Friday, February 19, 2010

What Haiti did right

Haiti. A country in which so much has gone wrong. Political unrest, desparate poverty, and human rights violations are more the rule than the exception. Most recently, the January earthquake pushed an already tenuous life to the breaking point. Between a hundred and two hundred thousand people perished. Those who survived were left without any way to meet the most basic human needs: food, clean drinking water, shelter, sanitation. In the wake of this tragedy, the world responded with an outpouring of aid and support.

Some Americans hastily went to Haiti to assist in rescue efforts. A group went to help orphans: to prepare a space for them and to bring them to a safe place. An admirable objective, no doubt. However, and this is where the lines blur, many of the children being brought to this safe space (in another country) were not, in fact, orphans. The "rescuers" lacked the appropriate papers and Haitian approval to execute their objective.

Haitian authorities and the Haitian government have, at best, been grossly neglegant on many occasions; at worst, they have committed atrocities. Whatever can be said of the Haitian authorities, though, in this situation they have acted appropriately. To arrest suspected human traffickers is nothing but right and proper. Whatever the intentions of these so-called "rescuers," and I do believe that many of them went with the best intentions, the fact is that there are an extreme few situations in which such actions are possibly justifiable. Furthermore, the uncertainty of the circumstances in which the children were to be brought exemplifies the inherant danger.

I certainly am no authority on human trafficking, but situations which foster or potentially feed into human trafficking should be annihilated as swiftly as possible. A life of extreme poverty is an atrocity but a life as a victim of human trafficking should absolutely never be a solution. Were we to allow any consideration of this possibility, we would be opening the door to an increasingly (if tacit) approval of a revitalized slave trade.

Whether it can be attributed to some inherant sense of justice (doubtful); the eyes of international community (increasingly likely); or even a more perverse concept that it is ok for us to wrong our own people but for an outsider to do it is not okay, the actions taken in this situation were (surprisingly) reasonable. I can only hope that the ringleaders of this disgusting scheme do not fall through the cracks and I do pray that our watchfulness continues, a vigilance to and awareness of human trafficking in all possible forms.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Try and Tri-again

It is easy to let the memory of our high school awkwardness impair our greatness as adults. As a teen, I thought I was not good at math; I kept introverted out of a fear that people wouldn't like me, and even while I swam I thought of myself as lacking athleticism. Facing my trepidation over math, and finding that I am certainly capable, awakened something in me. If I am good at math and people do seem to like me, there is every possibility that I may actually have some athletic potential.

Tomorrow I embark on a long path toward, potentially, a triathlon. For even the most accomplished athlete it is a feat; for me, a voyage. Few people actually know about my plan. While that means I don't have a mass of people cheering me on, it also means I don't have doubters and detractors. For now it is enough to battle my own doubts. The first step is to face the running head on. Running, I think, is something not so requiring of natural ability as desire and effort. What is that inspirational phrase, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Getting back into swimming, if you will pardon the pun, will be like riding a bike. And the biking will come in due time.

Tomorrow, I run.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Social mediapolitainment

Our politics, entertainment, and media have become inextricably entwined. It may have happened about the time that we realized they could all be prefaced by "social." So here we stand, at the intersection of social mediapolitiainment.

It came to a head with the advance whisperings of the Tebow/Focus on the Family ad. The left was enraged, as I understand it, that a "pro-life" spot would be aired in a prime spot with extensive viewership. Regardless of your personal feelings on the subject, the prohibition of such "advertisements" sets a dangerous precedent and puts at risk our Constitutional freedoms and our economic foundation.

Encroaching on the first amendment rights of an organization is the first step to more prohibition on individual's freedoms of speech and expression. The American story is one of increased individual freedom. As citizens, many of us take to heart Voltaire's alleged statement that "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

In addition to Constitutional rights, the very principle of our economy is capitalism. As a system it is not without flaws; however, it is a system which creates and enhances personal freedoms. Telling a business, any business--including a media network--no, especially a media network how to go about their business is counterproductive. Authoritarianism is diametrically opposed to republicanism (yes, lowercase "r") and undermines the principles on which it is founded. Which segues directly to the second social mediapolitiainment point: the "green" Audi ad. The end does not always justify the means.

We could debate, and probably will, the truth of global warming and environmentalism (in it's many incarnations) the ad hit too close to home. The most frightening aspect was not, in fact, the authoritarian regulation of "being green." The most frightening aspect was that it did not seem all that implausible or far-fetched. Having not been in the room during the conception of this ad, I do not know whether it was in fact meant as a satire, tongue-in-cheek, SNL incarnation or whether it was meant to draw attention to how many personal liberties we are willing to sacrifice in the name of what is "good for us" or "right." Perhaps that is really only a footnote to the discussion anyway. But it certainly draws attention to all the right topics.