They say politics makes strange bedfellows. A coalition by definition is a diverse group that comes together for a common purpose. We all have to work together and practice tolerance. Yeah.
I told myself that for about a year, and then I had to drop out. I didn’t want to be disruptive, or even a speed bump in the Coalition Against Human Trafficking. But I continually felt that the goal we started with was being changed.
It was less a big tent than a big bus, being steered down a different road.
While in the Coalition I volunteered to sign on to Prof. Donna Hughes’ listserve, Dignity. Recognizing that the listserve is intended to include opinions from a variety of viewpoints, I tried to take it as simply an information source. However, I couldn’t fail to notice that many groups I considered to be extreme right-wing were claiming to be the ‘New Abolitionists’. There were groups that had agendas directly opposite to my sense of right and wrong.
I never wanted to be a part of a moral crusade using law as a weapon. All I cared about was legal protection for people who are trafficked, and punishment for the traffickers.
To fight immorality, I would use other weapons– reason, persuasion and example. Laws against immorality have never been very effective, and have often been cover for worse crimes. Remember the Scarlet Letter?
Morality, like patriotism, provides a convenient cover for other agendas. This is an example from the Dignity listserve today.
Protecting pedophiles, by Jan LaRue
If House Democrats have their way, pedophiles will be included in the Hate Crime bill, but not veterans and pregnant women. Catholic League president Bill Donohue explains :
“The House of Representatives will vote this week, possibly tomorrow, on a hate crimes bill championed by gay groups that includes pedophiles under the rubric of sexual orientation. This is the ultimate confession: liberal Democrats think of pedophiles as indistinguishable from homosexuals.
“When this subject came up last week in the House Judiciary Committee, an amendment to the hate crimes bill that would have excluded pedophilia from the definition of sexual orientation was defeated by Democrats along party lines, 13-10. This was considered good news by gay organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, left-wing groups like the ACLU and various Jewish groups like the ADL. [the rest, if you can stand to read it]
I cite this piece of work because, although it does not say anything about trafficking, it showed up on the Dignity listserve. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League doesn’t want to debate the Hate Crimes act on the basis of what it actually contains, but instead links it to criminal, immoral behavior and uses the guise of morality and protecting the innocent. I think this showed up on Dignity because someone thinks it’s relevant to the cause, and not the cause of combating bigotry.
Anti-trafficking is a human rights issue, and a very important one. But it is not safe to assume that every group that crams into the tent makes human rights a priority. In difficult times, when anti-immigrant sentiment is rising, it may turn out that the victims who need help are not always immediately recognizable as victims. The lines between victim and perpetrator are not always clear, in reality some people are both.
I hope that we get a good law in place, I think the bills concerning minors are a good start. I commend Prof. Hughes for her dedication and the good work she has done on this issue. But the legislature is right to be cautious, ask questions, and consider the danger of unintended consequences. If we can get a law in place that provides a way out for Americans and immigrants trapped in forced work of any kind, this will be a great step forward for justice.
If, on the other hand, we get a law that makes us feel righteous about our stand against immorality, and that law drives marginal people further away from help, then we will have increased the very problem we want to solve.