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.

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

 

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.

Coincidental Trump Followers

Over a year we have rehashed and overanalyzed the Presidential election of Clinton vs. Trump to the point that the average citizen is sick, tired and wishes to move on. Additionally, there is almost a bizarre method to attempt to get into the mind of voters and dissect why they voted the way they did? What was intended to be a landslide victory for one party took a sudden turn to elect what people describe as a country critically divided and with outside election influence?

While it may be true that the nation is politically and socially divided. There may be some rather obvious reasoning as to why there are Trump supporters? I remember a time where Senator Jesse Helms would win by a landslide in a state where Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans. Yet if you asked any North Carolinian how they voted you wouldn’t hear the name Jesse Helms at all. It is a cryptic and secretive voter scheme to protect the politician that people love to hate. It is somewhat like a Trump rally. You may not know any Trump supporter but are surprised to learn of an unsuspecting individual that attended. This is how and will remain the taciturn election cycle.

But the Trump election is somewhat similar to the Helms scenario. Perhaps Trump supporters are slightly xenophobic, conventionalists, or seek strict societal controls? Trump supporters are far less inclined to care about who is not telling the truth, facts, sexual improprieties, corruption, political correctness, or free press. Sure, these descriptions follow an ethical rule, but to Trump supporters, these issues don’t put food on the table or hold much merit.

I was recently at a Target store and overheard two African American women carrying on a conversation. What made this particular conversation stand out was the two were using colorful words such as fuck, bitch, shit, motherfucker and other expletives somewhat loudly where others could hear – including children. I looked over at other patrons watching body language and facial expressions which ranged from deep glares to curled lips. As the two women walked towards the checkout, I could overhear a woman saying to another man “people like that are the reason our country has so many issues.” It was a stark and loose comment that perhaps Trump supporters may have considerable prejudiced viewpoints mixed with authoritarian aggression such as social manners and common courtesies while in public. However, I wonder what would have happened if the two African American women would have been Caucasian? Would anyone notice or express similar facial expressions? Trump supporters will argue that the ‘N’ word should never be used. Yet pop culture continues to frequently use the ‘N’ word in lyrics and conversation. It fuels the opposite as double standards amplifying a further divisional standard.

This brings me to the Trump allegations of sexual harassment and improprieties. The typical Trump supporter doesn’t give a hoot about Stormy Daniels or the list of Trump sleepovers or issues. Why? Because most Trump or conservatives firmly believe consent between two people is just that. It is the attitude that private matters between two parties are none of our business.  Basically, you can claim to be a virgin one moment but cannot declare a mulligan to reclaim your virginity. It is not up to public inspection. The average conservative politician may voice concern about a sex allegation but usually finds the words, “the victim shouldn’t have allowed herself to become vulnerable” or something closely related to that effect. Conservatives and Trump followers think that sex crimes belong in one category where overwhelming evidence demonstrates the classical rape sequence. Anything beyond that is he said – she said story. Social justice warriors are attempting to change that by challenging judges that don’t rule the way they deem necessary and fair. But time will ultimately tell when Trump styled judges eventually find their way to the bench to dismiss or overturn based on evidence or conditions.

As for facts, free press, and corruption it can be argued that politicians have been violating this for eons and will continue to do so as a right of passage or interpretation. Let’s face facts that lobbyists and dollars run the nation – not politicians. American political corruption has been the core of our institution, and a catalyst for pop culture television shows ever since the introduction of the West Wing. As Americans, we love a scandal so much that the Trump administration has made a complete four-year live television series keeping scandal in news headlines. It is so compelling that we have no idea what legislation has been introduced and passed over the past year. In fact, we can barely name any of the Trump cabinets – unless they are under investigation.

A reason the country is divided may be because of how we have separated the dialog. Our advocates are the press with questions not of the typical American individual – but representing particularly social justice or trending feeds. The average American is not glued to Facebook, Twitter, or other social justice sites. Americans are fighting legal battles, high-interest rates, watching Family Guy, and just barely above water avoiding any mention on social media as it may be the result of not having a job. In contrast, the Trump supporter is engaged with any tactic necessary to introduce or forward anything that appears real, truthful, and conventional. Afterall, that is what typical America seems to want no matter what the cost.

What is a landslide is how we embrace media and television to watch a scandal unfold and change right before our eyes. We are no longer concerned for the poor, homeless, wrongfully convicted, starving, needy, and the impoverished. As long as we have our reality television show filled with distractions and unfounded analysis so will the rhetoric of blended real and fake information.

$15 for Popcorn at Superbowl?

During our educational years, we may have learned about supply and demand. However, when do supply and demand become price gouging? It was mentioned that the NRG Stadium in Houston where Superbowl LI took place had bottled water priced at $6 each and a cup of soda at $11 each. Popcorn was listed at $15, and a scoop of ice cream was $11. Yes, we have perhaps witnessed an event where prices are so out of control or bizarre that we avoid concerts or supporting the arts altogether.

It is bad enough that our supply and demand needs currently have us paying an average cost of a movie ticket at $10 or more only to be punished by having to watch a barrage of movie trailers and commercials just to get a decent seat. The snack bar at theaters is no secret to a majority of us that already see skyrocketing popcorn prices and basic drinks starting prices as if we are at a Superbowl event. The sad part is that we pay those ridiculous prices.

There was a time where people would come together and enjoy events without such unreasonable prices. Concert or event tickets are controlled by ticket companies that levy additional fees. We are merely left at the mercy of either paying for it or hopefully watching it later on an HBO special or DVD. Personally, I do not mind convenience, but I do mind being exploited. Exploitation of supply and demand methods eventually harm the intended purpose. For example, Circus prices became so expensive as well as souvenirs that it crippled its business model and became bankrupt. Some states have price gouging laws. However, it is hard to prosecute and enforce.

I support for free enterprise and competition. However, I am wary where supply and demand become exploitative and diminishes an event that has an ability to bring people together. A bucket of regular standard unflavored popcorn should hardly cost $15. A basic cup of soda should not cost $11. Then again, parking at an event should not cost $20. We should reassess a fair market system where supply and demand in a public setting are equitable and reasonable for all. Otherwise, stadiums and certain events create a culture of black marketing where we lose focus on the actual event.

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