Thursday, December 29, 2005

I like gray areas.

I was watching a piece on CNN about the number of sex offenders living in motels. They focused on a stretch of motels in Los Angeles County, California. But I'd wager a guess that it's an issue almost everywhere. They told the horrible story of a motel worker who was forced into a man's motel room and held captive for over 4 hours while he molested her in a number of unspeakable ways. Scary, right? So, then they go on to talk about the frightening number of these people who are living legally in motels, and how we should all be terrified on our next vacation, basically.

At one point, a lawyer guy they interviewed said something about how he wouldn't want to stay there, or let his family stay there.

That may be true....but they fail to make the point clear that this is NOT the Holiday Inn they're talking about. Residential motels are a totally different thing. I bet most of those places haven't seen a "tourist" in several decades. No, those places are reserved for people so destitute, they can't afford to live anywhere else. The working poor, mostly. People who make just enough to be gouged for the weekly motel rates, but not enough to ever be able to save up for the 2 months rent required as a deposit on a legitimate private apartment. So, while CNN is scaring all their whitebread middle-class viewers shitless, the people who are truly affected by this live with it everyday, and are most likely too busy scraping a living together to be glued to 24 hour news stations. Plus, you don't have to tell THEM. They know their situation is dangerous. In Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich said the only time she felt truly afraid during her adventures in poverty was when she was forced to live in a motel like this.

So, that's fuzzy point #1: CNN took the easy story angle (surprise surprise)and ignored the deeper gritty reality. This is yet another example of the injustice that poverty creates here in the Land of the Free.

On to fuzzy point #2.
My Senior year of High School, we had a semester-long social studies class called "Street Law." It was the most interesting class I ever took in High School. We once had this great discussion about whether sex offender notification laws were Constitutional or not. Clearly these offenders are being punished for their crimes twice, because after they serve their time and "pay their debt to society," they are labeled for the rest of their lives. They're denied jobs, housing opportunities and in a number of cases they are harassed, attacked or even killed for it. It's an unpopular debate topic because nobody wants to sound like they're OKing sex offenders. I'm not doing that either. I think the registration laws may be a necessary evil, but I just see the other side of it too. It's not all black and white. There's no way to distinguish the Offenders who are itching to re-offend, and those who made an awful mistake, paid the price and now just want to get on with their life.

That's why when we get teenage offenders or near-offenders where I work, they get MAJOR treatment. We try to inform them of the lifetime of negative consequences they'll have to endure if they get themselves officially labeled as a Sex Offender. Maybe it won't do any good, but even if it keeps one kid from going down that path, that's something, I guess.

5 Comments:

Blogger Phillip said...

you hear lots of complaints about how the coverage of the war in iraq is all negative and inaccurate, but noone seems to mind the domestic stories meant to garner higher ratings and keep the populous shuddering in their closets.

and i agree totally about poverty -- it (money, really) is the root of all evil in the world, including terrorism.

December 29, 2005 11:17 AM  
Blogger Ian McGibboney said...

That's because we've come to a point where all of the poverty and fear are just accepted in America. It's easier than doing anything about it, and we can always write it off as a small price to pay for living the best nation in the world or some similarly dismissive bullshit.

I grew up in a neighborhood where more than one child molester lived. Receiving their cards in the mail was jarring, but I was glad to know who and where these people were. And, more importantly, what they did.

Through scanning the current local sex-offender registry, I was shocked to learn that I was friends with two of them! One didn't surprise me, to be honest (I'd known him as a teenager), but the other one blew my mind, because I know him to be a diligent student and career-minded individual. In the latter case, I believe it was an underage relationship. And while I don't condone that, I think that's very different than a child rapist or something much worse. Perhaps we could introduce a graduated sex-offender registry, where those who slipped and had 16-year-old girlfriends pay their debts to society, and the true monsters have to deal with the lifelong humiliation. I don't know, something to think about.

December 29, 2005 1:45 PM  
Blogger Neil Shakespeare said...

Yeah, 'The Great Society' (or is that gone now?) sure does a good job of ignoring 'the gray areas'. Is it just me or is everything getting grayer? No Red States, no Blue States. Just Gray States. Best to you and yours in the upcoming...

December 31, 2005 10:52 AM  
Blogger Arlo said...

Hi Flamingo Jones: I came here looking for information on coolest kid in california and found your post on I like gray areas.. Although it's not quite the information I was looking for, I appreciate the chance to have a read. I'll definately be checking back in. I'm off to look for more resources for coolest kid in california. If you have any more great suggestions, please post them here and I'll come back to check. Thanks again!

February 14, 2006 12:51 AM  
Blogger Arlo said...

Hi Flamingo Jones: I came here looking for information on coolest kid in california and found your post on I like gray areas.. Although it's not quite the information I was looking for, I appreciate the chance to have a read. I'll definately be checking back in. I'm off to look for more resources for coolest kid in california. If you have any more great suggestions, please post them here and I'll come back to check. Thanks again!

March 16, 2006 4:24 AM  

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