On this week, in 2016, the United States of America outlawed slavery.
That’s right. This week.
And a lot of people are really angry about it.
Before I get in to all of this, if you’re new to this blog, please let me say that I honestly try not to preach or rant very often. I love sharing tips about homeschooling and gardening, fun stories about neighbors taking care of each other, questions and thoughts about theology, or life in general and so on. But every now and then I feel the need to dust off my soapbox and say something.
Here’s it goes:
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) presented a bill last year that has been signed, sealed, and delivered, and it will go into effect in about two weeks. The law makes it illegal to import items produced by forced or slave labor, including convict labor and indentured labor.
For nearly a century, Americans have been operating on a loophole that allowed high-demand goods that are in short supply in the US to be imported, even if they were produced by slaves. So, while it’s been illegal to own a slave in these parts for quite some time, pretty much every American has been financially supporting the ownership of slaves, whether they realized it or not.
I’ll save the rant about how no one can convince me that they honestly didn’t realize they were supporting slavery. You should have known.
When the new law goes into effect, 136 goods from 74 countries will no longer be imported. According to one article, those goods include “garments that children and other slaves produced in Argentina: cotton and gold from Burkina Faso; electronics, toys, and bricks from China; coffee from the Ivory Coast and textiles from Ethiopia.
The Department of Labor says that this law “Is not intended to be punitive, but rather to serve as a catalyst for more strategic and focused coordination and collaboration among those working to address these problems.”
Closing the loophole that has allowed this abominable practice to continue for so long is not seen as the be-all-and-end-all solution to an astonishingly huge problem. It is a dramatic step TOWARD a solution.
This is a massively complicated situation that involves everything from international politics, to cultural traditions, to religious beliefs. One law is not going to change it overnight.
But it’s a start.
Not surprisingly, comments on the news reports regarding this law include a phenomenal number of ones similar to this:
“In some cases, working is what is best for these children.”
“If these children weren’t working they would be starving to death as would their families.”
“I am in no means in favor of child slave labor, but if it is between making soccer balls or human sex trafficking, I’d rather they make soccer balls.”
“How is this going to effect the prices of items we need for survival, but are already struggling to pay for in this terrible economy?”
“This is just another example of Imperialist America asserting their morals on the rest of the world.”
First Donald Trump. Now slavery?
Slavery is wrong.
All the time.
Every. Single. Time.
I don’t have a specific quote, but I would bet everything I own that some people freaked out about how the freeing of the slaves after the civil war was going to devastate the American economy. What would people do if the price of tobacco and cotton went up?
I bet some shook their heads over the newspaper articles and said, “Those darn Yankees don’t get it. The slaves are better off on the plantation where they have work and housing. Now how are they going to take care of themselves?”
Stop. Just… stop.
America is not forcing new laws on anyone (in this instance). Congress, working bi-partisanly (if that isn’t a sign of Divine Intervention, nothing is), with the approval of the president, has made a statement:
In THIS country, we don’t approve of slavery.
We’re not forcing anyone else to say the same thing. But, just like I don’t vote for the financial success of Wal-Mart with my spending dollars because I think they’re a corporation with horrendous business practices, America will no longer economically support those nations which are allowing slavery.
Want our money?
Change your practices.
Don’t want to change?
Ok. We’ll shop elsewhere, or maybe even do without.
Crazy. I know. But it’s the right thing to do.
Will the slaves suffer for lack of American business?
Sadly, maybe so.
For a while.
But, guess what’s NOT illegal?
Donating generously of your time and resources to organizations like Red Cross International, or The Malala Foundation, or Heifer International, and countless others, who are busting butt to make sure that people in those situations are provided with the opportunity to have a good education, gainful employment, secure housing, decent medical care and so on. In short, they are working to help ALL people truly have a chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
You can help ease the burden of those living in extreme poverty if you are worried about them.
Is the law perfect?
Nope. Humans wrote that law. Worse… politicians. But it’s a whole lot better than what existed before.
Are there issues of enforcement?
Yes. But with no law, there will DEFINITELY be zero enforcement. At least there is a framework in place to work from now.
Does the law address every concern of human rights that exists in the world?
Of course not. You could argue that it’s ridiculous that this law makes it illegal to import goods from nations that use convict labor, while the American for-profit prison system is making a handsome sum from convict labor. You could argue that the whole “living wage” thing needs to be addressed more deeply when we have people who are working 60+ hours a week in our own nation, and yet they can’t afford to put food on their own dinner table. You could argue a lot of valid points and I won’t contradict you. We have significant room for improvement. Growth always has to start somewhere.
Will the cost of our coffee, chocolate, and cotton undies go up?
Deal with it.
Guess what? According to my statistics, if you’re reading this, there is a 99%+ chance that you live in a free capitalist (more or less) nation. If your boss abuses you, you can sue him. If you hate your job, you can get a different one. If you can’t find a job, you can start a business. If your business fails, your nation will give you food stamps and free medical care until you can get back on your feet. Is it easy to get back on your feet? Nope. It’s freaking exhausting – I know. I’m still rebuilding from my own stupid mistakes of the past (thank you to God and the American people for providing for me when I was too short-sighted to provide for myself. I swear I will pay it forward). You might fail. But you have the FREEDOM to try again. And again. And again.
So pay an extra $3 for your can of coffee, or maybe just switch to water. No one’s life should be at risk so that you can have your morning Joe. (And this is coming from someone whose family understands that their lives may be at risk if Mama doesn’t get her morning Joe.)
Our great-great-grandparents decided (rightly so) that slavery was wrong. It’s long past time for us to say the same thing and, more importantly, to put those almighty American dollars where our mouths are.
For more info:
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!
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