Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you. – Friedrich Nietzsche
It is often said a picture is worth 1000 words. This particular picture speaks volumes. This picture was taken some time during the international embarrassment known as the Julia Tuttle Causeway sex offender colony, a.k.a. “Bookville.” Standing in the forefront is the notorious Ron Book, along with his daughter Lauren, standing defiantly. Behind them is a homeless camp created by the very policies these two worked to create, along with two people the Books forced to live under the bridge. Together, Ron and Lauren Book campaigned to create the most onerous residency restriction laws in the country in Dade County, forcing a number of registered citizens to live under a bridge. Years after the homeless camp was dismantled, homelessness remains a problem among a significant portion of Miami's registered citizens.
Much of the focus over the years has been on Ron Book, while for the most part his daughter Lauren has been pretty much relegated to the view of her of Ron’s lackey or puppet. After all, Ron was by far the more visible and vocal of the two. Ron is the powerful and corrupt South Florida lobbyist, while Lauren has always been invoked whenever Ron needed a victim to justify his policies. Ron is even the president of Lauren's Kids, a victim industry organization named for Lauren. We seemingly forget the role that Lauren has played in the debacle that was Bookville.
Lauren's annual “Walk in My Shoes” campaign turned into campaigns and even legislation designed to further erode the rights of the accused. In fact, the state of Florida passed the “Walk in Their Shoes Act,” which expanded the admissibility of collateral crime or “similar fact” evidence in cases where a person is charged with child molestation or a sexual offense. In other words, the Act allows hearsay evidence such as a prior allegation, even a false allegation, as evidence in abuse cases.
It was brought to my attention that L'Oreal Paris has an annual award event entitled, “Women of Worth,” and Lauren Book was given the award in December 2013. Considering the recent controversial actions that Lauren Book has taken, the L'Oreal company should reconsider giving an award to a person like Lauren Book. It is obvious that Lauren, in her quest to fight “monsters,” has become Nietzsche's proverbial monster herself.
Consider her more recent actions. Last month, during Lauren's annual Walk in My Shoes campaign, Lauren stopped to give her blessing to a pocket park that was built specifically to force registered citizens to move out of a community, driving untold numbers of registrants into homelessness. “I can't tell you how many times I ask parents, ‘Do you know who's living next door?' and they're afraid to look,’” Lauren said. “So, it's being educated within the law: know who's around you and use examples like (Bayberry Lakes), where you build a park to keep a vulnerable section of your community safer.” Lauren is now encouraging other communities to build pocket parks in order to force registered citizens out of communities. She wants to make the rest of Florida like Miami-Dade County.
More recently, Lauren put her support behind a controversial bill that would literally play scarlet letters on the driver's licenses of registered citizens. The state of Florida already marks the driver's licenses of registered citizens with the number of the statutes under which they were convicted. Under the new law, those the state considers “sexual predators” will have the term sexual predator written on their licenses in scarlet letters. It is interesting that Lauren Book invokes both the term scarlet letter and the TSA in the following statement:
“This designation is a tool that we as community members – from law enforcement officers to TSA agents to teachers, daycare workers, doctors, nurses and everyone in between – can use to further protect the children and families of Florida… I believe a statutory reference is too benign. This is a scarlet letter that clearly states ‘WARNING! Keep this individual away from children!’ They are a clear and imminent danger, and parents and families have a right to know.”
If there is a true imminent danger to our society, it is individuals like Lauren Book using her position and the law to harm other individuals. Perhaps the most distressing of all is the fact that Florida passed a bill this year that gives victim industry advocates like Lauren a place on a committee that determines which registrants become candidates for civil commitments upon their release from prison.
I guess to some small degree we can reasonably expect a makeup company to do a very good job of screening candidates for some meaningless award created by their company. In our society, it seems the victim industry is rarely, if ever, scrutinized for the policies that they support or advocate. What Lauren Book advocates for is summarized by a picture. Lauren Book advocates for the suffering of human beings. Lauren Book is just as responsible for the Julia Tuttle Causeway sex offender colony as her father was. It was not just Ron we thought of when I and fellow members of SOSEN started calling the colony “Bookville” in 2009.
However, I also feel it is our responsibility as citizens to scrutinize those who use of emotional stories to justify sweeping laws that cause potential harm to thousands of citizens. It seems Lauren Book has failed to heed Nietzsche's warning, choosing to become a monster to fight those she considers monsters. Not even all the makeup produced by the L'Oreal Corporation could cover a Miami sized blemish on Florida's sex offender policy. Giving Lauren Book such an award is as much a faux pas as naming Hitler time magazine's Man of the year.