Freedom with an Asterisk

Those that were convicted of a sex offense in North Carolina and not serving a day in the walls of a prison suddenly became prisoners in their own homes. Instead of the infractions of too many stamps, unauthorized cigarettes, or yelling profanities at staff while incarcerated shifts to being set free but unable to live where you want, unable to secure employment, cannot attend church, and unable to access the internet under the consequence of bring imprisoned for just a hint of being accused.

When people leave prison, the first initial desires are to order a steak, or watch a movie, go on a trip, or finally reach out to family, friends, and other support mechanisms to share the joy of being released. However, registrants experience a much different circumstance. They are not permitted to access the internet, go to Disney or any theme park, make a call on SnapChat, share a joyful event on Facebook, or display a happy face on Instagram. Registrants are also under the threat of being rearrested and feloniously charged with going to a movie, mall, McDonald’s, the beach, or accessing the internet because of state laws and restrictions.

Perhaps those of the registry do not have any luxuries of support by family or friends. The most they can do with their new freedoms are to dream about going to a museum, going back to school, the discovery of workshop therapy to overcome anxiety or stress. Instead, those same registrants that dream of such activities are again prohibited from accessing any of those abilities under the threat of arrest and prison.

Politicians that tout justice reforms and lowering prison populations are the same people that created this fiasco of freedoms. For every two laws that are overturned, it is politicians and community leaders without facts, data, or supportive evidence that create fifteen new laws and provisions restricting more freedoms. Leaders lay claim about teamwork, inclusiveness, and equality for all; however, they use the word “but” to wedge a blanketed liability policy to protect themselves from the scrutiny of appearing weak.

Religious leaders that exclaim the love and joy of God with an all-forgiving sermon of “all are welcome” and “this congregation welcomes sinners” suddenly interjects an asterisk of exclusion of sex offenders. Ministers now have other gods before them by allowing the challenge of the state to dictate how they should seat their congregations. Insurance companies dictate to religious institutions policy provisions that clearly state sex offenders must be excluded because the property has Sunday school or daycare during services. The church is no longer autonomous but a follower of man, not God. Ironic, and institution that is supposed to teach about confronting fear is the very place that fails to address and face its fears and learn or embrace trust and forgiveness.

But I am pleased not to have Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, be a sucker of Disney memorabilia, attend church, listen to politicians, participate in overpriced movies, visit museums or be a part of the fake agenda laced internet. Perhaps I should thank lawmakers for allowing me to see the light on my own rather than the peddling of their darkness. Sure, I would like to have unlimited choices as others. But perhaps this lesson is that not only am I excluded from the adulterated scheme and fraud of religious, economic, and social freedoms. But I am a product that because of the registry, there is no such thing as freedom in America – only the illusion of such qualities with and convenience and hidden asterisk. It is all these collective institutions that promote freedom, all while excluding free choices based upon its intnerally laced liability scheme of fraud and misleading information.

I embrace these restrictions because I can now see the real mission of politics, leadership, and how influential products guide us towards their way of thinking rather than the free will and openness of genuine choice and liberty. Maybe I should begin some self-imposed disconnects to bring clarity around me? I lived without much of these luxuries before either they were invented or available. Perhaps dialing the clock back isn’t such a bad idea after all. Let me take away before “they” take it away, and I have to ween myself off of other pacifiers.

But I would like to have the freedom to walk in any park – which is still against the law in North Carolina. Choices can be a bitch sometimes.

Sen. Lauren Book Isn’t The Problem. Lobbying Is The Problem.

For the people on the sex offender registry living in the state of Florida must be a complete hell living experience. The random sex offense laws conjured up appears to be one of the most repressive compliance standards in the nation. However, there seems to be a focal point on assessing blame to Florida State Senator Lauren Book making a case for those oppressive bills to become law. But I would argue that Senator Book isn’t the problem with registry issues in the state of Florida. I would say that lobbying perhaps is the fourth branch of government for the Sunshine State that allowed such harsh conditions for Florida registrants.

First, all one has to do is follow the money trail. That begins with a simple search of the Florida Department of State Campaign Contributions website. A quick query instantaneously identified a plethora of lobbying donors in addition to real estate, educators, attorneys, and a trickle of a few large corporations. Rather than place direct blame at Senator Book for her legislative introduction, she was perhaps influenced by high profiled lobbying. Before anyone begins shooting fish in the barrel and tossing a lawn dart on Ron Book. I would suggest focal attention on the outside players. The Book family remains successful only if it has spending dollars filling its coffers. This implies that lobbying to introduce strick compliance laws for registrants are motioned by perhaps real estate, educational, and entertainment contributive dollars.

Let’s take an easy example of entertainment lobbying economics. Disney is perhaps the most identified source of revenue for Florida. The Disney corporation provides a political donation. Not because Senator Book has a pretty face. Instead, it is a political contribution to be heard later down the road once in office. So, if Disney wants to strengthen its “family atmosphere,” it would suggest a public policy that would eliminate possible harm or liability from happening on its property. Disney has said it utilizes facial recognition software to ban registered offenders from its property. But Disney doesn’t escort people off its property. That task has been outsourced to the local Sheriffs department. That indicates that Disney and the county have an exclusive agreement in place to trespass people from its properties. Disney has exclusively outsourced its problems to Florida presenting an illusion that it was deputies the entire time seeking offenders entering its properties. Naturally, this allows the Book family to become victims of circumstance. Sure, there is a plausible argument that there wouldn’t be such a case if Senator Book hadn’t introduced registrant bills that become law. However, it is safe to say that lobbying would have identified another member of the legislature to pass its restrictive measures sooner or later.

The money trail in sex offender legislation in Florida is pretty clear that the entertainment, real estate, and educators are the leading lobbying effort and establishment of maintaining a sex offender registry to rid of people from its state. Otherwise, why would a rising star democrat senator become the voice of the opposing party by introducing legislation typically found in republican policymaking? Deductive reasoning and logic points directly to lobbying and a need to sterilize the state entertainment sector from certain liabilities.

So, how does the sex offender registry advocacy tackle how to deal with lobbying? Simple. It begins a boycott campaign, not with Florida. But with the businesses that contribute to campaigns. An economic woe no matter how small, will eventually send a ripple effect to the business sector, even if you never step foot in the state of Florida. Rather than focus energy an attention on Senator Book. Focus and energy should be pressured upon the very contributory organizations that help finance and pressure public policy. To stop lobbying in its tracks, it is essential to slow their cash flow.

I’d bet if registry advocacy lobbying somehow became a contributing source of campaign influence during elections to render the registry obsolete, that opposition would be employing the same tactics.

Most of all, being visible to speak with legislatures is a crucially important role in our democracy. If people don’t listen, it’s okay. Eventually, if they see you in the hallways each week, they begin to pique an interest because they have no idea if you are making headway or not? Being visible in registry advocacy is vital not to tell your message but to describe how the registry has increased homelessness, higher unemployment rates, starvation, and other issues relevant to your particular state. Advocacy begins with being a lobbyist and sharing concerns for all constituents past, present, and future.

Lauren Book isn’t the problem. Lobbying is the problem.

Footnote: I would be willing to talk to Lauren Book about registry issues affecting her state in a professional diplomatic discussion if she would allow me the privilege?

Mature Decision Making​

I recently read about a 16-year-old person soon to be graduating from high school – and Harvard University. It had me thinking about maturity, development, and the method in which we as adults defines an individual as capable of making adult decisions?

Some would argue that a 16-year-old person graduating from a prestigious university is an exception to the rule and in fairness a rare event. However rare events are measured by people using loose fact-finding data to justify an answer. If any 16-year-old person anywhere in the world didn’t graduate from high school early or be enrolled in a college does that make them less of a gifted individual allowable to make his/her own adult choices? The quick answer would be a resounding “No” by most. It seems that the exception rule is based upon privilege with an acknowledgment by others in power or control. A measurable formula is when others suggest gifted and talented acts by potential candidates, but they are not selected or overlooked in the rare process to seek mature and gifted students. It is strange that America has a vastly large magnet or gifted-talented educational programs, but the identity of allowing adult decisions and seeking qualified candidates are decided from ungifted or unqualified individuals. Instead, we continually drop the pursuit of maturity and gifted people through the cracks of our politized educational system using a formula of standardized tests that most people find boring and not engaging. These identifiers are our main selection process in the discovery of the future Stephen Hawking? No wonder its difficult to find maturity or raise the bar because of how we developed the bar or challenge.

Another maturity example that differs is that the Army of the United Kingdom allows military enlistment beginning at age 16 compared to the U.S. Army enlistment at age 18. The drinking age in the UK is 18 while all of the United States is 21. The age of consent in the UK is 16 while Americans have a mish-mash of consent ages usually beginning at age 18 but with various stipulations. A college education typically starts in the UK at age 16 while American colleges roughly range at 18 or just after high school. Does this suggest that American culture is lagging in maturity and development behind other industrialized nations?

Additionally, does it indicate that our system of the age of suffrage it out of date or lacking useful data? If you take notice that the UK enjoys a safe maturity level of age 16 across the board. Perhaps this is why that nation doesn’t have significant incarceration, sex registry, or costly educational system? It does beg to question American methods and practices if we can look outward for a moment.

The question about maturity and development is highly questionable because American culture takes excellent value in placing a numeric value on all individuals rather than exploring scientific data or the exploration of the exceptional rule. It seems as if the UK has done its fact-finding and created a uniformed and easy to understand practice all while embracing trust and maturity of its youth. This is not to suggest that we should begin immediately lowing ages to “keep up with the Joneses” per se. What I am suggesting is that we became a bit more uniformed and aligned with other industrialized nations especially in a globalized society filled with internet, apps, and shared educational values with regards to sciences, maths, and culture. Otherwise, if we fail to discuss the educational and maturity benefits of shifting the goal post of developmental maturity programs, then we will become as complacent as our poorly designed Great Depression educational school calendars that we continue to use today.

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.

A Silenced Minority

Educators usually say the most essential pillars of successful outcomes are a caring community of learners, enhancement of the learning objective, and reciprocal relationships and transparency to facilitate both sides of an issue. When it comes to an understanding, sexual offenses or those impacted by the registry, there is only one side because those that can contribute meaningful dialog are conveniently excluded or not allowed to voice objections or grievances.

I recently watched an interview with Derek Logue of the oncefallen.com website. During that CNN interview, the host interviewing Logue decided to become the loudest voice exclaiming unsubstantiated data and personal opinion rather than a dialog to understand opposing viewpoints. Logue posted on YouTube, “not my best interview,” but at least he presented a moment to introduce a differing opinion and voice. In another interview between Logue and Dr. Drew, Drew interjected his personal opinion rather than facts or supporting data that seemed more of a blindsided attempt to dissuade future opposing views. For starters, I have never met or spoken with Derek Logue, but I do congratulate him for at least standing up and advocating for a silenced minority.

But fast forward to those impacted by the registry. Why do we have tent cities, individuals living under bridges, homelessness, split families due to registry requirements, refusal for admission to disaster shelters during times of emergencies, closed internet access for offenders, and other issues? Perhaps it is due to the sensitivity of sex allegations/crimes. But those that do the reporting have no problem splattering a #metoo protest leaving no counterbalance. This discriminatory path allows sex offender advocacy a back seat on the bus endangering and hindering the lives of those attempting to go on about their business – or at least be heard? It is because sex offender advocacy can be a dangerous business.

 

An interesting observation about advocacy is that those affected by the registry don’t want to be further identified or already suffer from mental anguish from various reasons related to registry laws and restrictions. However, media sources have plenty of opportunities to investigate, educate and inform the public of consequences but introduce a one-sided opinion presenting no chance of culmination. A reason the voice is small is primarily that society claims to want a life of transparency and a return to productive lives – as long as it cannot be seen or heard from again.

That leads me to the question where opposition or advocacy is under attack from those that differ from a particular viewpoint? A disturbing indication of legislative and judicial censorship is a case where the OnceFallen.com website is under legal attack from those with opposing views. It brings to mind those accused of sexually based offenses but not criminally charged. Are they financially sequestered and squeezed to the point of collapse because of personal agendas? Will advocates endure the same fate? Is there that much of a threat in a democratic society where discourse is bullied or under legal threat by those with a personal agenda to silence viewpoints?  It is highly alarming and disturbing because isn’t that what the First Amendment is all about?

In 1992 the Innocence Project was created to help facilitate and reopen cases where those found guilty of specific crimes were tried based on bias, false evidence, or testimony. Many cases were identified as false convictions, and that number increases today. Of the cases undertaken by the Innocence Project more than 350 cases have led to those convicted of being overturned and freed. What if the Innocence Project or OnceFallen was much more extensive and had equity voice within mainstream media? Those 6000 or more cases could find irregularities and patterns of injustice. This is not to ever imply that all convicted offenders are innocent. Instead, the dialog is that justice is not a rash form of litigation. After all, homosexuals convicted of sodomy in California or other consensual acts were eventually overturned many decades later. Those affected still feel the sting and scars of injustice being labeled as sexual deviants without a simple apology to the LGBT community. What about those wrongfully accused or convicted at the convenience of prosecutorial plea bargains primarily aimed at the poor, helpless, and difficult to defend based on he said – she said testimony?

Perhaps prosecutorial immunity should be revisited, and qualified immunity should be reconsidered. There is an apparent abuse of power based upon personal prejudice that must be addressed. Afterall, the need for transparency, a caring community of learners, enhancement of the learning objective are the pillars of justice under the law of democracy. Exposing the truth instead of opinion should be the sole basis of law and advocacy.

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