Friday, April 23, 2010

Beneath The Surface

I want to write about a topic which is very close to my heart. Human Trafficking. Or, as it is also called, modern day slavery.
I believe it's an issue God has called my to do something about. I'm not always sure what that looks like, but I'm willing to learn.
Also I want to make a difference now. Life is rarely a bunch of major events but the culmination of numerous smaller ones. One day we wake up and find ourselves in a place we don't recognize.

This post is meant to be educational. It will probably be a bit shocking if you're unfamiliar with the subject.

OK, so lets begin with some stats:

Today, millions of lives around the world are in the grip of injustice.
More children, women and men are held in slavery right now than over the course of the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade: Millions toil in bondage, their work and even their bodies the property of an owner.
Trafficking in humans generates profits in excess of 12 billion dollars a year for those who, by force and deception, sell human lives into slavery and sexual bondage. Nearly 2 million children are exploited in the commercial sex industry. The AIDS pandemic continues to rage, and the oppression of trafficking victims in the global sex trade contributes to the disease’s spread.

The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion (U.N.)
Each year, more than 2 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade (UNICEF)
27 million men, women and children are held as slaves. (Kevin Bales,Disposable People)

Now for some stats I've seen but don't have a reference for
The selling of human flesh is the fastest growing illegal industry in the world. Now a slave only costs about 90 bucks. Accounting for inflation it would run you about 40 grand to buy a slave in the 1850's. Lower price, greater availability. It makes sense, from a purely objective amoral perspective. Humans are a renewable resource, unlike drugs or guns. You can only sell heroine once, but you can sell a 13 year old girl for sex thousands of times.
(OK maybe I do have some references).

Sick criminals see it as a good investment and act accordingly. Terrible things happen as a result. I've heard more horrible stories than I can remember. One of the most disturbing things about this problem is that it's going one in your Country, your state, your county and perhaps even your neighborhood.

If you live in NC, (which most of you do) then I'll bet you weren't aware your State (my State) is a center for human trafficking. In fact, we make the top five worst States in the nation for Slavery. No Joke.
If you happen to live Guildford County, you're in an area that's so bad, the police force has one office who solely handles Human Trafficking. That might not sound so bad. However, when you take in to consideration that North Carolina only has ONE other officer who works on Human Trafficking cases full time, it becomes frightening. So a grand total of TWO PEOPLE in the entire states' police force are addressing this full-time. Feeling warm and fuzzy yet? I didn't think so.

Who are the victims of this crime? The poor, vulnerable and unwanted people of the earth. Most of their stories follow a pattern. Either the child run away and is kidnapped or given up by family (wittingly or otherwise). Then they become caught in the cycle, held against their will.
What most people don't realize, is that slaves live all around us. The rich keep them as domestic servants, restaurants (particularly Asian and Hispanic) use them for labor. As for sex traffic, it's everywhere, not just in the red light district. I heard of a case locally, where girls were being sold in an average suburban neighborhood. The house had essentially been converted into a brothel. It was a development populated by your average middle class American families.
The truly terrible part? That house was one in a string of several, all in comparable neighborhoods, all brothels.

I think one of the hardest things for me, is handling my emotions toward the perpetrators of such heinous crimes.

I value my own fecal matter above the life of a man who would willingly sell a girl (some who are nine or younger) for sex. In all seriousness, I don't think it would be hard for me to kill someone so perverse. It would bring a sick kind of pleasure.
However, sanity and are still pretty well connected at this point so I don't think I'll blowing anyone's brains out. But the hate remains.

I struggle with the idea that God could (or would) forgive such a wretch. The Bible says I'm only better than the pimp because of Jesus Christ, without whom I'd be burning in hell. None of it has to do with my own merit. It's humbling and difficult to grasp.

I want to close on a lighter note, so here is a link to a very uplifting story about a girl who was rescued from slavery.

Also, Here are some links to great nonprofit organizations who help trafficking victims or raise awarness.

As always, Thanks for reading. I hope this has been educational.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This Past Week

Thanks Kyrenius-X2 for following! Sorry I missed you before.

My life has been quite eventful this past week. Starting with with this past Wednesday and culminating in Mock Trial on the 20th (Tuesday).

On Wednesday I got quite a wonderful surprise. A very dear friend of mine, named Logan dropped in for a visit unexpectedly (or at least, I had no idea he was coming). I've only seen him one other time since he moved to Texas in 2008. This past Christmas we drove down there both as a vacation and gift for my sixteenth birthday. It was a blast!

As much as I enjoyed the visit, there was nothing like having him home. The evening he arrived we walked over to a friend's house to surprise her. Actually, stun would be a better word for it. The next couple of days were spent reconnecting with friends.

Our fun culminated on Saturday with a trip to Friendly Center. Unfortunately, the two girls didn't stay very long but at least it gave the guys some time to talk. And talk we did, from probably 8 til midnight with very little pause. This is a rare blessing for two reasons: A) We are guys, nuf said. B) This was the first chance we'd had in over two years. Defiantly a winner in the big deal category.

Tangent: The creeps come out at night at Friendly Center. While it might be ok during the week I wouldn't let my daughter hang out there after dark (assuming I had a daughter) without a couple of football players to accompany her. I would probably buy them dinner for beating someone up. Well...maybe that last part's a stretch.

All in all thought, I haven't experienced such a wonderful time with friends in quite some time. Thought I was by no means looking forward to Logan leaving on Sunday, I had reached a place where I was OK with it.
It was not a perfect weekend, but pretty darn close.

Monday was prepping for the last day of class. Tuesday was my final day of Classical Conversations (homeschool group).

After class on Tuesday I had Mock Trial, I was on the jury. I could go into a lengthy description but I think everyone who reads this is familiar with what I'm talking about.
It was an interesting experience being on the jury, having participated in it only two years before. I didn't feel too young at the time, but looking back we must have been. Two years isn't a great span, yet it sure felt that way as I sat and looked at the students.

It is more stressful than I imagined being on the jury, you hold a lot of power over the competition and distributing points fairly isn't as easy as I had imagined (apparently I have too many preconceived notions). In the end I believe the better team won. Although each team was close in skill.
On a side note, Chick-Fil-A has great coffee. If you ignore the adverse effect on the bladder it remains quite a calming drink, even when caffeinated.
Shout out to Kendra by the way, sorry about Mock Trial.

Also check out Logan's blog, it's great (I'm not biased at all).

Thanks for reading!

I hope to have a deeper post up soon.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Story and Other Items

All of my posts are personal anecdotes, this one even more so than normal. It's a snippet from a story idea I'm tooling around with. Feel free criticize it or ignore it in favor of reading one of my mildly more substantive posts. If you do read it, then it might help to go back and also read an entry titled, “Dante Didn't Jump,” written in February.

I'm working on something more interesting, or boring depending on how you look at things. Subjects (Such as history) I find enjoyable, don't always attract my piers.

The topic is predestination. I think it's going to wind up being two parts because of the ridicules number of items I feel obligated to include. If no one reads it, I won't be offended, if someone posted this kind thing on a blog I was following, I'd probably skip half of it to.

On to my story.

“Supper's done honey, glad you're home.” Quipped Dante's mother as she placed the final dishes on the table. “Great.” responded Dante, immediately putting on a fake, 'everything's cool' smile.

He knew she couldn't tell the difference. Dante had spent too many years lying. In the past he might have hesitated to deceive her so quickly, but years of silence had made him callous. The pain of such deception had simply faded to a dull ache.

Dante started for the stairs. “I'll be down in a sec mom, I've gotta change clothes”

“Hey Dante!” said his twin sisters as he walked through the living room. Springing up, the two little girls ran over and gave him a hug. “hey you two!” said Dante, smiling genuinely this time.

“You're all wet!” exclaimed Hannah. She looked just like her sister Catherine, except Hannah's jet black hair was curly, not straight. They were six, with bright green eyes and dimples to complement their gap tooth grins.

“Yeah, it's raining outside Einstein,” retorted Dante as he broke from the hug and headed upstairs.

“Come back,” called Catherine (normally the quieter of the two). “We need you to play house with us.” Her little index finger pointed pitifully back at the doll house in the middle of the living room floor.

“Not now,” Dante's voice had an unnecessary edge to it. He quickly ascended the stairs and went into his bedroom.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


First things first. I need to thank, Kendra, Tragedy101 and Elizabeth for following, I’m flattered. Also I’m slightly confused as to how Tragedy101 and Elizabeth found me. I know it’s not all the advertising I do : ).

Two weeks ago, The Triad experienced some pretty bad weather. High Point and Davidson County were hit hard.
Let me just say that High Point hasn't experienced something like this in quite some time. Not, at least, in the sixteen years I've been living here. In fact, according to a friend of mine at the Red Cross a disaster this bad hasn't occurred in almost 80 years. Of the tornadoes we’ve experienced, these two generated the most damage on record.

I was at church when they hit. It was pretty rough outside. By the time I arrived home the worst of it was over. I spent the time sitting in my room writing, oblivious to the danger. One of the tornadoes cut a path just a quarter mile from my house. It is a very disconcerting thing to consider.

I came down stairs a little later in the evening and watched the weather with my dad. Johnnson Street, which is situated about a half mile from my home, got the brunt. There was a gas leak Sunday night in addition to the structural damage done. I believe the statistic was 80 buildings demolished, perhaps a better term would unlivable. I’ve lived in the community long enough to know several of the people affected. Of those I know, only one family lost their home.
The miracles part about the whole ordeal is that no one was killed. I don’t even know of any serious injuries in High Point.

Monday morning, my family and I (minus Dad) went to survey the damage. If you know anything about tornadoes, you probably know they’re irrational in the devastation they cause (and sometimes you wind up in a strange place called “munchkin land”).
The worst of the destruction we saw was right along Johnnson itself. Along the road there are neighborhoods on the left, primarily the vinylville sort of subdivisions which have popped up in the last decade. There is also a church on that side of the road which sits upon a hill. On the right side sit individual houses, and older developments behind those. On to the interesting bit.

The worst home we saw lost the roof and walls on the top story. It was a surreal experience. On one side of the house you could see bushes untouched. Just around the corner the bushes were naked, completely stripped of their leaves. According to a friend from the Red Cross, there was a China cabinet which wasn’t even touched.
In one of the upstairs bedrooms-now exposed-the smoke alarm beeped. Down below, in the yard, the bathtub sat upright.

One of the strangest things I saw was insulation strewn in the Bradford pair trees. It hung like ice sickles from the branches.
The house I’m talking about has been featured on all the local news stations, but it’s never the same as viewing it in person.
I heard the owners of one severally damaged house; put a sign in the front yard which read, “House for sale, as is.” I admire anybody how can maintain that level of optimism and humor.

I want to thank the local emergency response crews, Police, Firefighters etc. I’d especially like to thank the local Red Cross, of which I am proud to be a member. Admittedly, I haven’t done any volunteer work for this disaster, but I know several people who have. I’d be remiss to ignore God’s role in this whole thing. He’s really been good to our community.

And as always, thank you guys for reading!


Friday, April 2, 2010

Where The Wild Things Are

Last night I saw the film, "Where The Wild Things Are." This Post is a review of that movie.

Now, before I go any further I have a confession to make. I have absolutely no childhood memory of reading the classic story "Where the Wild Things are." In fact I wasn't even sure if my family owned it until I asked my mom recently.
While some of you may believe that I was deprived of a very special childhood memory, I believe this gives me a distinct advantage.
After all, I come to the table unbiased by fond memories. Actually, I come to the table with no memories whatsoever.


I had been interested to see this film because of the buzz it was getting from Relevant Magazine, of which I am an ardent fan (and subscriber). If you don't know who they are, Google 'em.

I also knew that the sound track for the film was laden with indie artists, a fact which excited me.
Turns out, I was somewhat mistaken on that point, the soundtrack featured only ONE Indie super-group. Heading up the project was Karen O from the ever popular Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Members from the bands, Liars, Raconteurs and children were also involved. However the 'children' were actually prepubescent humans with great vocals, not a popular indie group.

So, on to the movie.

Plot: (No, I don't know how it differs from the book, because I've never read it.)

The story is all about a kid named Max (Played by a kid named Max Records ironically). Two things stood out to me about Max almost instantly. A) Max has a huge imagination (didn't see that coming). B) Max is a violent little fella. Seriously though, this movie opens with a harmless snow ball fight but Max treats the situation with like he's in basic training.
Violence is limited overall, but I did find it a bit surprising. Perhaps the weirdest moment is when Carol (a 'wild thing') rips the arm from one of the other creatures. A little sand pours out. Very odd.

Even though it's a children story this is clearly geared more toward adults. Not because of the objectionable content, but because of the subtle metaphors.
The story is really about Max coming to terms with the change in his life. Namely his mom's relationship with a new guy. We're not told why Max's dad is out of the picture, just that he isn't there.
Max copes by connecting with a delightful cast of monsters who inhabit the realm of his imagination.
Each monster is symbolic of either himself or someone he knows. Carol, played by James Gandolfini of the Sopranos, is most like Max, particularly when it comes to anger.

Several of Carol's outbursts mirror those of Max. Particularly one incident, where Max lashes out at his mother.

Each character has a distinct personality. Think about the seven dwarfs from Snow White, without the height problem.
Max tries to make a perfect fantasy world to live in. But right from the start, there is conflict.

The boy has to come to grips with the fact that the world isn't perfect, and there isn't much he can do about it. A beautiful lesson to learn.

I loved how random and joyful the island was. Though I never imagined myself hanging out with the Muppets on steroids, the movie did remind me of my own childhood fantasies. Boyhood dreams remembered and the hours I spent in the woods every day, dreaming up new worlds where I to could fight battles with evil and good always came out on top.

It's that last bit which gives me a reason to pause. Something about this movie seemed off, as if the conflict was never resolved. You know those thunderclouds which come through occasionally but don't leave any rain? That's how this movie felt. Perhaps you saw a bit of lightening and it got colder, the wind began to blow. Then just when it looks as if the flood gates are about to be flung wide open, the cloud passes over you.

There is a lack of conflict resolution.

When I would play as a kid, everything came right in the end. The bad guys met their end at the point of my sword and all the good guys lived, because that's how a good story ends.

Life, presents a different picture. Reality doesn't always give us conflict resolution, and this is exactly the truth Max has to grapple with.
As he put it, we're “just normal.” Such people can't make the world a perfect place. There's a lot of growing up in that realization, for Max and the rest of us 'normal people.'

So, did I like the movie? It was ok, interesting, but just ok. Call me a sucker for fairytale endings if you will (which isn't the case I can assure you) but that's how I feel.

I'd say its worth renting, but I personally wouldn't buy this one.



P.S. I need to play Simon Cowell here for a second.
The woman who plays Max's mom, (Catherine Keener) did a pretty good job in this film. I say that because I saw her performance in “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” recently and thought it was absolutely appalling. So, good job!