Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What a "Scorched Earth" policy really means

"With the stroke of Governor Scott’s pen, our state today sent a strong message – Florida is scorched earth for all those seeking to harm our children." -- Don Gaetz, Florida Senator

"We want to make Florida scorched earth for these sexually violent predators... We want to make our laws the toughest in the nation."-- State Senator Rob Bradley.

If you are a person who feels semantic arguments are valid, as I am, then it irks you when terms and phrases are used in an improper context. I wonder at times just how much thought FloriDUH legislators put into their so-called "scorched earth" policy for Registered Citizens. 

Just what does "scorched earth" mean exactly? In the most basic of definitions Scorched Earth is a military strategy in which a retreating army destroys any and all resources that the retreating army feels might be useful to the enemy army-- food, fuel, even people. Despite a ban on destroying food supplies per the Geneva Convention, the practice is still employed today. It is a desperation tactic by a defeated and retreating army. 

Does this mean that the FloriDUH legislature is admitting they are losing the "war on sex offenders?" 

At any rate, military terminology and tactics against American citizens, no matter how undesirable you may view them, has proven to be a disservice. You see, in times of war, civilian casualties are to be expected, so dropping bombs in a residential area and blowing up schools or an aspirin-manufacturing plant is considered acceptable. War tends treat every citizen of a foreign nation, or simply those with ties to that nation, as an enemy combatant. This leads to hastily-made blanket policies, like the mass "internment" (concentration camps) of Japanese Americans during World War II, a policy never overturned by the US Supreme Court. In times of war, rights can be taken away and "martial law" can be imposed. 

The imposition of military tactics and terminology has been damaging to American citizens. Since the Barry Goldwater presidential campaign in 1964, Americans have endured a "war on crime," followed by a "war on drugs," a "war on terror," and a "war on child abuse," of which a "war on sex offenders" becomes a relative extension. The problem with the militarization of culture is the promotion of violence that tends to follow. After all, the militarization of our police forces has only led to the increased police brutality that has in turn led to greater distrust of the police by many people in society. The war on drugs did not stop the cartels, it merely filled up our prisons with non-violent 

Just as with other wars, the "war on sex offenders" has a marked "enemy." Because the military mentality is a simple "us versus them" mentality, society can turn a blind eye to a little corruption from a sheriff running entrapment stings because he's targeting alleged online predators. But the label "sex offender" is a granfalloon, an association of diverse people whose only relation to one another is an arbitrary label given by the government. A "sex offender" can indeed be a rapist or child molester, and some can be pedophiles. The term "sex offender" can also mean anyone forced to register as a "sex offender" even if we are discussing a 10 year old child, teens having consensual relations with each other, married men having sex with their wives in a secluded area of a public park, teens taking nude selfies, or some guy who grabbed the arm of a 14 year old girl to chastise her for stepping in front of his moving car

"If it saves just one child" should have always end with an asterisk, because the "one child" obviously does not include the kids landing on the list. I suppose those "save the children/ just one child" types see a few kids on the list as acceptable casualties in this "war on sex offenders." They find it hard to let even one person off the registry even if that person landed on the registry as a child. Hell, they might even echo the sentiment of one US attorney who successfully added a 10 year old kid to the list, declaring this was the "best thing" that could have happened to the kid. Or, perhaps they could be the audience members cheering Erin Brockovich as she justifies adding a 10-year-old to the sex offender list

Treating a social issue like a war is a great disservice. Preident Lyndon B. Johnson's "War on Poverty" eventually became a war against the poor, not a war to reduce the poverty the poor experiences. Declaring a "scorched earth" policy is not going to resolve the issue of sexual abuse; it merely adds to the growing number of "acceptable" casualties. I doubt FloriDUH will see a marked decrease in registered citizens or sex crime rates (because most sex crimes are committed by people with no previous sex crime arrests) despite their "scorched earth" policies. perhaps it is time they eliminate the military rhetoric and use a solution based on facts and evidence rather than political bloviation. 

We can only hope that soon the Florida legislators realize their asinine "scorched earth" tactics are merely desperation tactics of a losing army. 


  1. Excellent article. You might also add "prostitution" under circumstances that involve a underage teen and an adult (over 18) where the older person is arrested, convicted, imprisoned and put on the sex offender registration list. The "War on Sex Offending" sometimes seems to operate at the same level as the "War on Terror" given that scorched earth war tactics have a place in the arsenal of possible social policy options. Great job.

  2. This "scorched earth policy" is nothing new. It has been around for thousands of years. While Florida wants to take a policy like this and use it in a destructive way they really don't understand themselves. This is an issue of human kind or human nature. Without going into to much Christian ethics Isiah 24:6, the politicians and government are compounding things and holding one that is an offender in bondage, the rest of there life. in many cases. Harsh punishment an undue treatment after prison. They might as well forget about church or Christian values or should the politician's actually take a look at there own self. Its sexual immorality at its best but we/ or you/ as politicans accept sexual immorality, so why not the sex offender and thats where the trouble all started. As far as government they will get the greater judgement. Its all in the bible I'm sure Florida couldn't care less about the sex offender or any rebilative methods or things like that with their " scorched earth policy". Makes one proud to be a politican to get there bills passed. but what about passing thru the pearly gates. Think about that.

  3. Labels...

    What is a name, or shall we say label?
    How can one claim another unstable?
    Or say this is someone we cannot trust
    This label you give is simply unjust.

    The law calls to bear witness, as to whats been seen
    How dare you say that one is unclean
    Some say they know what is right or what's fair
    While they speak under their breath or cast an angry glare

    So I am here to say this just isn't right
    I won't say your stupid, your just not to bright
    So before you cast a label on me,
    The next judgment that's passed could be on your family.

    4-12-2009 1:13 P.M.