Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fighting Trafficking and Poverty at Home and Abroad

A family home along the river in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I have been thinking and reading about human and child trafficking a lot recently. Ever since I left Cambodia in September it has been a subject never far from my mind. I continue to follow the developments at Riverkids, the organization I worked for, as well as other developments around the world. And my studies have brought me to some contradictory and confusing conclusions.
I hesitate to use the word “politics” in this next sentence, but I can't find a better word to describe my thoughts. My “politics” don't fall easily in line with any one political party. After all the definition of politics is, “the complex or aggregate of relationships of people in society, esp those relationships involving authority or power.” No, that is not what I am about today. I prefer to think of them as passions, beliefs, rights, and priorities, and how these are the things that make up who I am as a person. They are not politics. They are all that I hold dear.

I find that individuals who are passionate about fighting human trafficking tend to be more “left wing” or liberal. There is great irony in such beliefs at times. You see, those of us who are fighting human trafficking are intervening in parts of the world where the government and local leadership is so corrupt that it cannot be trusted. We step in with aid and assistance and provide welfare where none else is found. Educations are provided from donations from individuals around the world, so that the less fortunate citizens of “less developed countries” have a fighting chance at a better future. Some organizations will attempt to educate and reform the governments themselves, but for the most part, the education and reform goes straight to the people.

We do not expect their governments to provide aid or welfare for them. We expect their governments to abuse them, tax them, and continue to oppress them. I think of the families in Phnom Penh, Cambodia who lived along the river (yes, this is where the name “Riverkids” came from), who were forced from their homes when the river rose and the flooding worsened. The government evicted them and hauled them off to live in what amounts to no more than a refugee camp outside of town. No assistance given. No help or transportation to get to the city where their lives and livelihoods were.

In these less developed countries, we (the good Samaritans and humanitarians of the world blessed to be from more developed countries) provide aid and help so that the people will never have to be dependent on their governments again, so that they may stand on their own two feet proud of their accomplishments. We send funds via, we volunteer with humanitarian organizations, we donate our clothes, money, and time. We yell at and protest their governments. We boycott their abusers. We pray for something better.

And yet, back in the United States, we often do the opposite. Forgive me for using a “glittering generality” in my description. But more often than not it is the “liberals” who care about human rights and international development. But here on American soil it is the “liberals” who want to see more government control and intervention. They encourage more welfare and more aid from our government to our less fortunate. And it is the “conservatives” who preach about families and want less government, who are rarely found in humanitarian circles.

If we fight corrupt governments abroad, why do we encourage more government at home? Why would we want to become more dependent upon them here? We have seen what happens around the world when governments force their people to rely upon them for every little thing- and it ends in oppression, tyranny, devastating poverty, and disease. Why would we want that on our own shores?

Let's practice what we preach abroad in our own homes as well. Do not demand for the government to provide a better education- go out and teach others yourself. Do not demand more welfare- go out and give it. Do not allow anyone to ever become dependent on an impersonal system designed to protect the money of the government, and not designed to improve the lives of its people.
Haitians waiting for a handout

A welfare state will never succeed. Even the most well-meaning of governments will always have to operate on a budget, and will have no choice but to protect its coffers. No government will ever effectively be able to function if it is willing to bankrupt itself in order to provide more for its people. No government, ruler, or leader in history, with the exception of Jesus Christ, (that I can think of) has willingly sacrificed itself for its people. So why, why would we ever encourage anyone to become dependent on a government that cannot by design put his or her needs first?

I may have a “bleeding heart” when it comes to humanitarian work, but I will always vote against more government power. I will continue to stand out in the international aid community as the lone, sole conservative who did not vote for Clinton or Obama. (I will also continue to be a big fan of the great work Clinton has done since his presidency in international development.) And I will continue to stand out amongst Republicans as the crusader who wishes they would stop talking about immigration (how many immigrants are trying to escape a corrupt government to come here for a better life?), and instead focus on stopping human trafficking.

If Republicans were to put as much faith and strength into combating human trafficking as they have other social issues, they could bring an end to it on American soil in just a matter of years. Yes, human trafficking most certainly occurs in the United States, and not just abroad. It happens right in front of us on and right in plain sight.

“Typically, she’s a 13-year-old girl of color from a troubled home who is on bad terms with her mother. Then her mom’s boyfriend hits on her, and she runs away to the bus station, where the only person on the lookout for girls like her is a pimp. He buys her dinner, gives her a place to stay and next thing she knows she’s earning him $1,500 a day.”

This isn't prostitution. To think this girl is a prostitute is na├»ve and misinformed at best. This girl is a victim of human trafficking. “Trafficking” does not mean she was moved like cattle across state lines, and sold to the highest bidder. No, trafficking by definition is the sell or trade of a good. And in this case, a 13 yr old girl is the good.

This is my rallying cry, my soapbox, and plea for the day. Conservatives- don't just preach it at home, preach it abroad. And Liberals- do not just teach it abroad, teach it at home. So many from both persuasions hold up an image and tell the world to be just like us, and yet, when the needy come to cross our borders, you turn them away. Where is the humanity and logic in that?

There is no need for a one world order. There is no need for a great equalizing law to make all things “fair.” There is only a need for all good men to do something. Or in the words of Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Do not allow evil to triumph. Do not do sit by and do nothing.” 


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