6.24.2014

A million ways to say it wrong.


Welp, I made it home alive.

Not that I ever doubted for a minute I would survive the trip to SE Asia. I knew I would live. 

I mean, except for the part where my calves, ankles, and feet swelled up like a couple of waterlogged loaves of Wonder Bread, and then when I accidentally ate a chili pepper that I'm 100% sure gave me a brain aneurysm, and except for the time an elephant tried to eat my entire head in one bite, and when my scooter-taxi driver departed from our group and zipped off with me alone down a dark alley in a big city, and except for being constantly on the verge of heat stroke, I felt totally safe and sound the whole time I traveled. Except for when I was flying, you know how I hate to fly. But other than that, it was a stress free trip and I was able to stay focused and attentive to the issues at hand.

Can't you see how terrified I am?
In fact, we all lived. 

All four bloggers survived our week long trip to the other side of the world, where we were introduced to the seedy underworld of human trafficking, invited in to the secret work of investigations, entrusted with the words and stories of exploited men, women, and children, and encouraged by those fighting for the aftercare and oversight of the rescued. And while our brushes with certain death took different turns at times (exhaustion, a billion insect bites, gluten overdose, relentless diarrhea, severe blood loss from accidentally shaving off a billion insect bites, bloating to the point of actually bursting open and having your guts spill out on the ground), I know that our shared experiences are sure to have changed the way we each spend the rest of our lives.

We lived and we'll keep on living and our lives will continue at their usual frenetic American pace, but as we settle in to our busyness, we've gained a new purpose.

 So now comes the really hard part, the truly life and death part.

We all lived. But like *barely*.
This is the part where we each stare at a blank page on a computer screen for too many hours trying to find the right words to say all the things we want to say and share the things we want to share. This is the part where we desperately try to do justice in what we write to the things we've seen and the stories we've heard, for all the hands we held, and eyes we met, and the hearts and souls we felt keenly connected to over one week across the world. This is the part that means life or death for a blogger trip, yes, but far more important, this is part that can bring new life to victims of human trafficking and sex-slavery.

Let me just say this out loud; No one wants the trip we “survived” to matter in tangible ways more than we do.

No one wants to share about the things we witnessed while preserving the privacy and dignity of the victims we saw more than we do.

No one wants to help you feel a deep connection to the good work happening in the world more than we do.

And no one is more afraid of saying it all wrong than we are. No one.

There are a million ways to say it wrong. There are a million ways to screw up something beautifully crafted by using one wrong word or adding the wrong picture. There are a million ways to be misunderstood. And there are a million ways for people to twist good words into total crap.

photo cred
I know this because as we made our way through a packed schedule and long days last week, posting pictures and status updates as rare snippets of wifi allowed, someone from internet land was never far behind to let us know that we were wrong, or stupid, or assholes. Or wrong-stupid-assholes.

If a picture of our group riding scooter-taxis went up, we would be accused of not caring about trafficking because we were having fun. (How dare we use public transportation!)

If a picture of the land or cityscape went up, we would receive a finger-wagging assertion of blatant “sex-tourism”. (How dare we fall in love with the beauty of the country!)

A picture of a red light district – with no distinguishable faces – would garner a complaint of “exploitation”. (How dare we share a vague picture of a world renowned tourist destination that is snapped a hundred times an hour!)

We loved the food. And that makes us
assholes who don't care about the
victims of sex-trafficking.
When we shared about hiring two prostitutes for an interview, we were charged by the internet police with everything from using the wrong words (they're sex-workers, not prostitutes?) to not paying them (because we would totally rob a couple of hookers?), to using them as fodder for the masses, and probably getting them beaten up by pimps. For the record, they introduced themselves as “prostitutes”, we paid them handsomely for their time, they expressed tear-filled gratitude for listening and allowing them to tell their own story to our readers, and neither of them had a pimp, just a couple of deadbeat boyfriends – but more on all that later!

My point is, this is a highly sensitive subject and WE ALREADY KNOW THAT!

No one wants to uphold the honor of the people, the country, the investigators, the NGO's, the sex-workers, and especially the victims more that we do. No one.

But we get it. Maybe better than anyone because last week we stood awkwardly in the disparity of it all, we get that we are privileged white women, middle class bloggers, lucky, spoiled, comfortable ladies of fortune. We have easy lives and too many shoes and we practically sweat money. And we get that because of all that, some people want to be offended by our desire to help and critical of our efforts to change the world for the women and children who weren't born into privilege. But how will justice happen if the people with privilege are too ashamed by their sweet lives to leverage their privilege on behalf of the powerless?

A few months ago, my pastor, Brad Franklin, said, “Justice happens when the people with power use that power to do for those with none.”, and I just couldn't stop thinking about how I am the people with power. Since then, I've been determined to find smart, reasonable, compelling ways to engage in the global fight against poverty and slavery, and I will use everything in my power (yes, all that ugly white privilege) to do it.

So I'll be sharing more from my trip in the coming weeks, as will Heather, Roo, and Kristen. Along the way, I'll be inviting you to join me in partnering with The Exodus Road to fight human-trafficking and slavery, and, truthfully, I'm praying I don't screw this up. When I think about the stories I want to tell, my palms get sweaty, because there are a million ways to tell them wrong and I'm scared. But I'll live, I know that - It's the bringing life to others part I'm worried about.

I went to SE Asia for an intense week and I lived, just like I knew I would. Now I'll talk about it and no matter who I piss off in the process, I'll live. 

But will she live? Will the girl smuggled across the boarder to be sold for sex daily live? I mean, like, will she really live? Will she live a beautiful life? Will she live a life marked by love? Will she know she's valuable? Will she ever learn her real worth?

I don't know. But I know I have the power to send out the ones who can find her. I know I have the power to equip those who will do everything possible to make her free. I have the power to bid her "rescue is coming", even from my place of comfort across the sea. So I will.

I want to leverage my power for those with none, so, yes, I'll do my best to tell her story. There are a million ways to say it all wrong, but I'm going to say it anyway, because this space, this audience, this readership, and these words are the most powerful thing I've been given.

And she deserves no less...

Thrive

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How can you leverage your power for those with none?