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

 

When Not To Talk Politics With Family

Tonight I was visiting my cousin that lives nearby. Her mom, my aunt, happened to be visiting her. What was intended as a pleasant visit quickly turned into a heated argument.  Having a graduate degree in political science seems to be a lightning rod towards political assessment. Based on that education qualification I seem to be bombarded with political affiliation questions as if I am the official spokesperson for all politics. I typically assess that all politicians rarely do much in the form of actual draft legislation. It is the people behind the scenes that actually do most of the real work. But I digress. An argument ensued because I was being candid and shared my critically laced viewpoint as academically possible all while presenting a similar discussion of the opposing parties.

 

My aunt is an individual that loves watching Sean Hannity and Fox news religiously. In fact, each time I hear her talk she is spewing anti-Hillary rhetoric and an occasional jab at Obama with racial undertones. I pay no attention to the noise because I believe in freedoms of speech and decorum for each person to be heard – requiring that they listen in return as a caveat; which in this case didn’t occur. I replied my aunt, “what did Hillary do for you to be so angry with her?”  She couldn’t answer and immediately switched the subject towards Trump. She said, “Trump has done more than any other president in history.”  Naturally, I disagreed and said, “I’ve not witnessed anything earth-shattering that would surpass other presidents.”  I could see the veins pop out of her face and neck with a burst of anger and disgust when she yelled, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? You are the first person that has ever said anything negative about Trump. Even people I know as Democrats have praised Trump!”  I said, “everyone is entitled to opinions, but can you tell me one thing the President has done?” She couldn’t name anything and placed the blame on me as to what is wrong with this country. I sat and let her unleash her barrage of fueled Fox rhetoric without one ounce of law, policy, or comparison that would shed an instance where President Trump has done anything she claimed that had been done. I basically took this instance as an individual looking for for an argument for the pure sake of arguing.

 

I avoid political discussions with family members because it does always leave a sour taste when debating about any President or political leader. I give points where they are deserved and of course, reflect on how things could be a bit better diplomatically to be fair and allow the ability for others to share openly without scorn or ridicule. But one thing was evidently clear that when one disagrees politically, the assumption is there is a political motive. This is not always the case. I would be equally as critical of Democratic, Libertarian, and Independent leadership as I would any Republican. But this seems to be the apex point of arguments that a political compass determines influence and the way individual answers politically minded questions. Fairness is something I strive for. It is when one drinks the cool-aid of one-sided politics then constituency is ultimately alienated. Basically, people love to argue as if they are winning or increasing their political know-how.  This is why, I believe, there is political indifference in America because we do not listen to one another. Additionally, as Americans, we once were a nation of diplomacy and bipartisanship. No longer. We much rather take our frustrations out on social media, each other, or on bumper decals affixed to cars/trucks and taunt how idiotic minded people are; at least that is how others describe it to me. And we wonder why very few enter politics?

 

Eventually, my aunt left fuming that I didn’t agree with her, or something to that effect. She was visibly worked up that I challenged her. I don’t expect any individual to read a Cliff-notes version of politics taught by a television commentator using carefully constructed clips to educate the public. But the reality is media has become the classroom of learning and its showing cause and effects. I am not angry, disappointed, or upset with her. As I said before, everyone is entitled to his/her beliefs and opinions. That, to me, is what real freedom is all about. Naturally, I would have relished in a moment of overall fairness that my side could have been constructively heard and recognized. There was a time where we could “agree to disagree.”  That time seems to have passed long ago. Afterall, politics is nothing anyone should get worked up about. The beauty of law, public policy, and elected officials is that they or it can be replaced at the swipe of a pen or the pull of a leaver, unlike the permanent corporate fixture.

 

A talking point as to why I am writing this is to share that some people in crazy moments like to argue just to argue. I’ve never really understood that rational about such dialog? I guess some people want to feel intellectually gifted or academically equal as if I am prejudging them? I enjoy a good debate here and there as long as the debate facilitation is constructive and doesn’t become personal or off-topic. It is no secret that I enjoy the academic world of debate and try to apply where and when possible such conduct of viewpoints. To me, there is no winner. There are moments of victory to prove a point. But ultimately the greatest takeaway is when both sides learn from one another to effectively make an issue better and relevant for all. Wishful thinking on my part. But I still have hope for humanity.

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.

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.

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