The greatest "enemy" in our fight is APATHY.
The old adage "we are our own worst enemies" rings very true in this fight. I have been involved in this fight for about seven years, and www.oncefallen.com has been up for years, and in this time, I have received many emails from people seemingly desperate for help, get their answers, thank me, and disappear. I feel a lot alike I'm in that movie "300." I am one of just a handful of people, many of whom have been in this fight for years. We fight for a "nation" of 700,000 people plus their families, every one of them threatened by a larger army backed by tough laws and blind support. Our resources are few, our warriors are fewer. Much like in the movie, this small band of warriors are fighting for the sake of their homes, while the rest sit back and watch us fight to the death.
I can understand the concerns of those affected by these laws. I fear for my safety. I worry how this will impact my fiancee's life. I worry how each high profile case in the media will ultimately impact my personal life. However, it is exactly for these reasons I have decided to fight.
Unlike the soldiers in "300," I am not wanting to die fighting. I'm not trying to be a martyr to the cause. My desire is to live. However, I cannot live my life under this fear for the rest of my life, because living this life the way I'm forced to live is not truly "living" at all. I fight for myself, yet, by fighting for others, I achieve not only great things for them, I achieve great things for myself as well. We all want to live. If we all want to live, we should all want to fight.
If you think you won't be targeted because you obey every law and submit to every whim of the people, you're sadly mistaken. For two years following my release, I kept to myself. I battled umemployment and homelessness until I found a minimum wage job and a sleeping room in the "hood." It was not what I wanted but it was life and I made the most of it. I started making small contributions where I could to society, donating money and supplies to those less fortunate. Two years later, the state reclassified me arbitrarily, and determined I now lived too close to a GED school (a place pre-approved by the sheriff's office). I lost my job and my girlfriend, and eventually my tiny sleeping room. After I moved to another place meeting the residency law requirements, the city I lived in decided they were going to pass an ordinance increasing residency restrictions. I had enough.
It can happen just as easily to every one of you.
Over the past few years, federal, state, and local officials have targeted registrants on a regular basis. Below are just a few of the ways sex offenders have been targeted over the years (some may or may not apply to you today, but it is only a matter of time):
- Public Registries
- Community notification
- Residency restrictions
- Anti-loitering laws/ complete bans from certain places like parks, amusement parks, playgrounds, school functions, certain eating establishments, churches
- Civil commitment laws
- Mandatory minimum sentences and registration time increases
- Barred from getting certain jobs/ cannot work too close to restricted areas
- Barred from living around other sex offenders (anti-clustering laws)
- Barred from living in a household with minors present
- Barred from many internet sites like MySpace or Facebook for any reason, or from the internet altogether
- Fees for registering
- Cannot wear costumes/ masks/ give out Halloween candy
- Cannot obtain emergency shelter during hurricanes/ blizzards/ other inclement weather
- Scarlet letter license plates
- Scarlet letter ID cards
- Random "compliance checks" by the police working with US Marshals, then threaten you under duress to agree to warrantless searches
- Barred from Section 8 Housing
- Proposed: barred from obtaining small business loans
- Proposed: Denied Unemployment Benefits
- Proposed: Denied Federal Housing Authority Loans (FHA)
- Chemical castration, polygraphs, "peter readers" (plethysmographs) and other witch-doctor science
- Periodic changes to any of the aforementioned laws
- Assumption of guilt in all your actions
- Constant threat of vigilantism; vigilante attacks are rarely severely punished
- Promotion of fear and loathing makes you more likely to face discrimination based upon status alone
This is not about promoting websites, selling books, or collecting donations. This is about taking a stand and fighting back. This small group, this "300" has done great things-- awareness has been raised, laws have been defeated, and hope has been brought to thousands impacted by these laws. To paraphrase the movie, If we could achieve so many things with "300" Spartans, imagine what an army of "10,000" Spartans can do!
Don't sit still thinking someone else is going to fight for you. Chances are, the person you are waiting for is likely doing the same.
ADDENDUM: Let me just reiterate one thing. Fear is indeed a strong reason not to fight, but I see apathy as being as great, if not greater, than fear. There is an old adage about 20% of the people doing 80% of the work. We have LESS than 20% in this movement. Based on what I have seen, very small numbers are willing to do tasks like sign an online petition, post on a message board, or participate in online groups and forums. I'm not surprised to see the same screen names when I post a comment in Boston, Portland, or Houston. I'd like to see them flooded with new faces speaking out.
On my front page are a few suggestions on how to get active: http://www.oncefallen.com/