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 The truth is that historically once such laws if and when have been rescinded, there are years of apologies, compensation programs, and reeducation policies to heal all the decades of wrongdoing to ordinary human beings.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.

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.

Presidential Witch Hunt

President Trump has introduced some rather controversial executive orders lately. A recent order was the temporary banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States. Personally, I think this is a dangerous policy and idea. However, Trump did lay out the plan during his campaign. It is not as if these succession of presidential orders are a surprise. In all honesty, I think a majority of people are actually surprised at how quickly these campaign suggestions became instant policy.

 

An interesting observation is how quickly demonstrations, and well organized I might add, suddenly appeared across the nation. Additionally, many private universities have sent out letters and social media postings letting it be known that they intend to defy a presidential order. A quick civics lesson says that executive orders do not require Congressional approval to take effect, but they have the same legal weight as laws passed by Congress. While I applaud the effort of Universities advocating for immigration issues, I think they may want to take a step back and think if such a stance is right for them. Trump has already said that he will issue another executive order to halt funding for sanctuary city schools. In all honesty, I think he will do it sooner than expected. This could mean that universities will lose federal funding leaving many students and families apparently in the middle. It could become rather nasty, but all students could be caught in the middle instead of those the target of policy intends.

 

I could not help but think of the Salem witch hunts where women and children were singled out because of the way they looked or what they said. In some cases those accused in the Salem Witch Trials never committed a crime nor did anything wrong. It was a populist agenda filled with mass hysteria, isolationism, religious extremism and false accusations. Many innocent people died or were forced into some form of exile to escape possible prosecution. The similarities of regular Muslims living in our country or wishing to visit versus the Salem trails are scary. Hundreds of millions of innocent people have been banned from the United States because of merely their origin. It also appears that our own method of protected discrimination classes are soon to be shredded where sex, race, religion and origin are thrown out the window with no due process but only a swipe of a pen.

 

Our nation must come to grips that we have President Trump for the next four years. This is how this political game has been played out since the creation of our constitution. Sure, many are not happy with the results and naturally wish they had an alternative plan. Republicans that once distanced themselves from Trump will usually rally around its leader as if all his past rhetoric was never mentioned. There will be more controversial executive orders, and at this point, nothing will surprise me. But unfortunately, that is how I must take a seat and protest where applicable until the next election. Hopefully, then Americans will have a true does of reality versus reality television to make a solid choice about leadership for the United States. The scary part is that other nations may end up barring us from entry based on how they think our electoral process works.

Tax the Church

I rarely get angry about things I read. Today I read that conservative Christian evangelist Franklin Graham saying that he doesn’t believe it was the Russians who intervened in this year’s controversial presidential election. Instead, he said, “it was God. God showed up.” I could not have been more disgusted at the way religion is consistently misused for personal and political gain in our nation. For starters why should any pastor, layman, or evangelist claim that religion works in its favor? Is this to imply that any independent or democrat voter an agent of the devil? I think not. What Mr. Graham did was blasphemy and use the pulpit to create more division in our nation. Graham has disguised himself as a servant of rightousness by an orchestrated choice of words rather than the guidance of God and the holy spirit.

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In my lifetime I have tried very hard to keep religion separate from my civic duties and obligations. I pray for most people. What makes my prayer different is that I pray for peace, pray for others that include our enemies. Sure, I may sound like the Catholic boy, but I am not Catholic. I was always taught to think of others before myself. This method seems to be doing just fine until I hear more rhetoric from Graham. I remember when Graham referred to Muslims as engaged in “a religion of hatred. It’s a religion of war.” Only later would Graham continue to spread doubt by claiming President Obama was Muslim and that references to Mormonism as a cult implying doubt about Governor Mitt Romney’s ability to be President. What is most disturbing is Graham’s political plans from the pulpit. He said, “I have zero hope for the Democratic Party; I have no hope for the Republican Party. I am running a campaign to put God back in the political process.”

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I would like to point out that Franklin Graham has a net worth of over $25 million dollars. That is money that was collected tax-free by contributors. There is no product to buy except fear based on his words. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that using politics in the church is a dangerous mix and somewhat unlawful by revenue standards. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a clear rule when it comes to churches. The law prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one “which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

It is time for our nation to confront the combination of politics and religion. Once again it has become out of hand and dangerous by self-appointed ministers interpreting based on its capital need rather than scripture. America may see the expensive cars, mansions and offshore bank accounts by tax-free deposits of people such as Franklin Graham and his misguided rhetoric by using God for material and political purposes. It is time to start taxing these “churches” that harvest an armageddon of theater news Graham and others create for their congregations and ministries. This has nothing to do with free speech. This matter has more to do with tax-free speech and the law as it is written. God should never be used to determine politics. This is the free will of the people something religion holds dear and sacred. But, in fairness, if you want to talk about politics then you may do so if you forego the IRS 501(c) statements and disclose this to your followers. Be transparent just as God would want.

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If Graham wants to use religion in politics, let’s use the law and begin taxing his ministry. Maybe Graham should read his own Bible once in a while and reference Romans 13:7-8 “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”