In just a couple of days, a number of us are going to the 2012 RSOL Conference in Albuquerque. There has been a lot of publicity, some good and some bad, about the upcoming conference. Many of those who are involved in the efforts to fight the myriad of American Sex Offender laws are relatively new. There are a lot of fresh, new faces in the movement. So to them, the fear of negative publicity is a brand new experience. But to a seasoned activist like myself, the threat of confrontation and negative publicity is nothing new.
On December 1, 2007, a group of reformists descended upon the city of Columbus, Ohio. Members of groups like SOClear, SOSEN, Roar 4 Freedom (now RSOVA), and others attended and participated in what was called the "Silent No More Rally." The intent was to protest Ohio's version of the Adam Walsh Act.
Vigilante groups like Absolute Zero United got wind of this rally early in its creation and staged their own counter rally. They mocked and threatened would-be attendees, even posting private info, in hopes of scaring us. But it didn't work.
There were individuals within our cause, like the SOHopeful Board of Directors, who opposed a public showing. They felt we should keep a low profile and work "behind the scenes" to propagate changing of the laws. In fact, SOHopeful went so far as condemn the rally, which led to a mass exodus of activists from the SOHopeful forums to the SOSEN and Roar 4 Freedom forums.
Sure enough, when I arrived at the rally, the counter-protesters were there -- Judy Cornett from Predator Patrol, Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) and AZU, under the banner of "Women Against Sexual Predators" (WASP)-- holding derogatory signs and looking menacingly at the rally attendees. Some took pictures, others yelled obscenities. The only thing keeping the peace was a row of uniformed members of the State Patrol, paid for by the rally committee.
That didn't deter the dozens of us who came to the rally, despite the counter-protestor's efforts. This rally was the catalyst for a major growth of our cause, and from it sprung the concepts of state affiliate websites and, of course, the annual RSOL Conference.
Nearly five full years after the Ohio Silent No More Rally (the official name of the 2007 Event), we are going to a conference which has received a decent amount of publicity. The city of Albuquerque has even gone so far as to hold a town hall meeting to address the public's fears about RSOL coming to their city. A few vigilantes have spread propaganda claiming the group is full of evil pedophiles or are advocating sex with children in an attempt to discredit the conference. Despite the allegations being completely false, we recognize some members of the general public will listen to the trolls or the misinformed media. To some, it may even feel like you're walking into a lion's den.
It won't be my first time.
New Mexico is known for deserts and sand, among other things. We have two metaphors about sand. It is up to you to decide what you want to do.
This cause needs to recognize there is a need for us to stand our ground. I understand there is a time to be politically correct, but not within the confines of our own groups. Censorship of ideas and words within our groups is wrong.
In regards to worrying about external interference in the conference, do you think any group with an unpopular agenda never had the threat of outside interference? MLK and others in the civil rights movement knew they were going to be targeted; rallies were met with resistance, members were threatened or attacked, and danger loomed behind every effort. Not every saboteur rode into town in a pointy hat and matching white sheet.
It is scary. But greater and lesser people have been hurt or even killed for their beliefs. Jesus was hung on a cross, MLK was killed, and thousands of their followers were ridiculed, teased, and harassed. "But Derek," some will say, "they did nothing wrong." That's what what their enemies believed. So what if I'm on the list? I have served my time. I apologized to the victim's family. I fulfilled my obligations to the state. Now I'm a reformed individual forced to live a label that does not define who I am. just like those before me judged by a label and a stereotype, I can either bury my head in the sand, or....
DRAW A LINE IN THE SAND: MLK wasn't a "violent" man, but he drew a line in the sand, and was willing to stake his stand. Rallies, marches, and sit-ins were held. They marched in the faces of their enemies, some here hurt or killed, and some were arrested. But they were willing to do what they felt was necessary to achieve their goals.
We should be willing to have that same mentality.
Some of us have things to lose-- they have families, jobs, and creature comforts. I imagine MLK did too. He was a preacher man, after all. He had a wife and kids. He had a home. He had a life. He had freedom. He had a lot to lose.
He also risked that for the sake of a greater good. Even his peaceful approach made him a target. I imagine there were times of anger, doubt, and sadness. He was a human being.
Even Jesus wept, lamented for Jerusalem, and drove the money changers from the temple, and seemingly felt doubt while on the cross. Emotions are part of the human nature. Jesus never told us never be angry, the bible said to be angry but not to sin while in anger. Anger can be used for a greater good.
I have been loyal to this cause no matter how many despair, have philosophical differences, get angry with me, or reject me, both outside the cause and from within. But until some of you pull your heads out of the sand and instead draw a line, don't expect much in the way of change.
You don't have to see this cause as a "war." War, after all, has casualties and innocent victims caught in the crossfire. Are we under siege? Do we resort to caving into the enemy because we're getting desperate? Are we at the point where we eat our horses and dogs out of desperation and have defections? I don't think so. We are a far bigger movement since 2007. We are more organized, have more members, and have made great strides since that time.
But at the same time, there is a lot of fear, and we are still a small grassroots campaign. We should have EVEN MORE members, more active members, more rallies and conferences, and more meetings with the media and legislators.
When you go to the conference, decide what you want to do while in Albuquerque. Bury your heads in the sand? Or draw a line in the sand.
There is plenty of sand to do either one.