We Are Pontius Pilate

Since the first of the year, I have been going to the gym 3 to 4 times a week to rediscover how to get my body back in shape and to fit in reasonably sized clothing choices once again. I attend a wellness center filled with many people, usually mature or older, seeking to either get in shape or highlight therapy towards injuries and such. After a vigorous swim, I decided to enter the hot tub. For some reason, the hot tub at this wellness center has jokingly become the informal roundtable pool

Todays topic began with the R.Kelly grand jury indictment. I carefully listed to all the various unscholarly noise and gut assumptions. After nearly five or so minutes of listening I felt as if the conversation had become judge, jury, and executioner well before evidence or trial can present its arugment. 

What ended the conversation quickly is when an older lady looked over and asked me directly, “do you think he is guilty?”  I replied with, “I have no formal opinion on the matter because I don’t know R. Kelly nor do I live in the Chicago metro area.”  The hot tub quickly became quiet. The facial expressions snapped over to glare at me to suggest I am the onion in the soup. She then said in a careful tone, “but there are perverts like him out there harming kids.”   I said, “yes, but R. Kelly’s issues don’t affect me directly. However, what I am most concerned about our citizens that may be called to be potential jurors claiming to not know anything about R. Kelly but do and want to spread bias while affirming an oath to a judge and God then they will be fair an impartial. Now, that does affect all of us.”  Quickly the hot tub emptied. I knew that I hit a raw nerve. But instead of listening there is cult or gang-like atmosphere that people insist that we agree with fears and affirm everyone is out to get us or do harm despite the fact that it is thousands of miles away or next door.

Rather than engaging in an argument I quickly became the advocate of reason. Did I obtain any winners or sway people? Perhaps not. But what I did convey is pushback towards normative behaviors that we must agree or nod to keep the peace when in fact we are just reinforcing a bad behavior. 

I managed to get out of the hot tub and go to the locker room to change ending a workout. In the locker room I saw a few men from the pool area. As I was changing, one leaned over and said, “you know that woman is a preachers wife?”  I looked back with a smile and said, “I could tell with all those virtuous Christian values pouring out.”  Everyone in the locker room laughed with agreement. The men began suggesting I was the only person that ever stood up to disagree with her. I tried to explain that as a Christian my beliefs are to seek justice, then mercy, and forgiveness. I said, “People have a choice to either be more like Jesus or become like Pontius Pilate.”  That alone cemented that we are often quick to adjudicate before weighing evidence.  It is not my intentions to sound overly biblical or born-again. Instead it is important that people claiming to be Christians practice what they preach. 

On that note, there are many people not only entering correctional facilities today but a large number are let out and attempting to reintegrate into society. In my eyes those exiting the legal system in America have paid their price and should be treated as paying that debt to society. If our culture has no planning towards atonement and reentry into society then we have no reason to provide love, worth, or ambition in excelling as life continues by those affected or connected to incarceration or registry requirement.  It is fine to dislike the crime, but our energy shouldn’t be consumed with hating the person. Disappointment should be brief lapses over time. Instead, we live in a world today where we want to lock people up and throw away the key. Eventually that place too will become overcrowded and bursting with no room to reform and teach others because a person influenced others to think like them. It’s not gangs we should be worried about. It is the ganglike mentality that fails to separate between the street gang and the hypocrites that appear ganglike we should worry about. 

The Uncivil War On Sexuality

The sex offender registry and draconian laws aimed at offenders has destroyed lives of individuals and families. Today a new form of offender registration has transpired. This new offender registry creates life sentences using the internet as its delivery method carefully skirting libel and slander policies under the blanket of free speech. Naturally, this is not a registry, but social movements are utilizing social media platforms to quasi-create a public registry with no hopes of being removed or deleted, and it’s creating more harm than good.

A recent news segment mentioned an R&B superstar named R.Kelly. Kelly is one of pop music’s best-selling artists, with hits including “Ignition,” ”I Believe I Can Fly,” ”Step in the Name of Love,” ”Same Girl” and “Bump N’ Grind.” He has also written hits for Celene Dion, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga. He was acquitted in 2008 of child pornography after a video circulated appearing to show him having sex with a teenage girl. However, as he continued to score hits and sell out stadiums, more women have come forward in recent years accusing him of sexual misconduct. Kelly had been scheduled to be among the performers at popular concert venues but was dropped as efforts by organizers of #MuteRKelly gained attention with support from Hollywood’s Time’s Up campaign. Overnight Kelly has been the target of an issue 10 years old creating a delayed response or condition. Many are wondering if the #metoo campaign has gotten out of control?

Society is witnessing improved tactics to create and facilitate registry styled methods using constructive hashtags and meme styled photos comparable to police lineups. All these methods are protected by free speech rights. There are disturbing trends with guilt by association tactics using political individuals seen in pictures or appearances with individuals accused but never charged with sexual improprieties in guilt by association tactics. The same strategy is being used on individuals as a result of news and information shifting from regular publishing sources to social media.  Social justice movements have designed strikingly similar registry models by combining low-level offenses with significant offenses presenting an appearance of guilt for anyone mentioned. Additionally, to be associated with the accused, guilty, or suspected has created a panic based fear that will eventually become more violent as anger and social stigma increases. Does this imply that we should stop listening or supporting Elvis Presley because he dated a 14-year-old girl? Moreover, does it suggest that hearing or being an Elvis fan makes you a supporter of statutory rights? The question is, “when does the conversation begin?” or is this electronic vigilantism stirred by social movements with no real agenda or cause? Are freedoms of choice under assault? Arguably there is enough evidence to present a spiraling out of control agenda with taking no prisoners mentalities. It is excessively dangerous with no end in sight.

If the sex offender registry was not enough to restrict movement and liberties, then the internet has an interesting way of making life nearly as difficult for those not on the registry. Spotify and Pandora are sizeable online streaming music services. They recently removed artists from its collection where fans must search for specific content. Movies starring accused or guilty offenders have been quickly removed from major content providers. Art has recently been removed from galleries because corporations or entities do not wish to be spotlighted with pressure from social movements. Most interesting, social movements or mob justice campaigning efforts are shaming those that listen, watch, or support such artists. That has many inquiring who is the bully or aggressor in this case? It has become an uncivil war on sexuality.

Social movements do attempt a subtle effect on placing the spotlight on specific issues – and should be commended for bringing a problematic issue forward. However, at the same time, such causes have a responsibility to educate and allow occasional discourse to remedy problems from becoming out of hand.  Those that differ should have an opportunity to be heard. Sex offender registries have harmed individuals, families, and supporters. The same stratagem occurs with social justice campaigns damaging artists, fans, companies, and the innocent. Just as offender registries lump all into one category, social movements are incidentally and sometimes purposely doing the same creating additional harm because emotion and sometimes interpretation is a contributing factor. While #metoo and #timesup campaigns initially were valid, that effect has morphed into anger, antagonism, and losing focus on the opportunity for open dialog and discussion. Maybe its time to stop and take a moment to #ListenToMe where a constructive dialog helping shed pain, frustration, and integrity are reintroduced?

In my #metoo experience from my childhood, I have learned how to cope, educate, forgive, and advocate for myself and others. What seemed like years of pain was a reality of several instances. I cant spend my entire life with an agenda to destroy another person because I want justice. If anything, sharing my personal experiences openly and candidly is the real #metoo movement. It is vital so that victims do not feel alone and non-victims become educated advocates.

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