I apologize in advance. Usually my posts are on the happy, optimistic, and cheery side…but this one isn’t going to be. It might also turn into a bit of a rant. I blame it on the fact that a couple of days ago it was 65 and sunny and today it’s been snowing all day. March. Ugh.
Last year, two of my classes (Sociology and Improvisation) combined into a third seminar class, a Learning Community requirement by my college called Society on Stage. The seminar was taught by both the professors from Sociology and Improvisation, and we focused on the issue of human trafficking. We did a lot of research all semester for the seminar. We even had guest speakers who had survived human trafficking ordeals. Every week we’d meet, share our research, and discuss our findings and our thoughts.
Meanwhile, in Sociology we were learning about social issues and in Improvisation we were learning to break out of our shells and perform in front of each other.
At the end of the semester we combined what we learned in both classes, and worked as a class to put together a performance of a student written play called Stuck in Traffick to raise awareness about human trafficking on campus. The show was a huge success. We had a full house and really opened the eyes of the campus to the issue of human trafficking. All semester I had been discouraged learning about the atrocities occurring in our world that I had heard nothing about until then. I felt powerless to do anything, but after our show I felt as if we had really done something, however small, to move in the right direction. The first problem with human trafficking is ignorance. Hardly anyone knows the extent of the problem, so it slips through the cracks as an issue of paramount social importance.
Since that class, I’ve taken the issue of human trafficking to heart, so it is no surprise that I am thinking about choosing it as my topic for my final research paper in my Gods, Kings, and Justice class this semester. There’s going to be a paper and a presentation, the whole sha-bang, and today I went to my professor’s office to sign up for a presentation time. After penciling my name in on April 20th, I starting chatting with my professor about my ideas for my topic. I told my professor that as part of the Sociology class I had researched the Democratic Republic of the Congo with two classmates and was horrified by the injustices occurring there.
My professor kindly lent me a video about the issue in the Democratic Republic of Congo, hoping it would help me narrow down my ideas for her project. I am thinking about human trafficking, slavery, women’s equality issues, and the issue of rape as a weapon of war in the DRC…I have to focus in on one issue or this research paper could turn into more of tome.
After my classes ended, I trekked through the snow to the library to watch the video since I didn’t have a VHS in my room.
As I watched, the feelings of helplessness and horror I had felt last year in my Society on Stage class came flooding back. The gut-wrenching stories the women in the video shared were absolutely devastating. The war in the DRC has been being waged for 10 years over valuable resources and power. It is an economic war fought by men, but the women are the true victims.
The stories are so horrible that I don’t even feel comfortable recounting them here. If you really want to learn more, it’s easy enough to find information online. As I walked back to my dorm (still in the @#*$% snow) I couldn’t help but wonder a few things.
Why all this suffering? It’s a question that’s been asked through the ages; why do we suffer? People, myself included, have answered this question with variations of “there cannot be light without the dark,” that is, without suffering we can’t know or appreciate happiness. You lose your job, that’s suffering, but when you eventually are re-employed you have a new appreciation for your work and have learned from your experience (hopefully). You break your leg, that’s suffering, but when you heal and can walk, run and dance again, you find that it brings you new joy that it didn’t before.
But the suffering I saw in that video today doesn’t fit that bill. The women in the DRC are enduring unimaginable suffering. How can you tell a woman who watches her husband murdered in front of her, her daughters raped, then endures being gang raped herself by soldiers who are supposed to be protecting her, that her suffering is for a reason? I see no reason there.
It makes you lose your faith in things, such horrific things happening. I not only find myself asking “how can I do something?” which is a hard enough question as it is, but “why is this happening in the first place?” what sort of world to we live in that allows these things to go on every day? Where is the justice? Where is the uproar? Where is the absolute indignation that women and girls as young as two are being raped in the jungle of the DRC by the hundreds of thousands?
I’m sitting here at my desk, in a cozy college dorm room, receiving an education, safe, with a loving family, with my friends, doing what I love, with a whole future ahead of me, while around the world an unspeakable monstrosity is occurring. Why? Why do I get to live luxuriously while others suffer…suffer more than anyone should ever have to suffer?
It is hard to have faith in anything larger than yourself when such unfairness exists. Why would any god, any divine being, any spiritual energy, allow for such things? Yes, suffering exists in duality with prospering and joy, but suffering to this extent? It’s disgusting. It’s not right. It makes you question the world.