Saturday, May 18, 2013

No One Listening

        Why so long since by last post?  Because inspiration does not spring from a sense of futility.  When I began writing this blog it was with a combination of naiveté and crusading zeal.  I had had my eyes opened to a great wrong: the sex offender registry; and I thought people would only needed to hear of the terrible injustices being done for them to rise up and denounce it.  I was mistaken.
        If people close their eyes, they can not be shown the truth.
        I have written over a thousand letters to the Oklahoma Governor and all the legislators explaining the injustice done to my son and pleading with them for help.  I have received seven replies, and no hope.  I will continue to send my letters, but for all I know, they take one look at the return address and shred them.
        I have the same doubts about this blog.  Why am I even writing this post?  Why would anyone want to listen to someone speaking up for sex offenders?  Most people condone that they are pilloried, rob of all hope, and relentlessly driven to the limits of despair.  To them it is a good thing that many of these people find their only escape in suicide.  They do not even recognize them as human beings.  Why look at ugly facts when there are funny videos to watch and beautiful celebrities to follow?  Readers would be far more interested if I was exposing random cases of animal abuse than the systematic abuse of registrants and their families by their own government.
        I may not continue this blog.  It does not help me going over these things.  In fact it is painful.  And if no one cares enough about these suffering people to even take an interest, that hurts more.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hate Thy Neighbor?

          July was a hard month.  With the 150 letters I send to the legislators every month pleading for my son and the 115 decree heat where I live, my blogging fell by the wayside.  But the plight of my son and the hundreds of thousands of registrants and their families never left my mind. 
          Added to that was the terrible news from Washington of the two men murdered because they were on the registry.  This makes concrete and definite the threat hanging over every one of the people branded as a sex offender.  Equally distressing was the on-line response to the killings.  Instead of sorrow and recognition of the registry’s implication, there was actually praise for this disturbed individual in taking two lives.  People graphically described what they would like to do to registrants.  Both the  language and level of hatred came as a shock.  Worse for me were the postings that claimed to come from Christians.  What has the Lamb of God to do with torture and revenge?  The very people that tortured and killed Jesus did so from self-righteous hatred.
          “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” is a cliché.  But it is a cliché simply because it is so obviously true.  Yes, some of the people on the registry harmed another person.  They did a terrible wrong and paid the price for that wrong under the law.  But to continue to persecute them by forcing them live with the shame, deprivation, and hazards of registration is also a wrong, especially when registration has been shown to be ineffective.  It is simply the outgrowth of hatred, and hatred poisons the atmosphere of human relations.  It brings death.   

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sorrows Revisited

          I keep reliving the day my son was sentenced.  I see my son in his best suit.  I see his dad and his God father sitting with me as we wait for the moment that will change our son’s life forever.  We sit on wooden benches, like church pews, at the back of the court room. From there we can see all the others waiting along with us for the judge to enter and the proceedings to begin.  No one smiles and no one speaks.  It has much the same atmosphere as a funeral, and, in a way, it is: the funeral of hope.
          The people who are there voluntarily, the members of the court, smile and talk among themselves, but they do not look at us: the waiting ones.  Maybe they fear emotional involvement might get the better of them, but I think not.  The Assistant D.A., at least,  has already made it clear she does not consider my son eligible to receive compassion.  No, it is much more likely that they do not look at us because they do not see us. There have been too many others before us waiting on the hard benches.  Repetition has robbed us our novelty—our humanity.  Now we are case numbers, specimens, cattle.
           At last, the judge arrives and we all stand and remain standing until he is seated.  He is efficient—repetition’s gift to him—and one by one he quickly calls the waiting ones to stand below him and be consigned to their various fates.  His pace is only slowed when the crime involved is in any way news worthy.  These he savors, going into particulars, playing to the gallery of the press.  He has no trouble regarding each of those before him as human.  Only humans can be made to feel shame.
          During all these proceedings the defense attorneys come and go.  Though they are in suits and their clients, for the most part, in jeans, they look very much the same: tired and sad.  Too many times they have tried and failed to penetrate the indifference and opportunism.
          Then I notice someone new.  She is slim and stylish in her make-up and  business-casual sweater, slacks and heels.  Her blonde hair is gathered up into a pert pony tail.  A card in a plastic holder dangles from a clip attached to the hem of her sweater.  Unlike everyone else, she watches the fatalist workings of the court with a smile and genuine interest. 
          Finally, my son’s waiting ends.  The judge reads out every detail of his case, sentencing him to five years probation and thirty years of calculated humiliation on the sex offender registry.  Why this is necessary when no person was harmed, he does not explain.  After that, it takes me a while to recover enough to be aware of anything, but when I do I realize the young professional is gone.  This tells me she is a reporter and is off to finish the assignment she began when she first exposed my son’s “crime” and adversely effected the outcome of his case.

           It also explains why she is unmoved by the collected misery of the court room: This is how she earns her livelihood.  She emotionally soars above it like a vulture, waiting for the conflict to end, so as to feed on the losers.  Ridicule has always been profitable.  No one escapes this prying—unless they are a reporter.  No organization is exempt—except their own.  Trumpeting the public's “need to know”, they somehow never get around to reporting the shortcomings of reporting: how lawmakers, judges, and prosecutors have their decisions warped, how truth can be twisted into falsehood by careful editing, how lives are ruined to increase circulation or ratings.  Did publishing my son’s offense accomplish any good?  No, it generated injustice.  Did these champions for truth expose that injustice?  No, not when it meant disclosing their own complicity.
          There is another group that uses the “need to know” excuse for spreading hurtful half-truths and innuendo: gossips.  Through the ages they have cause untold suffering and heartbreak.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

And No One Cares

         The world has changed for me since my son’s conviction.  The world I once inhabited had just law courts, unbiased, disinterested judges, and lawmakers that cared more about justice than their popularity.  That world also had news reporters that would not have rested until they uncovered the truth, all the truth, not just the amount of truth that sold papers or air time.  I guess that means I was naive.  I believed them when they said the policeman is our friend.  Now when I see one I am afraid, not for myself, but for my son.  At any time he could be pulled over for a minor traffic violation, minor, that is, for most people, but for him it would also be a violation of his parole.  He could unknowingly come too close to a day care center and be sent to prison.  It has become a nightmare world where the people you trust are the ones who can hurt you the most.
          I want to believe I am wrong, that it is not as bad as I think.  I have been writing to the Oklahoma legislators, one hundred and fifty of them, trying to persuade them to repeal the outdated law that was used to turn my son into a felon.  I have received five replies.  I think surely the watchdogs of American civil rights will protest the terrible injustices being done out of fear and hatred.  The ACLU was not interested in my son’s case.  I keeping hoping some inspired writer will see the potential for a great work of social commentary, another Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck, or Harper Lee, people who know evil when they see it and have the courage to write against it.  The present best seller lists seem more interested in fantasy worlds of future dystopia rather than the dystopia of the present.  The public spends its time reading soft porn and yet will not take the time to learn that hysteria, not facts, is the reason for the sexual registration acts.
          Maybe it is just another indication of America’s slide into mediocrity and apathy, that such injustices happen daily to hundreds of thousands of people and no one cares.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Forgotten Children

          I have always avoided the thought of children being molested.  My imagination is too good, and if I think about it, really think about it, I get sick to my stomach.  I find myself in the place of the little child, trusting, helpless, brutalized and raped by an animal that looks like a person.  It takes me to a very dark place where rage and sadness blend.  It makes me despair for the human race.  If I ever thought about the sex offender registry it was to be grateful that all the hopelessly insane, violent pedophiles were being closely monitored.
          What happened to my son and writing this blog has forced me to think about all this whether I wanted to or not.  It has also required that I do some research.  This is how I learned that the majority of people on the registry are there for nonviolent offenses, that among those who actually did molested a child, the recidivism rate is quite low and some will respond to therapy, that many of the genuine child predators are not adequately monitored and many others nowhere to be found.
           But I also found out something more.  In a study done in 2009 by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) they estimated that 1,770 children died that year from abuse and/or neglect.  These are the percentages: 35.8% neglect, 23.2% physical abuse, 1.8% medical neglect, and 0.4% sexual assault.  80% of those that died were under four years of age.  46% were one year old or younger.
           I do not remember any national headlines that read: “Five Children Died Today From Abuse and Neglect!”.  Nor do I recall seeing their names in the papers or their photos on the evening news.  It is certain their parents did not clamor for preventive laws, named for their dead children.  The parents were the ones usually responsible.  But does that make the deaths of these children any less real?  Is their pain, sometimes going on for years, less significant than the children who suffer for hours or days?.  Is the reason we do not hear about this because we would have to hear about it almost every day?  No.  The reason these children dying goes unnoticed is because their deaths can not be turned to a profit.
           “Sex Sells”.  It sells newspapers.  It sells air time.  It sells politicians.  We hear about the few horrendous abductions with sexual assault and murder because that is what sells.  We do not hear about the many more deaths from slow starvation or battered-child syndrome because that does not sell.  It is that simple.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Road to Hell

          I contend that our current laws dealing with sex offenders, far from protecting our children, actually brings about what they were written to prevent.  They endanger children’s lives.
          One reason for this is that the rolls are cluttered with non-violent offenders and those not fixated on children.  All of them must be monitored, and with every state financially stretched, that means fewer people to handle an every increasing work load.  It is inevitable that some violent pedophiles will slip through.  It also makes it that much harder for the general public to determine where the real dangers lie.
          Another reason is that offenders who deeply regret their action and want very much to reform, are discouraged from doing so by these very laws.  Their chances for employment are nonexistent.  They are forced to live in areas where crime is the norm.  In every way they are indoctrinated into believing they are scum sex offenders and that that is all they will ever be.  If all hope is taken from these people, no one should be surprised at the very few who do reoffend.
          Lastly, these laws give a false sense of security.  If people check the data base and find no sex offenders living in their area they may conclude that their children are safe.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  There are plenty of child predators out there who have never been caught or have yet to claim their first victim; and the ones who are registered are not like a dangerous intersection or an open manhole—they move around.  They could be anywhere.  Ironically, the only people on the registry who care about complying with the multitude of restrictions are the ones who are law abiding and not a danger.
          I understand people’s rage and need to do something when these terrible crimes against children occur.  They feel helpless and threatened.  On a much lower level, they just plain want revenge.  But shaming and circumscribing every sex offender is only going to make things worse.  We need to concentrate all our efforts in researching what causes these people to become monsters and keeping track of those who are.
          The complete saying that gave this post its title is: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

Monday, April 16, 2012

With What Judgment

            Judging others is my besetting sin, and I do it for the worst of all possible reasons: because God has given me uncountable blessings all through my life.  This has not made me humbly as grateful as it should.  I am ashamed to say that it has made me look down on people who are less fortunate.  How crazy is that?  As if I did anything to deserve God’s goodness.  I am constantly battling this tendency in myself, constantly asking God's forgiveness for the times I fail.
But this inclination to condemnation goes far beyond my own personal journey of faith.  Nor is it just one of the countless sins wiped away by Christ’s sacrifice.  It is nothing less than a cancer in the heart of the Body of Christ.
Jesus stated the one sin that could never be forgiven: the sin against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 18:36).  Exactly what that is has been hotly debated ever since there have been Bible scholars. Now, I am no theologian or scholar, but I have read and studied the scriptures all my life, and I think that sin is the habitual judging of others.  Not the judgment that comes unbidden and which we instantly regret.  As I said above, I am one of the worst of those offenders.  I believe that  that sin becomes unforgivable when we refuse to acknowledge it as a sin, when we revel in it rather than fight against it.
There are several references in the Bible that back me up. First, when Jesus spoke of the unpardonable sin, it was in response to the Pharisees judgment of Him.  Second, Christ warned us that with what judgment we judged, we would be judged (Matthew 7: 1& 2).  Third, He told the story of the servant whose lord canceled his great debt and how that servant refused to cancel the tiny amount a fellow-servant owed him, with the result that the servant’s lord “delivered him to the tormentors till he should pay all that was due unto him”.  Then Jesus warned: ‘So shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother’s trespasses” (Matthew 19:23-36).  This he said to his disciples, not the crowds. This he says to us Christians.  Lastly, there is the scariest reference of all.  In the Lord’s Prayer it clearly states: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive".
My son is a dedicated Christian.  Being caught in his sin was all the punishment he required.  He repented and asked for God’s forgiveness.  He is forgiven.  If anyone who follows Christ now condemns him, they are setting themselves above God.  
Many people, including myself, are saddened by the great number of Christian churches closing and that those still hanging on have so few worshipers.  I would like to hazard a guess as to why.  I think the reason for the Body of Christ withering away can be found in Revelation 2:4: “because thou hast left thy first love”. We are no longer showing the love of Christ to a broken world.  We judge, shun, and exclude: we shoot our wounded.  Jesus could  just as well say: Verily I say unto you, That the felons and registered sex offenders go into the kingdom of God before you.