Category Archives: Law

“Will” You Or Won’t You

This isn’t legal advice. It’s not illegal either. Obviously, I’m not an attorney. If I were, I’d bill you for simply reading this. Or, more likely, I’d sue you for sharing conspiracy theories.

I know you’re immortal and will live forever.

Planning ahead regarding your death isn’t going to cause a Final Destination scenario. Or it might. Either way, as an adult, it is up to you to do the minimum to help the people you love once you’re gone. You never know when a giant log might fall off a truck and take your head off.

That’s no way to roll!

Every year at this time, I think about my thirty-one-year-old wife dying unexpectedly. Or the expert pilot getting thrown out of his parachute and falling to the ground at my feet. Neither really thought, “This is it.” No one does. They know it could happen. They turn an unseen corner and darkness falls.

If you don’t have a will, you’re leaving the people behind with extra baggage they don’t need. If people don’t have access to your financial accounts or your phone when you pass, I promise you that you’re causing needless agony on top of the grief they’ll suffer when you pass. It’s also a great way to encourage family members to behave like contestants on “Survivor.” And trust me, none of them will be as good-looking as those phony participants.

A handwritten will is acceptable. One that’s witnessed is better. The best is one witnessed and notarized. Probate courts love those. It’s one of the best gifts you can give your friends and family. (Not quite as good as living trusts and automatic survivorship or ownership – but much better than no plan.) Once you have one, I recommend telling your family you have one and what the contents are. It will be invaluable after your death if there are no surprised family members or someone claiming you said otherwise.

If you’ve not completed a will because it costs a lot or is a hassle, you’re wrong. It’s neither. You can do one from home in thirty minutes to an hour. After that, get it witnessed at a minimum and notarized if at all possible. The best part? It doesn’t require a lawyer. Doing it this way isn’t for everyone. But if you don’t have one, it is very likely that it will work perfectly for you.

Now that I’ve said all that, I can’t think of why everyone doesn’t have a will in Arkansas. Or share their passcodes.

Rocket Lawyer is my favorite do-it-yourself service. There are others. You can sign up for a trial and try it out. It is NOT expensive or complicated. You can edit it, download it, and easily use it. If you need help, have someone you trust to come to assist you. That will also help if a family member questions the contents. I won’t bore you with horrific family stories that ended in huge fights, court battles, or worse. We’ve all heard or been involved in them. I’ve known several people who died without wills and then had other family members destroy each other over alleged wishes and property. The simple truth is that you cannot know whether your wishes will be honored. Money and emotions cause uncountable family rifts.

If you have a lot of assets or are rich (define however you wish), it’s very likely you already have a will. For the rest of us, don’t worry about lawyers screaming that you should always use a lawyer to prepare one. If you have the money for a lawyer, please use one, but know that most of them use common template-generating software to fill in the information you’ll provide. Lawyers take time and money. It’s better to get one and then worry about “doing it perfectly.” Get a basic will now that covers most of the bases. THEN, follow up with the next step, even though we both know you’ll probably sit on the couch eating from a bag of chips instead.

Trusts and automatic transfer of your property are much more desirable than relying on a will, which might trigger probate. If you use a lawyer or estate planner, he or she will, of course, fill in the blanks for you. It’s best to have your property and assets automatically transferred to the person or people of your choice without the need for additional steps.

I live in the real world and know that many people don’t think ahead. They falsely believe that they will have time later – or that those whom they leave behind will capably take care of it. That’s foolish. All of us must face the idea that today might be our last day to grace this world. A few minutes of your time will save countless hours of agony. If someone you trust doesn’t have access to your phone, your computer, and your accounts, you are causing them avoidable agony.

Now that you know that it doesn’t have to be hard or expensive to get a will (or take the time to visit a lawyer), what’s stopping you? Most lawyers know better than to bite you, even ones who live in Madison County. I hope you live another thirty years. And if you don’t, that you take a little bit of your life to make your passing easier on your loved ones once you’re gone. If you’ve got time to watch an hour of SportsCenter or The Bachelorette, you have time to make a will or talk to a lawyer, estate planner, or psychic.

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LegalZoom
Do Your Own Will
Trust & Will
U.S. Legal Wills
Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker
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PS: 90% of the things that you think are valuable are valuable – but only to you. Your death cuts the cord of connection. Reduce, give away, donate, and triage your stuff so that what remains is the essence of what you treasure. Simplicity is its own reward y’all. If the things you have are valuable in the real world, sell them and use the money to live the life you want or to help those who need a hand. It could be anyone’s last day on Earth. Buried treasures help no one.

Love, X
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Facebook Class Action Settlement

An odd Facebook-related post…

If you get an email regarding “Facebook Internet Tracking Litigation,” it is indeed “real.”

The social media company is undergoing a large class action case for its practices regarding third-party sites several years ago.

While any possible payout will be small, the number of litigants registered affects many of the variables involved.

It only takes a couple of minutes.

X

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Imperfect Union. Of Thoughts.

As a middle-aged white guy in the South, I would like to remind everyone that I am not what you see. Most of us aren’t. Most people aren’t even really the idea of them that we hold in our heads. If we have a fundamentally different worldview from someone else, we tend to vilify their beliefs or motives. We have to be on guard about that. It infects everything. There are a lot of evil people in the world, but most of us want the same things. No one likes other people interfering in their lives, yet so many do exactly that. People are surprised to discover how calcified their belief system becomes as they age.

I’m no Chicken Little. Despite the appearance of continuity, we’ve faced a lot of major upheavals as a society. I used my Handmaid’s Tale picture from years ago because it is a go-to symbol of a possible outcome if we don’t get our crap together. I made mine out of humor. It’s easy to see that we need a buttload more humor lately. It’s easy to succumb to cynicism and frustration.

Everyone’s social media is going to be flooded with opinions about social issues. Women who’ve had abortions, especially those who did so for their own reasons and often without others knowing, are going to learn a lot about their peers and loved ones. Some of those women did so for medical reasons or in cases of rape. Most of them didn’t choose abortion lightly. As I grew older and shared my personal life, I can’t tell you how many women told me stories that would shock you.

Most of the vocal celebrants of the supreme court decision are past the age when abortion is a viable concern for them individually. Old wounds will open and new ones will arise as people spew words. Unlike many of my contemporaries, I’m not worried about the next generation finding new ways to fix some of this. Old ideas don’t serve as well as many would like to think.

I have my own abortion story, one that tempers my interpretation of others’ opinions. Many of your friends and family members have them, too; most you’ll never know. Human sexuality is a constant drive, one that leads to consequences and turmoil. If we are going to limit other people’s ability to mitigate the consequences, we have to step up and provide a better social structure to support one another. It’s not about condemnation or judgment.

Women outnumber men.

I’m liberal, speak Spanish, and am in favor of just about every social program that helps people. Even if it reduces the defense budget, even if outliers take advantage – and even if the systems we put into place aren’t perfect. I’d start with universal health care, which, despite its flaws, would cost each of us less than our current system. Knowing that everyone around me could get at least basic health services anytime they are needed is something that seems stupidly right to me. For whatever reason, people disagree with me. My principal argument is that the rest of the modern world agrees with me. And universal health care is cheaper than our current system.

I anticipate a firestorm across the board.

Entropy is at play on a societal level. We are never going to be at a fixed point on any social issue. No matter which side of a particular issue you’re on, no issue is safe from review, even if you’ve achieved a momentary victory. If you galvanize a particular group, the system can be destabilized to such a degree that it no longer serves anyone. These issues are far from settled. They might even permanently rupture the system of government.

Politics is a dirty, specialized, and selfish game. If you play it correctly, you can achieve almost any objective, especially if money is involved.

So, I am a middle-aged white guy.

But I’m not responsible for the prevailing conservatism of my age group or those who look like me. We look alike but definitely don’t think alike. Despite that, we share a lot of the same ambitions, wants, needs, and desires. We have to learn to stay out of each other’s way as much as we can as we pursue our version of the dream. Conservatism in its purest form is sound; the evangelical version of it makes me cringe and shake my head.

So many of our problems result from those who “know” what is best for everyone else. Certainty breeds callousness. I try to think of all the things I once knew and believed, only to discover I was wrong. Which surely means that I’m mistaken about things now.

Railing about politics on social media is a fool’s errand unless you tell it as a personal story, one which reflects your life and who you are. You are not going to change anyone’s mind – nor should that be your goal.

Whichever side you’re on, remember that we are all human beings and got to our beliefs by inconsistent trial-and-error. Adding anger won’t change anything, even if it is justified. Like all of you, I admit that sometimes the burn of anger is a welcome relief, even as it short-circuits my humanity. It almost always makes me lesser.

I know that people are legitimately scared because the abortion ban will allow states to foolishly prevent abortions even in cases where it’s medically recommended, necessary, or a result of involuntary conception. That’s fiendishly diabolical and evil in my opinion. It ignores science and human decency.

No matter what changed, anything can be changed again.

Literally anything. With the right lever and effort.

Look for your lever and try to avoid adding to the woodpile of words. Find a way to convert your anger into action. Anger or fear is an immensely powerful motivator.

I know that being a middle-aged white guy contains a certain privilege of thought. I see that. But I can worry along with the rest of you, the ones who see a weird arc of conservative social ideology creeping into places that have little to do with fiscal policy or public health. Most of us think we have a singular plan and path for everyone else to live by. Imposing it only leads to no one having autonomy or happiness.

Love, X
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Anger’s Blossom

I’m reluctant to share this one. While my heart was in the right place, I felt a flare of righteous anger. That type of anger feels right at the moment but often sours with consequences. I am not a hero in this story.

About two weeks ago, I was driving about 35 mph in a way that made me feel alive. Music high, smiling. Not in a hurry.

Her green sedan pulled alongside me in the lane to my left.

She held her phone, crying.

Her black hair reached her shoulders.

She tossed her phone in the passenger seat.

And unexpectedly looked toward me.

Tears on her face.

She nodded and wiped her eyes with a sleeve.

I let off the gas, and she raced away.

Five minutes later, I pulled into the lot.

And saw the green sedan there.

Life reminds me there aren’t many coincidences.

As I parked, I noted she was next to the store.

Cigarette in hand, nervous.

I watched a man pull up and exit his truck angrily.

He hissed at her in a way I couldn’t hear.

She flinched and looked down to the ground. Because of my childhood, I saw the backstory written plain. I already knew what her private life was like. This wasn’t the first time, nor the tenth.

The man gesticulated and shook.

Without thinking, I walked toward them.

“How are you?” I asked her.

She looked at me in surprise.

The man interrupted, “Who are you?”

I replied, “I am the man just in time.”

“For what?” He hissed at me.

“To do what I need to.” The anger flared in me.

I prayed he’d move toward me.

I walked to his truck and opened the driver’s door. “Get the eff out of here, sir.” I smiled like a predator. I admit that it felt good. I’m not sure what that says about me.

The woman watched, fearful of what her man might do.

She should have feared what I might do.

A man in Canada filled my head, his volatile narcissism unchecked, his multiple victims attempting to regain normal lives in his wake. The law does nothing to aggressively meet the abuser’s behavior in kind, even though that is what is needed. Another man was using his long familiarity with control and emotional abuse to impoverish his fleeing wife. Both honestly deserve a measured dose of Southern Justice. This might be my surrogate, one to catch my vengeance. I hoped so. Waiting for ‘someone’ to help might lead to never. I’d felt the burn inflaming me for some time.

“Get home in ten or else,” he told the woman.

“She won’t be there in 10. Or 60. Go.”

He paced around me and pretended to lunge as he did. I didn’t flinch. Ninety percent of all aggression fails to materialize. Had the ten percent emerged, Bobby Dean laid in wait, anesthetized against anything except immobilizing pain. I wanted him to lunge and make contact. The law allows us to defend someone else. If it penalizes me for acting on impulse, that’s fair.

He got in the truck, slammed the door, and roared away. He put down his window momentarily and shouted the redneck equivalent of whatever angry, stupid people say. I laughed purposefully and ignored him.

The woman cried again.

“You know what you need to do,” I told her. “Today, before it’s too late. Do you have someone to go to?”

She nodded.

“Go there. And don’t go back to that. Do you need anything?”

“No,” she murmured.

“Go now in case he comes back.”

I didn’t enter the store.

I watched the black-haired woman get in her car and depart.

I saw a green car today and wondered if the woman was safe. And I wondered who the man’s next victim might be. That there will be is a certainty. I hope there’s a future me waiting for him. It’s evident that I will pull the curtain back and summon Bobby Dean.

My idle pacifist hands are anxious in an unexpected way.

Days later, I’m still thinking about how close I had to get to really hurting someone. And how the realization that the same Bobby Dean inside me was as guilty of the same misbehavior as the man was with his wife or girlfriend. He was a chronic abuser; ironically, I can channel that same energy to obliterate my doubts and step in on the other side of the situation.

There are no easy answers. But I do know that sometimes raw anger is appropriate. Sometimes it’s the only way. It’s not right, proper, or even intelligent. A lot of men need to spit blood to learn their lesson. And some men, men like me, ones who earned their abuse badges when younger, probably need to be more willing to violently be the one to administer a reminder.

PS I know that we’re supposed to call the police. But I also know that they constantly fail to protect people. The law exists to inhibit behavior, but it often does not remedy the need for immediacy. A few weeks after my surgery, I got a reminder of how precarious the idea of safety can be. The flare that lit inside me of me hasn’t abated. As I said, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about this admission.

Love, X

Dear Eric: No Means No

Dear Eric:

If you love someone, you value their peace of mind, happiness, and ability to live their lives freely.

And, in a normal relationship, no matter what the reason, each person maintains the right of silence and distance or any range of contact between the opposites of communication and disengagement. Each gets to set their boundaries.

In a toxic relationship, the other person needs distance to feel safe.

Unfortunately, there are times when we have to resort to our agreed-upon set of laws to insist that a person honor another person’s boundaries. Unfortunately, it’s required in some situations where someone has the mental inability to respect another person’s right to autonomy.

That time has passed.

No means no.

No amount of cleverness will protect you from the inevitable claxon call of justice.

I don’t need to understand the complexities of the legal system where you might be.

I’m reminding you that Southern Justice has its standards.

The subject of my post has no idea whatsoever that I’m writing this.

You are accountable.

Stop.

I don’t ask twice.

No means no.

Give the person you allege to love the ability to live a full life, absent your presence, words, or influence.

I’ve asked nicely. If you want to know what Bobby Dean has instilled in me, keep playing stupid.

No means no. Before. And now.

Especially now.

You’ve done your damage.

X

Josefina Fruitcake

Note: this is a different kind of post. It’s not for everyone. Literally. Wink.

We rely on human nature to protect us. We prefer to think that people are like us. Kind, compassionate and reasonable, behaving as we would. When that fails, we turn to the law to mitigate the behavior of those who are not like us. The law has many shortcomings. Its bureaucracy is flawed with delay and a disregard for the victims asking for remedy and comfort. We created a complex system to protect victims and those wrongfully accused.

Its existence does not preclude a return to the chaos of personal justice that preceded it.

The same clever code words used to avoid the consequences of actions? Those exact words can be turned and used in the same sinister way.

If someone asks for peace of mind and safety, it’s their right. Because I’m familiar with toxic and twisted psychology, I know that there’s something wrong with some people’s brain chemistry. That defect doesn’t disconnect them from the commensurate responsibility of behaving in such a way that they don’t inflict further emotional trauma on someone who’s insisted that they have the fundamental right of peace and the pursuit of happiness.

Those it’s rare, some people don’t honor other people’s right to be free and happy in their lives. Some are simply irredeemable.

We all have an instinctive urge toward fairness.

In The Green Mile, Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb leans in to the villain Percy Whitmore: “…you mind me now. We’ll also see you beaten within an inch of your life. We know people too. Are you so foolish, you don’t realize that?” Percy had been so confident of his connections and deviousness to protect him, not realizing his cohort of fellow guards subscribed to a higher level of fairness and justice. On their plane of justice, people like Percy are given leeway until they have to face the consequences of their actions. If the Percys of the world don’t listen, they face the same fate as the dog that bit the little boy earlier in the book and movie.

It’s not personal. If the equation requires that the side abusing others be minimized, so be it.

Thinking that the legal system is the only remedy to protect others? That’s foolish.

I’m liberal and kind-hearted. But I have an iron rod of my dad inside me. That rod is premised on the old school belief that if you’ve given someone leeway to stop and they don’t heed the warning, then the precepts of Southern Justice come into play. It is no sin to defend yourself or someone else.

Unlike so many other people, I’ve seen behavior turn from trivial to violent. Many people underestimate its probability. I don’t. That’s why I hypocritically subscribe to the belief that it’s better to act precipitously at times without regard to the potential consequences that might befall me simply because I subscribe to a different sort of justice.

I honor the laws to the best of my ability.

My greatest allegiance is to fairness and justice. That allegiance plays by a different set of rules, especially when the intent of laws is being perverted or subjugated by someone who has demonstrated that he or she feels empowered to victimize others.

If you’ve already violated someone and still persist in harassing, intimidating, or making that person feel unsafe, the long arm of the law will get you. There’s a longer arm at play here, one with compunction to compel you to see the light.

There’s time to reconsider the error of your ways.

Please take the route that ensures that everyone is safe.

Otherwise, you are as unnecessary and unpleasant as a fruitcake without liquor.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

X

Want To Perform Weddings?

If you’re getting married, or your son/daughter is planning a marriage, one of the most personal things you can do is to have a friend or loved one officiate the marriage. It will create a memory that everyone will share.

Something that a lot of people tell me is that they are surprised that I can perform marriages. It’s profoundly easier to be a licensed marriage officiant/minister than you’d think.

Arkansas, like many states, does not get into the murky waters of “who” ordains you as a minister. This fact also surprises most people.

If you’re interested, I recommend that you go to the Universal Life Church website. There are others, but this one is tremendously easy to navigate: https://www.ulc.org/ It is not expensive.

Here’s a link that will take you to the State of Arkansas’ information. https://www.ulc.org/wedding-laws/arkansas

Once you obtain credentials, all you have to do is take them to the county clerk and register them, usually for five dollars. Your credentials are permanently recorded; you’ll need the book and page number for each time you sign a marriage license.

Another misconception is about how complicated the ceremony has to be. Legally, both people marrying only have to be in the minister’s presence and sign the marriage license. The ceremony itself can be five seconds or five hours, involving anything you’d want to say in the middle.

If you’ve ever been interested in this, I recommend that you check it out.

Although I don’t claim to be a minister, legally I am. I almost got to perform a marriage ceremony a couple of weeks ago. It’s also fun to put people on the spot when they talk about getting married. “Oh yeah, well let’s go do this right now.”

Personally, I wish people wouldn’t spend so much getting married. The act itself can be highly personal and creative. Spend the money on a down payment on a house or take a trip and create memories. IF you truly love the idea of an elaborate wedding, go for it. And if you’d like to make it more personal, get licensed so that you can directly involved in your friend’s or loved ones’ ceremony.

Again, for anyone who has wondered how to go about being a marriage officiant, go ahead and do it. You won’t regret the very little bit of money and time it will take you.

Love, X

Get Rid Of That Stick

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A sufficiently long time ago, I sent this letter to the Sheriff of ______ County. I know the letter was received because the Sheriff took the time to write an idiotic email to the email address that I included with the letter. Because of the audacity and hypocrisy of the county employee who pulled me over, I decided to use my wit and sarcasm to drive home the point that people often do things that achieve the opposite objective of what they allegedly intend. Everything about the policeman who pulled me over that day reeked of a lack of professionalism, courtesy, and human kindness. From what I’ve observed over the years, this kind of person is the worst kind to wear a badge.

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Honorable **** *****
________ County Sheriff

I have searched the news and internet for the medical GoFundMe page for ________ County deputies. So far, I haven’t found it.

I enjoy donating money to worthy causes, especially ones which help fellow citizens to live more productive and happy lives.

Before I forget to do so, I would like to thank you in advance for your prompt response and for providing me with the resource links to help a couple of your deputies. It is painfully obvious that they need medical support. Without it, performing their job duties will continue to be increasingly uncomfortable and difficult.

Specifically, I noted that one of your lieutenants walks with a pained gait in his step, as if each step renders him momentarily paralyzed. Having a GoFundMe account will help trained surgeons to relieve this pain.

I can only surmise how far up his ass the stick must be inserted. I don’t know when the stick got stuck up his ass but is obvious that one of great girth and length must be stuck up in there. It is the only explanation for the manner in which he conducts himself while dealing with the public – and the look of disgust he carries on his face each day. He is the ‘before’ picture of almost any tragic story. I’m here to help.

I will gladly donate to help him have the stick up his ass removed, under the assumption that the stick is indeed the cause of his attitude. It’s hard to perform one’s job duties while in pain, angry at the world, or working under the assumption that people are not worthy of respect.

Please let me know where I can send money to help your deputies and the lieutenant specifically. If I don’t hear from you, I know that at some point in the future I’ll be inexplicably pulled over when the county coffers are depleted. I’ll gladly donate then, too.

Regards,

Juan Q. Public

 

P.S. No one cares what rank a police officer holds, especially when doing traffic citations. You’re here to protect and serve the public, rather than the other way around. If the public employee behaves badly, his or her behavior reflects poorly on the department – not just the officer.

P.P.S. Your Lieutenant was driving recklessly prior to pulling me over, as well as having run another driver off the road. I could be wrong, but I’m convinced the personal cellphone call he was making probably interfered with his ability to drive safely. I know you’re glad I sent you these unsolicited comments.

Another DNA, Another Day

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I’ve always had my DNA set to ‘share’ on the sites I use. Recently, because of renewed interest because of the show “Genetic Detective,” I ensured that it was uploaded to GEDmatch for law enforcement use. I’d been a victim of my own procrastination, even after watching a season of “The Innocence Files” on Netflix.

Are there cons to this? For some people, yes. No pun intended with the use of the word “con.”

Are there advantages? Definitely yes.

I can understand why some people have objections to DNA sharing. I’m not entirely comfortable with it. There are legitimate reasons. There are also many unfounded reasons. The good thing about DNA is that only a portion of the populace needs to participate to map out everyone else – so even if you withhold your genetic map, it is likely another relative will divulge theirs and make your decision moot.

I’m that guy. I have to be. It would be immensely hypocritical for me to constantly tell everyone that privacy is both a leprechaun and unicorn while foolishly attempting to protect my invisible genetic blueprint.

Despite being a liberal, I’m in favor of never having another unidentified soldier, as well as ensuring that crimes involving DNA are solved. It would be ironic for me to be charged with a crime based on voluntarily-submitted DNA results. Mistakes do happen. If humans are involved in the process, things are going to go wrong. If the government can force me to sign up for the Selective Service, I don’t see much of a problem with us collectively expecting a genetic database to protect us all. Again, I recognize that this sort of thing can (and sometimes will) be abused. Using the potential abuse of a few to justify doing nothing different doesn’t appeal to me. No system is going to be perfect.

However, I’ve always believed that DNA (and other advances) are going to strip away generations of mistruths and ignorance about our ancestors. If this information assists law enforcement with doing their jobs, I’m for it. I have the same argument for fingerprints. As long as scientists have review power over the application of such evidence, I’m at no greater risk by others having it.

If I don’t trust the government, I’m already screwed.

Believe me, I have some problems with the government, especially under our current President.

As for the police? If you know me, you know I have a sideways opinion about several of them and systemic objections to the way they are operated. Focusing on these concerns, however, as an excuse to fail to help in the way I can, that would be a greater sin of omission.

The interesting thing about the show is that it beats the drum that even remote ancestors allow for research and triangulation toward suspects in crimes involving DNA. This means that my DNA could potentially come up in a criminal investigation. It’s possible that someone will knock on my door as a result.

I have relatives who I believe are capable of committing crimes, even crimes a generation ago. Many currently living certainly committed such crimes already. It’s not a question of debate. It’s true.

Though I have no proof per se, I also know it’s likely that family members might have fathered children during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. I have only whispers to base my suspicion on. However, my other suspicions have been proven correct, too, even though I waited years for some of them to find confirmation.

For much of my life, I endured ridicule and hostility for some of the views about my Dad. Just a year ago, I found out that my suspicions were correct and that he’d fathered a child with a very young woman in the early 70s.

Such revelations, in combination with a checkered past for many of my relatives, paints a realistic picture that other shenanigans may have gone undetected, too.

I’d like to part of the solution to the problem.

For those thousands of people who’ll be reachable because of my participation, please accept my apologies.

It is my DNA, after all, freely given.

In the same way that some of my ancestors kept their foot on the closet door, gun in hand, in order to protect the skeletons in the family closet, I now stand on the other side, with the door wide open.