We Have A Choice

Every election cycle may see the creation of a legislative bill aimed directly at people on the sex offender registry. Regardless of what the bill is titled, there will always be an argument without supporting facts or evidence the bill “will keep children safe”. 

It has been only a month into a new political cycle. We are once again witnessing a national legislative agenda filled with residency restrictions, senior assisted living, exclusionary benefit schemes, parental rights, and other bills directly aimed at people on the sex offender registry. 

However, only a few short months ago, we heard manifestos of politicians exclaim criminal justice reforms and a return to compassion for human life. However, the same elected people that we count on to make that change and live up to their word are often the very people that alienate their agenda, returning to fear-laced propaganda and divorcing rational thought. 

If you were to take any of the current sex offense bills and remove the title “sex offender” and replace it with African-American, Jewish, Gay or Lesbian, or Latino, there would certainly be an outcry of discrimination. But that is what politicians do when creating law. The United States has been down that road before with Jim Crow-styled laws and loud politicized rhetoric that always seems to mention protections without any supporting facts or evidence. The truth is that historically once such laws if and when have been rescinded, there are years of apologies, compensation programs, and reeducation policies to heal all the decades of wrongdoing to ordinary human beings. 

It is all a more incredible lesson of what Nazi soldiers said after the war about witnessing atrocities and the rounding up of human beings they were told to treat as criminals. In their defense, Nazi soldiers would say, “I had no choice” or “it was my duty”. Nazi leaders would tout, “this is the protection of the fatherland”. Similar arguments are continually argued about the U.S. Civil War reconstruction era, the Hopewell Native American treaty, the Civil Rights Selma to Montgomery marches, to the Stonewall riots. However, the lesson learned moments are striking similarities that lawmakers and people haven’t learned much from history and continue to spew rhetoric to incite fear without data or evidence citing it is for America’s safety. 

As Americans, we ought to be striving for opportunities to educate and facilitate best practices towards confronting our worst fears by creating a fair policy for all. Instead, we continue to live in a world guided by Jim Crow laws with a McCarthy-styled methodology that everyone could be an offender or sympathizer. We shouldn’t want to live in a nation where fear drives us? 

Our leaders have a moral obligation to do the right thing for all people. While politicians lay claim to following a spiritual path, they too often stray, leaving behind moral thought and embracing corruption by saying, “I had no choice”. Thus history ultimately repeats itself, causing morality to be stuck in the mud. 

Perhaps the best medicine for our history is to become stewards of what is right and fair for all. But such action requires people to become active voices in pushing back. Never assume that others are doing the work for you. While people sat idly by and witnessed Nazi atrocities, civil, gay, or Muslim rights being egregiously violated, what are you doing to back up the voices that represent your concerns? Pick up the phone and call your legislative representative to voice your opposition to a bill. Invest in memberships to organizations that support your cause. Show up in person to your legislature, allowing your lawmakers to see advocacy no longer afraid. 

Dr. Judith Levine researched in 2016, African Americans account for 22 percent of publicly listed registered sex offenders nationally; they make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population. However, that number is staggeringly growing by the day. During this period of Black History Month, we ought to take a moment to reflect on how far we may have come but how far we have to go. We have a moral duty to get things right moving forward.

Congress Does Not Forgive

Many tow the party line over redemption or values.

Regardless of your personal political compass watching the congressional appearance of Michael Cohen may present a valuable argument that when it comes to politics and justice there are many that tow the party line over redemption. This isn’t to suggest that Mr. Cohen is a saint or to shift the blame towards anyone else. Instead, the testimony appeared to become an issue to continually beat a person while he was down. Additionally, it provided a change of evidence opporunity towards the opposition. 

I couldn’t help be reminded of how those either found guilty by the courts or exiting the prison system are viewed by either lawmakers or the public eye.  I think we all collectively witnessed how a piece of new evidence or perspective could overturn or change an outcome typically used against the accused. For example, if an individual convicted of a sex crime had new evidence that could turn an issue, there will ultimately be others that habitually lay claim towards absolute guilt rather than trying to understand or apply new evidence. Perhaps people are stubborn enough to still think the earth is flat because they want to exercise methods to go against the grain to prove a political point.

There is plenty of data and evidence suggesting that prosecutors, defendants, investigators, and even juries have tainted viewpoints. These groups attempt to look beyond personal or political issue in discovery between truths or evidence because they have an agenda to tow a particular line. Credibility, while a formidable part of justice has its flawed issues too. But it is when distrusted or those convicted capable of providing facts, data, and a path towards redemption are consistently met with opposition to be silenced and unheard. It begs to question, when is credibility restored or allowed to reenter as a moving forward moment? If we wonder why society won’t become involved in remedy towards complex situations is perhaps because there are those in power to exclude others based on guilt or association. Proof that christians claim to be forgiving, but sometimes have another agenda at hand.

Witnessing the Cohen testimony I felt as if the whole process was a grandstanding moment for everyone involved. Similar to the behaviors of courtrooms across America where distraction, finger pointing, and perhaps the best tears win the sympathy of living room juries. I am afraid that justice as we once knew it has somewhat disappeared and replaced with theatrics, showmanship, outrageous theory, and a politizied pursuit of maintaining a win not for democracy but for a particular side. I would argue that the side we should choose is for the pursuit of honesty, understanding, and compassion so that society can move forward becoming moral and ethical people where mistakes, misdeeds, and forgiveness can be reintroduced in what was once considered a neighborly and virtuous society. 

One thing I did learn from the Cohen testimony is that justice is indeed a politicized moment than an integrity moment with each side representing its base instead of attempts to discover and understand the truth.