By Michael Rosenberg . . . The criminalization of the speech of registered citizens ensures Tom and Jane Public can continue with a campaign of blissful ignorance; the proliferation of enthusiastic comments beneath news articles in which our rights are violated is a quick study illustrating the detrimental effect of our inability to use our right speech when and where it could do the most good.
When before, when else today is it not only okay but standard operating procedure to subject a group as a whole to obloquy? Add to that these commentators have for the most part an absolutely indestructible ignorance, one with a focused frame of reference which includes a few outlier cases, the Kankas, the Wetterlings. The news stories that made the most sensational news, that everyone agreed with one another, ‘those sickos need to die.’
Yet most of us on the registry are not outliers, we did not “sexually abuse” but had a case of an age difference the law does not allow; we were not “child molesters” but a 9 year old and an 8 year old playing doctor; we did not display “publicly lewd and lascivious behavior” but needed to urinate by the side of a road for a lack of a restroom; we did not “kidnap” but held someone up who had been hit by a car, then lecture this young person on the dangers of playing so close to the road.
I had my jaw broken in prison because someone heard “sex offender” and spread the word. The attack came by surprise, though I had expected it for months. The prison awarded the inmates who attacked me with new housing and fresh pillows, and a few words of encouragement. Both got to keep their parole dates. I got shipped out to ad-seg for 90 days for being “out of place” on my own housing unit.
It would be satisfying to see courtrooms become places in which compassion and an attempt to understand the motives behind an act and the result from potentially years in prison were considered. Today we have arrived at a point at which fast-tracked legislation includes strict liability laws no room for interpretation of mens rea. The powers of judiciary and legislative over-lap, perhaps, when judges have no ability to think about how to implement a law, and when prosecutors are playing a game to see who can snuff the greatest number of bad guys, and the cops are charging folks with crimes with the same sort of prejudice we can all see, smell and hear all over the net and the television. People are simply doing what they believe other people want them to do, and what they have to do in the face of so many ‘sick and deranged pedophiles’ running around abducting children.
What is terrifying, really and truly, is the way in which those sex offenders enduring the stigma of Megan’s Law are being scape-goated for behavior not only have they not committed, but which they might possibly commit in the future and might have done in their past. In the news of might have done, a distraught father discussed the shooting of his son by person(s) unknown, then links the murder to the likelihood of it being a sex offender. Just because. As for might have done, when are we going to get it across to folks that not everyone’s past is as sinful as the papers would have them believe? Since news is largely entertainment, and since feelings of disgust and hatred are extremely easy to conjure up, news stories give people that nice mix of hatred to stew upon, and they come back for more.
To be fair, it is not always a simple matter to discern fact from opinion – in fact, the two are marvelously interwoven; now eggs are good, now not so much. This guy is a father of two, now he is a horrific monster who took family photographs, one of which was of his kids bathing.
The fact is that facts are laid out in a manner to convince us that we ought be of another mind, and opposition is created. Instead of rightly seeing how we can agree, contrarianism reigns, for peace is difficult and war easy. Let us not call opinion fiction. Maybe the point is none of us knows.
Sometimes a good feeling arises from feeling the enemy has been beaten down. But what of when we are the enemy? Reading a recent YouTube comment about a “sexual predator” nearing his mandatory release from prison, the author saw a gushing wave of criticism, hate and filth directed at the man in question, but more generally, a group with which he has been largely associated.
No matter your feelings on his crime, whether you sympathize after having been bum-rushed yourself by an aggressive police-force, or sustain a lively hatred for those people charged with lewd behavior around a child, a general question arises, and we need not an answer, but questions, plural.
a) Do we have a way to forgive when we do not understand?
b) Need we understand in order to forgive,
c) and lastly, do we need to forgive in order to live and let another (wo)man live?
So for instance, this video seemed to bring out some unfavorable commentary from a keyboard vigilante, and to which recently the author responded to as a newly established vigilant citizen. Read, digest, then come up with some citations you might include. People actually open up to education, even the ones who talk about killing and pedophiles needed the gas chamber.
You will please note the desire of ‘Martell Tha Cool’ in the link above to present himself as a gun-wielding-child-savior-man-of-invincible-ignorance, an ignorance protected by the mob mentality which we have allowed and continue to allow by responding with feelings we pretend are facts. I’ll give him credit, there are a lot of things I do not understand, and yet I have never felt my uninformed, decisive conclusions about entire groups worthy of posting to the world at large. But, lucky us, Martell Tha Cool feels just such gumption, expressing his desire to put some lead in the heads of some, well, you know, the much derided sex offenders.
So what do we do? Well, let’s scroll to the bottom where the denizens deride registered citizens, conflating crimes and amalgamating titles so that a sexual offender is now a non-entity, a creature whose value to others need not be considered, who has signed away all rights, whose family can be castigated with no remorse, who deserves no second look.
Please, if you have time, if you want to help, go out and educate those who look to have the harshest opinions not backed by fact.
Offer the misinformed a second look, a calm perspective shift, because what they do not know can hurt us.