Saturday, June 12, 2010

Being Thankful

A spirit of gratitude is with me as I start this day. It is Saturday morning, and I am thinking about so many things. I am remembering so many good things about my growing up and about my parents. I am proud of my Mom and Dad. Everywhere they went, they made friends, and really brightened other peoples lives.

It really struck me again last night as I visited my mother that she is such a positive person that it really spreads to those around her. Mom has always been that way. People enjoy being around her. If I go to a local bank or business or anywhere, and someone there knows my Mom, they say: "O, you're Kay's son!" And, then I get treated like I'm from the "royal family" or something. And, that's the way people are wherever I meet them about my Mom or Dad.

It is a good thing to leave a legacy like that behind you in your life. It is a path for your family to walk in. It makes them proud inside, the way I am proud.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thinking about things on my lunch break at the PDO

I was in General Sessions Court this morning. Ended up a number of cases got reset because one D.A. and one detective were gone and I had two clients who had issues medical/family, but the cases left were pretty difficult ones. The ones I dealt with this morning were a Theft over $1,000 case, a Solicitation of a Minor case, and an Aggravated Burglary case. The cases that we didn't deal with were: two Rape cases, a Theft over $1,000 case, a Criminal Simulation case.

The Solicitation of a Minor case has to do with an internet chat to set up a meeting to have sex with someone who is a minor. The so-called minor was actually a police officer pretending over the internet to be a 16 year old seeking sex.

The cases on Friday dockets that are generally the most difficult are the sex offense charges and the internet sexual offense charges. The internet cases are often that hardest of all to deal with, because most of the defendants have never been in trouble before, and are often looking at very serious prison sentences because of what they viewed over the internet or sometimes what they "said/typed" over the internet.

I had a client go to prison recently to serve a six year sentence because he had downloaded and viewed a bunch of child pornography. He hadn't bought any, he hadn't done anything with any child, he hadn't produced any, but he had looked at it over the internet the same way anyone looks at any picture over the internet.

It is a very serious crime. And, child pornography includes pictures of 16-17 year olds too. If a person is looking at this kind of stuff on the internet often, internet sting operations often pick up on it. The way I understand it is that there are some basic websites/internet distributers that produce this stuff - usually from a location outside the U.S., and there is some type of code that allows internet law enforcement to pick up on when someone is accessing one of these prohibited sites.

If a person is found to have more than a 100 images on their computer (and, they stay even after deletion) of child pornography, that is a class B felony offense under Tennessee state law. If convicted the person serves a minimum of 8 years in prison, with no chance to be released until serving 85% of the sentence. It is a pretty tough thing to talk to a client who had never been in trouble before, and even though they thought what they were doing might be immoral, they just didn't have any idea it was illegal. Not just doing, but viewing is now being punished, and punished harshly in our legal system in a desperate attempt to respond to abuse of the internet.

As legislators pass more and more laws to try to constrain internet child pornography distribution, and dissemination of other sexual materials on the internet, there are some strange results. For example, a 19 year old male engages in consensual sex with someone 3 1/2 years younger than him. This act is not a crime under law (it would have been if the age difference had been more than 4 years). But, even though the act would not be punishable under law even if proven, the fact that this same 19 year old video taped it and put it on the internet or distributed it in any way ends up being a class B felony (8 years at 85% to serve in prison). Of course, the reason for this is that it falls under child pornography restrictions. Still, it is interesting that the act is "legal" while videotaping/disseminating video images is illegal - very illegal.

The part that is really difficult for me in this is that although I do think it is bad to view child pornography, I don't think we ought to put people in prison for viewing perverse things. We ought to put people in prison who do perverse things or force others to. And, there is no clear evidence that people who fantasize about wierd stuff regularly follow through and do it. Certainly, a few do. Law enforcement has the idea that if we prosecute every person who looks at child pornography, then we can be assured that no one who might commit sexual offenses against children will be free. But, as we implement these harsh laws, tapes with children getting abused and raped are being made over in Russia and disseminated over the internet.

I do have to agree that the purchase of child pornography ought to be prohibited by the criminal law. Obviously the production and selling of it ought to be. And, I guess, if you are paying for it, you are financially supporting it. Maybe viewing over the internet could be like that if by giving a website so many hits you enable to them to make money by putting ads on their website. I don't know. But, viewing of child pornography on the internet, if it is to be punished by the criminal law, ought to be punished less harshly than it is. I can't help but thinking that somebody who rapes an adult ought to be punished a lot more harshly than someobody who looks at perverse pictures. Someone who robs someone at gunpoint ought to be punished a lot more harshly than someone who has 100 pictures of child pornography on their computer. But, the law says: 8-12 years for Rape; 8-12 years for 100 plus images of child pornography; 8-12 years for Aggravated Robbery with lesser release percentage; and the law in Tennessee says: 3-6 years for Voluntary Manslaughter with 30% release eligibility and presumed a favorable candidate for parole (that's killing somebody!).

Now, I think pornography is very unhealthy for society. I wish all of it - child and adult - would just disappear. Obviously, the child pornography is an awful crime, because it is exploiting and abusing children and then finding a market in society for those who like to view such a horror show. And, that is what some of the child pornography is. I have to go over the law enforcement unit and view materials/evidence to see that the state has against my client. And, sometimes it is literally feels like watching a cruel beating or killing. It is very, very sad, and very, very disturbing. I put off going over for these discovery conferences as long as I can. But, it is my job to actually look at physical evidence in a case, whether it is a gun or a knife or a picture or a piece of clothing with blood on it. Of all of the stuff I have looked at over the years, there have been some pretty disturbing pictures, such as when a person has been killed. And, these images of children being raped seem like that to me. And, it just goes on and on. When I see these pictures/video of actual rapes of children, I understand the knee-jerk reaction of legislatures: "well, we will punish everyone that even looks at it! That is just sick!" But, viewing is still not doing, no matter how bad it seems. Adult pornography doesn't seem criminal, but seems unhealthy and hurtful for many reasons. But, that is an entirely different discussion. These are just some things I was thinking over after court today. I guess I better go get some lunch.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nourishment for Living

It seems to me that there are a few basic things that give structure and solidity and energy (nourishment) to an individual human life. The condition of our bodies is certainly one thing that affects the energy we have, the outlook we have in our living. And, our practice of finding or not finding nourishment for the biological and spiritual processes that sustain us certainly affects our bodies and the whole of who we are.

And, finding our way to a pattern of living that nourishes us, body and soul, is surely an important foundation to a meaningful life.

People in our time, like peoples in all times, often struggle to maintain a certain peace of mind and a joy in living. And, then again, many people also don't seem to have to struggle too hard to maintain peace of mind and joy in living. Some seem to struggle as just a part of who they are, as if struggle was just built into their genetic makeup. But, for many, the struggles seem less a part of destiny and more a part of being mixed up about how to find what is needed to sustain a good life.

This Sunday was a particularly good day for me. I really enjoyed worshipping and preaching Sunday morning and being with my church, and I really enjoyed coming back home and working in the yard and being with my family. Everything just seemed to fit on Sunday. And, I realized that when things are going well for me that tends to lead to good basic habits and when I have a pattern of good, basic habits, things tend to go well for me. And, I am talking about real basic things: an appropriate amount of food, exercise and sleep. Intake, exertion, rest.

There is no separation between "mind" and "body." We are a unity of biological and spiritual/mental processes. Our thoughts and feelings arise from chemical processes in the body; chemical processes in the body are set in motion and affected by our thoughts and feelings. Our feelings can come from thoughts or from chemical processes in the body or maybe, it is more accurate to say that they come from both at the same time.

And, nothing seems to reset and renew the biological and spiritual processes at work in us so well as a reasonable amount of food, exercise and sleep. But, just as I have found that good habits like this lead to good thoughts, so also good thoughts lead to healthy ways of living. And, good thoughts are often born through spiritual practices like prayer and meditation and worship. But, it doesn't seem to me that finding what we need biologically and spiritually involves two separate processes or approaches in life. No, finding nourishment for human living involves one simple orientation of the body, mind and spirit, and that is the orientation of the creature open and thankful to the Creator in receiving the natural resources that nourish us individually and communally along the way in life. And, there is meaning in seeking out nourishment, finding it, and sharing it as a foundation for a joyful life in this world. For some the struggle is very hard due to difficult social, economic, physical or mental burdens.

If we really do think that human life is worth nurturing, it will lead us to desire nourishment for ourselves and others. And, when we really desire something in our hearts, we usually do something about it.