Advocacy Is A Buzzword

Over the summer, I have been enrolled in doctoral courses to meet my educational requirements towards the completion of my Ph.D. in Public Policy. I have had the interesting ability to collaborate with various universities. During a recent conference call, we managed to discuss the particulars of research that we are currently engaged with or wish to pursue. Many students took a moment to review the various organizations they have been connecting or collaborating. There were discussions on how to better understand the perspective. Are the usefulness of information, advocacy, and how the organizational framework is useful towards a community or audience? One identifying issue kept repeating itself. That issue is that organizational fractures are common. Perhaps a reason that many causes or concerns never officially get off the ground is actionable working agendas, or motivational advocacy are too involved in personal issue or squabbles over petty things.

I too struggled over the past few months within organizations that, to me, seemed to be the best insightful methodology at quickly identifying issue or concern. What may be considered petty politics are often blown way over the proportion of the realities that either nobody cares or people are concerned with the microcosms of office politics. But a departmental professor brought up a very valid point that “advocacy is a buzzword that projects an interest mainly with one-sided viewpoints.” I had to let that sink in for a moment to grasp the concept. But perhaps the professor is right? Public policy, at least from my skill set, should be about the approach of balance from both sides. It doesn’t imply that I should discard my advocacy or belief systems. Instead, I should allow discourse to learn, strategize, but use compromise as a way to tweak towards results-driven deliverables.

There is much research, data, and scholarly information readily available if one looks deep enough. At times there may not be relevant data on a larger scale. But when I seek databases to drill down far enough, I can obtain the data to start something or allow an issue to expand by updating the results or findings. After all, that is, research in general.

What is missing from sex offender registry advocacy is professional quantitative research methods. Sure there are informational sites that show various statistical data, but rarely, are available by journal sites. However, for the sake of fairness, there is plenty of sex offense data from federal and state publications. While that particular data may be discouraging to sex offender advocacy, the data is credible and adequately peer-reviewed. But I pose this challenge to seek out a specified research method and bring that into the academic arena. Only then will that information become credible, listened, argued, and scholarly enough to gain traction. Perhaps this is why sex offender policy is stuck in the mud. There is only the emotional data rather than equity of research methods that may be introduced into an academic and shared among those that practice law?

Until state or local sex offender advocacy organizations begin to utilize comparative analysis and research methods within its structures, it will continue to fall upon deaf ears. Primarily because that particular data is a buzzword of credible information that fails to meet the credibility standard to the academic community. Now is time to begin shifting the burden of knowledge to scholars, professionals, and laypersons to deliver that message striking a chord of compromise and discourse.

People Are People

There is a time in our lives where meeting someone we may be attracted to leads to some somewhat embarrassing moments. That particular moment is when you approach someone at a bar or social setting and ask them out only to learn that they are gay or lesbian. Immediately the apologies and blushed faces are apparent where the brain exclaims, “I wish there were labels to identify who is who?”  Our obsession with labels or our own personal gaydar has become slightly problematic that when someone hears pansexual, gender non-binary or aromantic. It becomes a lesson defining moment sometimes leaving us more confused than educated. Even for the LGBT community, such labels create a learning moment. At least LGBT members embrace most anything thrown at them to learn and assimilate. It is a shame that same quality isn’t shared in the heterosexual community as a whole.

But when labels transfer away from sexual identity towards registered offenders, those on parole, individuals with criminal records, or just everyday humanity, then the labels become forms of weapons with mass destruction appeal. Often we hear of the stereotypical and somewhat sexist, racist or name-calling tone of “Tyrone, that black dude that looks like he was just released from prison” or “Chris, the guy that looks like a molester.”  There is no basis as to why people enjoy appalling and unpleasant descriptive values when attempting to describe one another. But such sarcasm spills over without defense from humanity to uncomfortably laugh at such descriptors. It is slightly similar to how Nazi’s attempted to label Jewish citizens by nose size, eye and hair color, or particular skull features. It was all hocus-pocus noise however people actually believed it – and some supremacists still do today.  Perhaps our obsession to label is a convenience? Somewhat like unofficial nicknames were given as a child that stuck with us. However, if someone has a criminal record, is a registered offender, or is a member of the LGBT community shouldn’t be the sole basis to stigmatize or label individuals. Doing so is not only wrong and hurtful but is nothing more than adult versions of bullying. The past is the past, but adults should learn to act like responsible adults.

I don’t introduce my friend Martin as, “this is my black friend Martin.” Instead, I introduce as “this is Martin.”   I don’t say, “this is my dike friend Carol.” Instead, I say, “this is Carol.” If an individual wants to learn more about them instead it is an LGBT or perhaps rumor that need put to rest, there are times and appropriate places to continue that conversation as long as it is respectful and allows open dialog.

Recently there was a discussion about how to label registered sex offenders.  This was perhaps a thorny issue to tackle. However, I strongly feel and suggest that all forms of labels that diminish the humanity value offer more harm than good. I suggested, “this is Steve” followed by “someone affected by the registry.” That way the conversation can begin if Steve is a registered offender or if Steve has a family member on the registry. But we will constantly learn that ill winded people will suggest “Steve, that dude that looks like a creeper.”  We see the postings and hear the noise all the time yet do very little to advocate or redirect improved language. Comedy is one thing if you are a skillful comedian. However, there is nothing funny about the misuse of labels and how it stigmatizes others.

Gender may create a bit of an issue for many trying desperately to become politically correct. First of all, there is no political correctness in the LGBT world. It is learned as you go because diversity knows no limits. The term mister goes a long way but can be interpreted as differences between LGBT members. However, straight men shouldn’t begin throwing the enthusiastic term of girlfriend around unless you are sensibly fashionable, have perfect teeth, and can recite all song lyrics by Madonna. I have discovered that titles should be a doctor, professor, queen, princess, mom, dad or other obtainable and qualified appropriate titles. Sure, the LGBT community does occasionally throw the term Miss Thing around, but in a lighthearted joking manner. The LGBT community is one of the communities that embraced people of color, those affected by HIV or AIDS, the homeless, transgendered, convicted, and registered offenders. Why? Because it was those labels and human beings that were shunned and abandoned as a second-class citizen. While the heterosexual community tends to forget its cruel past, the LGBT community continually reminds its members to not forget how we got there and keep moving forward. That is the real gay agenda to allow everyone to become inclusive and break down barriers that divide us.

There was a time where there was a gay club, and a lesbian bar usually separated miles apart from one another (because gay men could figure out where to put the pool table as it would take away from the dance floor). Today, the gay clubs are united dance clubs where people of all backgrounds are free to be themselves and sometimes experience conditions they never thought would be mentally possible. You don’t turn a person gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Just as you don’t make a criminal or sexually deviant. People make mistakes and poor judgments. Pay the price and move on. There are situations no matter how brief that people experience for themselves. Labels create obscurity of learning from one another. But labels are an eerie reminder of the pink triangles during the Holocaust. Never again will LGBT members be labeled and ridiculed by policy.

The musical artist Depeche Mode wrong a song called People Are People. The lyrics are:

People are people so why should it be

You and I should get along so awfully

So we’re different colors

And we’re different creeds

And different people have different needs

It’s obvious you hate me 

Though I’ve done nothing wrong

I never even met you

So what could I have done

I can’t understand

What makes a man

Hate another man

Help me understand

These lyrics from the 1980’s describe a time where racism, religion, sexuality, and only being different created a mound of labels. Perhaps people should learn from those lyrics as to become less obsessed with labels and more driven to become assimilated into a society that embraces and accepts them for face value.

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.

A Silenced Minority

Educators usually say the most essential pillars of successful outcomes are a caring community of learners, enhancement of the learning objective, and reciprocal relationships and transparency to facilitate both sides of an issue. When it comes to an understanding, sexual offenses or those impacted by the registry, there is only one side because those that can contribute meaningful dialog are conveniently excluded or not allowed to voice objections or grievances.

I recently watched an interview with Derek Logue of the oncefallen.com website. During that CNN interview, the host interviewing Logue decided to become the loudest voice exclaiming unsubstantiated data and personal opinion rather than a dialog to understand opposing viewpoints. Logue posted on YouTube, “not my best interview,” but at least he presented a moment to introduce a differing opinion and voice. In another interview between Logue and Dr. Drew, Drew interjected his personal opinion rather than facts or supporting data that seemed more of a blindsided attempt to dissuade future opposing views. For starters, I have never met or spoken with Derek Logue, but I do congratulate him for at least standing up and advocating for a silenced minority.

But fast forward to those impacted by the registry. Why do we have tent cities, individuals living under bridges, homelessness, split families due to registry requirements, refusal for admission to disaster shelters during times of emergencies, closed internet access for offenders, and other issues? Perhaps it is due to the sensitivity of sex allegations/crimes. But those that do the reporting have no problem splattering a #metoo protest leaving no counterbalance. This discriminatory path allows sex offender advocacy a back seat on the bus endangering and hindering the lives of those attempting to go on about their business – or at least be heard? It is because sex offender advocacy can be a dangerous business.

 

An interesting observation about advocacy is that those affected by the registry don’t want to be further identified or already suffer from mental anguish from various reasons related to registry laws and restrictions. However, media sources have plenty of opportunities to investigate, educate and inform the public of consequences but introduce a one-sided opinion presenting no chance of culmination. A reason the voice is small is primarily that society claims to want a life of transparency and a return to productive lives – as long as it cannot be seen or heard from again.

That leads me to the question where opposition or advocacy is under attack from those that differ from a particular viewpoint? A disturbing indication of legislative and judicial censorship is a case where the OnceFallen.com website is under legal attack from those with opposing views. It brings to mind those accused of sexually based offenses but not criminally charged. Are they financially sequestered and squeezed to the point of collapse because of personal agendas? Will advocates endure the same fate? Is there that much of a threat in a democratic society where discourse is bullied or under legal threat by those with a personal agenda to silence viewpoints?  It is highly alarming and disturbing because isn’t that what the First Amendment is all about?

In 1992 the Innocence Project was created to help facilitate and reopen cases where those found guilty of specific crimes were tried based on bias, false evidence, or testimony. Many cases were identified as false convictions, and that number increases today. Of the cases undertaken by the Innocence Project more than 350 cases have led to those convicted of being overturned and freed. What if the Innocence Project or OnceFallen was much more extensive and had equity voice within mainstream media? Those 6000 or more cases could find irregularities and patterns of injustice. This is not to ever imply that all convicted offenders are innocent. Instead, the dialog is that justice is not a rash form of litigation. After all, homosexuals convicted of sodomy in California or other consensual acts were eventually overturned many decades later. Those affected still feel the sting and scars of injustice being labeled as sexual deviants without a simple apology to the LGBT community. What about those wrongfully accused or convicted at the convenience of prosecutorial plea bargains primarily aimed at the poor, helpless, and difficult to defend based on he said – she said testimony?

Perhaps prosecutorial immunity should be revisited, and qualified immunity should be reconsidered. There is an apparent abuse of power based upon personal prejudice that must be addressed. Afterall, the need for transparency, a caring community of learners, enhancement of the learning objective are the pillars of justice under the law of democracy. Exposing the truth instead of opinion should be the sole basis of law and advocacy.

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