The fullness of my celebration of 'Independence Day' is always tempered by the history of slavery in this country, and the stain and stench of racism, which is its legacy.
I am inclined not to be so enthusiastic in all the celebrations when I remember that there are, according to the latest State Department statistics, as many as 14,500 - 17,500 people in the United States who are in bondage and perhaps 27 million people worldwide.
Let me repeat that: As many as people 14,500 - 17,500 in the good old USofA are in bondage.
And you thought the 13th Amendment ended slavery.
Both call for countries to criminalize trafficking, punish offenders and provide shelter to victims.
In its 2011 trafficking report, the State Department concluded that last year only 32 of 184 countries fully complied with the standards set by the American law.
The number on the list of the worst violators rose to 23 from 13. Two close United States allies, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, joined that list of shame.
Actually, the United Nations "Palermo Protocol" is one of three protocols adopted by the UN in 2000 in Palermo, Italy. The first is The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (also referred to as the Trafficking Protocol) is a protocol to the Convention against Transnational Organised Crime , the second one being the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, and the third being the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition. Countries must become parties to the Convention itself before they can become parties to any of the Protocols.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is responsible for implementing the Protocol. It offers practical help to states with drafting laws, creating comprehensive national anti-trafficking strategies, and assisting with resources to implement them.
In March 2009, UNODC launched the Blue Heart Campaign to fight human trafficking, to raise awareness, and to encourage involvement and inspire action.
The fund also helps Governments, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, to protect and support victims of human trafficking so that they can recover from their physical and psychological scars.
Those physical and psychological scars run deep. The stories are heartbreaking. The Cambodian girl sold to a brothel who was stabbed in the eye by the brothel’s owner when she fought back. The Middle Eastern woman hired as a domestic in London whose employers seized her passport and locked her away in the house. The teenager in Dallas forced into prostitution.
As you prepare to gather with family and friends and watch parades by day and fireworks by night, I ask you do consider those estimated 100,000 people in this country alone - and the perhaps 27 million around the world - who are living in the bondage of the modern day form of slavery known as human trafficking.
I ask you to enter into conversations with this subject while you're eating your hot dog or hamburger or enjoying the cool, refreshing sloppiness of that watermelon.
Not to put too much of a damper on the celebration, but to ask how it is we can celebrate our freedom while 14,500 - 17,500 people in this country are still bound in slavery.
Ask yourself why there is a market for this.
'Liberty and justice for all' is not just a great idea. It's one of the foundational building blocks of this country.
When it starts to crumble, the whole structure is in jeopardy.
Or, in the words of Abraham Lincoln: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."