Records Expungement Isn’t Really Expunged

The State of North Carolina recently introduced House Bill 863 that would bar convicted felons from running for the office of Sheriff. It seems like a no-brainer if one only reads the title. However, the fine print in the legislation mandates explicitly and clarifies that even if a conviction is expunged, the individual is still a felon. Why? Because the Governor has not pardoned the felony.

A pardon is a government decision to allow a person to be absolved of guilt for an alleged crime or other legal offense, as if the act never occurred. The pardon may be granted before or after conviction for the crime, depending on the laws of the jurisdiction.

Okay. That seems fair right? Perhaps. However, I would argue that if a conviction has been expunged, then shouldn’t that also indicate that the criminal record is no longer valid? I only bring up this particular issue because if Second Chance laws are passed around the nation to expunge criminal convictions does that imply that criminal records are indeed expunged? According to the North Carolina General Assembly that answer may be a short “no” and a concern for the validity of Second Chance laws across this nation.

A very real distinction exists between an expungement and a pardon. When an expungement is granted, the person whose record is expunged may, for most purposes, treat the event as if it never occurred. A pardon (also called “executive clemency”) does not “erase” the event; rather, it constitutes forgiveness.

A particular question to be addressed is, “why is it the business of the legislature to determine who can or cannot be elected as a citizen?” It isn’t as if the people of North Carolina suddenly rose up in protest to voice a person shouldn’t be able to become Sheriff. After all, the office and duty of Sheriff is an elected position by the people. It is highly unlikely in a YouTube and Twitter world that the most skilled reporter or journalist wouldn’t vet any person seeking a political office. However, the more profound concern is that such laws creeping into policy will eventually make anyone ever convicted of a crime, even if it is erased, unable to seek political office. It seems like a law for the elite rather than for the will of the people.

On July 1, 2010, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 1307 that allowed the voters to decide on an amendment to the North Carolina Constitution (N.C. Const. art. VII, § 2). This amendment was passed by the voters in November 2010, officially amending the North Carolina Constitution (Attachment 1). Until this amendment, there was no constitutional provision prohibiting a convicted felon from being elected or appointed sheriff. This amendment prohibits anyone that has been convicted of a felony from serving as sheriff, which applies to both a sheriff elected or appointed. Also, the individual does not have to be convicted of the felony in North Carolina, rather any conviction, anywhere qualifies.

Personally, I am concerned about the passing of this bill. On the one hand, we have our constitution that allows people to govern and seems to have been working for hundreds of years. On the other hand, we are beginning to micromanage, who is constitutionally protected and applicable for a position that has been around for centuries. Legislatures should be in the business of fixing government for the people rather than breaking it. It appears that the unnecessary micro details are easier to perform than the macro duties we elected them to settle in the first place.

In the common law legal system, an expungement proceeding is a type of lawsuit in which a first time offender of a prior criminal conviction seeks that the records of that earlier process be sealed, making the records unavailable through the state or Federal repositories

You Can’t Handle The Truth!

Decades ago turning on the television was a race at 6 PM each evening to host what would be the nightly headline. Of all the media segments, it seemed, as if all the major networks were delivering the same news stories injecting its interviews or overlapping interviewing at press conferences. There was an overall sense of trust in the media that the information we received was the truth without bias or political leanings. However, the most significant part of American journalism was that all people, regardless of political compass, seemed restrained enough to invoke his/her part of a discourse by not forming a quick opinion until all of the evidence, over time, had been delivered.

Today journalism isn’t what it used to be. Instead, the art of journalism extends to anyone with a laptop, cell phone, and blog to post anything or whatever they want without much need for articulation or fact-finding. The death of trust in the media came to an abrupt halt once the internet took over. American culture and society have shifted from print newspapers, magazines, and credible orators or writers towards an a la carte version of subscription-based or safe-space journalism. I would be willing to assert that our knowledge base of reporting only the facts and what was said rather than injecting our thoughts are perhaps a critical reason that the free press isn’t open anymore to seek an unbias delivery. It has become chaos driven by entertainment-based journalism so that media sustains its membership somewhat like a drug with adverse effects. Media, along with public policy, has shifted from a balance of compromise towards a social trust barrier that no matter how much evidence there is to support one thing, we believe the opposite entirely.

Social trust is a belief in the honesty, integrity and reliability of others – a “faith in people.” It’s a simple enough concept to describe. But it’s never been easy to figure out who trusts, or why

When America Online and CompuServe introduced instant messaging on computers, we witnessed the first-hand scope of what the future of news would be. When CNN began its cable news network and launched the scroll at the bottom of the television screen our attention was no longer on the actual news, but we suddenly became ADHD candidates for absorbing information without synthesis for what is fact versus bias. When Facebook and other social media companies began sorting how data would be disseminated and delivered to individuals, it perhaps then was the reason many credible news agencies faltered, and print media eventually died. Our confirmation bias began to shift that news media took too long or wasn’t instantaneous. Therefore, people texting, posting on social media (with video clips), and presenting its version of accounts must be the truth because it’s the first to break the story in a live format. Society no longer cares about the fact because there is no need incentive to becoming truthful by American standards anymore. Politics has created a deep divide in America that the truth is only relevant if you belong to “our way” of thinking or diplomacy.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning.

Some may suggest that “all products have a shelf life” and are replaceable to the next new thing. The problem is that the next best thing isn’t actually our best delivery for the truth or truth. I would argue that our lives are too filled with news instead of stories of how to remedy the problem. As a society, we are entertained with emotion and reality measurements to either celebrate or vilify the images we see on our smartphone, in media, or splashed on a television screen. All it takes is less than 15 seconds of a story, and society has managed to make up its mind in an armchair jury fashion as if they have all the evidence they require. It is a scary indication of how humanity has suddenly reinvigorated the verso pollice as its measure to rate other human beings without much fact-finding or critical decision making. Our minds have become the outsource of anyone behind and camera, keyboard, or microphone.

If America or the rest of civilization in a globalized world intends to become diplomatic and end repression, hunger, crime and justice reforms, violence, and begin growing virtuous to all of humanity with equal effort. It must start to think critically from all sides and embrace an ear of understanding to become better citizens for all instead of self — humanity isn’t entertainment of suffering or scorn. Hopefully, we have grown mentally as a society since the ancient Rome days?

Pollice verso or verso pollice is a Latin phrase, meaning “with a turned thumb”, that is used in the context of gladiatorial combat. It refers to the hand gesture or thumbs signal used by Ancient Roman crowds to pass judgment on a defeated gladiator.

We Created Discrimination​

Many believe that prejudice is influenced or taught in the home. I suspect that could be a plausible argument. However, I tend to think that forms of discrimination are formed from particular events. I would cite such facts such as soldiers being deployed to Iraq and engaging with faction groups posing as soldiers. It could also be argued that military leadership paints a portrait of Muslim culture or middle easterners as radicals. We commonly hear and see this rhetoric often by soldiers displaying “morale” patches or scribbled helmet sayings similar to the days of “Commie Killer” adorned on cold war helmets.

But why are Americans suddenly anti-Latino or anti-Mexican? Immigrants typically embrace jobs that American youth won’t take or apply. Is it that unfair prejudice is actually our malice and bitterness is that they are employable while most American youth won’t take a moment to apply? It reminds me of the days where migrant workers filled American farmlands picking anything from cotton to yams far less in wages, benefits, and protections than the typical American worker. Generations beforehand worked side by side to pass on time treasured traditions ensuring that families would hopefully pass on to future generations. Eventually, those generations abandoned the hard and heat sweltering work. This the era of migrants to fill the slack left by younger generations to seek higher education or other employment means. It was American farmers that opened the floodgates to welcome anyone that would take jobs ranging from farms, manufacturing, production lines, janitorial, cooking, and other low paying or low skill jobs. Today we see job construction sites filled with not faces of the typical white or afro-American worker. Instead, we see construction sites all over America with a diverse mix of Hispanic and foreign workers. What I don’t understand is companies and individuals insist on hiring Latino workers while at the same time treat them as potential criminals or quasi-servants. It is as if the middle and low class of Americans have somewhat created the underclass of society that will work but ridicules that class for taking all the jobs available in the first place? It doesn’t make sense, but we use immigration law to argue about the legality of something Americans skirted the law in the first place.

When any form of leadership creates a dialog that a particular group of people is criminally prone with no facts to support it, then perception becomes a reality. Influences such as hate-filled speech lead to discrimination. With that being said, Latinos as a whole in America have been falsely criminalized. There are those that oppose such language but appear to be falling on deaf ears or silenced by the power of government influence. Folks, a lot can happen in four years during a Presidential cycle. But what has transpired over the past year has the recipe of leading from political divisions towards a severe civil war where the firestarter could come from the Latino community – and legitimately so. I certainly do not wish or want any forms of fighting. But individuals within society have a right to protect their integrity and stability that they refrain from becoming labeled or wrongly classified. When certain politicians decide to take it upon themselves to invoke religious scripture, then society may experience repercussions like no other they have witnessed.

A suggestion to return to some form of normalcy is for Americans to accept responsibilities that they habitually cut corners by outsourcing, allowing immigrants, don’t enforce hiring practices, and skirt issues to get ahead. It is somewhat strikingly similar where Americans would foolishly recommend that if African Americans were not happy with America that they could go back to Africa. Such exaggeration is not only stupid but a magnification of how and where discrimination and bigotry originates.

Every so many decades Americans disdain for other cultures publically airs its own forms of prejudice. Such recent events are when Japan during the 1970’s gas crisis began importing cars to the United States. 1980 were when China started to import cheaper manufactured goods. 1990 were when people from India began infiltrating customer service and high tech job markets. 2000 when suddenly Mexicans that had been here in the millions were decidedly a threat to Caucasian populations. Perhaps we should take a moment and remember that the melting pot doesn’t belong to any race, religion, creed, sex, or identity. Just because you discover it doesn’t make it exclusively yours. We are a society elected by people supposedly of laws. But when we create laws to enforce upon a particular class of people, then we are no longer a democracy.

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.

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.

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