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?