Kevin is a young, energetic black man who bounces around the local diner where he works. Joking with fellow staff and customers alike, he is well-liked, trusted, and always puts in a hard day’s work. It has not always been that way for Kevin though. Kevin has struggled with substance abuse and anger, as well as unemployment and other prohibited opportunities. However, with the help of a faith-based, full-time recovery program and a second chance, Kevin is trying to make something positive of his life. He has dreams of serving in the U.S. military, but the Army or Navy won’t take him. You see, Kevin has a criminal record. Door slammed. And at this point there isn’t much he can do about it.
A few years ago, while just an impulsive young teenager, Kevin made some threatening remarks about someone that had made him mad. Admittedly, he fesses up that he was wrong, that the words were quite hurtful, and undoubtedly a threat. But when Kevin got convicted for a “terroristic threat”, little did he know that his dreams of putting his life on the line in service to his country would one day be crushed. You see, in Texas a “terroristic threat” occurs if one “threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with intent to… (2) place any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury…” This is one of six different situations in which the offense of “terroristic threat” may be committed. It is a Class B misdemeanor in most situations. An individual adjudged guilty of a Class B misdemeanor shall be punished by: (1) a fine not to exceed $2,000; (2) confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days; or (3) both such fine and confinement. So in my own anger when I have said, “I want to kill that guy”, or even just “I am going to kick your @#$”, my actions could be deemed as a “terroristic threat”. I may should have gone to jail for up to 180 days a few times in my life. What about you?
I don’t want to debate this law and its rightness or wrongness. Sure, we don’t want folks going around threatening each other with serious bodily injury. But a “terroristic threat”? Really? And for an offense that carries with it less than 6 months jail time, at most?! And that’s the language that now keeps Kevin from joining the U.S. military. It is also language on any criminal background check that pops up related to his employment or housing or school loan applications, that will in most situations scare people away from giving Kevin a fair chance to succeed. Kevin is not a terrorist! If he is, then I would venture to say almost all of us are. Haven’t we all been there? Or at least had a situation where we have made a bad mistake in anger, been misunderstood, tried to make things right, and turned away from our harmful acts? If it was not for the recovery program and a small diner taking a chance on him, Kevin may still be wandering the streets, full of anger and ready to burst. He is now bursting with life, and it is contagious. But Kevin wants more out of life. His shattered dreams of sacrificial service deserve better. We would all be better off with Kevin defending our freedom. Maybe we should seek better ways to defend his.