Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We are all sex offenders now -- Happy Halloween.

One can almost bet that a politician is, right this moment, concocting some new stupid piece of legislation. And he will crow if he manages to pass the new absurdity into law -- and the more absurd it is, the more likely it is that it will pass.

Consider that we are now about to enter Halloween. It is not a holiday I have ever particularly enjoyed, not even as a child. And my general response has been to ignore it. I don’t wear a costume and I don't say “trick or treat” or hand out candy treats. Maybe I’m a spoil-sport but I don’t care for the day. So I’d usually turn off the lights and curl up in front of the television and watch a good movie, or maybe a not-so-good movie.

Now I can’t. The morons who get elected to office seem intent on making it dangerous to ignore Halloween, perhaps even deadly. Let me explain how this happening.

Politicians like to solve “problems” especially where there really is no problem after all. And Halloween gives them such an opportunity. In all the years of Halloween the scare stories are more scary than the real stories. In actuality one child has been abducted while going out trick or treating. That was 35 years ago. Only one case.

But the politicians in their campaign to rile up the public about sex offenders (a label that is given out easily and for some very non-serious issues -- such as streaking, urinating at the side of the road, or sex between two teenagers) are intentionally fanning the flames of fear for their own personal profit.

In South Carolina anyone deemed a sex offender is forbidden to give out candy on Halloween and is required to turn out the porch light -- to pretend they aren’t home. In New York an “offender” is forbidden to hand out candy, answer the door, possess candy or wear a costume on Halloween.

In Missouri a judge judiciously put a halt to some of the bizarre regulations on sex offenders, such as forbidding them to engage in any Halloween activity with their own children. But they are still required to turn off the lights and pretend they aren’t home.

And that pisses me off. I’ve been turning out my porch light and pretending I’m not home for years. And I’m no sex offender, registered or otherwise. So now my problem is what do I do this year? If I turn out the lights, and don’t answer the door, is that the same thing as advertising “sex offender here!!!!”?

One can’t ignore the damn holiday without possibly getting accused of being an offender. For years I’ve safely ignored the holiday. Now, what will the neighbors think? Will they assume that the light is off because a sex offender lives here? Or will they just think an old grump who doesn’t care for being annoyed on Halloween is here? I don’t mind the old grump reputation -- I’ve earned it. But damn, that sex offender thing upsets me. The only offending thing about my sex life is that there is damn so little of it. And that doesn’t seem to bother other people much -- just me.

Ever since the witchhunt hysterias of the days of McMartin and dozens of other such fake child molestation cases I have judiciously and cautiously avoided even the appearance of any involvement with someone underage. I don’t hang around where kids hang around -- actually that would be annoying to me. I don’t think I’ve ever been alone with a kid in years. I avoid even speaking to kids I don’t know. Being male in a dangerous thing and some asshole is quite likely to make up accusations, and just the accusations alone can ruin your life. So I’ve done my best to stay away from even the appearance of something like this.

And one way I did that was just avoiding Halloween. (Quite honestly, I’ve always ignored the holiday but this was another reason for doing so, just not my original, primary reason.) Now ignoring Halloween is a sign that one is a sex offender, thanks to these laws.

The other thing I know is that with the hysteria that the politicians have been feeding it is not safe to be a sex offender. Several people assumed to be offenders have been attacked, some have been killed. A podiatrist in the UK faced continual harassment because stupid individuals confused podiatrist with pedophile. Individuals who moved into homes previously occupied by registered sex offenders found their address was still listed on-line and they were harassed and attacked by vigilantes out to protect kiddies.

So the mere whisper, or suspicion of being some sort of sex offender, is enough to cause you physical harm and all sorts of grief. Now ignoring Halloween is a sign of being a sex offender. All of this to address the “problem” of offenders attacking children on Halloween -- something that only happened once almost four decades ago. The odds that anyone is being protected by these relatively new laws is extremely small -- probably non-existent. But come Halloween, numerous states will be sending their cops out to make sure offenders have turned off their porch lights.

The majority of offenses that qualify one as a sex offender have nothing to do with children anyway. So a man, who got drunk, fondled a woman against her will, and is a sex offender, is now considered a threat to children for eternity. Come Halloween the police will be making sure he isn’t wearing a costume, doesn’t own any candy and has his porch light off -- good time to be a criminal since the cops will be occupied.

Sure, that sort of misallocation of police resources is upsetting. But what really has me pissed off is that I may have to hand out candy this year lest it be assumed that my disdain for the practice proves I’m something I’m not. Of course, this sort of bizarre absurdity can only be created when politicians get involved. In one of the Tremors sci-fi films the character Burt told two government agents: “Why don’t you guys go do what you do best. Take something simple and complicate it.” Well, that is what the politicians have done with Halloween. If I turn out my light, to have the evening to myself, I could be assumed to be a sex offender thanks to the politicians. But handing kiddies candy in the dark of night is supposedly a sign of a child molester -- hence the reason for the ban. Handing out candy is suspicious and not handing out candy is suspicious, perhaps we have reached the final outcome of this hysterical earlier than I thought -- we are all sex offenders now.

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