Book Review: Trump Is a Nasty Knight

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Nick and the Nasty Knight by Ute Krause was published in 2012. The book is not anti-Trump protest literature. It’s just a story about a boy who lives in an impoverished town where the political power (the nasty knight) uses taxes, sleazy political (legal) maneuvers and physical violence to drain every last penny out of the residents.

This knight lives in an enormous castle where he keeps all of the gold locked up, forces people to carry him around because he will not be bothered with walking and…get this…he uses a golden toilet.

Much like Maurizio Cattelan’s “America“, the similarities and political applicability are almost eerie. While it’s important to note that Trump’s golden toilet is an internet myth, it’s symbolism is very much a political reality.

When I first read this book to the children in my life, I was hoping for an anti-bullying or a problem solving story. Every once in a while I will come across a kids book with excellent pictures and some good hard advice for dealing with people – this is not that book.

The story is about Nick, a child who is taken from his family, by the nasty knight, as a slave (yes, he is actually taken as a slave) because his family is poor and had no more money to give to the knight when he came pounding on their door during one of the all-to-frequent tax-collecting tours. Nick is trapped in a never-ending cycle of work, the reality of which is well illustrated without being excessively scary.

He decides to escape his indentured bondage by climbing out a castle window and accidentally stumbles across the knight’s secret room full of (stolen) gold. Nick steals one coin and successfully escapes. Once in the woods beyond the city, he encounters a group of bandits and thieves who are just as horrible as the nasty knight – possibly worse.

At this point in the story I’m feeling both impressed by the realism and a bit disappointed in the lack of proactive resolution. The main character just can’t get a break.

The bandits find the single gold coin and Nick tricks them into returning to the castle. He leads them to the secret room filled with gold and sounds the alarm, causing an enormous brawl between the knight, his soldiers and all of the bandits.

Side note: the knight won’t walk to his golden toilet but he’ll jump into a potential bloodbath of a battle to protect his gold…interesting.

Ok, that was pretty good. Tricking bad guys into fighting bad guys is an impressive maneuver.

But then it turns out that the coin the boy stole was a magic coin, which ultimately transforms all of the bad guys into alligators. This saves the town and returns peace and prosperity to all. Here’s a quote:

When the people up in the castle saw what had happened, they began to cheer. Without the Nasty Knight, they were once again free!…From that day on, Nick made sure that at last his poor mother and his family had enough to eat every day.”

(sigh)

It’s a good story for kids. The ending to the plot is pretty standard in literature and film but…

I really wish the resolution hadn’t been reliant on a magic coin or the elimination of a handful of bad guys. Neither scenario is real and there are other ways to resolve the story.

Even so, this book remains on the family bookshelf and is pulled out from time to time because acts of bravery and defiance in the face of corrupt powers and politicians is a good place to begin. It’s an excellent story to enjoy and to talk about; because, sometimes, the flaws in stories lay the groundwork for excellent discussions about what is fun fiction vs effective in real life.

In this case, the symbolism is fitting and powerful: It’s a story about using money to take down a corrupt politician with a golden toilet.

There may be a few adults in your life who would appreciate listening to this story over the holiday break.

Brilliant Anti-Slavery Map

Multi-agency anti-slavery partnerships provide a map detailing anti-slavery partnerships between police and local agencies. I simply identify who they are, where they operate and what they are doing.

Simple, clear and easy to use.

Created by: Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and the University of Nottingham Rights Lab

40 Million Enslaved in 2016

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…the Walk Free Foundation and the International Labour Organization estimated that 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016. To put that in perspective, that is greater than the population of Canada.

Sadly, slavery has not been consigned to history. It inflicts untold suffering today and affects us all.

It is not some far-removed problem exclusive to the developing world. It preys on the less fortunate, the weak and the young. We cannot simply turn our attention to the next story in the news.

We all have a role in eradicating modern slavery, RED BOX | COMMENT, The Times, September 28 2017, by Cherie Blair, Andrew Forrest

The Brazil Method to Ending Slavery

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At the government level, each country needs an anti-slavery plan. Brazil shows what can happen when a government takes a stand. In early 2003 the president of Brazil set up a commission to end slavery. Laws were strengthened and more money was given to anti-slavery squads. In 2003, close to 5000 people were rescued from slavery by Special Mobile Inspection Groups; by 2005 another 7000 had been rescued. More than $3 million was given to liberated slaves to help them get back on their feet. A company or person caught using slaves is put on an official “dirty list,” and in addition to prosecution and imprisonment, that company or person is excluded from receiving any sort of government permits, grants, loans, or credits. Since a large proportion of slaves in Brazil work where land is being developed (ranching, deforestation, agriculture, and logging in the Amazon and other remote areas), the denial of government benefits to slave-using companies can drive them out of business.

Modern Slavery by Kevin Bales and Zoe Trodd

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Admiration List: Nacole

I have great admiration and respect for victims of horrendous crimes who find the strength and courage to speak about those crimes publicly. Nacole is one such brave soul who gave a TEDx talk about child sex trafficking – and what it’s like to be the mother of a child who has been lured away and sold.

This talk is brave, powerful and heart wrenching.

Admiration List: Kim Dempster

Kim Dempster worked with Freedom For All to lead the creation and organization of the Stop The Nightmare campaign, which focuses on raising awareness about human trafficking and modern slavery. The campaign included TV PSAs and a live performance of a present-day slave auction.

Here is her TED talk:

Admiration List: Jesse Bach

Jesse Bach is a self-described freedom activist. He is the founder of the Imagine Foundation, which works to fight human trafficking and modern slavery worldwide. He is on my admiration list because of all of these things.

He is also on my admiration list because his speech uses both superhero analogies and the assurance that everyday people can make big changes in small ways…while wearing spandex (if they so choose). Of course, that spandex must be ethically made and traded but, otherwise, spandex is OK.

His TED talk is about the ways that everyday people can make a real difference in ending human trafficking. I encourage everyone to watch it.

Admiration List: Catalleya Storm

I have great respect for people who escape a horrible situation and then choose to fight the criminals that created that situation. It takes a lot of courage to stand and face people who have perpetrated unspeakably vile crimes. Simply facing these people in a court of law, under the protection of armed police officers, is extremely difficult. Continuing to fight after gaining freedom and establishing a life – that takes both courage and dedication.

Catalleya Storm survived human trafficking in Ohio, was freed through the help of law enforcement, and continues to speak out against human trafficking and sexual slavery. Her TED talk is focused on her own experience, the prevalence of these crimes in the United States and the very simple fact that combatting modern slavery and human trafficking of all kinds is everyone’s responsibility.

Catalleya is someone I would love to meet and/or hear speak. She is one of many people who I would add to my list of speakers at a slave-free city conference…if I were planning such a thing.

Admiration List: Kris Wade

Kris Wade is the founder and executive director of the Justice Project in Kansas City, which has the following description posted to their website:

The mission of the Justice Project, a peer-based nonprofit human rights organization, is to provide criminal justice and social systems advocacy and navigation for women in poverty who may be suffering from a multitude of challenges, including homelessness, discrimination, addiction, mental illness, domestic violence, prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation. Since 2007 the dedicated volunteers at the Justice Project have helped positively change the lives of more than one hundred women from the streets of Kansas City.

This is an amazingly difficult job anywhere in the world. In Kansas City, the challenges are exacerbated by the mistaken belief (all over the United States) that these kinds of things don’t happen in Kansas – or anywhere else in the Midwest or similarly agricultural-heavy regions of the United States).

Ms. Wade’s Ted talk clearly explains why and how these things happen all over the United States, even within the heartland.

I would welcome the opportunity to meet Ms. Wade and learn more about the work her non-profit performs. I also would like to hear her thoughts on the slave-free city project.

Admiration List: Lisa Kristine

Lisa Kristine is an international humanitarian photographer whose work is breathtakingly beautiful. One of her areas of focus is modern day slavery, which has led her to extremely dangerous places and situations, where she has photographed the slaves themselves. Her TED talks covers the reality of modern day slavery and her own experiences as a photographer investigating this horrendous crime:

 

I must admit to feeling both admiration and envy over Ms. Kristine’s career. Her work as a photographer documenting indigenous cultures is itself worthy of admiration. The fact that she takes the opportunity, and the risk, to document human rights violations and the manifestation of evil that is slavery is highly commendable. I would welcome the opportunity to meet Ms. Kristine or hear her speak in person.