When slavery first entered my consciousness long ago, I was most shocked by the plight of the unfortunate people who, against their will, found themselves subjected to unspeakable horrors. I also could not fathom the behavior of those who engaged in the exploitation - from the slave-traders themselves to those who abetted them.
Then, about 15 years ago, I realized that the most despicable aspect of slavery derives from its continued existence - indeed, expansion - in modern times. Slaves are cheaper than ever, and their worldwide number has reached about 30 million. Some are enslaved in the historical sense of the word, while others suffer from other forms of human trafficking such as forced prostitution and child labor. In any event, their service is involuntary; they are not at liberty to opt out of their miserable lives.
No matter how one describes it, modern slavery is cruel, demeaning and morally reprehensible.
Wait a minute. It is much worse than that. It is an absolute outrage.
I truly would like to hear the answer to a simple question that has been asked many times over the centuries in dealing with slavery: Where are the abolitionists?
They were present and accounted for in the mid-1800s, for example, when the issue of slavery tore the United States to its core. They spoke their minds and put themselves at risk in an attempt to show clearly and unequivocally that slavery was not acceptable. Eventually, they prevailed - and the U.S. Constitution was amended to mandate that slavery would not be tolerated in this nation.
Yet, slavery has not gone away - in the United States or elsewhere in the world.
Some people ignore the slavery problem because it does not affect them. Others like to pretend that modern slavery is a myth. Still others have no interest in hearing about it.
Not only are they wrong to adopt such perspectives, but they delay justice for victims who suffer under the burden of human trafficking, waiting for the day when the world will declare, "Enough."
People in all countries must rise, speak with a single voice and act with a stern hand against this abomination. If they do not, slavery will continue to inflict its uniquely perverse and ugly damage upon humanity.
Part of the solution falls to governments; they have an obligation to combat modern slavery of all kinds. Some try harder than others, but all could do a better job.
Individuals, too, have a role to play. To inform themselves, they should get in touch with organizations such as the American Anti-Slavery Group (www.iabolish.com), Anti-Slavery International (www .antislavery.org), or the Coalition to Abolish Slavery (www.castla.org). Also, the U.S. Department of State provides information on human-trafficking trends and recommendations for recognizing victims at (www.state.gov/g/tip/), and welcomes inquiries at (202) 312-9639. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Justice has a help line, (888) 428-7581.
And part of the answer lies in keeping this issue before the global public - whether they wish to hear about it not. Thus, on a regular basis, I intend to shine a spotlight on human trafficking. No nation will be exempt from this scrutiny, and none that falls short shall avoid criticism.
I invite readers to join me in this undertaking. Kindly send your thoughts, concerns, experiences and ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will include them in my ongoing examination of and fight against human trafficking.