Walt Disney, you crazy, crazy man.
Funded and approved by the US Department of Treasury in 1943, this Disney featurette called “The New Spirit” was to encourage every good American to do his “duty” and pay his taxes, which, at this time, were at an all time high. Those who do not wish to pay or don’t pay it gladly are depicted as friends of Hitler and enemies of liberty and democracy.
Contrary to what has been stated on other posts of this film, it was never “banned” by anyone. Not only was it approved by the Treasury Secretary, it received an Academy Award nomination for “Best Documentary Feature.” Even President Roosevelt himself had a hand in approving Donald Duck as the main character.
Yet another video, I know. This one is well worth the four minutes you’re about to invest. Promise.
It’s reminiscent of the HBO documentary: Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County.
Do I think the immigration process needs to be reformed? Yes.
Do I think that reformation is going to take place with a bigger wall and more guns? No.
It seems ridiculous to hold children accountable for their parents’ desperation.
Alas, I have no solution floating around in my head. So I leave you with this video.
Two weeks ago I should have stepped on an airplane bound for Cambodia. I should have said goodbye to Des Moines for two months and I should have landed in Phnom Penh.
I would have taught rescued sex slaves the intricacies of inDesign and Photoshop. I would have spent 60 days immersed in a very different culture. I would have come back a changed person.
But, these are shoulds and woulds.
Let me catch you up.
Since last summer, I’ve known, without a shadow of a doubt, that I’m supposed to be fighting against sex slavery. I can’t quite put to words what it feels like to be so absolutely sure of something. It isn’t an emotion, universally fleeting. And it’s not a state of mind, universally bogged down with knowledge. It’s this type of peace. Like I can stop searching. Stop fumbling around for something in the dark.
Last January I felt a strong call to go and fight against sex trafficking in Cambodia. In fact, the call felt so strong, I dreamt what it would look like for me to move there longer term. But, as I started the process of fundraising and grappling with the reality of two months abroad, I felt my heart shift. I began to look at sex trafficking a bit differently.
Now, it wasn’t fear or selfishness—although those emotions were present in brief moments. As I was preparing for my trip, I found myself not dreaming of life in Cambodia and what it would look like to teach design principles in a different language. I was dreaming of how a rescue center could function in Des Moines. How it would look. The programs I could start. The women here.
Shouldn’t I have been dreaming about the former? Shouldn’t the latter have come in September when I came back?
These questions—and a few conversations with friends—began to change my idea of what I was feeling called to do. Maybe I had focused in on a location too quickly. Maybe it wasn’t Cambodia. Maybe it was Des Moines.
As soon as I let that last thought creep in, it’s all I could think about.
So what am I doing this summer instead?
- visiting an established rescue center in the United States
- talking with local police about the community needs
- creating a map of where trafficking/prostitution goes down in DSM
- talking with current residential programs in DSM
- building awareness for trafficking in the US
- creating action steps/outreaches
- plan out an emergency shelter for underage victims of sex trafficking
- still freelancing
Stay tuned in for updates. I know I’ll have them. Lots of them.
If you want to get involved (financially, networking, contacts, ideas, etc.) or if you just want to meet up and talk, drop me a line at email@example.com and we’ll make it happen.
“People, once they hear what happens to us, will think differently. And this is the most effective tool we have, alone or together.”
In this information age, it’s hard to remember what it feels like to not knowsomething for an extended time. I can remember first finding out about St. Augustine, Florida. Or, the first time I learned people were trafficked. It can be a powerful feeling to truly learn something in an age saturated in knowledge.
I wrote a blog a little over a year and a half ago called inbetween. After this past week, I went and revisited it. Scroll back and read it if you could; not because it’s an exceptional piece of writing, but because it would be hard for me to convey the amount of naïveté and bias that was flowing through me at the time.
This past week, I helped lead a week-long event on Drake University’s campus called jesus. justice. poverty. In years past, we’ve been met with open arms. Full support from students and staff—resounding praise even from those most cynical of Christians. As a student, I was proud to be a part of the event. I found myself saying See, not all Christians are hypocrites. In fact, Jesus cares for the lives we often overlook.
This week was different. Should I have expected such an idealistic response from campus? Probably not. But I thought that our statement of justice would have been more accepted.
I was wrong.
Our unpublished, non-advertised event on Monday gave me new insight into my generation. Maybe I’ve been around too many people that think the way I think—that live the way I live—even read the things I read. But I assumed when we confronted campus with the reality of sex trafficking, eyes would be opened, minds would be changed, ignorance would vanish, and apathy would die.
Instead, when I told groups of people that they weren’t going to get a burrito, I was met with some genuine interest, some placating smiles, some passive indifference, and some hostility and anger.
If not getting a burrito is what elicited the most passion out of you, I think I found the reason sex slavery still exists.
That very thought is why I wanted to revisit my idealistic viewpoint on the millennials.
I suppose I was giving my generation the benefit of the doubt—that when I read the NYT article, it pissed me off. That’s not how I live, that’s not how my friends live. There’s truth to that thinking. I’m not seeking after the same American dream created in the 60s because I see it as valuing my life over another’s. There is something ingrained in me that causes my very soul to cry out injustice. But that’s not necessarily true for the whole of twenty-somethings around the U.S.. As I look back, it’s almost embarrassingly naïve of me to have thought that.
Sure, we are passionate people; and the issues we become passionate about are important. But the way in which that passion is channeled is so incredibly selfish. We want a t-shirt with the organization’s name on it—shoes with an easily recognized logo to show how much we care—reposting a 30-minute video and refusing to do anything more. We’ve been bred into a purchase-power laden society. We grew up with parents that gave us ribbons just for showing up.
Yes, I’ve fallen victim to this type of thinking and living; but, when confronted with the reality that sex slavery can’t be eradicated with me just buying a bracelet, I changed. I expected campus to have a similar reaction. We gave tangible ways to get involved, to create lasting change in a bunch of different areas. Only a handful of people signed up and many were from our own organization.
Now, this isn’t to say that there isn’t hope. There is hope in all of this. I met people who hadn’t even heard of the issue—their eyes were opened to an atrocity. Did they decide then and there to volunteer with refugees or vow to live a more slave free lifestyle? No. But that’s neither the very first step nor an end goal in my eyes.
Our purchase power mentality coupled with the academic sterilization of global issues, wants to buy something that is only promoting a simplistic Band-Aid. Is this sort of thing helpful? Yes. It most surely can be. Does it fit with Drake’s mission to prepare students for responsible global citizenship? No.
While I’m disappointed that such a chunk of our interactions were either apathetic or angry for the wrong reasons, I have hope that the longer we stick in this, the more we continue to bring these issues up, the more experiences we give to campuses, the more things will begin to change.
Culture shift begins with a thought. When that thought becomes common, culture transforms. We’ve started. And we’ll never stop.
People who have chosen slavery out of love are free to give themselves to others without it damaging their ego or destroying their identity. They can sit on the curb with a mentally ill homeless person to share a sandwich, or cut their hours in order to take care of an aging parent, or move into a slum community in the developing world just to become loving neighbors to people whom the rest of the world has discarded. They can do this without being concerned about how it looks and without the false pride of thinking how great they are to stoop to such things. The slave mindset has freed them from an entitlement-spirit.
-Scott Bessenecker, How to Inherit the Earth
Jesus. Justice. Poverty. is coming to Drake University April 3-5.
It’s a three day event on campus with opportunities to become educated on the issue of human trafficking and the ways to act locally and globally.
My name is Jon Turteltaub. I have directed several movies including both National Treasure films, Phenomenon and Cool Runnings. In spite of how much my mother loves my films, I have had more than my share of criticism in person and in the press for my films over the years. Whenever the negative comments got me down I could usually prop myself up a bit by saying “Who cares? It’s just a movie. Let them hate it. It just makes them petty to put into print such negative thoughts about something so unimportant.” But it wasn’t until reading your blog and interview with Glenna Gordon that I realized how much worse it is to criticize and belittle something so important as bringing peace to a region of Africa, saving the lives of children, and ending rape, murder and torture.
Really? Three young men who fly half way around the world to stop violence against children is something you feel the need to criticize? Three middle-class white guys risking their lives to stop a genocidal madman instead of hanging out at home and playing Angry Birds is something you feel needs to be brought down a notch? If even one person reads your article and decides not to help Invisible Children stop Joseph Kony what good have you done?
The picture shows some white guys holding guns with some black African soldiers. The STORY is that those three guys are inspiring an entire generation of young people to get active and to make positive changes in their world. The STORY is that Joseph Kony’s name is getting out there and that tens of millions of people are watching the video those guys made. The STORY is that even some goofballs from San Diego can change the world using media, the internet, and their hearts.
Not only have I been aware of and supportive of the work Invisible Children does, both as a filmmaker and as someone who has been to Northern Uganda and seen the damage inflicted on these families; but, I am also the brother-in-law of another war photographer, Dan Eldon, who was killed while on assignment in Somalia. Very few people have had a greater impact on young people and their desire to make a positive change in the world. No young journalist ever sacrificed so much to shed light on the horrors of famine and war. And in my living room, I have a picture of my late brother-in-law, acting goofy, holding a gun and standing with local soldiers.
Apologizing to Invisible Children for an article created by you and Glenna Gordon is irrelevant. Apologizing to the kids being killed and raped because you thought it might be smart to bring down the people risking their own lives to save them makes more sense. Imagine yourself in Northern Uganda talking to a child who has been mutilated and saying, “Oh, I know about what happened to you. I even wrote a blog criticizing the people who were helping you! Maybe my blog slowed their support and kept aid from getting to you.”
If Invisible Children raises one less dollar, gets one less supporter, gets one more opponent because of your blog then you have to ask yourself what good you are doing in this world. You will tell yourself you’re a journalist who is “just putting it out there”… and at some point you will realize that in journalism and film making there is no such thing as “just putting it out there”. What you do with your blog has meaning to people. Don’t underestimate yourself. And if you want the point of your blog to be the criticism of people fighting tirelessly to make the world an undeniably better place, then in my opinion, you are supporting the exact kind of thing that all of us fighting for peace are struggling with: apathy, cynicism, and ignorance.
If you want, criticize National Treasure, parts are too long, some of it is slow, a couple of things are confusing. Got it. That’s fine. But to unfairly and wrongly criticize these young men and their world of supporters for risking everything they have to save the lives of strangers, children and their families, and to give voice to another critic while doing so, is the worst kind of journalistic nonsense and personal irresponsibility. I’m sure you and Glenna remember when you were filled with optimism and enthusiasm at the thought of using your journalistic voice to make the world a better place. That’s where Invisible Children and its supporters live and we should be proud and support their efforts, their successes and their courage.
Amen, brother, amen.