Monday, April 26, 2010

Human Trafficking and the Mentally Handicapped

The Nazi's Action T4 was a euthanasia program that started in October of 1939 and killed up to 275,000 people.

This propaganda poster reads: 60,000 Reichsmarks is what this person suffering from a hereditary disease costs the People's community during his lifetime. Comrade this is your money too.

Last week I was in D.C. at the Holocaust museum. One exhibit chronicled the Nazi T4 program. Featured prominently were pictures of mentally handicapped children, naked and terrified, held awkwardly by Nazi physicians for the People's scrutiny. Surely the pure race need not be polluted by these defective's, the doctor's self-satisfied gaze's asked rhetorically.

And so there I was, standing in a crowd of strangers, the white noise of their conversations buzzing behind me, and the hot tears of rage and sorrow streaming down my face.

Evil may don a new mask, may be called by a new name, but in the modern slave trade as during the Nazi regime, evil still systematically exploits the weak and the defenseless. There have been a number of documented cases of the mentally handicapped being prostituted and enslaved in forced labor. No accurate statistics exist for the exact number of mentally disabled people being exploited, but because they are still viewed as unclean or cursed in many societies, they often have no one to speak out on their behalf.

So whether it's 60,000 Reichsmarks for a lifetime of institutional care or 50 dollars for forced sex, human life should never have a price tag. Every human life is sacred and priceless; those viewed as physically and economically viable and even those viewed as not.

Please be the voice of the voiceless. Please cry out for justice on behalf of the 27 million people currently enslaved in the world. When human flesh is allowed to be a currency, one day, and it may be soon, we may find that we are all for sale.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Amadou and the Taste of Chocolate.

 In Kevin Bales's book Ending Slavery he tells the stories of young boys from Mali enslaved on cocoa farms on Africa's Ivory Coast. These boys, barely into their teens, worked dawn to dusk collecting the cocoa pods in the oppressive heat. Weak from hunger and malnutrition they would stumble under the heavy bags of pods and then be beaten viciously. If they tried to escape they were beaten for days on end or killed. One boy sent back to work before his wounds could heal was only able to survive because the maggots on his back ate the infection from the wounds. When rescuers found them the boys' eyes were hollow and their bodies skeletal. In one heartbreaking conversation a young survivor gave a shocking admonition. Bales recounts the exchange this way.


Kate (a film maker working with Kevin) asked a young man Amadou how he felt about his five and a half years in slavery. Amadou replied with remarkable sensitivity: "When I think of all that suffering, it hurts my heart deeply. I want to say so much, but I just can't find the words." Kate then explained to him that cocoa was used to make chocolate, a sweet food that people love, but Amadou said he never knew this and had never tasted it. When he was asked if he had anything to say to the millions of people who eat chocolate every day, Amadou replied, "If I had to say something to them, it would not be nice words. They enjoy something I suffered to make; I worked hard for them, but saw no benefit. They are eating my flesh."

Chocolate is not alone in being tainted with slave labor. Almost everything we eat, drive, wear, and even our houses have components that have some amount of slave labor in their production chain. If Gerard Manley Hopkins' words may be borrowed and reapplied "...all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil."

The Tariff Act of 1930 states that "all goods...produced or manufactured wholly or in part by...forced labor...shall not be entitled to entry [into the United States] and importation is hereby prohibited."

We must demand that our politicians enforce the laws. We must demand that the companies we purchase products from eliminate all slave labor. We must, otherwise....

We are eating their flesh.