Understanding Right and Wrong

It was only when I realized that I was a slave and not a slaver’s apprentice that I understood that what Archie was doing was a great wrong. Right and wrong had no meaning in my life until I was almost a woman. I learned some of it from my father, but he was not a talkative man. I began to understand when I knew the horsewomen, but I could never see it the way they did. They didn’t know what I knew.

The Book of Flora (The Road to Nowhere 3) by Meg Elison

Desperate Freedom

He yearned for escape with a desire that was near to insanity; awake and asleep it was his obsession; and he thought his heart had stopped when Squad-Leader Aras Dilley muttered to him, as Doremus was scrubbing a lavatory floor, “Say! Listen, Mr. Jessup! Mis’ Pike is fixin’ it up and I’m going to help you escape jus’ soon as things is right!”
It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
  • Biography from Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969

Dragons Shudder to Think

Essini’s parents had fled South to Yorbik Island where they were set upon by bandits and murdered for their paltry possessions. The bandits abandoned Essini in the rajal-infested interior forests, but an old Brown Dragon had found her and brought her to a Human enclave. They promptly about-faced and peddled the child to slave traders, who passed her from hand to hand until eventually a married couple from Gi’ishior, rug merchants who had no child of their own, purchased her out of pity. Now, she was as loved as any person could wish.

Auli-Ambar sighed. At least Essini’s story had turned out well, but it could have been much worse. Bandits and slavers were not known for their kindness to children, and Sazutharr had told her darkly, the fate of some children was so terrible, it made a Dragon shudder to think upon it.

The Dragon Librarian (Scrolls of Fire Book 1) by Marc Secchia

Six Forms of Slavery

As I spoke to more people who had been caught up in slavery I was amazed to learn that there are at least six distinct types of slavery in Eastern Congo: forced labor by armed groups; debt bondage slavery; peonage slavery; sexual slavery; forced marriages; and the enslavement of child soldiers. All of these types of slavery, in one way or the other, also support the destruction of this rich and unique environment. The most well-known slavery, related to me time and again, is forced labor at gunpoint.

Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World by Kevin Bales

Military Slave Children

Another type of slavery is less about profit and more about supporting the rule of terror and exploitation by the militias. This is the enslavement of children to turn them into fighters. During raids on villages young boys, and sometimes girls, are kidnapped by the armed groups and trained to kill. As part of their brainwashing they are often forced to rape other children or young people or to murder members of their own family or village. Brutalized, traumatized, and often drugged, the children will soon obey any order.

Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World by Kevin Bales

Maryland Child Trafficking Conference

Quote

“The title of this conference was not chosen lightly,” continued Finigan-Carr, who is also director, Prevention of Adolescent Risks Initiative, and assistant director, Ruth H. Young Center for Families and Children. “Moving from awareness to response is really what we want. We need to do more than know human trafficking exists. We need to be able to respond, because the children that we serve, the youth that we serve, the citizens here in our state deserve us to be better, to do better.”

The school’s initiatives have led to:

A 2016 study by the Center for Court Innovation estimated between 4,457 and 20,995 13- to 17-year-olds are involved in the sex trade in the United States. In Maryland, between July 2013 and June 2017, more than 350 cases of suspected child sex trafficking were reported by local departments of social services statewide.

Child victims of trafficking are recruited, transported, transferred, harbored, or received for the purpose of exploitation, Finigan-Carr continued, noting they may be forced to work in sweatshops, on farms, in traveling sales crews, in restaurants, hotels, brothels, or strip clubs, or for escort or massage services.

Other speakers included Maryland Assistant U.S. Attorney Ayn Ducao, who chairs the MHTTF and said when she started prosecuting human trafficking cases, she focused on the wrong questions.

“I focused on the question of ‘Why does the victim stay? Why didn’t she leave? Why doesn’t she seek help?’ ’’ Ducao said. In her first human trafficking case, the “she” was a 14-year-old sex trafficking victim.

“I came to realize those are the wrong questions to be asking,” she said. “You don’t ask a robbery victim, ‘Why did she let herself get mugged?’ We shouldn’t be asking the human trafficking victim. ‘Why do you let yourself get trafficked?’ as if that victimization was her choice.”

Progress in the Fight Against Child Trafficking, University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB) News, By Mary T. Phelan, December 15, 2017

Book Review: Trump Is a Nasty Knight

Amazon.com

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