows open dialog.

Recently there was a discussion about how to label registered sex offenders.  This was perhaps a thorny issue to tackle. However, I strongly feel and suggest that all forms of labels that diminish the humanity value offer more harm than good. I suggested, “this is Steve” followed by “someone affected by the registry.” That way the conversation can begin if Steve is a registered offender or if Steve has a family member on the registry. But we will constantly learn that ill winded people will suggest “Steve, that dude that looks like a creeper.”  We see the postings and hear the noise all the time yet do very little to advocate or redirect improved language. Comedy is one thing if you are a skillful comedian. However, there is nothing funny about the misuse of labels and how it stigmatizes others.

Gender may create a bit of an issue for many trying desperately to become politically correct. First of all, there is no political correctness in the LGBT world. It is learned as you go because diversity knows no limits. The term mister goes a long way but can be interpreted as differences between LGBT members. However, straight men shouldn’t begin throwing the enthusiastic term of girlfriend around unless you are sensibly fashionable, have perfect teeth, and can recite all song lyrics by Madonna. I have discovered that titles should be a doctor, professor, queen, princess, mom, dad or other obtainable and qualified appropriate titles. Sure, the LGBT community does occasionally throw the term Miss Thing around, but in a lighthearted joking manner. The LGBT community is one of the communities that embraced people of color, those affected by HIV or AIDS, the homeless, transgendered, convicted, and registered offenders. Why? Because it was those labels and human beings that were shunned and abandoned as a second-class citizen. While the heterosexual community tends to forget its cruel past, the LGBT community continually reminds its members to not forget how we got there and keep moving forward. That is the real gay agenda to allow everyone to become inclusive and break down barriers that divide us.

There was a time where there was a gay club, and a lesbian bar usually separated miles apart from one another (because gay men could figure out where to put the pool table as it would take away from the dance floor). Today, the gay clubs are united dance clubs where people of all backgrounds are free to be themselves and sometimes experience conditions they never thought would be mentally possible. You don’t turn a person gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Just as you don’t make a criminal or sexually deviant. People make mistakes and poor judgments. Pay the price and move on. There are situations no matter how brief that people experience for themselves. Labels create obscurity of learning from one another. But labels are an eerie reminder of the pink triangles during the Holocaust. Never again will LGBT members be labeled and ridiculed by policy.

The musical artist Depeche Mode wrong a song called People Are People. The lyrics are:

People are people so why should it be

You and I should get along so awfully

So we’re different colors

And we’re different creeds

And different people have different needs

It’s obvious you hate me 

Though I’ve done nothing wrong

I never even met you

So what could I have done

I can’t understand

What makes a man

Hate another man

Help me understand

These lyrics from the 1980’s describe a time where racism, religion, sexuality, and only being different created a mound of labels. Perhaps people should learn from those lyrics as to become less obsessed with labels and more driven to become assimilated into a society that embraces and accepts them for face value.

Sexting Is Not Pornography

Growing up as a teen I had no idea what age of consent meant. Typically most teenagers understanding of the law is obey the speed limit, don’t drink and drive, and basically, don’t harm another person. However, in today’s modern society age of consent issues have become an uncomfortable leap forward in birds and bees education because of its effects on families and anyone capable of holding a smartphone. Studies show that sexting and exchanging nude photographs is somewhat common among youth. Kids do not understand the law because sexting, to them, is a private exchange between two consenting parties.  Essentially, to their interpretations, is has become a new safer sex method and replacement to defunct gloss magazines. When a parent or adult explains to youth the consequences of sexting as an issue that could wind them up in jail, it seems like a parental discussion rather than a stern warning. That is until it actually affects them with criminal charges. Youth understanding the effects of sexting is a hit and miss market because of public embarrassment to begin discussions about sex education. Long gone are the boy’s bathroom gang holding up proof of girls panties too as a measure they have reached some form of adulthood. Smartphones have replaced such high-school rituals. When parents become involved because of policing private exchanges, the complications get much worse and in most cases places adults in a precarious situation because there is no pamphlet to explain what crosses parental discipline versus notification of authorities. This is why children are now the most vulnerable to be listed as sex offenders in the United States because in many cases police bypass the parental obligations and enforce laws intended for professional performance to become cosigned parents and social workers.

 

If you ask youth in American what is the age of consent, meaning what is the legal age to engage in sexual intercourse or behaviors, then you indeed hear varied answers. A reason for this is that America has differing age requirements. Some states begin the age of consent at 16 and others allow at age 18. A few states remain at 17 throwing a wrench into what is the actual standard age. All of Canada age of consent is 16 while Mexico ranges from age 12 to 14. To make matters more complicated many states enacted stipulations for example where participants must be no more than five years older than the minimum age requirement. In many cases, the law is vague but enforced with rigor under a complicated and somewhat prejudicial system. When you throw in sexting requirements let’s say a boy from West Virginia meets a girl over the border in Virginia then it becomes a legal fiasco and a miscarriage of justice because the consent elements differ. If its confusing for youth or teens, imagine how it may be viewed by legal scholars?  But it is more confusing for visitors from either Canada, Mexico, or Europe to understand our convoluted age of consent despite all those Hollywood films that assert two kids sneaking away while the folks aren’t home. The innuendo is clear, but the lesson for society is assorted and troublesome.

 

If the age of consent isn’t bad enough to understand imagine when kids lie about their age in an attempt to be older than they really are? Many children listed on the sex offender registry are placed there because the age mentioned is not a legal defense according to law. Police and prosecutors will defend that kids should be vigilant in requiring proof such as to never assume. Yet will continue to seek criminalized sanctions to send a message to others. It seems to me that any arrest sends a strong message which may be strong enough to curb particular behaviors. We have become a bit puritan without attempting to regulate reasonably the age of consent policies rather than teaching sex education, safer sex techniques, or perhaps why abstinence is beneficial? America continues to sideline critical conversations because it may lead to curiosities creating a mound of issues.  The fact is that sex among youth is a crucial dam about to break because Americans have created cumbersome laws and basically criminalized the ability to openly discuss how to fix it.

 

First and foremost, children should never be listed on the American sex offender registry. But it appears to fall on deaf ears because youth are the most exploited segment of choice by police because of strict felonious anti-child pornographic laws. Essentially, the police mantra of “protect and serve” means protect the law and serve warrants.  I agree that pornographic laws should be enforced if producers fail to maintain proper accountability and record keeping. However, youth exchanging should be left to the consideration of judges to provide a blanket of discretion. Prosecutors should be the peoples advocate rather than the politicized ax men relegating its interpretation of the law. Prosecutors and police should begin to embrace the spirit of the law to advocate communities how to curb or suggest improvements. Yet those individuals continue to pass the buck by saying, “if you want the law to change, talk to your politician.” Youth are not out trying to professionally produce porn materials as some in the moral leaning right tend to assume. Teenagers are caught in the middle of interpretations where technologies surpassed the law. As for sex education in schools? Don’t get me started. Just remember that President Clinton could expend his load on Monica’s dress. But Joycelyn Elders was fired for talking about it.

 

Sexting isn’t going away anytime soon. Youth have learned to circumvent technology by no longer engaging in SMS texting or using software to delete its traces. This is why smartphone applications such as Snapchat, Signal, or Smiley Private texting are huge hits. Applications such as Blur, WhatsApp, and Digify allow photos to self-destruct. I learned all about these apps from my cousin. He said, “its two people sharing intimate photos instead of having actual sex. But the way the law is written means that if we have [consentual] sex then its legal and we risk an accident of maybe getting pregnant. But if we get caught sending photos then its jail. It doesn’t make sense?”  That phrase alone should make any person’s hair stand on ends. A 16-year-old kid appears to have more common sense than how a law was crafted. Additionally, it demonstrates that kids are responsible by reducing unwanted pregnancies. He went on to mention, “I can have sex at 16, but cant buy condoms until I’m 18?”  Laws are just as convoluted as the age of consent laws. The amount of technology is outpacing public policy and keeping a step beyond authorities. The critical question is when will it backfire and be evidence down the road? Current public policy and laws are not attempting to facilitate a unified national age to protect young people.

 

This is a discussion that folks must engage in and advocate updates to current policy. The conversation shouldn’t be centered around what you find acceptable because any family can create its own house rules. However, the conversation should be at the heart of a feasible and humane age in keeping with the rest of the industrialized world. Once we institute a level field that everyone can understand then and only then will be able to engage in sensible dialog.

 

For more information about American Age of Consent may be found here. I am unsure how accurate or up-to-date the information is. However, it does provide a sensible discussion value that in America the spirit of the law and determining a basic understanding is critically flawed.

https://www.ageofconsent.net/states

 

Social Media Detox

I remember a time each Sunday where the newspaper delivery would be bundled like a giant log of firewood with a rubber band at the elasticity breaking point. Within that Sunday edition was coupons, humor sections, public opinion, and segments on what is happening in our neighborhood. Reading the newspaper was perhaps a quiet moment of clarity and solitude. There wasn’t vibrating phone sounds, dings from instant messages, nor random telemarketers interrupting your homemade Sunday coffee moment. It was a quiet time of reflection and absorption of reported credibility of incredible moments.

The weekend also presented a much needed moment to reconnect with family, friends, or neighbors. There were a pen and pad usually near any telephone to write down essential engagements or events. There was a diplomatic methodology as to how to turn down an engagement offer or request. Ringing your parents for some could be a challenge because there seemed to be at least one conflicting moment during the phone conversation. However, we dealt with it and got it over with – until its reintroduction on the next telephone call.

Every home had at least one television, and people knew programming schedules because it was embedded like a stone. The evening news appeared like clockwork at 6PM, and favorite prime-time shows immediately followed. If you missed the show, then you missed it for good. There were no digital recorders or tape players. Those devices came along afterward. There was an intimate feeling around the television as if it were an extended part of the family. Political noise and rhetoric was a part of the television culture. Watching shows such as All In The Family pretty much summed up with its Archie Bunker character of how typical Americans thought. There was no real political correctness. However, there was a decent level of decorum and manners – despite opposing viewpoints.

Today our world is a mobile device that we hardly use to call family, friends or associates. Instead, we choose to text or use smart devices somewhat like a velvet rope deciding who should be allowed to pass. The use of social media seems to be used to popularity club to present an illusion that individuals are connected to an enormous amount of friends. Instead social media in its most potent form is a political spectrum gauge and an obituary identifier. You either learn from social media who like Trump or who died. Nothing more.

The newspaper slowly died because people assumed that smart devices would open opportunities to allow individuals to become more engaged with community events. A $10 a month newspaper subscription turned into an $80 a month smartphone contract, a $60 a month cable account, and $40 a month internet subscription. Yet people wonder where their money is actually going? We subscribe an additional $10 a month to watch movies and wonder why malls, grocery stores, and theaters are rapidly closing. Our weekends are usually spent sleeping in extra hours or ordering online from our favorite provider. We buy lovely homes and decorate accordingly but rarely host a party or invite friends, family, or associates over. The velvet rope has been extended to the house as well.

Our once quiet moment of absorption and tranquility is no longer tranquil. It is a world filled with noise, pings, dings, and reminder alerts as if we are engaged enough to actually take part. American culture has become an internet voting booth without any effectiveness. Our homemade coffee moment is a trek in our SUV’s to the local Starbucks to spend $5 on a cup of coffee and click away on our mobile devices avoiding eye contact as not to strike up a random conversation. Our manners have become self-reliant and self-centered.

It is true that technology and habits do change over a period of time. However, one would think that our habits would become a bit beneficial towards self and others? Society has surrounded itself with smart devices, subscription-based pleasures, and name branded waters that present an illusion that we are sipping in a café in downtown Paris. We tend to think we are living in the moment away from the chaos but are simultaneously living in nothing more than constant turmoil. While society exclaims that youth are at risk for video game obsession or addiction. We too are just as addicted because we have a desire to keep up with the Jones or not to be left behind technologically. To better understand our obsession I challenge you to not use your smart device or other smart gadgets in the house for a month. I dare you!

A lesson learned from my smart device, and social detox was that I was much happier once I turned off all the electronic distractions. My family, friends, associates, and even my cats seemed much more pleased and engaged with me around. We discussed what we read, not what we saw or heard. We become a bit more credible because we were no longer influenced by the noise or distractions. Lastly, I was able to actually smell the roses. I took notice of what was around me and struck up random conversations. I became human again! Again, I dare you to try the same.

The Social Media Carousel

Following the news is much like watching an old-fashioned style carousel. While you may focus on a particular rider or object, there are plenty of distractions along the course of the ride. Decades ago our news was filled with somewhat credible and journalistic issues. Game and cooking shows could take our mind off of severe problems while soap operas would introduce a moment of drama to be shared with those that shared similar television interests. Naturally, there was Donahue or the Morton Downey Jr. show, which were the first talk show formats that included audience participation. Seeking tabloid journalism was as easy as standing in the checkout lane at any grocery store USA. That form of journalism was shunned but still a part of the gossip world. Overall the decorum of gossip entertainment and social etiquette is contrasting different than today’s standards – or lack thereof.

With the introduction of cable, satellite and streaming media content the world of news has become more of an entertainment value. Newspapers that once provided journalistic standards are barely surviving and slowly being replaced with opinion-based talk shows. Decades ago popularity of an individual could be solely based upon if you encountered a busy signal trying to reach a friend or by a frenzy of a pop culture performer appearance on your favorite television program. The internet and streaming media has removed the anticipation effect and replaced it with a 24-hour social media tracking device with special mobile alerts to keep individuals informed. If The Beatles would have been as popular today as they were fifty years ago, then JFK Airport would be empty except for the hordes of paparazzi trying to get an exclusive photo to post it on the internet.

Americans have desperately been trying to “cut the cord” to expensive cable or satellite television subscription services. Folks have resorted towards streaming media content or social media for what they consider as credible information with a feeling of being heard or connected. The United States was founded on the pursuit and discovery of freedoms. One of those foundations is the free enterprise system. However, that free enterprise or accessibility indeed isn’t free. What used to be free television with rabbit ears and a bit of tin foil has become an al la carte cash cow for social media content providers, television networks, and internet providers. If you want to skip past the commercials, be prepared to pay a premium fee. But finding credible news or events that impact community or awareness is now buried behind the Kardashians, Twitter rants or whatever was the buzz feed from TMZ.

Americans cannot cut the cord or change the level of dignity because we desire to keep up a war on something. It is embedded in our DNA and fabric as a nation to be fighters. We find it difficult to determine what we are fighting for and how to follow a particular platform. This is why politics is broken, social movements have division, and society desires to blend only if they think like me. We love to gossip and read about it. Otherwise, the National Enquirer would have been bankrupt decades ago. The risk of bankruptcy is local newspapers, libraries and the arts in general. Apple and Samsung will continue to profit because something new will be released to capture our eye. Somewhat like the carousel but without it ever stopping. We are all riders attempting to influence others to join us as long as maintain Facebook, Twitter, social media, dating sites, and receive our news from Apple or Samsung and its subscribers. President Trump has been smart (and I use that term loosely) enough to watch us all fall into the trap of “what will he say or Tweet next”?

Technology hasn’t made us any smarter or better multitaskers. In fact, I would argue that social media, television, mobile devices, computing, and other factors have developed us as codependent attention deficit thinkers seeking the quickest remedy with not credible returns. This is not to suggest to turn back the clock. However, it is a warning that we should tone down our rhetoric and use a bit more decorum, comprehension, and listening skills. Whoever is on television today will undoubtedly be on tv the rest of the week because the internet and subscription services never die.

Perhaps that irrational gossip-laden program can be replaced with random acts of kindness such as providing your dog or cat more attention (I doubt they watch television or play on the internet). Calling a friend or family member on the telephone (no texting allowed) and listening to them. Reconnecting with family and loved ones that typically hear from you on holidays. Sitting down with your favorite book or newspaper and that homemade cup of coffee that didn’t cost you $5 with your name scribbled on the side of the cup. Enjoying a moment of sanity in your world may bring you to the reality that you are no longer are on the carousel. Enjoy it while you can.

Put Down the Cell Phone and Drive!

Sometimes I cannot help but sarcastically roll my eyes when I read a frivolous lawsuit in hopes of changing public habits. This absurd and waste of time cases are similar to the McDonalds Hot Coffee lawsuit filed back in 1992. This time I read where a family wants to sue Apple because of its Facetime application. The suit, filed by a family in Texas, alleges that the Facetime application contributed to the injuries and death of a motorist because the other driver was using the application. While I am sympathetic to any loss of life, I cannot find any legal support for such a lawsuit.

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For starters, I think that most motor vehicles equipped with in-vehicle navigation, SirusXM radio information and instrument cluster informational warnings are just as disruptive as being on a cell phone behind the wheel. Sometimes being behind the wheel of a modern day car seems like being in the cockpit of a Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. There are so many buttons, lane assist lights, parking sensor warning tones, collision alerts, loud Amber Alert tones, weather alert warnings, text tones, incoming email beeps, the occasional CNN breaking news sounds and the list goes on for days. Facetime or other similar products to include texting are features never intended to be used behind the wheel. It is the fault of motorists that blatantly ignore laws and common sense that should be banned from driving for causing an accident or contributing conditions for others to be involved in an accident. I would blame courts for not doing enough to stop the trend rather than technology providers such as Apple.

 

A family member recently suggested that I begin using an application called Waze. This application is utilized by marking current police traffic enforcement locations and provides up to date accident information. There are plenty of implementation flaws with the Waze app. It requires users to identify problem spots and useful text information about accidents, police, road construction or other pertinent information; all while driving. To me, apps like these are contributing to technology failures because they don’t encourage focused driving. Rather these apps encourage multitasking. But they are not worthy of a lawsuit. There are laws on the books to curb texting or distracted driving. It is up to legislatures to improve the stay current with technology and the law. Suing Apple won’t fix anything.

 

If I had to a moment to improve Apple technology to work in motor vehicles, then I would ask Apple to improve its connectivity with devices that support Apple CarPlay. Each time I hit a pothole my Apple phone could transmit that data to city road crews for immediate repair rather than texting or the need to use my phone while driving. Another suggestion would be those that have a desire to ride my bumper or tailgate other motorists. I would allow the backup camera to snap a photo of the offender and use the backup sensors in my bumper to send data to the DMV to issue a warning about aggressive driving. At least the lack of police presence would be replaced by a credible presence of motor vehicle telematics. If we use technology for smart purposes, then we can improve conditions and reduce frivolous lawsuits. Until then, please put down your smartphone and drive.

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