I have this crazy idea. A crazy, wonderful idea. An impossible idea, really. But maybe not quite impossible. I think this crazy idea of mine might just be compelling enough to spark curiosity, bore into the very core of people, burn ember-bright and spread like wildfire. Or it may snuff out the second I strike the match. Like all ideas, the only way to find out if they’ll work or not is to put them to the test.
So I guess this post is a test. It may be the first of many tests. Or the whole idea may fizzle, drowned by the media over-saturation of the web and my own insecurities. But I’ll never know if I don’t try.
A little over a year ago, my eyes were opened to something I had no idea was there. It was like an awakening, if you will. Up until then I had lived my life feeling like the world was mostly a good place, a place with sunsets and hope for the future, even if there may be hard times to be had. Actually, this is still true for me. But what I realized, for the first time, realized – not just on an intellectual “yes there are evils in the world” level, but on a heart level – is that there are people in the world who don’t have hope of anything better, anything different than what is right in front of their face.
And for the first time, I didn’t just see sad situations, with characters struggling through a difficult storyline, far far away from me – so far they seem more like a story from a good book, or an interesting movie script; I saw past the barrier of geographical distance, culture, language, skin color, socio-economic status, and what I saw were people. People like me, like my wife, my kids, my friends, the people I go to church with, and the random people I run into when shopping or out for a walk.
I was truly smacked in the face with the reality of my privilege.
The child forced to work on a cocoa plantation for no pay, sold into slavery by his parents, and living in work conditions that would not be tolerated in my country; that child is just like one of my kids. Maybe 10 or 12 years old – I happen to have one of each – wielding a tool that I see as a deadly weapon, 12 hours a day for no pay and scant food, locked up at night, and who knows what else. That kid is a person. A person like my little girl, who I forbade to go over to our friends’ house when I saw some kids playing with machetes in their yard, until I could make sure she was safe. I have lost my taste for chocolate that I am not sure hasn’t been made on the blood and sweat of a person forced to work in these conditions. When I walk down the candy isle and remember the sweet taste of various chocolate treats, I now taste their blood instead and I lose my appetite, and I just want to do something. Isn’t there just ONE thing I could do to make a difference?
The girl standing on the street corner, dressed to entice, all legs, butt and boobs, red mouth and smiles, ready to please, to make me feel irresistible even as she wears down my defenses with coy laughter, a cock of her head, a flip of her hair, and a “come hither” look of overwhelming desire in her eyes – she’s just working, right? It’s the job that she chose for herself. Some women are just born with an insatiable need for sex, all the time, right? It’s called being a nymphomaniac, I think. Yeah, that’s it, that’s what it’s called. That’s what she is, and she likes it, so it’s ok, she can choose to do that. I would personally never pay her a visit, but if that’s what she wants to do with her life, it’s her choice, right? So she’s a whore, and I actually disagree with the way she lives, and I look down on her for doing so, but who can blame me? It’s debasing, and I wish she would choose a different career path, but it’s her life… Or is it? I recently watched a documentary on sex trafficking, and one of the lines that stuck with me is something like this: “no one chooses to be a prostitute.” This from a former prostitute. They are either forced into it, and/or feel like they have no choice. No alternatives. It’s that or… nothing. There is no other choice. Can you imagine a situation where you feel that you have no choice but to sell your body to complete strangers countless times a day, every day, for someone else to collect the money, and no hope of anything better, or different? I can’t. I can’t wrap my brain around that. Oh the depth of despair and hopelessness that this kind of “decision” comes from. And once you’re “in” there is no escape. Attempts are brutally rewarded. Each attempt is brutally rewarded. You do not own your own destiny, let alone your own body. You are owned. All of you. Maybe over time, there is no you left at all. So now I don’t see a stupid whore on the street corner, too lazy or screwed up to find a wholesome job. Now I see a person. A person beaten down, psychologically tortured and twisted, debased, defiled, her will, desires, and hopes crushed and what’s left of her reduced to that of a circus animal, dressed up like a doll and pushed onto the streets with a threat: return with a wad of cash or else. Or else… But she’s not a whore, she’s a person. And I want to do something. Is there not ONE thing I can do?
And the list of oppression goes on. I’m not talking about things just being unfair, or people taking advantage of each other. I’m talking about people using other people, owning them, treating them in some instances in far worse ways than at Guantanamo Bay. That’s right, worse than we treat terrorists under interrogation.
How about the textile factory workers in Asia that are worked so hard and so long that they literally don’t have the time or the strength to find another employment option? Or refugees in various countries in Europe or Africa? And orphans? What did they do to deserve their neglect? How about entire people groups that don’t have access to clean water, something most humans would agree is a basic human right? What if we stopped seeing those people as “third world” or so removed from us that their pain and their sick and dead children are but a piece of uncomfortable entertainment on tv, but instead we saw them as people. Like us.
The list is long.
The list is overwhelming.
And it seems impossible for anyone to do a single thing about it.
I’m not trying to guilt anyone in this post. Or ruin anyone’s day. Remember, I have an idea. A crazy idea.
What I’m wondering is this: what if every person in America, every American citizen, picked one thing to change in their life that would be a personal stand against a certain form of oppression? It could be to only eat Fair Trade chocolate. Or it could be to give money to an organization that is fighting human trafficking near you. Or it could be to sponsor a child somewhere. Or it could be to donate some of your weekly or monthly time with a local organization that helps rehabilitate women that were a part of the sex trade. It could be a donation of time, money, or just a commitment to spread awareness of a particular form of oppression – intentionally sharing with 2 people every month. It could be asking the uncomfortable question of all your male friends if they’ve ever paid for sex, and informing them of what’s really going on.
What if every American looked into forms of oppression, picked just one, and made a commitment to doing something about it for one year? One thing, one year, and then assess.
I once thought that we simply couldn’t afford to buy only Fair Trade chocolate. But now it’s been over a year, and though we eat less chocolate, we still have it weekly, sometimes even daily, and it’s all Fair Trade. Now that a year has passed, we’re considering our options. We’ve decided to keep buying only Fair Trade chocolate, and we’re looking to choose one more thing to commit to for the next year. We’re looking into the sex trafficking scene in Houston. We’re thinking of buying only Fair Trade sugar, or vanilla. We’re still trying to figure it out.
But back to my crazy idea. What if every American made a commitment to do ONE thing in their lives, for one year, that stands against a form of oppression? That’s a lot of people choosing lots of different “one things.” But if enough people choose the same “one thing,” imagine the difference that could make. And what if after the first year, most of them found that one thing wasn’t as hard as they thought it would be, and they decide to add one more thing?
My idea might not get anywhere.
But what if it did?
Would you choose one thing?
Not sure where to go from here? I hesitate to include links to any specific websites, causes or agencies, because I believe that this journey is as much an exploration of what’s inside each of us as it is an exploration of what evils are in the world, and I deeply respect that each of us has to find the issue(s) that we feel compelled to address. However, if you feel paralyzed by the vast unknown and need a little direction, here are a couple of ideas to get you going:
1. Do a google search. This is the primary way that Jessica and I have done our own exploration of oppression. Much information is available; you may need to do a bit of digging.
2. slaveryfootprint.org An interactive way to get a feel for how you unintentionally support oppression on a global scale. A heavy subject handled with creativity, and without shaming. From there, you can check out their blog, which I discovered just last night – good information presented in compelling ways.