Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why I Joined the Mob

A few weeks ago I joined a mob.
It was not a game, nor was it organized crime. Although it was an organized mob.
We came together through a loosely connected network of Face book and Twitter announcements to meet at a specific time and place, and take a specific action for a specific amount of time, for a specific purpose.
There was no single leader, I know it had to have started with someone’s vision, but I don’t know whose, nor does it really matter.
As I was walking to the designated location I realized that I was nervous. I did not at first understand why. We weren’t going to be doing anything illegal or threatening in any way. After some thought I understood my nervousness.
Let me explain:
I was about to be a part of a flashmob.
A flashmob is a group of people who come together in a seemingly random fashion to one spot. At a designated time they all perform a specific action for a few minutes and then disperse. If you look up the term “flashmob” on YouTube you will see videos of huge pillow fights, or people swatting each other with folded newspapers or performing highly coordinated dance routines. All harmless, but all designed to attract attention and break the routine of those around you.
Sometimes it’s meant to inspire joy, sometimes serious thought, sometimes just to get you out of the rut you find yourself in.
At first I thought that I was simply uncomfortable with the attention it might bring to me, but I dismissed that because I generally don’t care if I am the subject of anyone’s attention, unless they happen to have a gun. I was nervous because I was about to become part of a cause.
I was about to take a public stand against something that I believe is one of the greatest offenses one human can inflict on another. It offends me so much that I find it very difficult to control the anger I feel against those who are guilty of perpetrating this crime against others.
The issue is Human Trafficking: The buying and selling of one human being to another.
Also known as slavery.
That’s right. That disgusting thing we thought ended with the Civil War in our sanitized histories. Alive and well in the United States of America, and incidentally, quite virulent in the rest of the world. It is an international disease.
It occurs all over the world, and it crosses socio-economic, racial, religious, and sexual lines without thought. It has happened in my town and yours. A young girl just a few miles from my home was kidnapped. She was claimed as “property” and taken from a happy home in a nice neighborhood then sold on Craigslist for sexual use.
She turned out to be a case of one who was rescued and returned to her family. She has the opportunity to recover, although that will be a long and difficult process that she should not have to go through. Sadly, she is still in the minority. And that’s just one of the ones we know about. Most of those forced into this life cannot escape. This is real. It’s not just something you see on a documentary that will only affect “someone else”.
It is currently estimated that 27 million people around the world are enslaved in some form. Between 14,500 and 17,500 people a year are brought in to the US from other countries as slaves. At least 100,000 American minors are sex slaves.
Human Trafficking wasn’t even a crime in the US until the year 2000!
Safe houses are being built by rescue organizations to help these victims get out. They give them a place to recover and rest in safety, but there are far too few.
These organizations need our help in every area: finances, manpower, administration, everything. I will post links to their sites at the end of this article.
This issue makes me angry as few other things do. The thought of what these victims go through sends me into a spiral of fury that, if left unchecked, would turn into white-hot, unadulterated RAGE!
If I were faced with one of the perpetrators of this crime I don’t know that I would be able to control anything I did to him.
The reason is this: I have a beautiful wife, and daughters, and grandchildren and nieces and nephews, and friends who could all be made victims of this crime, and the thought one of these sub-human perpetrators even coming close to any one of the people I care about and attempting to victimize them is absolutely horrifying to me. That, coupled with the idea that it is an absolutely credible threat in the real world that I live in, in my town, seems beyond comprehension.
But here it is, as real as breathing.
As our economy tanks and our governmental authorities claim a lack of funding and resources to adequately combat any number of problems, this is also given a lesser priority.
Why does it always come down to money?
One side makes money doing it, and the other side needs money to fight it.
It started by someone wanting to make a profit, and reducing human life to the status of a commodity, a thing, something to own and dispose of when used up.
There are those who would like to legalize it so the government could reap the benefit of the taxes levied on it. Might as well get something out of it since we all know it’s going to happen, right?
Oh yes, and when it’s legal all the abuse and kidnappings will stop because the kidnapers and pimps will suddenly see the benefits of actually filing tax returns and claiming their long deserved status as entrepreneurs.
And because those in authority lack the funds and the drive to respond adequately to this issue (although I have to give them credit for trying) we are left as a society to come up with our own solutions. And since it is unacceptable in our society to remove the perpetrators from the gene pool without the approval of our court system (because even though they obliterate the rights of one human they are somehow allowed to retain their own) we can instead pursue the victims of the crime to rescue them.
We can be there to help them pick up the pieces, and return to some semblance of a “normal” life.
And this brings me back to the mob.
I joined a group of people who quietly gathered at the steps of the California state Capitol building, put on shirts with a message stating that 27 million people were being trafficked, and…
We simply froze in the process of whatever action we were in the midst of at that moment, and didn’t move for five minutes.
People would walk through the crowd and suddenly realize that they were in the middle of a group of people, all dressed similarly, who were not moving. At all.
It was weird.
No one does that.
And they noticed.
I don’t know how many people noticed enough to go out and do something about it, or get involved in any way. I don’t know if anyone even figured out what we were doing at all.
But we took a stand, and peacefully made our point, and if only one person asks a question as a result then that’s a good thing.
My anger was channeled to a higher purpose, and I was more effective doing this than I would have been following my own instincts and dragging a trafficker into a back alley, as is my preference.
I am not really a “cause” kind of guy, and I don’t recall ever really being this openly adamant about anything before. I don’t know that I have ever felt the combination of anger, sorrow, and fear at the same time before. Somehow I just find this one impossible to walk away from.
Most of you who read this will not feel the same passion as I do over this issue simply because you have other worthy causes you have chosen to devote yourself to, and I would not want to distract you from them. But I would ask this: Just take a look. See if there’s some area you can contribute to. Chances are that you know someone, who knows someone who has been affected by this thing.

For in the end you are not as far removed from it as you would like to think.
©Dan Bode 2010


With More Than Purpose

California Against Slavery

Courage to Be You

Saturday, October 2, 2010


We all have treasures that we wish to hold on to with all of our strength. We treasure more what we have worked harder to obtain, or what someone else has worked to obtain for us. When I think of treasures I first think of my initial understanding of the concept which I got from my brother Bill.

My relationship with Bill was a special one that takes some explanation. Bill is 15 years older than I am, he is the oldest of six children and I am the youngest. By Bill’s own admission it took him a while to think of me in kindly terms when I was born. He thought it was rather disgusting that my mother would have another child at her age (about 35). Then he was forced to baby-sit me, and he discovered all the neat things I could do, like rolling a piece of tape into a circle so the sticky part was on the outside and watching me try to get it off my hands. He probably watched me pass it from hand to hand for quite a while. Anyway, Bill and I became closer as time went on and I came to depend on him for many things. Most notably to answer all my questions as I was growing up.
Bill was, and is, a smart guy. I figured he knew everything, because he always had an answer for all of my questions. It didn’t matter what the question was he always had an answer. He never said “I don’t know” to me until I was about nine and then I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know whom to ask. I actually had to use the encyclopedia. It was the heaviest book I had lifted up to that point in life.
Bill was the guy who did everything right. I never saw his mistakes because he was always there taking care of mine. It was as though he would do anything for me. I remember when all of us kids were still living at home. We lived in a three-bedroom house. My two sisters were in bunkbeds in one room and us four boys were in bunkbeds in our room. Bill and I were in one set and Mike and Dave in the other. I had the lower bunk since I tended to be very active whilst I slept, and a five foot drop while your sleeping is not a pleasant experience for anyone, especially with a crybaby like me for a little brother.
One night in particular I woke up about 1:00 AM. I don’t really know what time it was, but it was dark and everyone was sleeping so 1:00 AM sounds good. I saw something on the wall next to the bed which I was convinced was a spider. For a little kid late at night a spider on the wall is nothing to take lightly. Everyone knows spiders are more harmful at night ‘cuz they have more time to suck all your blood out and then they spin all their webbing around you so you can’t move and then they kill you with their poison and….well you get the picture. I couldn’t get out of bed to get away from the spider either, because it’s just as bad being awake and out from under the mysterious protection provided by your blankets, which by the way, provided absolute impervious protection against any and all monsters that stalked the night. My solution was to poke the bottom of Bill’s mattress and wake him up.
“Bill!” I whispered.
No answer. I poked again.
I saw movement from the bed above me, and then Bill leaned his head over the side.
“What’s wrong?” He wasn’t upset at all.
“I think there’s a spider on the wall beside me.”
“Hang on.” He said as he climbed down.
It should also be noted here that the monsters I feared so desperately never seem to attack big brothers and grown ups, so I had no qualms about asking Bill to leave the protection of his blankets.
He leaned over my bed and looked closely at the wall.
“I can’t tell if it’s a spider or not.” He whispered. “It’s too dark. I’ll have to go get the flashlight.” We only owned one flashlight, and it was in the glove compartment of the car in the driveway. Bill got the car keys and went out to the car to get the flashlight. I was amazed at the way he fearlessly walked through the house with no thought of his own safety. I was even more amazed when he walked outside in his pajamas! All the monster rules in the house were null and void the minute you walked out the front door. Even if you took your blanket with you, it offered no protection from the Outside Night Monsters. If you had a flashlight when you went out there, you might have a fighting chance, because they didn’t like the light one bit, but Bill was unarmed. So it is only reasonable that my estimation of my big brother’s powers increased exponentially when he returned to our bedroom with the flashlight completely unscathed.
Wow. They didn’t even try to get him!
He walked back into our room and leaned over the bed again, shining the flashlight at the spider on the wall, which by the way had not moved an inch since I first spied it. Do spiders sleep?
The beam of light finally found it’s goal and I saw captured within the circle not a spider, but just a little mark on the wall that I had accidentally put there with a crayon the day before. I never said anything about it because we weren’t supposed to write on the walls. If anyone asked it just showed up one day while I was gone, I don’t know anything about it.
“It’s just a mark on the wall” Bill said, “nothing to be afraid of.”
“Oh. OK. Thanks.”
“It’s OK. Can you get back to sleep ok?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Ok, goodnight.”
He climbed back into his bed, and went back to sleep. I fell asleep pretty fast too, because I knew then there was nothing that could get past my big brother Bill.

When Bill joined the Air Force he was gone for long periods of time, but he always wrote to me faithfully. He always addressed his letters to “Master Daniel Bode”. I had no idea why he put the “master” on there but it sounded good.
When he came home to visit he always brought me a gift. One thing he would get me that was my favorite thing was called a Treasure Ball. It was nothing more than a big ball of layers of tissue. Wrapped within each layer was a small Cracker Jack sized toy, and then at the center there was a slightly larger toy. I would set each prize aside in a special pile as I came to each one. I kept the tissue for a while too. I would play with all of the prizes and save each one. Even though I had other, more substantial toys, these would hold my attention for the longest time. There were two reasons for this. First, they were from Bill. Second, I had to work for them.
The way they came to me added to their value, and determined how I treated them. I esteemed, loved and respected the giver, and so the gift as well.
It is said that we pattern our concept of God after the example of our father, and for a long time I certainly did that. But as I came to know God more personally, I realized that the better example of God’s action in my life was Bill. He was my protector and the one who had the answers. I could depend on him to accept me in spite of all the pranks I pulled and trouble I got into.
God is like that too, but with the exception of one major thing. The treasure I sought in the Treasure Ball was something I had to work for, but the treasure God gave me was something He had done all the work for. I am often reminded that I don’t treat the treasure from Him, which has infinite value, as well as I treat the treasures I have gained on my own, which have no lasting value at all.
©Dan Bode 1998