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The chicken and the egg plant

Today there are television documentaries available on every topic imaginable. But the early days of documentary programming focused on World War Two. That’s because der Führer was an egomaniacal sociopath hell-bent on preserving his “legacy” for generations to come. So on any given Saturday evening, there was plenty of Riefenstahl footage to broadcast to every living room in America.

By the time I’d become a young adult, I’d had my fill of the horrors perpetrated on humankind by Nazi Germany. I had moved on. After all, I was a Baby Boomer in pursuit of the American dream…a founding member of the “ME” generation. Nothing but sweetness and light ahead. Warp speed, Mr. Sulu.

Then I overheard the commentator on a WWII documentary I’d tried to tune out say that three requests had been made to the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces to bomb the tracks to Auschwitz. It sounded like a stroke of genius to me considering what was happening in that labor/death camp at the time. The Nazis had a euphemism for what they were doing: Resettlement. Call it what you will, but being forced to work, often to death, is slavery. (Killing people because of their race is murder.)

Bombing the tracks could have disrupted the evil being perpetrated there, changed the dynamic and informed the evildoers that the good guys were on their way. The truth is, we don’t know what the effect of bombing the tracks to Auschwitz could have had on that horrific situation because the tracks were left intact. The “coulda, woulda, shouldas” still haunt me.

David S. Wyman, author of several books on the responses of the U.S. to Nazi Germany’s

persecution and extermination of Jews, posed this question: “How could it be that the governments of the two great Western democracies knew that a place existed where 2,000 helpless human beings could be killed every 30 minutes, knew that such killings actually did occur over and over again and yet did not feel driven to search for some way to wipe such a scourge from the earth?”

Further, an analysis of the requests submitted to the Allies to bombard railway lines leading to Auschwitz, concluded: “None was able to outweigh overriding military aims in pursuit of final victory over the Germans.”

Did I read that right? The Allied forces had better things to do? I know … it was complicated. Now, we go light years apart but remember the importance of righteous anger under very different circumstances.

On April 24, 2018, PBS aired a Frontline documentary titled, “Trafficked in America.” I had no intention of joining my husband on the sofa for this one either, but the commentary was dramatic and caught my ear.

“A human trafficking bust at an egg farm in Marion …”

“Federal prosecutors call it modern day slavery … their paychecks kept by their traffickers.”

“At least 10 were victims of trafficking, including eight minors.”

Here’s the short version. In 2014, eight minor boys from Guatemala were smuggled into the United States through Mexico. The boys were among the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors fleeing the poverty and violence in Central America. Yep, they were DACA kids.

The boys were initially detained at the border, but because the Department of Health and Human Services was overwhelmed at the time, the boys were turned over to their Uncle Fester, a “relative” they’d never heard of or ever saw again once they were transported to their new “home” in Ohio. I encourage everyone with a strong stomach to watch this PBS documentary in its entirety. But I’ll warn you: Once you get your first glimpse inside that egg farm, 1) you’ll thank God that someone hasn’t invented Smellevision; and 2) you’ll never eat an egg or a piece of chicken again. It put me on the fast track to eating a whole-food plant-based diet.

Here’s an excerpt of what one of the young Guatemalans had to say about the conditions at that egg farm in Marion, Ohio: “Everyday, the work is the same. You start sweating and the chickens crap in your face and that manure falls in your eyes. Your eyes burn. Your clothes get dirty, completely filthy. We pick up the chickens that have fallen from the cages. There are lots of dead chickens. They reek and they’re rotting. That’s how the job is. It’s really hard.”

The boys were forced to work from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. without so much as a juice box break. If a boy refused to work under such conditions, he and his family back home were threatened with death.

Immigration attorney, Sonia Parras weighed in on the situation. “In our own country,” she stated on camera, “we have today a lot of victims of human trafficking that are invisible to our own eyes. And let’s not forget that some of them are kids. And the end of the game is to subject that person to peonage, to slavery. They’re an easy prey. They’re vulnerable and easy to victimize and they’re alone.”

This story has a happy ending. These eight boys were rescued, part of the one percent of modern-day slaves that make it out of bondage … ever. In this case, corporate Humpty Dumpty may have fallen off the wall, but all the king’s attorneys put that hard-boiled bastard back together again in a big hurry. In a classic Sgt. Shultz moment, the company spokesperson essentially proclaimed, “I see NOTHING! I know NOTHING!”

Let me clarify … the highly profitable producer of 10 million eggs per day had no idea how his company became highly profitable.

Polaris, an organization fighting to eradicate modern-day slavery around the world, defines the problem this way: Human trafficking is the business of stealing freedom for profit. In some cases, traffickers trick, defraud or physically force victims into providing commercial sex. In others, victims are lied to, assaulted, threatened or manipulated into working under inhumane, illegal or otherwise unacceptable conditions. It is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 24.9 million people around the world.

Remember: 24.9 million. Let that number sink in. It’s the entire population of Australia. You’re kidding yourself if you think human traffickers aren’t operating in your own backyard because they are. The egg farm in Marion, Ohio is a microcosm of what’s happening right now across this country and around the world.

So I ask you … are we going to let evil have its way with innocence yet again? I say, let’s disrupt this evil anyway we can. If that means building a border wall, then I’m in. But we can’t stop there. We need to figure out ways — as many as it takes — to wipe this scourge from the earth.

Warp speed, Mr. Sulu.

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