The world is filled with things to worry about: family, money, friends, work, life. And, more often the not, the news is depressing. At times, I feel torn by all the things which I could be passionate about. Al Gore has a point about global warming. The war in Iraq seems to be headed no where and each day more soldiers and citizens are killed without cause. Too often, the Iraqi casualties aren’t even mentioned or thought about. Awful things happen each day; children are raped, domestic violence continues in many homes, people go without necessary medical care because they don’t qualify for benefits or can’t make it through the red tape. Queer people still can’t marry in America (or most of the rest of the world).
How easy is it to give up and just care about nothing? Or to pick your one pet topic and overlook the rest?
Obviously, although eclectic in my passions—few other topics get me as riled up as human trafficking. This is probably why I am making a career in the counter-trafficking field. That said, it does lead to interesting commentary from people when I meet them in social settings and explain what I do.
The commentary also really differs as I move from country to country. When I was working back in the states, most of the time I was met with shock. Americans simply do not realize that each year at least 17,000 people are brought into America and live in abject slavery. Other Americans confuse the issue of human trafficking with illegal immigration. Admittedly, the media is not doing a good job of explaining the difference and with all the talk about building a fence; I am not surprised people get confused. Victims of human trafficking come to the states both illegally and legally—everything is determined by the treatment they receive upon arrival.
Here, in Cambodia, one cannot live and be paying attention to the world around them without realizing that human trafficking is a huge issue. In Khmer, the practice of trafficking on children is often simply referred to as renting. In a country where many people live on 50 cents a day, poverty can drive them towards traffickers and lack of education, understanding, or other options can make them more vulnerable. When I meet people in a public setting, generally unless they are working in the counter-trafficking movement, they do not want to hear about my job. It is depressing. And, as we sit and sip our 3.00 drinks and eat our 5.00 meals, we don’t want to look at the poverty around us or how the dollars we spend might be pushing more Cambodians into the traffickers’ cycles. Here, what I do seems noble, seems like heading for burnout, seems like an uphill battle, seems nearly impossible—and so it is just easier, at times, to look the other way.