Neighbors Cancel Halloween… but it’s a good thing.

I live in a neighborhood that, for the most part, that is pretty quiet. Many of the people that once lived here have left or passed away. Over the past decade, lots of Hispanics and Latinos have become a significant part of my community. I did my part by welcoming all of them. This year my neighborhood has given me the ultimate present. My neighbors are not participating in “Halloween candy handouts” to anyone. One of my dearest neighbors, Jessie (an immigrant from Mexico), his wife, and two teenage boys, have been very supportive of me being on the registry. They let me know that all the neighbors decided to not allow trick or treating in our neighborhood. In fact, today, when a deputy came to do a home visit, my phone rang from three other Hispanic neighbors to let me know a deputy had come to my door for a unannounced compliance check when I wasn’t at home. All of my neighborhood thinks the registry is a bad idea overall and naturally do not trust police because they too have been profiled and labeled by others for the langauge they speak. But to take matters to another level, my neighbors won’t allow Halloween because it would exclude me because of phone apps available from the NC Attorney General that direct parents to avoid particular addresses of registrants. So, in turn, they have kicked out the long standing tradition citing, “if one is excluded, then everyone is excluded.” This is an awesome gift from my 38+ neighbors and homes!

To demonstrate how committed my neighbors are, the public school notified parents a few months ago that the bus stop directly in front of my home was to be relocated elsewhere because I was on the registry. Parents, knowingly aware of my registry status, refused to relocate their children to another stop, citing safety concerns of high-speed traffic which was true. They all pushed back to the school system where the bus stop remains in front of my house claiming they the school had no right to interfear in community affairs. One neighbor said, “the bus driver doesnt have to do anything but pick up and drop off my children. If the bus driver has a problem with it, then get another bus driver!” By the way, all the kids wave at me randomly in the morning when walking to the bus stop. Isn’t this they way communities should be for all? I am not the guy on the sex registry. I am a human treated like any another human that so happens to be on the sex registry for something with an adult almost a decade ago. Amazingly, not one parent was in opposition to moving the school bus stop and dropoff back to my house. It demonstrates that not everyone is consumed with the fear selling tactics of government telling others who and how you may interact with others.

Additionally, most Latino and Hispanic cultures think that Halloween intrudes upon a sacred holiday to honor the dead called “All Souls Day.” So our neighbors will be cooking some rather exciting dishes to celebrate. Of course, I am invited to take part in the festivities. Such demonstrations of good faith and neighborly friendships are how communities should be for all. It is a shame that the rest of the nation cannot follow the examples of others that not only risked their lives to settle in a new country but also protect a fellow American to rid of social stigma. Perhaps Latinos and Hispanics understand the consequences of the registry better than the average American? At least that is my understanding. But having neighbors like this shows that there is hope that we may look after one another despite having a language, cultural, or other barriers that seems so far apart but really arent.

I should make a bumper sticker for my car that reads, “ÂĄMis vecinos son mejores que tus vecinos!” which translates to “My neighbors are better than your neighbors!”

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.

Stop Dividing Families and Ideals

North Korea has a long-standing law called “three generations of punishment.”  If one person is found guilty of a crime and sent to a prison camp, so too will their entire family, and the subsequent two generations born at the camp must remain there for life. Perhaps President Trump sought to infuse a bit of that energy altering it by dividing parents from children housed at immigration camps. The President has a personal agenda that went a step further by hinting during his campaign suggesting Hispanics are rapists, criminals and responsible for gang warfare with sad commentary that some are good. Perhaps this is where the far-right embraces its unscholarly rhetoric because enforcement and creation of our policies seem somewhat North Korean, East German, and Soviet.

Before we begin slinging the hammer and sickle of change, we may want to reflect on how our perception and approach has significantly changed. Many may recount the days of Jane Fonda controversial visit to North Vietnam which branded her the name of “Hanoi Jane.” Another similar instance is when basketball star Dennis Rodman visited North Korea during the Obama administration. These individuals were hounded and scorned by media, the general public, and naturally politicians. Because high profile individuals attempt to try to mediate truce or other politicized means, there is a level of contempt that they are doing more harm than good. Today we are witnessing a dramatic shift in how sworn enemies or those where a majority of citizens are wary of relations, this President wants to stride in to assert that “these are good people.”  The implication is that tough and ruthless leaders are good and democratically elected individuals are not so good? At least that is the takeaway points I am witnessing. The punishment that Trump is conveying is the media is unfair to him, liberals are dividing this nation, the FBI is not to be trusted, anyone that disagrees with the President is not loyal and deserves public admonishment. Does this sound like a nation built upon free principles?

If you want to understand the platform of the traditional Republican Party, then reflect on a time where Nancy Reagan once touted, “say no to drugs” campaign. Shift forward to modern day platforms where heroin and drugs from Mexico is the biggest threat to American society. Attorney General Jeff Sessions guidances from former President Barack Obama’s administration that allowed states to legalize marijuana with minimal federal interference. Now Trump says he is likely to support ending a federal ban on pot. Perhaps that recent United States/North Korea summit had an ah-ha moment? Marijuana is legal in North Korea. It’s perfectly legal to buy and smoke cannabis in public and private. Cannabis grows wildly in North Korea and has been sold abroad by government agencies as a way to earn foreign currency.   Maybe Trump took a whiff and passed and saw a potential job creation moment? (after all, we didn’t see Dennis Rodman, but he was at the summit somewhere?)

What I do not understand is how our neighbors to the south are considered rapists, gangs, and drug dealers but the North Korean people are suddenly, in the eyes of the President, worthy of a sit-down? Ironic that North and South Korea are in negotiations to tear down its demilitarized zone in exchange for peace and prosperity. However, Trump continues to hammer at legislation to build a wall. North Korea has political prisoner camps that lock up families, and now we witness our administration locking up families but dividing them. I personally find it interesting that President Trump executive order 13767 to deploy all lawful means to secure our Nation’s border but then signs Executive Order 13841 to stop his initial order? Trump’s order legislation is becoming somewhat similar to the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.

Folks, the United States is critically divided because our President is not committed to stability instead it policy or diplomacy. In fact, the Presidential behavior of Trump has become someone similar to his Twitter feeds. It changes like the wind as to stir and generate so much buzz that we forget about the previous issue. The conversation that should bring us together to work out our policial differences sounds like a moment with Pope Francis. This is where positive LGBT experiences of inclusiveness are met with rug pulled moments. It usually begins where traditional Catholics are not so welcoming followed by a slew of sad commentary and misrepresentations of LGBT people become labeled and divided from membership with their families. At least that is where Americans learned how to become prejudice, in my opinion.

Might I suggest that we leave our political preference at the door when discussing how to repair the nation? For a brief moment, can we forget about our identities and the skin color, religion, or other distinguishable features at the door? Let’s have an open session involving how to fix things rather than what our political platform or religious doctrine says. When I build a table or chair, I don’t need my local politician or priest to discuss or influence how to make it better. It is people that get things done, no different than Dennis Rodman or Jane Fonda. They weren’t elected but at least facilitate to some form of reasonable change. Could we attempt the same path?

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

 

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