Friday, May 29, 2015

Favorite Things Friday: The Best Book I Read in May

It's the end of the month, and time for The Cephalopod Coffeehouse and the best book I read in the month of May.

Last month I featured Runaway Girl by Carissa Phelps, a memoir exploring the plight of a chronic runaway who was sexually exploited and lived to tell the tale. In a similar vein, this month I'm featuring another sex trafficking memoir, Stolen: The True Story of a Sex Trafficking Survivor by Katariina Rosenblatt, PhD.

This is an important story. I say this not because Katariina survived sex trafficking or because she earned her doctorate, but because her initiation into the horrors of this world occurred in her own backyard, on her mother's watch, and inside the suburban United States. Befriended by a "bottom" female (another female recruiting other girls into the life), Katariina narrowly escapes alive on several occasions, only to find herself firmly entrenched within the life a few years later by a different recruitment method. This memoir is not so much about how it happened, but why. Why is it that young girls are so vulnerable to the lures, the methods, and the dangers? Katariina admits that some part of her walked into the life willingly and with partially opened eyes. Aside from her own harrowing tale, she sheds invaluable insight into the contributing factors of suburban domestic violence, gang and organized crime infiltration, and a teen's burning need of acceptance by her peers.

It's hard to believe in this day and time that a well-educated teenage girl would ever consent to such things, but it's happening. And more often than you might think. Although Rosenblatt's story takes place twenty years ago, the methods and the dangers remain the same. These days, girls are trafficked inside their own high schools by boys claiming to be their boyfriends, and sometimes, sadly, even their own parents are the pimps. Writers like Katariina Rosenblatt shine a stark white light on these horrors and ask others to join with them in bringing this abomination to an end.

Girls should not be for sale.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Rolling Thunder and Memorial Day

This past Saturday, as I drove home from Tennessee, it was my privilege to ride alongside several hundred members of Rolling Thunder. The motorcyclists, most on Harley Davidson’s, rode two and three deep in the right hand lane as I passed them on the left. The traditional flags waved in the wind from the backs of their cycles, both the stars and stripes as well as the black and white POW/MIA flag, and bringing up the rear of the procession was the hearse with the Some Gave All banner. As we passed underneath bridges along I-66 North, folks stood atop, waving flags of their own. People waited along the side of the road for the processional to pass, holding up signs of support and more flags.

It probably took me somewhere between 3 and 5 miles to pass all of the bikers, and as my eyes welled with tears, I realized in that moment, I was a part of something really special.  This powerful display of patriotism and devotion happens every year as chapter members of Rolling Thunder from all across the United States make their way to Washington D.C. to draw attention to soldiers left behind, now POW (Prisoners of War) or MIA (Missing in Action).
The first Rolling Thunder demonstration was held on Memorial Day in 1988. The creators of the movement, Artie Muller and Ray Manzo, conceived the idea of a gathering at the nation’s capital with their fellow bikers, family members, and friends who wanted to educate people about the reality of soldiers left behind in the Vietnam War, many of them still living and imprisoned under horrific conditions (as many as 10,000) as confirmed by intelligence sightings and reports. Because the government did not appear to be doing anything about this, Rolling Thunder organized their march, insisting on acknowledgement and an account of all these American soldiers.  As stated on their website, “Their arrival would be announced by the roar of their motorcycles, a sound not unlike the 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam dubbed Operation Rolling Thunder. Hence, they would call themselves Rolling Thunder®, Inc….”

The group became a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2007. Every year they raise funds to aid servicemen (active duty and veterans) as well as their families. The group continues to serve the community in ways which include aiding homeless veterans through donations of food, clothing, and finances. They continue to raise awareness about prisoners of war and fund search missions in Southeast Asia for POW/MIA and those killed in the line of service. And this is just scratching the surface of their work and commitment to the community, veterans, and active duty soldiers.

If you have an extra moment this Memorial Day, check out the site for this extraordinary group. Whatever you’re doing today, I challenge you to take a moment to remember the service men and women for whom this day exists.  Some gave all.