Wednesday, July 4, 2012

America. Land that I Love.

I love the 4th. I love the cook outs and fireworks and laying by the pool. I love wearing red ,white, and blue, and going to baseball games. I love being an American. This 4th of July will be slightly different. There won’t be fireworks or a baseball game or a pool. I will most likely watch the new spiderman movie and make some hamburgers. Luckily, I have an Indian friend who isn’t Hindu so he eats beef. And as for red, white and blue…I have a captain America shirt that can be worn. Putting together my little fourth of july celebration as always makes me as always proud to be American. Loud and Proud. The American way.

This year though more than proud, I am grateful-- grateful that I grew up in a place that allowed me so many opportunities that I didn’t even realize half of them. Things that I didn’t see as blessings but rather givens. Of course, I was allowed to play soccer as a girl. Of course, I had air conditioning. Of course, I knew my birthday and had parties. I think the ‘of courses’ are starting to become an epidemic in America. The feeling of entitlement is overwhelming. Entitlement helped bring about the economic crash by people buying houses they couldn’t afford, and entitlement is in the forefront of the health care battle. I am not trying to start a political debate –that isn’t the point—the point is that everywhere you look in America (right, left, red, blue) everyone thinks they are owed something or deserve something more. I think this 4th there should be more time spent looking at what tremendous blessings Americans have been given as a result of the Home of the Brave. Rather than being proud this year. Maybe we should be humbled by the fact we are American.

Humbled by the thousands of men and women that believed in America so much that they gave their life to have this country.

Humbled that our founding fathers prayed and looked to something bigger than themselves when designing our constitution.

Humbled to know that we can argue and disagree and say what we wish about the government without consequences

Humbled that our judicial system works and doesn’t -years after a case was filed- convict and impose jail sentences on people who are already dead from old age.

Humbled that voting actually means something, and no candidate gets 104 percent of the vote…

Humbled that despite economic hard times, the American dream is still alive and no person is condemned to a certain spot in a social system based on birth.

Humbled that you can choose who to marry and when you want to get married.

Humbled by the amount of education that is available

Humbled the electricity works as does the hot water

Humbled to have an actual bathroom to wash in rather than the street

So while laying by the pool, or donning red, white and blue, remember all the blessings that come with being an American and show a little gratitude to what has been given rather than focusing on what ‘should’ be given. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Real life.

So. I am in India.

And the tone of the blog will change-- Mostly because I am living here rather than touring. When touring, it is easy to write and tell of the day’s adventures. When living somewhere adventures become making sure you get on the right bus and that you don’t pass out when walking to work. As a result, I will mostly be writing thoughts and ideas, Lesson learned, humbling experiences (which occur everyday), and yes, funny stories will make their way into the blog as well.

Also, the tone will change because of what I am doing. I’ll give a brief background and explanation- not to show off or because I think I am changing the world- I am not. But I share so that people will be aware of what is going on in the world. To force people out of their daily routine and their daily mindset-  and to share the every growing amount of gratitude I have for my endless blessings.

I am volunteering at New Light, which takes care of children of sex workers- Children that are marked by society as nothing. The daughters are fit for nothing more than the life their mothers have which they were forced into either through trafficking or through poverty. And the boys, well, they will follow in the footsteps of the male ‘role’ models in the area- becoming facilitators of the sex industry or making money by selling alcohol or whatever at a higher price to make quick money which instead of being used for something fruitful like education is squandered on material nothings. What New Light does is provide education, food, a safe place to stay, and a way out.  Once girls are 12 or 13 they are moved to another home away from Kalighat, an old red light district of Kolkata and where New Light operates. It is no longer safe for them to be in that area.

Every morning I walk down a little lane passing women, children, goats, dogs, and men. The lane is lined with little 'houses'- homes of the sex workers. The morning isn’t a big deal. It could be another little lane in India if you didn’t know better –people washing themselves in the spickets, children playing. The evening is different. The women are dressed and put together…and sitting at the end of the lane. Waiting.

For those that worry about me walking in and out of red light district everyday, don’t. I am in no danger of being trafficked. It doesn’t work like that in India. Your family-- an aunt, a grandma, even sometimes a mother—starts you in the industry if you weren’t trafficked in from a village somewhere else. You have to have nothing – no education, no money, no support—that is how women get stuck. Where do they have to go? And now they have children to feed with no father to help support the children. Some mothers abandon their children left to be raised by someone else in the area whether a friend or a relative. New Light takes these children. Sure the mothers have visiting rights. “fathers” have none.

I work with the children in the morning, and by work I mostly mean play. Most speak a little English so we communicate roughly. The older children generally know more and can translate from Bengali to English for me. Then I do research. Research the Trafficking in Persons report, different laws going into place, and whatever else is needed. 

In reality, I learn by just being there. I think sometimes as a law student, you think that you can solve all the injustices in the courtroom – buying too often into the classic John Grisham tale of success. However, one must understand what one is fighting to do any good. I am starting to understand just how big and monstrous the sex trafficking industry is…and it isn’t like I hadn’t researched and studied it before I came to India. I had. I THOUGHT I knew. I didn’t know anything.