Sunday, May 27, 2012

Simple Humanity

Hi Friends;
  Scottie's interest has encouraged me to be more aware of the sex offender laws in various states.  Today, being my first day off in two weeks, I found myself a bit bored.  Faced with the prospects of either cleaning the house or surfing the internet, well - I guess you can imagine my choice.  Anyway, I find it interesting when laws go into effect with one intention, or presumed intention, and end up having the opposite effect.  I've highlighted that particular portion of the article, but the rest is quite interesting, if depressing.
  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and those in the 'States', a great holiday.
For months, I’ve been corresponding with a lady named Virginia Hernandez, whose twenty-three year old son Elio is on Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry. He was accused of accosting a minor for immoral purposes, and pled guilty on the advice of his court-appointed counsel. His mom believes he is innocent, and was pressured into a plea. She says his attorney told him that he was poor, uneducated, and black, and a jury would never believe him.

I have no idea whether this is true, though I know such things do go on in our court system. I also don’t know whether he was guilty, though according to the documents I examined. nobody alleged he actually committed a physical act.
What I do know is that creating a decent and normal life for himself has been made well-nigh impossible by being on the list.
There are few enough jobs as it is in the Detroit area, and being on the sex offender list doesn’t make getting one any easier.
This summer, Elio’s frustrated mom moved the whole family from Macomb County to the Grand Rapids area, where things started to look up. Elio and his brothers did find jobs. They were living in a hotel, but working towards permanent housing.
But then, they hit a Catch-22. Those on the sex offender list are required to register when they move. Elio apparently tried to do that, but was told he could not register until he had a permanent address. That meant he had to return to Macomb County to meet with his probation officer. But when he did, he was arrested for failure to register in Kent County, His mom had to take a bus to Mount Clemens last week to bail him out. They have another court appearance this week. Helen Chapman, a family friend, told me:

“Here is a young man who was trying to do the right thing. And what did he get for it? It seems as if the system was never meant to give people freedom, but to force them to fail.”

According to the latest figures I could find, there are more than forty-seven thousand Michiganders on the sex offender list. Recently, J.J. Prescott from the University of Michigan law school, and Jonah Rockoff from Columbia published a massive national study on whether sex offender registration laws affect behavior.
Their results were stunning. The data indicates that when states keep these lists for the police, but don’t notify the public, they do seem to have a deterrent effect. But not when they include public notification requirements -- as they do in Michigan. The researchers found that making the identities of sex offenders public may actually weaken public safety by making them more likely to commit new crimes. Treating them as automatic pariahs almost seems to guarantee more bad behavior.

If we are determined to treat people as criminals, they are apt to fulfill our expectations, which is something you learn in elementary psychology classes. Now, I am no psychologist.
But it seems clear to me from this study, and Elio’s story, that Michigan’s sex offender registry may not be doing us much good, and is doing some people a whole lot of harm.

Giving Love

Hello Friends;

   As some of you know, I've come to really enjoy working with the local dog and cat rescue organization.  It is an incredibly minor role, offering my two hands and a willingness to help as my only skills.  The pro's tell me what they need, and I do my best to do that for them.  They are my hero's because they take on the immense responsibility and chore of teaching and loving these stray dogs and cats, then loving them enough to find a wonderful forever home and - incredible upon incredible - give them to someone else to love.  I've seen this, and the rending of the heart is matched only by the absolute joy of achieving this one great goal for that loved one.  Truly, it is something I just don't believe my heart could handle.
  We just weren't so lucky this last adoption day.  We brought out the dogs for viewing, and they all enjoyed the opportunity to see their friends and meet new people.  And lots of new people, in fact, there were to give pats and scratches behind the ears, a bit of love to each once unloved dog who wants only to love.  But, my most outstanding memories are of three people.  An elderly lady, and two boys.
  There were some wonderful people, please understand.  Many wonderful people, who came to learn about the organization and maybe even think on adopting a dog of their own.  Along came one elderly lady, there to do her weekly shopping.  She coo'd over each of the dogs, crying a small bit as she walked away because she knew she couldn't afford, quite literally, another mouth to feed.  She asked if we would be doing this again, and where, and how she could help.  Well, I told her how I helped, how I would come to hold a leash so that a dog could be there for people to see - we have to have a holder for each animal, one to one.  She was sad because she didn't own a car, she had walked to the store we held the event.  I told her that if she was able to help, I would do the driving - and got a hug of my own.
  Then there were the two boys.  You see, the area I live has a share of those whose only concern for money is in the counting, and then there are those who are like that elderly lady who can barely feed themselves.  Two boys came along, having been sent to the store by their mother.  They were about nine and eleven, maybe older.  But, as all boys do, they petted each dog - a bit leery of the larger dogs, giggling over the smaller ones, but giving love to each.  After a bit, they walked on towards home.... then, heads together stopping a few dozen feet beyond our tables.  In a moment, the oldest dug into his front pocket and handed a few dollars and some change over to the little one.... who bouncing like boys seem to do when excited, came running back full of smiles to put in a donation to our little donation box.  A flashing smile to the lady behind the table and a quick hug to the nearest dog, he went running back to his older brother, shoe laces flying as he jumped from the curb with a small yip of joy.
  Love doesn't require money.  It doesn't require a lot of time.  All it requires is to set our small needs aside for a moment, place oneself in another's shoes and ask yourself what you would want, need.  It's easy with puppy dogs, kittens, things cute and fuzzy.  Harder in others.  I hope I can always let love lead me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

But, I didn't do anything!

Hi Friends;
  I read the post below and imagined the horror of being charged with a crime and being innocent.  The powerlessness of knowing the truth and being unable, by lack of ability or the way things are formatted, to make others see that truth.  The dread, the absolute fear.
  I have been guilty all too often of a rush to judgement.  I don't have all the information, yet make calls based on presumption and even a want for the information to go a certain way.  I guess I'm not alone in that failing.  What frightens me is that the very professionals we ask to weigh the evidence and make good and fair judgements fail so often to do that very vital chore.
  We Americans are such a proud people, believing ourselves so very wise and grown up.  And yet, with less than 5% of the world's population, we hold 25% of those incarcerated.  Why can we not find better ways to help people be productive members of our society?  Why do we simply find locking a man, woman, or - horror of all - child away a viable manner of dealing with our problems?
  When I think on this, I think about this poem:

For Whom the Bell Tolls

by John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee. 

Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

By Cassandra Stubbs, Capital Punishment Project at 6:09pm
This week, Northwestern and the University of Michigan law schools released a National Registry of Exonerations, a new database chronicling the ever-growing number of exonerees from our nation’s criminal justice system. The database includes over 2,000 people who spent time – sometimes decades – in prison after being wrongfully convicted of serious crimes. This includes over 100 wrongfully convicted of capital murder – which means they were awaiting execution before their sentences were reversed. The Death Penalty information Center, which tracks information about the death penalty, has documented 140 cases where inmates were released from death row with evidence of their innocence.

As astounding as the numbers in the database are, the list of the innocent is likely far longer than what is documented in this valuable resource - and not all of them were exonerated in time. Troy Davis, an African-American man in Georgia, Carlos DeLuna, a Latino man in Texas, and Cameron Todd Willingham, a white man in Texas, were all executed despite compelling evidence of innocence. The judicial system failed these men twice: it failed them first by convicting them of crimes of which they were likely innocent, and it failed them again by denying them meaningful opportunities to prove their innocence, in time to save their lives.

The National Registry of Exonerations compiles explanations across cases, helping shed light on just how these wrongful convictions happen. The explanations are themselves deeply troubling: false accusations or perjury played a role in a full half of the cases (51%); official misconduct contributed to a large percentage of the wrongful convictions (42%); and junk science or false or misleading evidence played a role in almost a quarter of the cases (24%). Although the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, along with many others, continue to push for important reforms in the area of junk science, it is hard to be optimistic that the problems of perjury or police misconduct will ever fully be untangled from the criminal justice system. Ending the death penalty will not solve these problems - but it will make sure that no one else pays for these flaws with his or her life.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A busy busy busy week!

Hello friends;

  I'd like to let you know what this week has been for me in the hopes of gaining your understanding why I've been absent from the blog.  As I said, it's been a busy week!

As some of you know, I went on a short vacation last week from Thursday - late Saturday night.  Now some of you are thinking 'that's not much of a vacation'.  And, you're right.  Unfortunately, it was about the most I could manage.  I went to see my parents for Mother's Day.  I don't see them all that often, and it's important for me to maintain what few family relationships I still have.
  Sunday, I spent the day doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, and then sleeping as I had to be at work in the early evening.  I didn't make it home until more than 13 hours later - to a pups with seriously crossed legs!  In the course of the week, I've worked such odd hours, accumulating over 60 paid hours.  That's a bit unusual for me.  Adding onto that, I managed to mow 4 lawns, (have two remaining) and volunteered 3.5 hours with the local pet rescue organization.  Then, just to cap everything off, I got a call from my parents today that they were on their way - and the house is not in shape for visitors!  I can always sleep sometime next week....
  All of these hours came for one purpose:  I'm finally joining the "normal" people and getting the chance to work day shift hours, moving to another position.  Even got a small raise!  I've wanted this type of move for a long time, and it came in a rush.  So, for the first half of my day I trained my replacement as much as possible, and for the second half I trained for my new position with tired feet and bleary eyes, but a grin.  I'm excited and nervous for the new responsibilities, and I'm somewhat sad to move away from the people I've worked alongside for so many years, but I think in all this is going to be a good match for me.
  So, to all of you who have made comments but not seen me acknowledge them... I saw them, but couldn't put to cogent thoughts together to understand or respond to you.  I think, though, that I will have a better chance to put together a good blog for your enjoyment as I get the chance for rest and even a passing opportunity to get exercise and eat right.  Hey, it could happen! 
  Thanks for your patience, my friends.


Monday, May 14, 2012

A Wonderful Story

 Hello Friends;

  Above is a link to a book I loved called Johnathon Livingston Seagull.  Many of you likely already know this story.  For those who don't, take a read.  You may like it, too.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Adoption Day Event

  Hi Friends;

  As some of you know, my dog - who is more and more important to me everyday - came from a local rescue organization.  She was likely taken in by a family as a puppy, given little training and attention, then given up to a near by Animal Control.  The rescue organization found out about her - being a pure breed she gets a bit of precedence for the mere reason of being more likely to be more adoptable - just an hour before being given the euthanizing shot. 
  The story goes, she was uncontrollable.  Wild.  Unadoptable.  My experience has been anything but those labels:  She has been a loving dog who enjoys being very close.  She loves to play and is an attention junkie. 
  What has been the difference?  I needed a friend as much as she needed one.  We have become family.  It takes a commitment, though.  So, if you out there are needing a friend, are willing to put forth effort, give love, be patient and understanding, there is a reward in loving a pet that I have no words to describe.  I can only hope that you have the opportunity to learn it.

Be well.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's About Damned Time!

Obama said in an interview with ABC News, "At a certain point I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."

Obama once opposed such marriages. He later indicated his views were "evolving."

"I had hesitated on gay marriage, in part, because I thought civil unions would be sufficient," the president said. "I was sensitive to the fact that -- for a lot of people -- that the word marriage is something that provokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs."

Hi Friends;
  You know there are going to be some who see this as a clarion call for the end of the world.  I'm sure they are the same who thought a black man as president would spell the end of the world, so take whatever grains of salt are required.  But, for me, it is a moment of hope that this country can change, grow, evolve, survive. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

preaching hate

Ex-Gay Activist Says Being Gay and Christian is 'Blackface'Submitted by Brian Tashman on Mon, 05/07/2012 - 4:30pm

The last time we heard of “ex-gay” activist DL Foster was when he told Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality that Dan Savage “should be arrested” for creating the It Gets Better Project. This weekend Foster spoke to Mission America president Linda Harvey where he equated being gay and Christian with wearing “blackface.” He said Christians who are gay or support gay rights are “deceived,” and Harvey called gay Christians a “threat” to “the entire body of Christ.”

Harvey: The threat as I see it is to the entire body of Christ but particularly both younger in the faith and younger, chronologically-aged wise, believers; our kids are being fooled like crazy about this. I’ve had people call me and tell me their son or daughter who was raised as a Christian is in college and suddenly believes he’s gay and is still calling himself a Christian. What do we do?

Foster: You know the religious gay movement is a mirror image of the political gay movement, there is little difference at all. I simply call it — homosexuality in the church — blackface . Any false movement that uses or employs false teachings is deceptive at its core and of course young people are the most vulnerable, they’re the most at risk because they’re minds have not yet matured, particularly Christian youth in our faith. Sometimes they go to churches where doctrinal issues are not taught, we issue doctrine, we think it’s bad, we try to keep our kids away from it and thus they do not grasp the fundamentals of our faith which allow them to be discerning when people bring to them false teachers like, ‘you can be gay and Christian.’ For that reason many of our young people who call themselves Christian have been deceived, this is a very serious thing because we know that the youth are not going to be the future, they are the future, so this is why it’s such an important thing to shed light into expose this so that hopefully not only Christian leaders but Christian post-secondary educators can prepare young people to deal with this threat.

Hi Friends;

  I just thought I'd detail a bit of the hate that these so called christians are teaching now.  When a man says that you cannot be a homosexual and be a Christian, he is also saying that you cannot be a liar and be a Christian, that you cannot be an adulterer, shrimp eater, woman preacher, alcoholic, or in debt and be a Christian.  He claims that people are not reading the Bible, not discerning the truth, and yet he speaks garbage and is not called on it. 
  Says it all to me.  It's not about Truth, Love, Faith, Hope, Joy, or even Humility.  It's about hate.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Who told you that you were naked?

Who am I?  When I look into the mirror, can I be honest with myself?  Intimately honest? 

These questions surface in the aftermath of a funeral for my neighbor, a sweet lady who I really didn't know very well despite living next door for my entire life.  We don't always know the people who we are close to, in proximity at least.  The lack of intimacy is no new thing.

  And yet, perhaps the fundamental portion of a funeral, especially a funeral held in a church, is to remind us of the intimate relationship we have with our Creator - or for those who do not believe, He which the church believes created us.
  As I sat in this church, the first church I've been inside in some time, perhaps since my home church - the one in which I was born, baptized as an infant, confirmed as a jr. high student - told me that I was not welcome anymore, I wondered how I could say those words, sing those songs, believe the creeds and pray the prayers being so unwelcome in God's House.  For the first time in years, I'd felt again at home, and yet every word from my mouth in song, prayer, and every word to my ears in preaching and teaching and exposition all came with the taint of doubt and omissions. 

  Sexual orientation is more than a phase in a person's life.  It is more than a portion of his or her day.  It flows into the core of who we are.  And so, while I knew that I was attracted to young men as a young man, I didn't fully integrate that feeling into the definition of homosexuality.  It was just a portion of who I was in the mix of who I was, and I felt at home and welcome in God's House.  Now, as a man who understands himself better, who has come to see that my sexual orientation is such a part of who I am, and who has heard the slings and arrows of hate delivered by those who claim to be christian, I realize that I am unable to show God my true self.  I am unable to be intimate with my creator and be me.  I must somehow hide my orientation, my doubt in the church's teachings, my very self.  I could not be me in the one place where being who we are should never be denied.

  Fundamental Christians believe it is all coming to an end, some believe soon.  As a Star Trek fan, I believe in a far reaching existence of man kind.  So, perhaps I am somewhat disingenuous when I believe that there is bound to be a great amount of reckoning to come when God and his most ardent "followers" come face to face.  For, I am now living the painful realization that those who proclaim love have somehow managed to create in me a doubt and discomfort, seated entirely in defense of my spirit.  Surely I'm not alone, and surely there will come questions from most on high for those who stand at the door and let none pass.  Until then there are so many like me, raised in the church who now feel unwelcome, forced to hide who we are like Adam and Eve in the Genesis story.