Life’s Dilemmas

While driving home tonight I listened to a report on NPR about a sex offender who had recently been released from prison and just moved to my town. There is a law that allows the police to release a community notice about sex offenders. It usually posts the person’s picture, name, registered address and the nature of the crime. In this case, the crimes were committed before that law was enacted and it doesn’t apply to this person, so the paper picked up on it and word will spread, but it’s not the same as knowing exactly how close the threat is. It’s an uncomfortable feeling knowing there’s a person in your town who has the propensity to hurt a child. It’s unnerving not knowing where that person is. And it feels a little uncomfortable to think too long on how I don’t want that person in my neighborhood. It feels uncomfortable because there’s another voice in my head acknowledging that this person has to live somewhere and that, by law, this person has paid their debt to society and is (supposedly) rehabilitated enough to be in society. But then the first voice thinks, sure, I’ve heard that before. And the second voice responds, well, how would you feel if it were you or someone you loved that found themselves in that position and no one wanted to live near them or give them a job or be their friend. Wouldn’t your heart break for them even though you understand that actions have consequences? And the first side says not my actions, not my problem, not in my backyard.

Life is full of these dilemmas. There are a few that I argue with myself about all the time. I have to talk to myself about them because I don’t dare discuss them in public. Emotions run so high nowadays that topics like these are big flashing red lights for people like me who hate conflict.

Panhandling: I don’t like being approached by panhandlers or seeing them at stop lights. My other voice says, “Oh, must be nice to be you, so lucky and righteous and well fed and smug.” I talk to myself a lot about why this situation makes me so uncomfortable.

Life in Prison: People have to pay for their crimes. On the other hand, young people are not always operating with a mature set of brain cells and locking them up and throwing away the key seems very wrong to me. Is there is an opportunity to rehabilitate the young? Should we be throwing them in adult prisons to begin with?

Immigration: I disagree with how we are handling our immigration issues but I have no idea how to fix it. I do not think people leave their home and walk hundreds of miles because they want to live off the US and vote for democrats. I think they must come because they can’t stay where they are. That makes me feel guilty. How did I end up here, in this life, and not some other less fortunate life? How can I even think of denying othes the same security and comfort I’m lucky enough to enjoy? I didn’t do anything to earn it except be born in the right place at the right time in history. It all seems so random.

I swear I’m not depressed. Or stoned. I may be spending too much time listening to public radio. Maybe I just need to learn to embrace conflict. What do you talk to yourself about?

Chicken out

  8 comments for “Life’s Dilemmas

  1. Doug in Oakland
    November 6, 2019 at 9:17 am

    My friend Rob once showed me a website that had little red dots on a map that were the current addresses of sex offenders who have to register that information with the court.
    It was kind of morbidly interesting at first (to me, who is childless and unlikely to be sexually assaulted) but the fascination quickly passed and turned to something else that made me click away from the page and not return.
    Maybe it was the “thirty years of living in all of the poorest and supposedly most dangerous parts of Oakland and knowing that most of the fear of them is misplaced” combined with the “six foot tall, 40 year old (at the time) white man who mostly walks to get around” and a little of “do I really want a bunch of little red dots to be anxious about or afraid of in this neighborhood that I have made a conscious effort to be a part of for a few years already?”
    Perhaps if there had been more information about what got them on the list, I would have found it more useful; I know from having a mother who worked for criminal defense attorneys that there are definitely people who you don’t want to try to be friends with, but I also know that some registered sex offenders got on that list for things I’m definitely not afraid of, like being caught having sex with someone underage when they were also underage.
    And privilege? Moi? Reasonably healthy white man born in Northern California in 1960 to a stable and loving family who owned property and even if they weren’t “wealthy” still never really wanted for anything important?
    The accident of my birth (and it probably was an accident) was outrageously good fortune in the larger scheme of things, and I do try to remember that when dealing with people from backgrounds different from mine, but I also stay realistic about things like safety and trouble, as doing so is what allowed me to move within those dangerous areas for all of those years.
    Lots of folks can be annoying and inconvenient, but most likely so can I.
    We have moved to the relative safety of Rohnert Park for the time being, and it’s very nice, and we’re oh so lucky to have this opportunity after some of the awful places we’ve lived in the last few years, but I honestly miss Oakland and still consider it my home, if that makes any sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 7, 2019 at 1:55 am

      “And it probably was an accident” Ha. Me too. I have never been to Oakland but whenever I hear “Oakland” my next thought is “Doug”. You’ve branded yourself. And Oakland. In my mind, at least. So the universe heard me call, Doug, and the Universe answered. First, I got an email with a monthly newsletter I signed up for at some time or another. I don’t always open them, but today I did. There was a Thanksgiving prayer in the email that I thought spoke to my post. At least that’s what I heard:

      Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

      Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can’t make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

      Remind us that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

      Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

      Mother and Father God in Spirit, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.
      It was on Suzane Northrop’s newsletter. Not sure if she wrote it or not. But I liked the prayer. And then, as I returned from my lunchtime walk, I was approached by a homeless man. He said he was very hungry. I only had a couple of dollars with me but I gave it to him and he thanked me and went on his way. I was grateful that, after writing about my discomfort with panhandlers, the universe saw fit to to send one my way. I’m quite sure there will be another tomorrow somewhere in my travels. Another chance to be better.

      Like

  2. November 6, 2019 at 10:09 am

    I’m rural enough that I have this dilemma more with rats than people, and that is a privilege too. I think it is easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of things that need fixing, not easy to choose where to focus. We should be responsible, but we can’t be responsible for all of it. Conflict of thought at least means you are thinking, which I believe to be better for you than blank acceptance; if you can see the humanity in the situation you are less likely to become a monster yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 7, 2019 at 1:38 am

      Hi Lisa, I was raised in a rural area but have been a city girl for many years now. I can see you think about things, too. Thank you for your wise words. Focus doesn’t come naturally to me. Not as naturally as conflict of thought, anyways. But the lack of one most likely begets the other, right?

      Like

  3. jenny_o
    November 6, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    Ugh, yes, I talk to myself, and apparently about much the same things you do. Religious freedom is one I am conflicted about, in addition to the ones you named. I bet if we got together to talk we could have a good discussion, seeing as we’re both wafflers. My cousin used to say I must have a dozen hands, because I’d argue “on one hand” and then “on the other hand” and “but on another hand” because I just couldn’t come to a final conclusion 🙂 I’m glad it’s not just me.

    Like

    • November 7, 2019 at 1:34 am

      Hi Jenny, Your cousin is astute haha. I also have many hands. We could maybe form an association or a support group. Association of the Octopi, maybe. And I would love to meet you in a cozy coffee shop some winter day and talk for hours. The shop has wood floors, books, ferns, mismatched furniture, an old cash register, a wood stove and the best pastry and coffee in Canada. As you can see, I’ve thought this through. You’ll have to tell me the name of that place when you find it and a day you’re free for coffee.

      Like

  4. Joanne Noragon
    November 7, 2019 at 1:46 am

    My world “grows” smaller and smaller. I no longer drive to and from work, and thus have given up the best times to be concerned about many of your concerns. On the other hand, it gives me plenty of time to meet with friends (of like minds) and thoroughly trash current behaviors, or join appropriate groups and do things like register young voters. I’d like to tell them who to vote for, too, but I really can’t do that.

    Like

    • November 7, 2019 at 1:58 am

      Joanne, you do more than most of us. I’d love to be in your book club or weaving club or whatever club just to hear what you might do or say next. Of course, I guess I am in your blog club, right? I know you’re in mine. So there’s that and that is very good.

      Like

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