The Burmese pythons are eating their way through the Everglades. At first it sounded like one of those titles you see at the checkout counter, but apparently it’s true. Invasive species taking over the world. There are bullies in the animal world just as there are in the human world who go where they do not belong (although in the poor burmese python’s case it was not his fault, but a combination of man’s and mother nature’s: breeders + hurricane). You won’t find me in sunny Florida anytime soon.
I did, however, hit the wilds of the urban jungle for a brief night’s respite from the burbs and parenthood. An interesting experiment it was. We walked for miles and miles and took in the streets as though we’d never seen them before. We joined the younger hipper Euro tourists and rented a hotel room which felt like the inside of an ipod—tiny and white and neon blue and beautiful and efficient and oh so cool. Despite the fact that we could have hopped a bus or a train and been in our beds in under an hour we pretended that we were far, far away from home.
We tried to look at the city from a new perspective, and in doing so it occurred to me how much tamer, gentler, sanitized it has become. Through gentrification and commercialization the poor have been pushed away (we know, of course, that they more than exist, they flourish). Times Square is no longer seedy but like a big ol’ playground, Hell’s Kitchen has become a mecca for foodies, the East Village a cooler version of the West and… It was a great night.
But New York is not just a tourist’s paradise, and not everyone is fortunate to treat themselves to a night on the town. While the streets are full of people of all nationalities (I still love that idea of dropping a net on a city block in midtown and seeing what you catch), they are not all there to spend their hard-earned euros or rubles, leus or pounds on food or clothes or Broadway shows. Some are brought here by force or false pretense, and others are here to buy them.
I just finished reading Corban Addison’s A Walk Across the Sun, a novel about two young girls who, through tragedy, end up orphaned and are swept up into the sex trade. One of them ends up in New York, which is not surprising as JFK is one of the five top hubs internationally for human trafficking.
Apparently this activity is intense right now, on the cusp of the Super Bowl. The dark side of supply and demand. Ugh. Indeed the lovely Sisters of St. Joseph in Kalamazoo are all over the news for pooling their resources with hotels and with state government officials to bring to the foreground the issue of human trafficking during the testosterone-filled Super Bowl. Kudos to them.
I definitely recommend Addison’s book. The topic is so important yet is often lost in the noise of crises and issues which seem so distant. It is too easy to tune out, yet via a novel it comes alive. Our empathies are afire, the victims become people, not statistics. Or, in his words,
Fiction has the power to really change a person’s way of seeing the world so that it really engages the intellect but it also engages the heart.
*One of the most popular search terms which leads to my site is “porn,” for part of the title of a post I did about my disgust over the way we parade across our screens the deaths of our perceived enemies. Hence the word change, to avoid opening my door to those who might have the wrong idea of what my blog is all about… 😉