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?

Liberty is Fleeting

I am one of the few soldiers that actually patrolled the Iron Curtain between East and West Germany during the Cold War.  During that period I witnessed a divide between freedom and controlled environments. What separated two ideologies was a death strip filled with land mines, razor wire, metal spike crosswalks, and East German border guards that would shoot first and ask questions later. As an American soldier, I was proud that I didn’t live in a nation that habitually lied to its people, denied freedoms, embraced a one-party system, and would jail its citizens based merely on suspicion.

 

Fast forward today, and for some reason, I feel that I am in the middle of lousy reality dream. When I hear the President wants to build a wall along the border I can only think about how we spent decades, at the cost of lives, to tear down a wall.  Police are arresting people based on suspicion without evidence similar to how the Stazi arrested East Germans. Shootings or the use of tasers by law enforcement are often and highly questionable. Listening to our elected leadership habitually presenting false or misleading information all while dismissing the press is a bit disturbing and sounds like the days of Erich Honecker. It is as if we as a nation are told we have inalienable rights only to become the revised version of East Germany and the Soviet Union all over again. The recent United Nations withdrawal from the Human Rights Council should be a wakeup call that our seat of influence to the world has become an observation post where we have no real voice or teeth to promote freedom.

 

There was a time in my life where I could quickly recognize military uniforms and present a level of absolute respect and honor. Today, I witness police emulating military styled clothing closely resembling military uniforms adorned with ribbons, awards, and rank that were usually privilege and expressly used by the military. Overnight we have transformed our police departments into Soviet styled organizations and dressed police officers in military garb because it looks cool or intimidating. It is a stark reminder of civil service versus military service and how the two should instinctively be different visibly from one another. If police persist in wearing military uniforms and camouflage, then perhaps I should invoke my third amendment right of consent. Afterall, if the police want to dress up like military soldiers, then it is high time that this nation pushes back and hold those accountable that tarnish the uniform mixed with its stolen valor by using our third amendment right. The last time I looked, there were specific laws against the militarization of the police and adulteration of the standard police duty uniform.

 

Public buildings once the highlight of tours and open society have been quickly militarized with body scan devices, authenticated access points, and anti-ram bollards that have been institutionalized by a post 9/11 society. Former President Bush suggested that we continue to go about our business, but stay vigilant. The fear-based society of politicians and conspiracy theorist with no formidable data began the terror machine of identifying everyone as a threat. It started to develop registries and checkpoints such as no-fly, offender, terror watch lists, REAL Identification and so forth. These actions are no different than how the Soviet Union and communist countries continue to monitor and control its citizens today.  Specific controls are reminiscent of how Soviets and communist-based neighbors grew suspicious of one another by not becoming vigilant but turning into self-imposed informants. No facts are needed. Just a self-induced form of hysteria that something could happen is all to create a recipe of additional and unwarranted controls.  Lessons learned from history that showed Soviets and East Germans were taught to believe anything said by western media was false. The stigmatic message was that western news was manufactured to be a threat towards communist democracy; at least from their viewpoint. However, capitalism has a strange way today of acting similar to what communists claimed decades ago. Interesting that the Berlin Wall was meant to keep invading forces of the west out. Ironic that no westerners were ever shot for crossing into the east. Moreover, when the Berlin and Iron Curtain fell that unification efforts didn’t put nations into debt. In fact, it created a robust economic powerhouse where America is discovering difficulty in keeping up with the Germans.

 

As a soldier, I was taught and reminded of freedoms all around us both visible and invisible. I am told each time I see the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, that it embraces the embodiment of freedom from all forms of oppression. An interesting fact is a broken chain that lies Liberty’s feet. It reminds us that we are not prisoners of our beliefs or pursuits. Liberty became an icon of freedom and of the United States and was a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad that all are welcome. But with an impending wall on our border, immigrant children separated from families, using religion as a precursor towards public policy, or prison populations higher than most national census seem perhaps fitting that we return the Statue of Liberty to France. Apparently, we are losing our vision, integrity, and accessibility with regards to freedom and how this nation was created.

 

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”
– Gen. George C. Patton

My Amazon Echo is my Alibi?

I could not resist mentioning the recent case involving the Amazon device known as “Echo.” I admit that I have one of these devices. When I heard that an Echo device was being subpoenaed to court because it may have listening data I knew that this story would grow into all sorts of hype. While I understand that police in this particular incident want to comb over every inch of potential evidence, I think we may be opening looking into a Pandora’s Box that may have ramifications.

It was last year a murder case in California had Apple and its iPhone applications at the center of controversy. There was much legal wrangling over consumer data, texts, and other meta information. But what was the most interesting part that differs versus the case of Amazon is that the government wanted to hack into the iPhone. There are currently features such as Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant and countless other devices that seek voice recognition to wake the device. I fear that our home may inadvertently become a crime scene in waiting if we do not stop the overreach of particular law practices and standards.

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I can remember a time where law enforcement tools have evolved from wanted posters to police radio, patrol cars and social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Community policing today has also expanded through social networking to locate missing children, alert neighbors of suspicious activity, and even inform the public about crimes committed in their neighborhoods. But it seems that police and other law enforcement organizations are migrating its way into our kitchens, bedrooms, and living rooms. I have nothing to hide. However, I do revere in a bit of personal privacy. The art of secrecy or personal privacy has slowly succumbed its deathbed. Our computer, smartphone, Echo device, automated garage door opener, car and almost anything with a way of connectivity can tell on us. Most disturbing is if there is a time management flaw in the code because that could be the powerful indictment within the law they look for. What can you do to protect yourself from your own devices?

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At one time I was worried about hackers with accessibility to my home security camera, laptop, iPhone and other electronic devices. That later shifted towards foreign governments hacking into my network to do harm to our nation. Within months that seems to have slipped into me being a bit concerned that my own devices are watching me because the police have a suspicion. Folks, all this can be done without much of a warrant. In no way am I eluding that Edward Snowden was correct in his assessment of big brother? But what he shared has had a greater significance on a plausible concern that we no longer have rights to reasonable privacy. If this was a traffic camera where I am behind the wheel near a crime scene, then I can accept that. Hopefully, my alibi would be a credible witness either that saw me or was with me. But I find it difficult for me to grasp that my future alibi may be my Amazon Echo device. That alone is a scary scenario with multitudes of problems written all over it.

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I am an advocate of free will. I do my best to protect animals by working in shelters. I hopefully write witty blogs about the concerns that I see most of you talk about but find little room to do anything about. I embrace technology, pay my taxes, go to school, work hard and have wonderful friends. One thing I will say is that I own my electronic devices. They shouldn’t be considered mature enough to exhibit free will. This means that they are not of legal age, at least of maturity to do human-like things on its own. Therefore I do not consent my electronic devices to exhibit free will or testify on my behalf. That should be where we are today with certain meta or data issues. It is too infantile and too scattered to properly become a reliable alibi for anyone or anything. I don’t want to hinder police from an effective investigation. But we must place a fair and reasonable balance between people and the reach of the law. We may live in America. But with actions like the Amazon Echo warrant, it is beginning to look more like the Soviet Union each and every passing moment. What kind of liberty is that?

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