Tuesday, September 15, 2009
2009 Netroots Activist of the Year
I'm an accidental activist.
Several years back, my family was very much effected by the actions of one of our own. We didn't think so at the time. Although floored our loved one would be caught up in a police sting for chatting online to an undercover officer, we pulled together like families do, certain that together, we could move forward, and put this behind us. Not for a moment did we condone the actions taken, the secretive behavior, the risk to personal self and livelihood, the risk to our family, but the thought we wouldn't get through this? Never entered our minds.
We were good people, always on the right side of the law. Contributors. Looking back on those days, we had absolutely no concept of what lie ahead. Posting bail (heck, finding bail!), acquiring the services of an attorney, waiting on line to visit someone in jail, all the while wondering if my attire met the dress code. I never expected to be involved in such a situation, yet there I stood, a regular person, college-educated, someone who always made the right choices, waiting, waiting, waiting for a correctional officer to call my name so I could sit in front of someone I cared about, a scratched, yellowed partition separating us into two different worlds.
Certain a judge would fairly weigh a lifetime of contribution against the mistake of a lifetime, we were relieved that the legal system did indeed consider the human in human nature. Punishment was so deemed but the status of "sex offender" would not be designated.
The relief lasted only as long as the probation registration process. The judge could not overrule the statutes. And the statutes did not distinguish our loved one any differently than Jessica Lunsford's killer. Name, photo, address, conviction (incorrectly listed and to this day, incorrectly listed on the more personal, charming Welcome to the Neighborhood public notification postcard), all available via the Florida Sex Offender Registry.
It was no fantasy.
My name, the names of my kids might have well been listed. Privacy eradicated with a few keystrokes.
The situation only became worse as politicians seized on the opportunity to score the easy vote with the public, waving the Fear flag, all in the name of child protection laws and all without reference to current research. The real blow, segregating our families via state residency restrictions, soon followed by further restrictive NIMBY ordinances, exiling so-called offenders and their families from many communities. From whatever American dream they had left.
As for us, we fought legally until the money ran out. And ever since, I watched this once tremendously proud person, a confident professional, trained in a career few could ever accomplish, crumble a little bit each day.
His life would never be the same. Lumped into a madness that the general public accepted as a easily as a toddler accepts strained peaches, I lost it. Mad as hell, I fired up my computer. And I haven't stopped fighting since.
One day, I received a comment on Smashed Frog from homeless advocate Jackie Dowd, who blogs the 13th Juror.
You should be writing for the Florida Progressives.
Although many members of the FPC likely consider me that part of the family no one really wants to invite to Thanksgiving dinner, the association has helped to legitimize the message.
And for that, I am thankful.
And for my online friend, Voxy, I thank her for the nomination of Netroots Activist of the Year.
No, We thank her. Those who frequent Smashed Frog, the impacted, the families, our kids who suffer the collateral damage of sex offender legislation, the activists who spread the truth about the law, whether under the Julia Tuttle Causeway or in the offices of this nation's state legislatures.
The times, they are a'changing. Unfortunately, it comes at a human cost. Sadly, almost everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows someone designated with the moniker no one ever hopes to wear. The tipping point has teetered our way.
The friends, the families, all know the whys and the lies. They know the truth behind these laws.
Voting for the 2009 Netroots Awards Is Now Open.
If the spirit so moves you, your favorite Frog Activist is listed as number 12.
The fight for human dignity goes on.