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"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Liberty and Justice for All

I love this country. I love the celebration of the independence and freedom many of us enjoy in this country. I love the idea of "liberty and justice for all".

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.

In 2000, the United States enacted an antitrafficking law and the United Nations adopted the Palermo Protocol.

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.

The 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.

The stories make me shudder when I'm not scratching my head and wondering if the Calvinists may have something right when they speak of "total depravity".

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.

Why is there such a market for killing, for sexual trafficking, for child abuse?

Why is there a giant market for child pornography?

Who is driving this vehicle of abomination?

Who is ruling this spiritual wasteland?

'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."


Turtle Woman said...

Why is their a market for trafficking? Well, trafficking is nothing new. But really, why do men do this to women and children is a better question? We do societies tolerate prostitution... because men own the law. It is only when women have parity in parliament and when they have parity in a country do things start to radically change. Male supremacy, the idea that men own women... even something as innocent as women taking the last names of men upon marriage... it's all about male entitlement and ownership of women. Until we shame men, and hold them accountable and stop using words like "humans" and "people" do describe who really is behind this "market" in pornography, we aren't going to zero in on what the problem really is all about.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Turtle Woman. Your point is well made and well received.

Judy Wolfe said...

Thank you, Elizabeth, for asking the tough questions that most people do not want think about, let alone talk about! Living in the number two area in the nation for the Sexual Trade Trafficking is worrisome for all young girls in this area. It's beyond worrisome, it's devastating that young girls and boys in our area are not safe and that this is allowed to continue anywhere in the 'home of the brave and the land of the free!'

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Judy - I think Independence Day is the BEST time to raise these questions, but they need to be talked about all the time

Matthew said...

There are lots of great documentaries on this topic - dying to leave, not for sale 1 and 2, men for sale, sisters and daughters betrayed - a church could do a film night or even a festival. There is also a story about being sold in the ELCA studies on sexuality, part three - journey together faithfully. You could read it from the pulpit and then afterward have a discussion based on the questions in the guide. I apologize I don't have the page number and it is a long document.
Actually the first part of that lesson is on page 59.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Matthew, for these resources