This is a response to Police Chief Mark Beckner trying to ban the annual Naked Pumpkin Run in Boulder, Colorado.
Here is the logic of “being naked is a sex crime.” Genitals and breasts are used during sex. A display of genitals and breasts in public is a crime. Therefore displaying your genitals and breasts in public is a sex crime. Furthermore, anyone who commits a sex crime is a sex offender.
The lack of nuance and the gross level of denial that all humans have bodies and those bodies have parts, by a society that purports to be intelligent is staggering in itself. But the willful and ignorant misapplication of logic is not only stupid, but embarrassingly so.
Yet, the few who misappropriate legal definitions for their own purposes are allowed to do so because being labeled a “sex offender” is about the scariest thing any person in a position of authority can do to another human being in this country. Being a sex offender means additional time in prison, a prison existence that is made less than pleasant by the other inmates, a lifetime of registering with the local sheriff, being denied employment and in more and more cases, being denied a place to live.
In Ohio, it is against the law for you to take a photo of your kids bathing in a bathtub. It is probably even more risky to actually take a bath with them or change them in public. If you get caught with a photo of them bathing, you will be arrested and charged as a sex offender. Your kids will also be taken from you. Ask AJ and Lisa Demaree of Arizona how they feel about bathtime photos.
In Boulder, Colorado, the local Police Chief Mark Beckner will be using sex offender laws to try and stop the annual Naked Pumpkin Run. A lot of people will be spooked into not participating, not because they are afraid to be arrested (public nudity is not illegal in Boulder) but because the chief will be applying the State’s indecency statute, which “makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for anyone to knowingly expose his or her genitals in circumstances ‘likely to cause affront or alarm.'”
This is not about sex offender laws or public indecency laws. Those have their place and when applied correctly to real sex crimes, they save lives and protect minors. This is about the abuse of power by elected officials.
As expected, the American Civil Liberties Union fired off a letter ranting about freedom of expression, blah, blah, blah. As usual, they ignored the larger and more egregious issue; the abuse of power by an elected official.
A blind application of laws without regard for appropriateness has led to zero tolerance in schools where Cub Scouts are being thrown into reform school for bringing a pocket knife to school and where teens are being charged as sex offenders for sexting. Both equally dumb, but not intentionally criminal to the extent the laws applied were intended.
The separation of the “intent to commit a crime” and “committing a crime inadvertently” is producing more criminals daily. While ignorance of the law is never an excuse, so too is a misapplication of the law by authorities. One assumes they were elected as caretakers of the law to be able to reason through the nuance and apply common sense rather than black or white interpretations. Moreover, they should not be overreaching their authority by “warping” laws around behaviors that laws were not intended to cover. Clearly the citizens of Boulder do not have a problem with public nudity and can tell the difference between being naked in public and being a sex offender as evidenced by existing public nudity laws.
Even more disturbing is the lack of citizen journalists, bloggers and news journalists who are either oblivious or apathetic to the issue. (Do a Google search…) It is a small one now — one town, one police chief — but if allowed to grow, one can only predict Boulder will eventually have more sex offenders per capita than any other town in America. (If you say it can’t happen, I give you the town of Jordon, Minnesota in the early 1980s where every parent, it seemed, was a child molester due to the unrestrained exuberance of the town’s prosecutor and the silence of good citizens.)
I leave you with a fitting poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.
The Internet has given the citizenry tools to monitor elected official even closer and in real time. Instead of blogging and twittering the latest on “Balloon Boy” or the latest happenings of Jon Gosselin, we should be turning an even more vigilant eye on local officials who believe laws are theirs to bend at will.
This is my take of why citizen journalism will not be successful. If it were, Chief Mark Beckner would not be allowed to legally terrorize the citizens of Boulder.
*Can I link bait more than putting naked, sex and crime in the same headline? Maybe, but then I’d really have to think harder than I want to. Also, the photo is a blurred version of something I lifted from http://nakedpumpkinrun.org/