Public Service Job Description

Tattered GloryAs we endure yet another presidential campaign it is hard to ignore how the people’s branch of government is failing us. Social programs, once thought to be enduring, are insufficient for current need and unsustainable for future demand. The electorate has all but abandoned the political process due to the lack of qualified candidates. We have, from coast to coast, a significant shortage of ideas and an overabundance of stagnant waste. In other words, a cesspool from which to choose our representatives.

This may seem like a harsh assessment. Some might even feel the need to rip it to shreds. However, I have given a great deal of thought to the state of public service lately, and it seems to me that self-service is a more accurate picture of our local, state, and federal government. It is with these thoughts in mind that I have come up with a few requirements of candidates seeking public office.

Candidates unable to speak publicly without using divisive language, including but not limited to sexist, homophobic, racist remarks and fear mongering ignorance, need not apply. In addition, voters deserve to know the following about potential public officials:

  • Criminal Record
  • Scholarly Writings
  • Team Building Experience
  • Math Skills (because someone has to do the math)

Other qualifications for a role in government should be a person’s willingness and ability to tell the truth, whether or not under oath, and a general understanding of human anatomy, in case a question about how babies are made comes up in the course of, you know, a televised interview. These are only a few ideas. There are certainly others worthy of consideration. Please share yours if you feel so inclined.

The Bounds of Reason and Humanity

What is the value of a human life? Is it priceless or can personhood be quantified in mere dollars and cents? According to the International Labor Organization, the current market price for a human hovers around ninety U.S. dollars. What is the value of human dignity then? Does dignity have worth beyond measure or is there a sliding scale based on geography?

As far as I have been able to ascertain, there is no estimated market value for a person’s dignity. I wonder why that is when there are advocates doing battle on all fronts in the name of the right to life. If all lives matter, surely lives deprived of dignity merit some rallying cry, some social media campaign, some public demand for action, or at the very least, a ribbon.

In my search for some reason as to why there seems to be no value ascribed to human dignity, I made a disturbing discovery. It turns out that slaves are in high demand, and it’s a buyer’s market. That’s right, the buying and selling of humans globally generates billions of dollars annually. What makes this business so lucrative? The answer is not complex. Ready? Buyers for the large inventory of disposable people drive more than one segment of our global economy. To be certain, slavery is in the supply chain of many goods traded legally around the world. Cocoa, harvested by children on Africa’s Ivory Coast, for instance, fills the shelves of our supermarkets. This documentary tells the story.

In addition, sexual exploitation accounts for more than half of the humans being bought and sold worldwide. People who buy children for sex, referred to innocuously as Johns, strip the human dignity from their victims and cast it aside as if it were trash, without threat of prosecution. This documentary tells that story.

Reason tells us we should be collectively outraged by the knowledge that in 2016 people are being sold into slavery. Reason tells us that there are no innocent bystanders, because we cannot unknow the truth of vulnerable populations living in every state, every country, every place there is poverty and corruption. Survivors’ stories should compel us to rise up against this assault on human dignity. Unless, of course, we do not value human dignity.

We do, don’t we?

If you believe there is value in human dignity, show someone that their life matters. Volunteer, talk to your neighbors, vote, help someone learn to read and write, get involved in your community, contact your local, state, or federal representatives, listen to someone who needs compassion. Check out these sites to find out how you can prevent human trafficking.

The study abroad experience gave us an opportunity to learn about Eastern Europe’s response to human trafficking. What we do with that knowledge now is in our hands.

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Reposted from DFST Study Abroad 2016 – Romania Blog by Stephanie Briggs.

Independence

 

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Parliament Palace, Bucharest, Romania Second Largest Public Building in the World – Second only to the Pentagon

The long, low rumble of an approaching storm awakened me at 3am. Flashes of light sliced the white wooden slats of the shutters that cover my bedroom windows. A thunderclap shook the room. Going back to sleep was not an option.

I began to think. First, about what day it is, July 4, 2016, Independence Day here in the United States, then about what independence means to me.

I believe independence is knowing your own mind. It is choosing for yourself and not permitting your mind to play tricks on you about the choices that you make. Independence is not isolation. Independence is acknowledging the validity of your own judgement while accepting the limitations of that judgement. It is, in fact, the freedom to choose interdependence over isolation.

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Group Hug for my Birthday in Brasov, Romania

I recently returned from Romania where even after almost three decades since the fall of Communism, the older generation is still acutely distrustful. Partnerships are approached with cautious optimism, and for good reason; public trust is still routinely dealt a death blow at local and federal levels. This is something that is equally familiar to Americans.

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Bureaucracy from the Balcony

The future, which requires engaged dialogue about poverty, violence, and corruption, seems tied inextricably to the past. By engaged dialogue I mean more than merely shouting opinions at one another. The ebb and flow of independence and interdependence over time calls for leaders to respect the balance of power, to take responsibility for their own poor judgement, and above all else, to never underestimate people who desire to assert their independence.

As the storm rages on and the power continues to flicker, the dawn’s early light reveals what I know in my heart to be true; the land of the free and the home of the brave can be wherever we choose it to be. That is the beauty of independence.

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And Here We Go

Study abroad is a fantastic way to spend a summer. I highly recommend it. Although, my class just began today and I haven’t actually started the “abroad” part yet. So, I am speaking hypothetically, of course. I hope I can make the same claim a month from now.

Yes, I graduated. Yes, we had a big party. Yes, I received gifts and praise from my friends and family. Yes, I could be conducting a job search. But two semesters ago I made up my mind that I really, really wanted to participate in the anti-human trafficking study abroad program before making any career decisions. Here is the reason why:

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery — a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world. And no matter where you live, chances are it’s happening nearby. From the girl forced into prostitution at a truck stop, to the man discovered in a restaurant kitchen, stripped of his passport and held against his will. All trafficking victims share one essential experience: the loss of freedom. – PolarisProject.org

During that semester, I read Kevin Bales’ book, “Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy” and Louise Shelley’s book, “Human Trafficking, A Global Perspective,” and frankly I was completely overwhelmed and depressed. That is until I realized that I did not have to figure out how to do all of the jobs for international counter-trafficking response. I only had to choose an area that made the most sense for my skills and tolerance level for dealing with the scum who buy and sell humans for sex and forced labor. Yes, the people who pay to have sex with children are scum. They don’t care if I call them scum. They know they are scum, and they don’t care. Yes, the people who, through fraud and coercion, enslave human beings are scum. They don’t care if I call them scum. They know they are scum, and they don’t care. As you may be able to tell, my tolerance level for scum prevents me from pursuing some jobs.

The U.S. Department of State publishes a Trafficking In Persons Report for those interested in reading more about the subject. To say that studying human trafficking is a challenge is an understatement. Students participating in this program will no doubt look poverty and violence square in the face. At times it may seem overwhelming, but each student in this class knows the value of meeting a challenge. We know there is value in helping others. We know what we bring to the table is valued by our professor as well as the organizations with which we will be working. It is a privilege for me to participate in this program. I only hope that I can live up to my own expectations. I will keep you posted.