The Thank You Cup

The Thank You Cup

When I was in 5th grade, Mrs. Beasley passed out a worksheet to our class. During the week, she had been stressing the importance of reading instructions. But as I picked up my #2 pencil, I forgot her earlier advice and began making my way through the tedious list of questions. I actually don’t know why this story sticks out in my mind so vividly, but I remember how long it seemed to take to complete. Once finished, I followed the usual protocol to take my paper up and place it in the box on a table in the front of the room. I remember sitting back in my desk, pleased that I was one of the first to turn it in. When my last classmate submitted their worksheet, Mrs. Beasley walked up to the front of the room in her typical, sauntering style. She was probably wearing her long, bright purple sweater, and I’m sure she pulled on her eyeglasses that otherwise dangled in a chain around her neck. She told us to read the directions at the top of the page along with her: Put your name on the line, skip all of the questions, and turn your paper in. I still remember that every time I skip the directions. Notice my word choice there. Apparently Mrs. Beasley’s lesson has not yet sunk in.

Yesterday afternoon I was leaving the office for the day and sipping iced tea from my extra large Chipotle cup I kept from lunch. I always read the short excerpts they have on the cup. On occasion I ask my husband if he read it. He always seems a bit surprised that I did; I always seem a bit surprised that he didn’t. Sometimes they articles are puzzling. I don’t share the wish on the bag that one day the world will be as it should be, and no one should work. So as much as I love the burritos I often don’t quite catch the vision of utopia. I started reading the text yesterday and was confused by the seemingly random sentence fragments and stream of conscience like “ Miss K said she was really disappointed in me…In the back of the deli, the old man taught me how to chop an onion…The nurse placed a baby in my arms…Scott said, ‘you won’t feel like this forever’…” Then I went back to the beginning and read the title.   Not only did it make sense, I found myself smiling. I may even have teared up a little. So my gratitude to you, Tom Perrotta, for your “two-minute Thank You,” that has inspired me to take two minutes of my own to do the same. Here it goes:

My dad’s plan didn’t work, and someone gave him a Bible. My sister came first, to show me how to do…everything. A nurse no one had seen earlier arrived on the scene to give my mom a heart massage and saved her life, and then completely disappeared again. My mom told me my nana was a little pepper, like me. My piano teacher entered me into a competition. My dad took me on a business trip to Connecticut – I still remember the dress I wore to hear him preach. My mom read from The Secret Garden. And The Chronicles of Narnia. And My Grandmother’s Attic. And a dozen others. Miss J told me I was kind of good at ballet. It was a boy. I did not make cheerleading tryouts. My mom said, “you have to look past the chaos and see the people.” Mr. J said, “Yesterday, he sold his character for a $25 oil change.” I told him tried my very best, and Dr. H said I passed an exam I couldn’t even complete. My advisor said something like, “accounting may not be your thing.”  God said I’m afraid not. J taught me how to mow the lawn. She was the runt of the litter and still unclaimed. Mr. H wrote me a letter to that began my dear Naomi at a time the mailbox was empty. Mr. K was in his eighties and secretly dragged my trash cans down to the street for me every single week. R put her hands over mine and showed me how to roll out a perfect chapatti.   A told me to write. Dr. S said “I wish I could take it from you.” My dad said, “the easiest route is not always the best route.” She flagged me down in the parking lot to hand me her resume. S forgot her groceries that night. Traffic was terrible one morning, long enough for him to ask me if he could come visit. Later he asked if I would, and he said he will. V showed me it was important to write hand written letters. Five pregnancy tests were right. When I cried and said I couldn’t do it, he said “you’re the strongest person I know.” The nurse handed me a missing piece of my soul. N still pats my shoulder and says, “you’ll be fine.” And now I realize it’s more than enough. She stopped crying when I held her. Another ultrasound was wrong. They said “thank you,” and it seemed to mean something to them. A nurse firmly told me to look her in the eye. K said “it will take a few years before it is back to normal.” I felt small and D said, “I think you’re a good mother.” J only asked for a house with a red door – we found the one, and wouldn’t you know it…it had a red front door.

With so much to worry about, so much to fear and regret in the world, remembering some moments of grace can be therapeutic and restore some perspective. Can you take two minutes, and remember some of the noteworthy moments in your story?IMG_6071

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The Broken Cheese Stick

My son does not like something that is broken. If his granola bar breaks or even cracks in the process of opening it, he will shake his head adamantly and hand it back to me. He wants a new one. And if given the choice of the broken one or going without, he will choose to stay hungry…and often declare that he will refuse to ever eat again.

This concerns me. Perhaps it is because of the memory of the breaks within my own spirit and story. For while healing fused fragments together, I am still well aware that some joints don’t work quite like they used to- that under the fire of stress, fear comes crying out, I freeze like a small child, and I am afraid to use said muscle again.

It is why I am always partial to something broken and imperfect, like the damaged stem of a bloom in a bouquet my husband hands to me with a kiss, or that my son holds up proudly as his offering to me following a trip to the grocery store with his dad. I receive the gathering of red, orange, or pink gerbera daisies and immediately my eyes find the one that always lies sadly and didn’t quite survive the trip home. I don’t throw the broken flower away, but instead lift it gently back up onto the stem, propping it up against its neighbors to help it stand again.

So when my son hands me a broken cracker or a torn page from his coloring book he wants thrown away, something in me hurts. I want him to learn to see that broken things can be special- beautiful and strong, even. I don’t want to pretend you can return it back to its original form. But I want him to see something exceptional in what it can now be.

Last night I handed him an organic mozzarella cheese stick – these little protein wonders are not inexpensive.  He started to open it eagerly and when the top part broke off, he shook his head and handed it back to me. “I don’t want this one anymore,” he declared. “I want a new one.” I showed sympathy to the discarded cheese stick that offended him so. “Let’s not throw it away,” I offered. “Let’s see if we can think of a special glue that will help put it back together…and make it even more delicious.” He was doubtful.  Jelly, a marshmallow, yogurt? He shook his head decidedly no to all three suggestions, even the sugary ones. He was not buying this. But then my eyes widened dramatically to introduce another idea, hoping to peak some interest. I know just the thing!” I teased, and his curiosity gave him pause. “How about… chocolate syrup?” I whispered, I hoped. He grinned, and giggled, and even jumped up and down as we took a dot of the magic of Hershey’s chocolate syrup, carefully spread it on the break, and gingerly secured the top back in place. I really, really hoped it wouldn’t fall off. It didn’t. He received it with nothing short of glee. And for the first time, a broken cheese stick was accepted – celebrated, even, and consumed in seconds.

It did this fractured soul some good and I walked away with my limp feeling lighter for a few moments.

Tonight, my son held up a new red crayon. He put it between two hands and asked if he could break it. “Let’s not do that.” I answered. “But mom,” he said. “If it breaks, it just means there would be two of them instead of one. Right?”

You have to understand – my little guy is not a cup half full kind of thinker.  So although we had a conversation about handling something with care, I won’t lie…part of me smiled. It was the first time he had seen potential in something broken. Small victories.

Today, if you hold something in pieces in your hands, perhaps take a closer look. It may be that it just needs someone to see the hope that it holds, and celebrate when it rises up to be simply more than it was before.

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A Freedom That Enslaves | RZIM

Source: A Freedom That Enslaves | RZIM

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The Cost of Freedom

It was close to midnight and my husband and I were tidying up our home. I’m not really sure why we do this, but for some reason it makes us feel better if we can all come downstairs in the morning to neat and tidy and give our children the pleasure of systematically destroying it through the day. And then we repeat the routine the next night. I often survey the domestic landscape – the legos peppering the floor, the milk cup lying on its side dripping onto the carpet, the furniture-turned-into-fort, the toys trapped in hardened play dough, the strip of squeaking green goop from the $1 section at Target that became one with the carpet a few months ago. I usually frown and worry that people would judge our housekeeping, but deep down inside kind of feel that our home is meant to be lived in, not preserved as some kind of museum.   It is the stains that speak to the life inside these doors- the colorful, incredible life our children bring to me each day.

On this particular night, I was wiping down countertops when I heard a sleepy and familiar call for “mama.” I immediately turned toward the stairs to see my little boy descending to find me. In his tiredness he reverted to his infant crawl and slid down the steps on his belly. Landing at the bottom, he pulled himself up and looked up at me with eyes longing to close again. One pajama leg had scrunched up above his knee. His white and green shirt had climbed and was resting over his sweetly protruding belly. His fantastic head of dark curly hair was flattened on one side and sticking straight up over his head. “Mama,” he repeated huskily, this time with the relief of something found as he held up his arms. I embraced this image while I bent down to lift him gently to me, taking a mental picture I hope to hold onto. I felt profoundly aware that this was how I will always remember him. He will be graduating from school, standing at the front of an aisle, receiving an award…he will be a 30 or 40 year old man before me and the image of him standing there as the picture of innocence in his little pajamas is the image that will flash through my mind.   It is how I will always see him- as a little boy, a picture of innocence and perfection, and truly my heart walking around outside of me.

I have a close friend who hugged her grown son a few days ago, sending him off as he deployed with the military for the Middle East. I have ached for her, putting myself in her shoes as best I can at this stage in my life and imagining what it would do to my own heart to see my son off to such a destination- the longing, concern and deeply rooted fear that would overwhelm my heart.  Her son became a father for the first time just two weeks before he was called to leave. As his family took him to the airport to begin his journey, a photo was snapped as he held his baby girl to say goodbye. She is so tiny, eyes closed and nestled comfortably inside the crook of his strong arm, his hand cupped around her head as he draws her close and places a kiss on the top of her small head. It is an absolutely beautiful picture that would make even the most composed of us melt. His little girl will treasure that photo and all it will say to her as time stood still for a revealing second.

I couldn’t stop staring at it. My husband’s face immediately softened. My sister immediately started to cry.  What is it that we are responding to?  It the vision of love, it is the beauty of new life and the protection of a father for his baby girl.  It is the sadness we can feel for two lives so sweetly intertwined that must endure days apart.  And it was ultimately a response to the price of freedom. I think perhaps we tend to talk of the price of freedom as the lives lost and the billions expended. But this picture is the ongoing price of freedom- the sacrifice that an individual, their newborn child, their husband or wife, their mother, father, husband or wife, siblings and anyone who loves them makes for the many freedom serves.   This soldier will be away from his little girl, imagining moments he longs to witness, for what I do get to see and experience- for the priceless fact that my children go to sleep at night surrounded by peaceful quiet rather than the sounds of fear. So that when my son wakes from a nightmare I can assure him that there really aren’t any “mean guys” close by. So that they can have big yet possible dreams of the opportunities life may offer. So that I can be planting a new garden with my son and showing him how exciting it can be to watch a cucumber grow.

I want to thank this man and his family. To the soldier himself, thank you for traveling away from those you hold dear to protect something you believe in. To his daughter, for the rests in the crook of your father’s arm you will miss; to his wife, for your courage, for managing both the day and night shift, for sacrificing sharing the days with your partner for a time, and for taking note of the details for all that happens in your life and the life you have built together so you can paint him a picture each day; to his siblings for sharing one who will always be one of the dearest friends you will know; to his father for the example, nurturing and participation that contributed to taking him from an impressionable boy into a man you admire. And to his mother, whose mind’s eye must travel instantaneously and ceaselessly between a toddler in his pajamas and vulnerability to a man in his uniform and conviction. Thank you for supporting his call even when it means spasms for your heart, as it walks around outside of you in a far away and uncertain land for now.

As I considered the ongoing cost of freedom, it occurred to me that there has only ever been one exception. This is Holy Week, the days leading up to Good Friday. The Christian faith remembers this day as the day Jesus went to the cross to pay the price for our ultimate freedom. It was a redemption from brokenness- from transgression and the darkness in humanity, offering us instead reconciliation with our Creator and intended purpose. And it is the only freedom that has ever been entirely secured in a single act. It does not require others continue to sacrifice to preserve what was won. It cannot be dissolved by any future act.  It is won.

On the cross Jesus alone paid the ultimate price for freedom, a freedom that reunites rather than separates.  We are all tremendously indebted to the men and women who defend our physical existence and daily freedoms.  It is also our beautiful reality that we have a Savior who offers our souls an ultimate freedom and a price that has been paid once and for all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“What are you hopin’ about?”

I have a little boy.  He was not one of those babies who slept through the night at 8 weeks.  Even now, a continuous night of sleep is a rarity. Before he was two he was sitting at his little blue table with his head in his hands and told me he was “strugglin’ with something.”  He is not easy going.   He is profoundly special, a deep soul beyond his small number of years.

Today was not an easy day and as I rocked our unhappy newborn in another failed attempt to calm the little one, my little man came up and leaned on the arm of the chair.  He studied my face for a few seconds and then asked, “Mama, what are you hopin’ about?”  I realized I was looking off into my thoughts and he had caught me.  I was amused by his choice of words.  It isn’t the typical way we say, “what are you thinking about,” and in his unpolished knowledge of language he had made it more accurate, more insightful, more personal.

For when I do get lost in thought, those worries, fears, musings, and regrets are very much tied up into what I hope for in the now and at times what I mourn and hoped for yesterday.   What is it about life, that even as we stand in the center of things we are intensely grateful for, we find the corners of our mind where we feel insecure and uncover reason and room to question our value and contribution to those around us and our world.  My thoughts are never just “thoughts,” as I consider this idea.  They are always a context for an old or a new hope or longing – a wish. In that particular moment I could (internally) answer that ‘I want colic and reflux to disappear so my baby can feel happy’ but more accurate would be “I adore this baby and I am afraid I am failing at something I desperately want to be good at.  It literally pains my heart to hear distress from one so tiny and in my protection.  I fear there is something I am not doing right and if I was doing that thing right I would be a better mother and my baby would not be crying.   I hope I can figure out what to do to be able to soothe my child.  And PS, on a much lesser note I hope I find the time to shower and feel composed again one day soon too.”

Some days it is about my friendships, my job, my disillusionment with law or government, my confusion about catastrophe and suffering, my comfort or questions and the mysteriousness of God.   And in all of these things, what I am hoping about only finds rest in one place, a place beyond the scenario within the thought itself.

Earlier this year I was visiting the beautiful country of Turkey.  I walked through a home for the elderly destitute and as I quietly stepped into a common room, an elderly woman began passionately asking me something in Turkish.  I do not know the language, but the intensity was clear and she was visibly anxious.  I found one of the Sisters who worked in the home to come translate for me.  She explained that the woman suffered from Alzheimer’s and every day in her confusion she thought her family was supposed to pick her up and every day, she asked someone and anyone she could find to help her find them.  I felt so badly for her, imagining what it must be like to live through this disappointment of feeling like you have been abandoned or forgotten, every day.

The Sister told us how this mother had a son who visited her regularly.  “She doesn’t recognize him,” she said.  “One day I told him I was so sorry, that it must be hard to have his mother not know who he is.”  Her son responded, “That’s okay.  I know who she is. “

Such beautiful, powerful words.  We have this deep desire in us to be known.   This was such a picture to me of finding that on earth and the reality that this kind of love and intimate knowledge is a limited reflection of our relationship with God is deeply stirring.  The belief that in our confusion and lost-ness we often don’t recognize Him or see that He is sitting near…but He knows who we are.  What relief, what solace, what rest that brings.

While my thoughts are made up of my hopes for who I wish I was, for who I want to be, my hope is really only met with respite rather than angst when it lies in such a person and not the various things that occupy my worrying mind.   He knows who I am, and with this comes a place of peace where all of my hopin’ can hang its hat and exhale.

A French proverb says, “Hope is the dream of soul awake.”   Hope is a good thing.  It reminds us we are alive and keeps us engaged in living.  Augustine said that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him.  But our thinking – our hoping- is the language of the heart and so it seems that it, too, will feel anxious until we allow all of that hoping to rest in someone larger and greater and truer than hopes past, present, and future.

It is the eve of Thanksgiving and we now step into the Christmas season. For some it brings a good kind of nostalgia and joy in hope met or restored.  Yet for others it is a sad nostalgia and a season of private and particular loneliness as they remember or live in loss.

I don’t know what you are “hopin’” about today, but I sincerely wish you rest and peace.  Even in your confusion, your hopes and despairs are known.  Sometimes that can be enough to find rest for today.  And hope for tomorrow.

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Why do we fall?

Climbing stairs has become one of my young son’s favorite pastimes.  Up…and down, up….and down.  He never seems to tire of it.  He would do it all day long, and it is admittedly not one of my favorite activities.  It means I spend a lot of time on the steps, too, standing behind him and ready to try to break his fall on the climb where his little foot inevitably slips and he begins to fall or slide down.

As we climbed for the umpteenth time yesterday,  I was unable to help him when that slip came.  He fell forward this time rather than backward and his baby face ran into the unforgiving floor.  He dissolved into tears and as my heart raced and I scooped him he pointed to a pudgy finger at the step to tell me who or what had wronged him.  He buried his head in my neck for a short minute, and when the tears subsided and I had gently dabbed at the mean dots of blood on his lip, he refused the ice cube in a towel I offered and began to try to wriggle free.  He was looking at those crazy steps again.  I started to take him to the adjoining room and activity.  Mostly, it seemed his fall provided a good reason to do something safer.  And partly, I was really tired of climbing stairs.  Two good reasons (one more than the other), but I didn’t want to send him the message that when you fall, you need to resign from the game.  And so I placed him back on the stairs, not at the bottom, but on the midway step where he had fallen.  And he eagerly began his ascent again.

Later that night, my husband and I watched Batman Begins.  We are planning to see The Dark Night Rises later this week and we thought we would refresh our minds with Part One of the epic triology .  Of course, it took a total of three nights because we kept falling asleep as soon as we hit play.  This is no reflection on the movie but rather our relatively new ability to fall asleep in under five seconds.  If you pause too long in a sentence right now, I might fall asleep sitting up and looking at you.  But anyway, when we finally made it through I saw the scene where Alfred rescues an unconscious Bruce Wayne from the burning Wayne Manor.  The villain of the story has set it ablaze and left Bruce for dead.  A fantastic family home falls to the ground, turning treasured photos of Bruce’s lost parents and a longstanding family legacy into ashes.  As Alfred carries him out to safety, Bruce laments that he has failed in his attempt to save the city of Gotham and suffered a deeply personal loss and quest as well.  Alfred’s response was to quote something Bruce’s late father said when he consoled a young Bruce after he fell into a well. “Why do we fall, Master Wayne?”  said Alfred.  “So that we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”  It was appropriate for the young boy who had stumbled; it was still appropriate years later for the grown man in a much deeper well.

These two moments of my day seemed to entwine into a meaningful theme and reminder.  It is so much easier when you are a child though, right?  The falls become harder, the bruises run deeper.  Or is it?  For my son, that was his first bloody lip.  The safety of a playmat was in plain sight and all of his mothers initial body language was to encourage him away from the challenge.  It’s a lot harder to keep going, when someone gives you not just permission but empathy to bow out.  And for all that he knows and in his world, that probably took about all the determination he could reasonably muster.  I really admired him yesterday.  He went right back to those steps, and to him on that day and in this time, that was his Everest.

It is an important lesson in life for all of us, and I appreciated the reminder.  The climb, the fall, and the wounds change for each of us as we walk our respective journeys through different seasons.  A fall is inevitable.  However, we can choose where we climb and how we decide to respond to injury.

“We fall so that we can learn to pick ourselves up,” is more than just a cruel game of life.  For I think it is when we pick ourselves up and walk on- by the grace of God, limp and all- that we truly walk at all.

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Prostitution and Human Rights

I have been reading current news articles about the controversial proposal released by the UN last month.  In their momentous report, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law more than urges the rest of the world to legalize prostitution, for the sake of safety and regulations that could reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS.  The Commission is comprised of 15 members considered to be leaders in their field and in public life who were called upon to provide leadership on HIV related issues and the law.  After 18 months of research and meetings, this proposal is their conclusion and public recommendation issued to the world.

In the closing paragraph of his preface, Commission Chair Fernando Henrique Cardoso writes that “this report presents persuasive evidence and recommendations that can save lives, save money and help end the AIDS epidemic. The recommendations appeal to what is common to all our cultures and communities—the innate humanity of recognising and respecting the inherent worth and dignity of all individuals.”  The UN Commission “forcefully calls for governments, civil societies, and international bodies” to embrace twelve conclusions.  Among them is the decriminalization of private and adult consensual sexual behaviors. including voluntary sex work.

There are so many layers, within this issue.  I have an immediate emotional response to the idea of the legalization of prostitution.  And while there is ultimately a symmetry between this reaction and my rational consideration of the issue, I need to recognize this is not a foregone conclusion for many who care about it just as much as I do.  I have friends and respected colleagues in the humanitarian field working specifically in the area of human trafficking who find this question of prostitution legalization to be complicated rather than the obvious many want it to be.

In the global discussion on the ramifications of legalization, the city of Amsterdam is an obvious example to draw from as one who famously opened its doors to sex work in the year 2000.  It was said to be a vote for women’s rights, where women could freely engage in a legitimized profession with an empowering safety net of regulation.  One can’t help but note that for any country with legalized prostitution, this particular decision in the name of women’s rights also has the added benefit of significant financial gain for any supporting government.   Once a recognized profession, prostitution provides the certainty of millions of additional dollars each year in income tax revenue from an industry that historically thrives whether the economy is thriving or crashing.

The city of Amsterdam has been intentional about regulating it, implementing a healthcare program that provides quality care and treatment to sex workers and conducts regular testing to reduce STD and HIV/AIDS transmission.  They have a police task force presence in the district to reduce acts of violence against sex workers.  And they have funded annual monitoring and reporting for coercion, human trafficking, and illegal activity.  Research disclosed frightening revelations over the years and to their credit, the city council publicly acknowledged this.

In 2008 , the BBC reported that Amsterdam was aggressively cracking down on the district to eliminate known sources of human trafficking and organized crime.  Thirty percent of brothels were initially closed down for illegal activities.  To aid in combatting the “decay” of the city center activities, the city council’s declared goal was to ultimately close down 50% percent of the brothels.  “Money laundering, extortion and human trafficking are things you do not see on the surface but they are hurting people and the city. We want to fight this,” said Deputy Mayor Lodewijk Asscher.  “We can still have sex and drugs but in a way that shows the city is in control,” he concluded.  In 2012, a new law was passed that will be implemented in 2013 and raise the age requirement of a sex worker from 18 to 21 as well as require a fluency in the Dutch language.  It has been controversial with their citizens, but the city council is moving forward with this effort aimed at reducing trafficking as younger girls and those unable to speak the local language are more vulnerable to abuse.

However, with all of its problems, the red light district of Amsterdam does report a low HIV/AIDS prevalence credited to the health care monitoring and government regulation of the industry.  The UN Commission now making headlines was charged with the goal of identifying ways to reduce HIV/AIDS.  While people against legalized prostitution will site Amsterdam and its increase in trafficking and organized crime to defend their stance, advocates for legalization will likely also site Amsterdam and its low HIV/AIDS prevalence to support their opposing position.

While I do not agree with the UN’s conclusion, if one were to look at it purely on the basis of a response to HIV/AIDS, it would have to be acknowledged that legalization that leads to regulation could arguably help reduce the rate of transmission.   You have countries with legalized prostitution (though legendary for its decision, Amsterdam is certainly not alone), countries with illegal prostitution and regulation, others with illegal prostitution and no regulation, and then those in a complicated category that allows for certain activities but not others.   A comparison could be drawn between Amsterdam’s reportedly low prevalence to reported estimates of up to 80% HIV/AIDS prevalence in Asia’s largest red light district in Mumbai where prostitution is illegal.

Some respected friends and colleagues tell me that while they may morally be against prostitution, they aren’t sure it is the government’s role to make it illegal.  The sex trade is an outworking of the human heart, they say, and will exist whether it is legal or not.  They are also on the ground in the throes of a very complicated and dark world.  They know individual stories and try to advocate within systems for those who are trapped.  As I’ve listened to their experiences, rather than the guarantee that a system where it is legal presents the clearest danger one of the most vulnerable environments for a woman seems to be where prostitution is illegal, but unregulated.  Here, a victim has no place to turn- there is no police task force patroling and accessible programs are limited and often struggling for financial support.  Aid workers see this.   They also struggle to work in an arena like Amsterdam where so much they morally oppose is permissible and glorified, but with legality came government programs and intervention and regulation they can, in theory, appeal to when needed.

In a world where there is much black and white and right and wrong, they do explain a kind of gray that explains their uncertainty.  To recognize this does not change my personal belief and the conclusion I have thoughtfully come to, but it heightens an awareness of a complicated world that continues to deeply sadden me as a human being and specifically as a woman.

Will prostitution continue to exist if it is illegal?  Absolutely.  But the abuse of a law does not adequately justify its absence.  If it were so, we shouldn’t have any laws at all.  One of the critical functions of good government is to create an environment that protects the intrinsic rights of its people- fundamental rights that affirm and respect the essence of a human being.

History tells of revolutions for freedom won for future generations. Movies like Braveheart powerfully remind us of both the grave cost and awesome privilege of liberty.  Yet freedom itself is a kind of paradox.  To truly protect freedom for the people, a government must also limit it.  Any law effectively protects the freedom of one and simultaneously limits the freedom of another.  American law protects the individual right of one to live and in doing so limits the liberty of a murderer.  It protects the freedom of a consumer to obtain the truth and limits the freedom of a business to commit fraud and intentionally deceive.  Upholding freedom is inextricably linked to the very limitation of it in another capacity. It is neither theoretically nor practically possible to create a world of absolute freedom.  And so, our choice is to determine which freedoms we will choose to uphold.

With its singular objective, this UN Commission has responded to one global problem in part by compromising its very premise of human rights.  They are advocating for a perceived solution at the cost of a different set of problems.   And in doing so, they invite- they forcefully invite- the world to participate in a different kind of human rights violation.

At its essence, prostitution is always a form of objectification and exploitation.  This makes it not only morally wrong but worthy of legal intervention from a government that seeks to affirm the intrinsic rights of every individual.  It is exploitation even if a sex worker is a willing participant, for someone’s willingness to subject herself to something has never been what defines exploitation.  There are numerous laws on our book in which a consensual act remains accountable to law enforcement; a willing worker does not redeem the exploitative behavior of a sweatshop owner.

Furthermore, the UN has written a prescription that is also practically impossible.  They forcefully call for the legalization of prostitution while also calling for efforts to reduce human trafficking.  But one breeds the other.  It’s like calling for the chicken and outlawing the egg. If prostitution is allowed to flourish it is inevitable that human trafficking will likewise increase in an environment that heightens demand and shelters illegal activity.

What is so tragic in our time is not only the existence of prostitution and pornography but also the creative ways we have found to justify them.  When men and women alike defend these industries as progressive steps toward freedom- sexual freedom and liberation for women specifically- it’s hard to miss the irony.

In the movie Crazy Stupid Love, Ryan Gosling’s character Cal sums it up with an interesting observation.  While he isn’t speaking about prostitution, his commentary poignantly reveals how we have managed not only to normalize the objectification of women, we have made it trendy.

“The war between the sexes is over,” he declares.  “We won the second women started doing pole dancing for exercise.”

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