The Dead Have No Names

In Sisterhood, there is a scene where a young boy is put in the back of a pickup truck with the older male workers and sent off to begin his life of slavery. Kevin, the hero of the story, can’t watch quietly. He drives out of town, finds a secluded spot, and screams out his frustration at being unable to save that child.

In a twist where life imitates fiction imitating life, I came across this Time magazine article.

The article tells the story of a horrific pickup truck accident where 15 people died. 7 others were left in critical condition. A girl about 8 years old was among the victims. The passengers of this truck had no identification. The overloaded vehicle was one of many slave-transports passing through that area of Texas.

The coronor’s office is struggling to identify the bodies, based on missing persons calls coming in from all over the world. Families who have lost track with their loved ones and believe they may have fallen victim to trafficking are searching desperately for information, struggling to find some clue. To the traffickers, they’ve lost an easily replaced cargo. To the families, they’ve lost loved ones … kidnap victims, victims who were lured by promises of good paying jobs, people desperate to provide for their families. Dead. Many of them may never be identified.


Trafficking Happens Here, Too

slaveryI stumbled across this article from the Associated Press about a pair of trafficking cases that have been dismissed.

Human trafficking — a fancy term for slavery — is alive and well in America. It isn’t legal, but it is extremely hard to prosecute.

A chunk of Sisterhood deals with human trafficking, because this is a subject that is dear to my heart. I was very young when my mother came back from talking with the neighbor. She was confused. “She said she is sending to her home country for a girl to watch her kids. What an odd custom.”

The neighbor had asked a relative to buy a nanny for her children. When Cita showed up next door, I was delighted to find a girl not much older than myself. Cita spoke no English, so at first we just waved over the fense. I’m certain her owners did not know this was going on. They went to work, leaving her with the children and the television all day.

Cita was not a stupid girl. She watched the TV and she learned English. When the boys napped, she’d slip out into the garden and if I was home, she would practice her English. Over time, I learned her story, how she’d been bought from her family so that they could have food to eat. At first, she had been okay with the arrangement, but then her owner had become mean to her. The children were brats and she was not allowed to correct them. Years went by, and Cita realized that she would spend her days caring for this family. When their children grew up, she would be sold.

She would never fall in love.

Only Cita was a rebel, and this was America, and she’d had her head filled with those Disney fairytales.

One day her owner brought a young co-worker home for dinner. He noticed Cita.

Cita told me that he saw her in the kitchen and immediately fell in love with her. Over a couple of months, he came for dinner and slipped away, searching her out. He came over when her owners were at work. He told her that slavery was illegal in the US and that he would rescue her. She whispered this to me over the fence just before she disappeared. A new nanny came a few weeks later. She did not speak English. She also did not come into the garden.

I’d slipped City my phone number. A few weeks later, I received a phone call asking me to come and see her. She wanted me to know how happy she was.

Cita’s directions led me to a penthouse apartment, very nice. Her boyfriend did not live with her, but had set her up in this beautiful residence and bought her many clothes. She showed me the lovely silks and satins, skimpy lacy things that no one would wear outside of their apartment — maybe not even outside of the bedroom. When I asked where her street clothes were, she said he hadn’t bought her any yet. She couldn’t go outside anyway, because she had no passport. If she was caught, she would be deported, so she would stay hidden.

I was so young, and Cita’s situation was beyond my experience. If I’d known about trafficking visas, I would have explained them. But I didn’t know, then, that victims of trafficking can apply for a visa that will give them legal status. If the trafficking is proven, they can not be deported.

I did have enough experience to know that she wasn’t living a fairytale. I begged her to leave, to let me take her somewhere safe. Cita told me not to worry.

I never saw her again.

Cita’s story is not unique. A 2004 UC Berkley study shows that slavery is alive and well in the US.

Americans read a story about foreign slaves, and think what a tragedy, but there is more to trafficking. American children are kidnapped and sold. Americans in general are considered rare and prized as collectibles. Slavery happens in America, to Americans.

Sadly, we don’t have a specialized team of psionics to infiltrate the trafficking rings and sort out the victims from the abusers. Our modern law enforcement is often thwarted when they try to investigate these cases because the slaves are afraid to seek help.

A young woman sat at my desk the other day and explained to me that she reads the labels on every piece of clothing she buys, for fear of supporting slavery.

Shyima Hall was freed because a neighbor called CPS. (I’m not a big fan of CPS, but I wish my parents had called for Cita.)

Slavery is not just a page from a history book.

What are we going to do about it?

airplane seats

Delayed in Dallas

airplane seats

Warning: this is likely to be one of those religious posts.

I’m not real fond of airplanes.

During a recent trip, I’d been away from home for a lot longer than I wanted to be. I was eager to get home. As is usual, I was praying a lot during my flights. I had to change planes in Dallas. As I walked to the new gate, I prayed, “Please let me make my transfer!”

“Not this flight.”

Being the obedient soul I am, I whined, “But I want to get home!”

“Not this flight.”

Hm. I walked up to the gate counter to see if there was something I should be aware of. Just as I stepped up, the agent motioned for me to wait and picked up the microphone. “We are over-booked. If anyone will be so kind as to accept a guaranteed seat on a later plane, we’ll give you a $500 voucher toward a future flight.”

Now, I’d also been complaining that due to the emergency flight I had just taken, my husband and I wouldn’t get the vacation we’d been hoping for. Already prepped, I smiled and said, “I’ll take you up on that.” It helped that I was first in line.

I surrendered my ticket. Everyone who didn’t get on the flight was transferred to the same flight leaving in about 4 hours. Everyone except me, that is. For some reason, they transferred me to a different flight also leaving in 4 hours. I stared at the notice board and then went and checked flight numbers. Sure enough — two planes leaving at the same time for the same destination. They were on one, I was on the other.

Hmm. Okay. But I’d asked for a window seat, and I’d been given an aisle. I like the window seat. I can stare out the window and get lost…and there is nothing so beautiful as flying into Seattle at night.

“Whatever you’ve got in mind, you got my seat wrong,” I thought.

“You’re in the seat I want you in.”

Again, being so obedient, I tried to change seats 3 times — at 3 different ticket counters. One was suddenly over-burdened by a flight issue. The next counter couldn’t handle my flight because I was too early. The third couldn’t handle my flight until 15 minutes later. However, 15 minutes later we had a sudden gate change to a gate across the terminal, so they couldn’t handle my change at all. When I got to the new gate, they explained that it was now too late to change seats for this flight. Apparently, there would be no seat switching for me, even though I had been 4 hours early for my flight.

I had entirely too much fun in the Dallas airport. I recommend a Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy Milkshake if you can find one! I took pictures of the planes and the sunset, road the tram around and around (just like Disney Land!), and did a lot of walking so my legs wouldn’t hurt during the flight.

When I was tired, I sat down to work on the final revisions for “Sisterhood.” The point of this round of edits is to question everything: do the time frames work? Seasons consistent? Descriptions consistent?

I was stuck on the descriptions of the grigori. Would people “get” them? Were they believable? How do you describe something like an angel, something so outside our three dimensional world? Could I get away with saying they were mostly shapeless, or only an outline?

This was the thought running through my head as I sat down in the aisle seat and waited to see who my seatmate would be.

I am of the opinion that we should always be ready to give an answer for our faith (I Peter 3:15) and I take the “with gentleness and respect” to mean that we should not take advantage of some poor helpless airline traveller stuck in the seat next to us! Hey, you read my blog, you’re fair game. I do *warn* you! But I’m not going to hijack some stranger who can not escape.

My seatmate — let’s call him Fred — was 20 hours into a 24 hour trip. He was tired, and one of the most congenial people I’ve ever been blessed to sit next to.

I hadn’t gotten my laptop out — we were still on the ground — when he struck up a conversation.

As this would make the flight pass faster for both of us, I relaxed and enjoyed talking with him, quickly realizing that he was why I’d been placed on this plane in this seat. You see, Fred wanted to talk about God and angels.

We’d only been in the air a few minutes when he explained that it was the anniversary of his mother’s death. He’d been with her when she died, and been shocked to see spiritual beings in the room with her. (Fred later explained his belief system as Christian Agnostic.) “There were shapeless beings in the room — really just outlines.” He paused. “You probably think I’m crazy.”

“Um…no. I would think you’d been reading my book, if it was published!” And so we proceeded to spend the next few hours talking about angels and God and prayer.

Remember: Fred considers himself an Agnostic. The problem with believing in creatures that extend beyond our dimension is that he found himself on the verge of believing in God. Since I’d seen the same creatures at my mother’s death, this left him — I hope — feeling a little less insane. Of course, the point of the conversation was not the existence of angels, but what their existence said about God.

Fred wasn’t sure what he thought about those spirits. Fred wanted answers — answers to questions about life and death and healing. Why are some people healed and others not? Where is God when we pray? I was returning from the bedside of a 14-year-old girl who had been very ill with a mysterious illness the doctors never identified. A friend was returning from a similar bedside. Both of us had prayed fervently for these girls. My precious girl survived. My friend’s did not. So Fred’s question was: why? Where is God in that?

And I think my answer startled him. My answer was: I don’t know. I don’t know why one person lives and another dies, why one person is healed and another is not. I don’t think we’re supposed to know. I think that we want everything to make sense to us — seeing only our own three dimensions. I think that God sees in four — and probably more than that! — dimensions.

I think that to God, life is like watching someone play a video game. When they finish the game, they turn around and laugh and chat about the experience. For us, trapped in the game world, death seems like the end, like the person has suddenly ceased to exist, a tragedy. But what if there is much more beyond these three dimensions? Then, so much of the petty bickering and worries of life become as meaningless as Ecclesiastes suggests.

He ended the conversation with: “I hope my questions haven’t shaken your faith.” I encouraged him to keep seeking God.

We both knew our meeting on that plane was no accident. I gave him someone to talk to about his questions, and he helped me put into focus the purpose of my novel.

Turned out I was in the right seat after all.