It's true I've disliked Valentine's Day for almost 20 years now. Oh sure, I love that St.Valentine is the patron saint of bee-keepers. So if we could all make it a Bee-Awareness Day (since we're losing our bees and we sorta-kinda-really need them to survive one earth as we know it) I'd be all for it! But it's become a tragic consumer gimmick for eroticism. If you aren't "attached", sucks to be you.
Thank God more and more folks are stepping out of that ugly message.
More to the point, today has become a self-indulgent sexualized candy-fest where we make it socially acceptable to justify human trafficking in the cocoa, sugar, flower, adult entertainment and jewel/precious metals industries, because we simply HAVE TO express our love to our own FIRST. The others we can't see… well? Sucks to be them, but I need to buy stuff for my honey, luv.
No. Not really.
I love that we love to show love.
But I don't love that we ignore the massive human price tag it comes at.
As I sit here frustrated that our usual troupe of guys who drop by for coffee in the morning were unusually giggly towards today's Sunshine Girl, snickering louder and over the top, the thought crossed my social justice brain that: "People know what you're against. What do they what you're for?"
I might be out of loop up here in Northern Alberta, but there seems to be a fundamental rift in the abolition, anti-trafficking movement. More and more blog posts are being written, research being done and debates (civil and uncivil) both by survivor-led organizations and non-survivor led organizations. Survivors are claiming that non-survivors are still trying to tell the stories for survivors, taking away voice, demeaning current victims, playing hero.
Perhaps geographic isolation has been a blessing to me because I feel somewhat removed from the heat of the battle, while still understanding that I need to hear it out — right out loud.
I've never been trafficked.
I've never been sold.
I don't have that story.
More to the point, I can't claim to and I understand that while I have my own story to tell (some of which will never make this blog), it is NOT a prostitution or trafficking story. Survivors know more, have lived more and have shed more tears than I ever will. These voices need to be heeded, paid attention to and honoured.
Do I believe I have skills and giftings that can help in this area?
But I'm not the voice of authority.
I've said all along, too, that attention must be paid to labor trafficking and other forms of human exploitation. Sex trafficking gets so glammed up that well-meaning people almost lust after becoming brothel busters. I know. I had those feelings too. They were short-lived, but they were there.
Hence my defiance of Valentine's Day and every holiday celebrating life with candy, chocolate, flowers, jewels and bodies that all were produced at the cost of other people's lives. I can't justify 'loving' someone when another person doesn't have the freedom to choose whether or not to walk outside and breathe fresh air. It's stealing… it's gluttony… it's ignorance… it's selfishness… ugh. I could on and on.
But that question again: "What am I FOR?"
I am for love.
I'll repeat myself again: love is gritty. It's got a spine and teeth and a voice — many voices. Love isn't paper pink hearts and champagne. It's shutting up when a voice silenced far more often than my own has something to say; it's recognizing unjust pratices in my own life and actually acting on changing my behaviour, not just for the betterment of myself, but for the recognition and honour of others around me. It's knowing whether to accept "what will be will be", or to fight to the ground the status quo that all to often rules the day. It's desiring freedom, healing and restoration for others so much that I value my own life as less.
… my own life as less.
No heroics here.
Trust me, I am the most selfish person you could hope to meet.
I don't want my own life to be less. I want my voice heard, I want my ideas put into action, I want a few good accolades here and there.
That's not love. That's me-ness that tends to bring a few moments of glory, but really doesn't coax out of the cold ground a growing love.
I need a different starting point, one that doesn't polish my own skills to help first and foremost.
I need to start from Love. God as Love.
I am loved. God loved me from the first. If I can live in this reality from the start, I can begin to see that God speaks through others — through survivors who know how to reach out better than I do… through guys snickering at the Sunshine Girl who are giggling perhaps to cover up the frustration of yet another night spent in the cold… through people who believe differently than I do… through teens posting selfies on Snapchat, calling it 'intimacy'.
I don't want to be "anti-trafficking".
I want to be loving.
Intentional about community.
Humble (everyone gets stuck here, I think).
A good listener.
Thoroughly subversive of the status quo.
Constantly a student of those who know more than I do (not speaking of academics here).
All of these things are, by nature founded in Christ, are "anti-trafficking". Chains will break by living a life of love.
And a life of love includes submitting to those who have lived lives filled with hard-earned, unasked for wisdom, seeking how best to support them. There will be times when my story is needed… asked for… required and shown. But those times aren't all the time, nor does my story cover all bases. I don't know everything, nor can I relate to everything.
But the cool thing about love is that just because I haven't lived a certain way, it doesn't negate me from choosing to honour the oppressed, defying injustice or declaring God's love for all people. It simply means there's a wisdom to it that comes from learning from "The Other".