Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Human Trafficking Redux

As Americans it seems that we may be oblivious to one of the morally odious criminal activities in our world today. We simply do not want to have to deal with the reality that women and children are being used as sexual playthings by a frighteningly larger and larger group of deviants that is international in scope, provided by a willing criminal element. It is reported that 80% of those caught in human trafficking are women and children.

In recent months I have had a couple of different speakers address my congregation concerning this vile business that knows no restraint in attempting to satisfy the prurient desires of degenerates. If our laws are ineffective in curbing this immoral outrage, and our government willingly reneges on its responsibilities to protect those who are most at risk, then I am calling on the Church to let its voice be heard!

The Church has answered this challenge in the past regarding other vile activities and has successfully won the day. One of the earliest turnarounds was the removal of the hideously barbaric practice of gladiatorial contests during the era of Ancient Rome. “In the early 3rd century CE, the Christian writer Tertullian had acknowledged the power of the gladiatorial games over the Christian flock, and was compelled to be blunt: the combats were murder, their witnessing of these games was spiritually and morally harmful, and the gladiator was an instrument of pagan human sacrifice. In the next century, Augustine deplored the fascination with the spectacle of the games as inimical to a Christian life and salvation.” After Constantine I became the first Christian emperor of Rome he banned gladiatorial games in the year 325 CE. In various parts of the empire, the games continued, but were losing popular interest. What finally put an end to the gladiatorial games was the martyrdom of Telemachus, a devout Christian monk. The year was 404 CE. Telemachus attempted to stop a contest between two gladiators, and was killed for his efforts. The games effectively ended at this time.

Another of the more reprehensible actions a society has engaged in that brought the Church into the struggle was slavery of black Africans. The story of one Christian’s stand against this barbaric practice has been recounted in the movie of recent years, “Amazing Grace.” This story of English parliamentarian, William Wilberforce, who singlehandedly brought slavery to an end in the British Empire in the early days of the 19th Century, is a testament to the fact that one person with the conviction of moral right and the able assistance of God are more than a match for any social sin, regardless of how much we may not wish to acknowledge its presence. The Church in America caught this fervor to end slavery as well, effectively hastening its end, albeit through a devastatingly brutal civil war. The same effort on the part of Christians and the Church can be attributed to the enforcement of child labor laws; the requirement of children to go to school; and the abolishment of child “sweat shops” so common at the end of the 19th Century.

Only a morally conscious people can stand up against the horrors of man’s depraved baser nature. This is why the Church must answer the call of those who have been subjected to the meanest of treatment in a world where we claim to have advanced in our so-called social evolvement.

A working definition of Human trafficking is “the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of reproductive slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, or a modern-day form of slavery.” If the idea of this happening makes you squirm – good! But I want to be quick to remind you that this is happening not just in some far distant third world country. It’s happening right here in the United States of America.

“Trafficking is an illegal industry, so finding out just how many victims there are annually is difficult. Conservative estimates say that 15,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. annually, while others guess the number is as high as 60,000. It is reasonable to say that whichever number, or wherever in between the truth lay, the number is one too many.” Statistics reveal that the states with the greatest concentration of trafficked persons are New York, California, and Florida. Washington DC also has a large trafficked population.”

“Traffickers may be professional or non-professional criminals because of the low-start up cost of creating a trafficking business. Trafficking is appealing because it is so lucrative: it is the third largest illegal industry worldwide.”

Read more about traffickers at www.HumanTrafficking.com.

More on this crucial topic next week.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Human Trafficking

Some subjects are hard to write about. Such subjects reveal a baseness in our nature that is hard to accept, but is still there nevertheless.

It has been a privilege to have traveled around the world, seeing and experiencing many wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and any number of titillations to the senses. Coupled with this are other experiences that have brought me face-to-face with the seamier side of life. I have walked through some of the worst hell-holes imaginable, and seen the worst of human degradation. Children typically are the ones who are targeted most because they are the most vulnerable and the most trusting of the adults in their lives.

I guess the first time I was aware of some of life’s injustices on a large scale was when my family moved to Paris, France in 1960. This “City of Lights” was truly spectacular, especially at night! But what I was stunned to see were those who were destitute begging for a few centimes, or perhaps a franc. Mostly these were men who were missing a body part, having served in World War II, now relegated to sitting in the long tunnels of the Metro stations, dirty, disheveled but otherwise harmless.

Later after I had enlisted in the Marine Corps, I was exposed to poverty and rejection at a level unknown to me. Certain children in the Philippines, who were unfortunate enough to be left as orphans, lived in a communal garbage dump. Hundreds of children clawed through the piles of refuse, searching for anything they could resell so as to earn a couple of coins, thus allowing them to buy a bit of food. The more fortunate of these children might have enough to eat one small meal a day. At night they would burrow down into the garbage mounds where they would sleep, staying warm by the heat emitted from the decaying trash. It was not uncommon to find a child dead in their hole.

In countless bars and saloons all over the world young girls are routinely subjected to lives of prostitution, typically against their will through deception on the part of those who stand to make money from them; and from ignorance on the part of the girls and their trusting families. Parents of a young girl, usually from an agricultural community, would typically be offered a sum of money to take the girl to the city where she would be hired as a nanny or housekeeper for a wealthy family. Instead, the girl would find herself dumped into the bowels of some bar where her life of slavery to strangers and forced prostitution would begin. Many of these girls are as young as eight or nine.

It has been said in recent years that the worst slave market ever is the current slave trade in human trafficking. If you are unfamiliar with the term human trafficking, here is a simple definition: children and women forced into deviant lifestyles.

The following are current Seven Human Trafficking statistics obtained from the internet (JusticeforYouth.org).

First: The number of slaves in the world today is far greater than ever before in history.

Second: Approximately 75-80% of human trafficking is for sex.

Third: It is estimated that 30,000 people die each year from abuse, disease, torture, and neglect while being trafficked for sex. 80% of those enslaved are under 24, and some are as young as six years old.

Fourth: A human trafficker can receive up to 2000 percent profit from a girl trafficked for sex. The pimp can often turn around and sell her again for a greater price because he has trained her and broken her spirit, which saves future buyers the hassle. A 2003 study in the Netherlands found that, on average, a single sex slave earned her pimp at least $250,000 a year.

Fifth: The highest ranking source countries for human trafficking include Belarus, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Albania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania, China, Thailand, and Nigeria.

Sixth: Today, slaves are more cost effective for the trafficker than they have ever been in history. The population explosion has created an abundant, on-going supply of victims, and globalization has made people more vulnerable and easily enslaved.

Seventh: Sex traffickers often recruit children because not only are they young, innocent and more unsuspecting than adults, but there is also a high demand for young victims. Traffickers target victims on the telephone, on the Internet, through friends, at the mall, and in after-school programs.

Consider these sobering statistics. I will continue this subject next week.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tea Anyone?

It was about two years ago that a grass roots organization emerged on the political landscape. You’ve heard of them – The Tea Party. Officially they were known as the Tea Party Movement (TPM). They are an eclectic group of folks who provided strong support for candidates who were conservative and libertarian in the 2010 election. “Some commentators have referred to the Tea in ‘Tea Party’ as the backronym ‘Taxed Enough Already’.”

When I first heard of this group I will admit that I was very attracted by the name. Having grown up in New England where stories of the Revolutionary War were part of the local fabric, and my grandmother was born and lived in Concord, Massachusetts most of her 94 years, I loved the stories of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Washington crossing the Delaware, and of course, the Boston Tea Party.

I’ve wanted to attend one of these meetings for some time out of curiosity, but either the timing was wrong, or the location of the meeting was impractical (e.g., Las Vegas). So last week there was a meeting in my area of California. Laura, my oldest, currently works for California Assemblymen Bill Berryhill, and mentioned she’d like to go as well. I picked her up and drove to the rally where we spent the evening together listening to a handful of speakers. There wasn’t anything noteworthy in the evening other than I saw none of the criticisms of the Tea Party Patriots that have been so forcefully presented in the media. There were no racial slurs, no hate speech of any kind, no call for someone of opposing views being eliminated, or any other odious thinking that would have jettisoned me out of there in a heartbeat. Instead, “An October 2010 Washington Post canvass of local Tea Party organizers found 87% saying ‘dissatisfaction with mainstream Republican Party leaders’ was ‘an important factor in the support the group has received so far’.” In fact, “the Tea Party's most noted national figures include Republican politicians such as Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, Dick Armey, Eric Cantor, and Michele Bachmann.”

There are numerous Tea Party groups in cities and states around the country, and each can establish their own platform and philosophical principles. The group Laura and I were with the other evening posted three items as their mission statement, remaining consistent with the Tea Party Patriots across the land. Those items are: 1) Fiscal Responsibility, 2) Constitutionally Limited Government, and 3) Free Markets.

I have learned much of this about the Tea Partiers because of my own dissatisfaction with our leadership in Washington, DC, and certainly here in California. My state has become a byword in a pejorative way!

But when I began to hear the assault by many liberal politicians against the Tea Party I thought, “What’s their beef? The attacks grew increasingly more vicious to the point that I felt these folks must be doing something right to cause such hateful reactions from those whom I believe are trying to ruin our nation.

From all of this brouhaha over the Tea Party movement there has emerged a derogatory term currently used by commentators, the media, Tea Party protesters, and even the president. The term is “teabaggers.” It is used as a put-down of anyone who is conservative in their political, social, religious or philosophical views.

I follow politics with great interest, and those of you who have followed my “Roots in Ripon” column for a while know that I write frequently about political issues, but I have never belonged to any political group or affiliated with a particular party. Neither am I interested in getting involved, even at the local level, although I think about it more these days than I ever have before. What I am interested in is the health and survivability of my country that I love. I will always stand in defense of “The Grand Experiment” known as the United States of America.

I can easily support a local group of patriots who are for fiscal responsibility, smaller government (much smaller!), and free markets (i.e., lower corporate taxes). And I would add that I support the national Tea Party Movement (TPM) in its mission statement, stating that they “endorse reduced government spending, opposition to taxation in varying degrees, reduction of the national debt and the federal budget deficit, and adherence to an originalist interpretation of the United States Constitution.”

I can live with that, can’t you?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

9-11 Revisited

           It seems like only yesterday that I was in that twilight of sleep when you’re not quite awake, yet you’re not asleep either. My moments of reverie were rudely shattered when the phone rang on my night stand. It was my daughter, Laura. She was then living in Stockton but working in Pleasanton, so she was up early and getting ready for her commute. As was her habit, she had the radio on and caught the news flash of the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center towers. She knew I’d want to know, so she called and simply said, “Turn on the TV.”

One other time in my life I experienced one of those, “I’ll never forget what I was doing when . . .” moments. I was a sophomore in high school in New Milford, Connecticut, sitting in class, when the speaker box, hanging on the wall for inter-school communication, crackled to life. The announcement was short and to the point. It went something like this: “The president has been shot. School is dismissed.” We sat there, transfixed, not comprehending what we had just heard. President Kennedy was shot? What happened? Who would do such a thing? And more importantly, why? The date is burned into our collective memories: November 22, 1963.

Back to 9-11. As I fumbled for the remote control that early morning and clicked on the news, I was running various scenarios through my mind as to what might have happened. I assumed some private pilot probably wanted to fly his Cessna in close around the towers and got caught in the swirling winds and wound up like a bug splattered against the side of one of the towers. As the TV came on I watched just as the second plane crashed into the other tower. All thoughts of a small plane having a mishap vanished. This was a deliberate act. I sat there with my head in my hands in utter disbelief for perhaps ten minutes or so. I then showered and made my way to the living room so I could watch the news and attempt to piece together the insanity that such an event fosters.

Now we find ourselves a decade removed from this horrific attack against us as Americans. Have we learned anything? If so, what?

Allow me to posit a couple of thoughts along this line.

First, as Americans have always done when threatened, we united in one of the most patriotic fervors I’ve seen in my lifetime. American flags festooned every home and business from “sea to shining sea.” Pickup trucks with large well-secured American flags rising out of the truck bed fluttering in the breeze seemed to be in every town. Political and philosophical differences were set aside because we are a family of Americans. When one is threatened, all are threatened. Where has that unity gone? It did not take long for the petty bickering and the chorus of Monday morning quarterbacking to resume with a vengeance. The finger pointing and accusations (real and fabricated) were slung far and wide in an effort to find someone to blame. Remember the unconscionable allegation that suggested President George Bush not only knew about the impending attack on us, but actually helped to orchestrate it? The other favorite of mine is that the two towers were brought down by explosives planted in the foundation of each tower.

Second, our military picked up the responsibility of prosecuting a war against terrorists. These men and women (many who were reservists) set aside their careers and families and “Rogered Up.” They voluntarily answered the call when our nation needed them. It was strongly believed at that time that we were facing WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) should we dare have the temerity to invade Iraq. I can assure you that every single troop on the ground believed there were WMDs. And so did every other free nation! You don’t wear MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture) suits in 115 degree weather because you’re trying to lose weight! They are cumbersome, hot, and generally a pain to put on and wear. Add to that a gas mask that makes you look like something from a 1950s Sci-Fi movie. Americans pointed to our military with pride in those early days, and hailed them as heroes as they flew from our shores to fight an enemy on his turf. They performed as American fighting men and women always have and always will. But those few negative incidents, most blown out of proportion, caused the American populace to question our own sons and daughters in uniform. Shame on us! They have taken the fight to the enemy, and we are safe today because of it.

It’s just my thoughts on this, but it seems to me that if “We the People” felt the pinch of a wartime setting more here at home the way our parents and grandparents did during World War II, we might be less inclined to accept the negative spin that we are fed routinely through the media.

Remember this America: We didn’t start this fight. We are a people who are very content to live and let live. Just don’t bring trouble to our door, unless you’re prepared to accept the consequences. But since we didn’t start this mess, if we’re allowed to, we sure have the capability to finish it. To do so requires that we have the national resolve to see this through. Otherwise 9-11 marks the eventual demise of the late great United States of America.

You already know my answer to this question, but you must answer for yourself: Is America still worth defending?

Psalm for the Day