ANNO SEPTIMO

‘Tis seven years
Since you were taken
From our arms,
Longer still
Since you have lain
Between my breasts,
Slaked of need,
Bedewed with sweat,
And hearts still racing
From a love
So freely given
And returned.

I love you still, and still
My heart does yearn
To hold you close
And whisper love
Upon your ear.

I have gone on
To love another
And build a life
That’s full of joy,
And laughter,
And a million things
We never chanced
To fit into our days.

And yet,
There comes those times
I  gaze about
And ponder unbidden
What if . . .
What if . . .
And my heart spins fantasies
Of time unbroken
And perfect days
Unreachable
By mortal man
Within the realm of time.

I do not understand
What binds me to your love
And keeps me in this prison
Hovering on the brink
‘Twixt life and death.
Yet here I stay,
And grow old,
Remembering days
That never were to come.

— J. E. Clark / 29 June 2016

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THE LAIRD

In Memory of My Father
Charles Albert Clark
16 October 1922 – 6 June 2016

I see your picture,
The young seaman,
Uniform pressed flat,
The seams and creases
Turned razor sharp,
No wrinkles in sight.

Then I see another day,
So many years beyond
With slackened skin
And sallow cheeks,
With wrinkles everywhere
And life long lived,
Of countless stories
That line the shelves
Between the bookends,
Marble monoliths
That mark the passage
Of your reign
Upon this earth.

I come to pay you homage,
My liege, my laird,
To once again sit at your feet
And drink your presence in,
To marvel at your wisdom
And swim within your depths.

Where once I saw a young man,
There now sits one quite old
And spent of years.

I touch your hand, your heart,
I seek to hold you back
Within that faintest grasp,
Yet, with each touch
I feel the life
Retreating from your hands
And coiling deep within your soul
Where no mere mortal
Will ever see it passing
Along these dusty roads again.

You are my laird, my liege, my lord,
The chieftain of our clan,
Who from my childhood’s depths
Has taught me of this day,
Too soon to come.

I hear the pipes a calling,
I hear the bodhran’s thrum,
I hear the footsteps marching
Of the honour guard that comes,
As rifle butts are beating
On the cobblestones below
And soldier after soldier
Turns to watch you as you go,

As the mist, in turn, enfolds you
Walking toward new life begun
In the still the mountains echo
With the Father’s Voice of love,
“Welcome home, my stalwart warrior,
To the Table you have come,
You have stayed the mighty army,
Yours is victory, Gunga Din, well done!!!”

– J. E. Clark
31 May 2016

 

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WE, THE PEOPLE, . . . NOT

I am livid. I have been involved in politics for nearly 50 years and I cannot remember a point in all of those years when I have been as furious as I am today.

I spent most of my afternoon making phone calls and doing legal research regarding Sen. Mitch McConnell’s announcement that there will be no SCOTUS nomination to replace Justice Scalia until after the election.

I have weighed in with the President and Vice-President’s offices; I have talked to the offices of Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Sen. Ben Cardin from Maryland, Sen. McConnell’s office in Kentucky, and Sen. John McCain’s office in Arizona. And I have told them all the same thing:

Sen. McConnell DOES NOT speak for me and I most assuredly do not agree.

I have been a registered Republican for 24 years. I was a registered Democrat for 20 years before that and spent an additional 4 years before that avidly campaigning for Democratic candidates and causes. Depending on where I have lived, I have worked very hard to be a moderate, a centrist, someone who would work both sides of the aisle in order to find and implement something that was workable, including as many of the competing people’s groups and interests as possible.

I have spent 40 years living in the shadow of Washington, DC. I have watched the politicians become more and more polarised as they have become more and more beholden to special interest groups and big money. And never has their citizen constituencies been less important to them than today.

The politicians of this country, especially the ones on Capitol Hill are not interested in what is good for the country, they only care what will get them the most power, the most money, and the most visible position. Period.

We are caught in the election cycle from hell where the candidates and the powers that are driving them seem to feel that they have the election all sewed up without any input from the voters and we are stupid enough to go where they are driving us, which is right off the edge of the cliff.

This IS NOT a question of Republicans versus Democrats up on The Hill. They have both driven us to, and past, the point where the continued business of this country in protecting the citizenry, providing an infrastructure so the country can function, and keeping the peace are no longer possible because none of the sides are willing to give ground in the stalemate. They are so busy fighting to be “king-of-the-hill” that they are clueless about what actually is assaulting and eroding the security of our country. And we, the people, are caught in the vise grip of these politicians and special interest groups who aren’t even aware that we exist, much less that we are the very reason they have been put in the positions they occupy.

What we need in this country are public officials and people who have positions of public trust who are men and women of integrity and honour. People who actually DO stand for justice for all. People who understand that they are not entitled to the position they have, that they have been gifted with this position of honour and in reality carry a great responsibility to the people, not arrived at it through any merit of their own. And they need to understand that what has been so given to them can be taken away just as easily by the G-d who made them.

What has happened today up on The Hill is yet another announcement in this civil war, this intensely partisan fight to the death, and it is killing this country and destroying the very fabric of the society in which we live.

I do not know where I need to go next and what I need to do to get there, but one thing I know for certain: I want NO PARTS of what is happening. It is morally repugnant to me at every single level that exists because it is completely devoid of any ethics or integrity. And it is increasingly devoid of any practical application.

I am sick and tired of this politician and that special interest group telling me what I want and how to think. I am sick and tired of this media organisation and that one telling me what is trending, what is popular, what is “in” and what is “out.” I am sick and tired of being judged by who THEY think I am, or should be. And I am especially sick and tired of the lures they use to get me to back their man or their position and products. Put simply, each and every one of them is an attempt to bribe me into turning off my ability to think critically and become one of the masses that have already drank the Kool-Aid.

They do not want a vibrant and diverse citizenry capable of critical thinking, they want sheeple.

I fought for years to see the vote lowered to age 18. I have fought for decades to see power given to the people of this country to have a productive life with the opportunities and advantages I did not have growing up, ones that others less fortunate than myself had never had, and, hopefully, put me closer to goals that have been outside of my reach.

It infuriates me that a US Senator could, and would, stand up and announce that he was going to shut down one of the necessary functions of our government in MY name, when in reality it is just another opportunity to strike out and hurt a political opponent in a grab for power.

Once upon a time, a young man of my acquaintance described the U.S. as communism with food. While I laughed at the time, that phrase has stayed with me for decades. Yet, the total disconnect of our governments and our citizenry has never been more polarised. When I ask myself the question of where we are going, it fills me with a terrible dread.

I have been at politics a long time and it takes a lot to get me to the point where I will come out swinging, but I am there.

The goal in what we do in the coming months is not to further polarise and marginalise us, the citizenry, from each other.

The goal is to join hands and work together to get this country functioning again. In order to do that we need to vote, campaign, build bridges, and form alliances that cannot be destroyed by those with more power.

The men and women on Capitol Hill no longer represent, nor do they serve, the interests of the people of the United States. Let’s permanently retire them and send them home. All of them.

Let’s put term limits on all future candidates, reverse Citizen’s United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC and take away their gravy train, so that they are solely dependent on the monies they can raise from their own constituencies. Let’s bring this oligarchy down and return it to the democratic republic of the people, by the people and for the people.

Let’s do it now . . . for all our sakes.
____________________

THERE NO LONGER ARE ANY RULES IN THE SUPREME COURT NOMINATION PROCESS – WASHINGTON POST

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WE HAVE THE STRENGTH

S.C. sheriff fires officer who threw student across a classroom

On Monday, 26 October 2015, a police officer in a high school in Columbia, SC jerked a 16-year-old girl from her desk and threw her across the room before cuffing her and taking her into custody.

The description of her “crime” is that she took out her cell phone, glanced at it, put it away, and when the teacher told her to hand the cell phone over, she refused stating over and over that she had done nothing wrong. When instructed to leave the room, she refused and a confrontation ensued between her, and subsequently an administrator of the school. Although she was somewhat disruptive in class, she posed no threat to anyone. Her behaviour was definitely out of line, but so was the way the entire situation escalated under the direction of the adults handling it. That the police officer was a white male, who already had a record of inappropriate use of force, and the student was a black female has only served to muddy the waters.

I have some very strong opinions regarding this incident, but one question keeps coming back to me again and again.

How did we get here and why did we ever think that having police deal with many of the discipline problems in the public schools was the way to go?

Has NO ONE considered that while police officers can be a deterrent in some instances, their very presence is an unmistakable demonstration to students that they are not trusted by the administration at any speed and can be the one dynamic that takes a manageable situation and turns it into an explosive one?

We all know that children many times do not have the best judgment in the decisions they make, especially when poor impulse control by the child is added to the mix. But the inevitable, and necessary, confrontations between children and adults – thus between students, teachers, and administration – are not usually crimes, nor should they be criminalised, as is happening far too often in the US.

Children need the confrontations in order to learn what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. They also need it in order to become stronger people in character and learn to think their way through the issues confronting them, to problem solve.

Currently, rather than have children who can think through the moral and ethical issues of their choices and the possible consequences of their behaviour, we have a lot of children and adults who have matriculated through this type of environment where they were taught to believe that obedience to all authority and instruction is what is correct and that any deviation is wrong, something that is not true. This same inability to think through the issues at hand has also inhibited and/or destroyed their abilities to stand up to authority correctly and effectively when it is the right and necessary thing to do.

Also from this environment, we have a growing segment of children and adults who are steadfastly defiant at nearly every level. They will not be controlled, they will not abide by the rules, and they do not trust anyone. Sometimes this can be the disposition of the person in question, but many times it is because their life’s experiences have taught them that no one, especially authority figures, are to be trusted at any time for any reason. And reaching them is nearly impossible.

It almost goes without saying that very little of this type of confrontation would have happened when I was in school 45+ years ago. It is easy to blow that assessment off with the canard “another time, another place,” but should we dismiss it so easily?

I do not think so.

The biggest problem we have is the ongoing erosion of moral values. We have allowed ourselves to be rendered impotent in our society when dealing with people who have wronged us individually and our society at large. We have walked away from holding those who have betrayed our trust again and again and again and again and again, ad nauseum, creating in the process a divided society where the the “good people” are in one enclave and the “not good people” are in another, but the “good people” are not strong enough anymore to maintain order. So, for a number of years, “order” has been “enforced” from the authority figures and agencies in our society, primarily law enforcement. And they do not care what they need to do in order to achieve their goal, they will do it. And they do.

The increasing problems we have with police violence and the militarisation of our law enforcement culture WILL NOT go away.

In order to solve these problems in front of us, we must first know what is morally right and what is wrong. There are universally recognised moral laws in most societies and cultures, such as: murder is wrong, abuse of power is wrong, stealing is wrong, lying is wrong, betrayal is wrong. The list of values goes on and on, but what we need the most is to return to the values that made our country great.

It is in the abandonment of, and continued refusal to support these values, that we have done ourselves great harm. To too many of us, it is more important to have a life without these responsibilities where we can be about our business without the headaches, rather than take on the task of making sure the foundations of our cultures and society at large survive. As long as we are not affected by “what is out there” we are content to let it happen “out there.” The problem is, eventually it stops being “out there” and arrives on our door step with a vengeance. That is where we are now.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH to stand up to what is wrong in our cultures and in our society.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH to stand up to the criminalisation of our children in their developmental hurdles.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH to get the police out of our schools and back on the streets.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH to stand up against those people who are destroying the right values in our nation.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH to confront the way our country is being bought by big money in government and public policy.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH to stand against those lawmakers and public officials whose decisions and behaviours are not in the best interest of our citizens.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH to do whatever needs to be done in order to return us to a balanced government that cares for its citizenry, protects the country, and provides the necessary infra-structure to keep the country strong and functional.

WE HAVE THE STRENGTH.


Where we go in our future depends on what we do with cases such as this one. What the police officer did in this case was very wrong. But what the girl in this case did was wrong as well.

We have a choice. We can chalk it up to yet another case of bad behaviour on the part of one bringing on an out-of-bounds response by law enforcement. Or, we can look at both of these people and see what we can do so that both of them heal and grow into better human beings where incidents like this are not in their futures. Personally, I think that is our best choice.

But “We are not in Columbia, SC,” you say.

Probably not. But we can find this very same scenario in nearly every place in this country. All we have to do is step up to the plate and take a stand for what is right, for what should happen.

It starts with one word: respect. Respect for each other. Respect for healthy societal values. Respect for the value of human life.


Below is a short list of universal values, values nearly all cultures and societies follow. There are many other values that can be added to these. These values work and by following them, we can change the cultures and society in which we live, as well as live much better lives.

HOW WE REGARD PEOPLE:

1. All people should be addressed with respect, courtesy and honour.

2. All people should be safe from abuse, ridicule, derision, and any other types of disrespect.

3. All people are worthy and have value, no matter what their station in life, their age, their sex, their nationality, their ethnic identity, their religion, their politics, their education, their history, or their origins.

4. All people deserve justice under the law. Wealth, or the lack of it, should never pervert justice.

5. All people deserve to be treated fairly in all levels of our society.

6.All people deserve to be treated equally by their governments. A person’s popular standing in society should never determine their access to governments, nor their treatment by them.

HOW WE BEHAVE:

1. Murder is wrong.

2. Kidnapping is wrong.

3. Rape is wrong.

4. Assault and battery is wrong.

5. Abuse is wrong.

6. Neglect is wrong.

6. Stealing is wrong.

7. Betrayal is wrong.

8. Lying is wrong.

What do you think needs to be added to this list???

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THE DOWNING OF MH-17: DUTCH SAFETY BOARD REPORT RELEASED

DUTCH SAFETY BOARD: BUK MISSILE DOWNED MH-17

The report of the Dutch Safety Board has been completed and released. Conclusions are that a Russian built Buk surface-to-air missile (SAM) of the type used by the rebels in Eastern Ukraine exploded immediately outside of the left side of the cockpit, killing the pilots and resulting in the cockpit and the first class section shearing off from the plane, leaving the remainder to plummet to the ground.

It seems that the SAM which has been identified by the Dutch is capable of reaching altitudes of 80,000 feet, far above the typical flight altitude of 35,000 feet for the Boeing 777-200ER.

The Russians disagree vehemently on the type of missile used, despite the fact that the village of Snizhne, where the missile allegedly originated, was under the control of the rebel forces. They suggest instead that it was a Buk missile no longer used by the Russian military but is in the Ukranian military arsenal, thus implying that it was the Ukrainian military which downed the plane rather than the Russian-backed rebels.

The Dutch believe that the Ukraine should have closed the air space above the combat zone to civilian air traffic. Given the downing of MH-17, it would appear to be correct.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

While closing the air space over combat zones is a prudent step to take, this case brings to the forefront another issue of equal importance: the fact that SAMs, which are designed to take out military targets, can also be deliberately used to target and take out civilian air traffic at will.

SAMs are designed to be able to take out military aircraft that can fly at altitudes as high as 80,000 feet, such as the SR-71 and others in the spy plane classes. As such, depending on which side of the missile you are on, the SAMs that can do so are a good military tool  available to do a very necessary job.

To date, there has been a tacit agreement backed up by international law, that civilian air traffic is off limits. The IFF (or Identification, friend or foe) identification system tells the military whether or not the plane they see is civilian or military.

But do terrorist organisations and rebel armies have the same technology available and, if they do, would they use it solely to make the decision to disregard civilian air traffic as targets?

Given the advent of ISIS/ISIL and Boko Haram, both of whom have very brutal methods and total disregard of the normal conventions of war, as well as the growing strength of other terrorist organisations around the world who are obtaining progressively better armaments, it is only a matter of time before someone somewhere decides that threatening civilian air traffic from the ground is good, usable leverage to get the airline industry and governments to acquiesce to their demands. Then what do we do?

The reality of it is that the ways we have dealt with terrorists organisations, rebel factions and their armies, the social issues that produce them, and the people who drive them does not, and has not, worked. Both terrorists and rebel armies have been used in proxy wars between nation states and within nations.

There are legitimate reasons why rebels exist and have armies to fight for their causes within nation states. Internationally, we have regarded these as internal affairs and largely left it up to the combatants to sort the issues out for themselves. But increasingly, the rebels and their armies have become multi-national. Some have crossed the line from rebels to terrorists, some have joined with terrorists, and others were terrorists from their beginnings. As they have grown in size and strength, so have their treasuries and their abilities to obtain more powerful and accurate armaments, especially those which are portable, such as SAMs. Many nations – including the US, Russia, China, and Iran – have historically engaged these factions to fight in proxy wars.

What is going on in the Ukraine that led to the downing of MH-17 is that the rebels, with the backing of Putin’s Russia, is fighting the legitimate government of the Ukraine in order to take the Ukraine over and return it to Russia. Russia will not take on international judgment by attacking the Ukraine directly. It is using the rebels as proxies to fight the war for them.

In the case of the MH-17, the members of the UN need to hold Russia accountable for their supplying the Ukrainian rebels with arms that enabled them to bring down a civilian aircraft as well as their attempts to subjugate an independent nation state. To allow Russia to skate on this is to permit them to continue their persistent encroachment into the governments of independent nation states in their goal of regaining all of the nations they lost in the collapse of the former Soviet Union . . . something we should have never permitted them to do in the first place and should not permit them to do again.

There may seem to be time to address the future danger to civilian air traffic by rebel and terrorist groups which possess the capabilities to target and down these vessels. But unless we are willing right now to take on the nation states which are bankrolling them – including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and China – we will find ourselves at a severe tactical and strategic disadvantage when the danger is breaking news instead of behind closed doors conversations between military and diplomatic agencies.


REFERENCES:

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 – Wikipedia

Identification Friend or Foe – Wikipedia

Surface-to-Air Missiles – Wikipedia

Four Russian Surface-to-Air Missile Systems that Could Have Shot Down the Malaysian Jet

Boeing 777 – Wikipedia

Can a civilian aircraft pilot see a missile coming?

Lockheed unveils SR-72 hypersonic Mach 6 scramjet spy plane
Who holds the altitude record for an airplane?

Ask the Captain: How high can a plane fly?

How high can a (commercial or military) jet aircraft go?

ALTITUDE RECORDS (List of High Flying Aircraft)

What determines the maximum altitude a plane can reach?

Flight altitude record – Wikipedia

High-Altitude Aircraft

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Wikipedia

Boko Haram – Wikipedia

Proxy war – Wikipedia

List of active rebel groups – Wikipedia

Foreign terrorist organizations – US State Department

Minsk Protocol – Wikipedia

Memorandum of September 19 2014 outlining the parameters for the implementation of commitments of the Minsk Protocol of 5 September 2014 – OSCE (Russian only)

Minsk II – Wikipedia

Full text of the Minsk agreement – Financial Times

Conseil de sécurité: le Président de l’OSCE appelle les signataires de l’Accord de Minsk II à mettre en œuvre les mesures préconisées pour un règlement de la crise en Ukraine – UN Security Council (French)

Secretary-General Deplores Unconstitutional Elections Called by Armed Rebel Groups in Ukraine – United Nations Secretary General Press Release

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A CRY FOR JUSTICE: CONGRESSIONAL BRINKSMANSHIP V. THE NEEDS OF THE PEOPLE

THE COMING BUDGET WAR

Once again, we have come to the time of year when the annual federal budget is coming before Congress for a vote. And, once again, there is the intransigent standoff looming between the Republicans and Democrats. In recent history, there has been great willingness on the part of the Republicans in Congress to do everything they can to get the budget they want, including filibustering, shutting down the government, dangling the threat of no Social Security checks for the seniors and disabled. In short, they are willing to do anything and everything to create such an uproar among the citizenry, to create such fear that necessary monies and programs will be taken from those most in need even for a few short weeks, and they count on that groundswell of emotion to drive the Democrats in Congress to acquiesce.

In their annual budget wars, the first target is always “entitlements” – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid monies given most often to seniors and the disabled who are dependent on these monies for their very survival. That makes these issues intensely personal for me as I am a senior, a retiree (having retired with a double disability in my mid 40s), and am dependent on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for everything.

The story according to the Republicans and conservatives in Congress is that the federal budget would be much easier to balance if it were not for the out-of-control costs of paying out these monies. The biggest chunk of recipients for those monies are aging baby-boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. What Congress is not willing to do business with is that for decades they have taken monies out of the Social Security trust fund and replaced it with IOUs backed by the promise of repayment from funds in the national treasury, something that will never be done.

A CRY FOR JUSTICE

There are no words to adequately express the complete and utter fury I have every time Congress comes up with this completely organic fable about “entitlements.” While we are the people they have courted for votes every time the election cycle comes along, the people who have sent them to Washington and paid their salaries, we are seen as freeloaders when it comes time to pony up, people who are leeches on our society, who are driving our country into the red with no right to what we get and it is due only to their benevolence that we get the pittance we do.

They seem to believe that the answer to the budget crises is to clamp down on us – the horrid, horrid people, the “unwashed masses” – those who seem to think that paying into the Social Security system all of their lives justly and legally entitles them to be given their money back and not have to choose between eating, heat, and medication. This very same Congress that has systematically pillaged the trust fund for decades in order to shore up the national budget which they do not have the guts to manage correctly and yet expect us, one of the most vulnerable populations in the nation, to pay for their complete and total lack of leadership, moral judgment, and human compassion.

That they have the nerve, the utter gall, the chutzpah, to attempt to hold us hostage while they play their games and have their congressional benefits, is beyond infuriating. There is absolutely no difference in what they do to us and the kidnappers who use their captives as human shields. It is reprehensible.

How do we, the vulnerable, address Congress in such a way that they begin to understand that we will cut them off at their very knees? I do not know. I wish I did. I wish we had that power. Because this abuse of the legislative process has to stop.

I know there is a G-d who will mete out just rewards to those who abuse the vulnerable, are in need of assistance, and are all too often denied the life and death help that they so desperately need by people who use them as pawns in their deadly game of brinksmanship. But I want justice now.

I do not want to wait – I cannot wait, nor can any of us dependent on Social Security – until these men and women are dead to see them receive just recompense for all that they have done . . . and not done.

We, the living, need justice, we need to have what we were promised, not the pyramid scheme that the Congress has devised to take in the monies from our paychecks that are designated for one program, then have the money swept out of the Social Security trust fund and poured into the national treasury to be used for other things.

If anyone or any company other than the US Congress did this, they would be sitting in a prison cell next to Bernie Madoff. But Congress does this “legally” because they voted themselves the right to do so. They take the money and issue IOUs from the national treasury, which are not worth the paper they are written on, something which all of us know, especially Congress. The money will never be paid back into the Social Security trust fund, a fact which was known from the very beginning when it began under the Reagan administration in 1985.

So, how do we fix it??? I have no idea. But like Moses before Pharaoh who cried out to G-d for justice for his people, I stand in this place and cry out for justice now. I await the answer.


FOR FURTHER READING

A Debt Ceiling Showdown Between Republicans Comes Into Focus

Who’s Ready for a 10% Cut to Their Social Security Benefits?

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SLAVERY & THE FISHING INDUSTRY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

In this May 16, 2015 photo, former slave fisherman Myint Naing and his mother, Khin Than, cry as they are reunited after 22 years at their village in Mon State, Myanmar. Myint, 40, is among hundreds of former slave fishermen who returned to Myanmar following an Associated Press investigation into the use of forced labor in Southeast Asia's seafood industry. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

In this May 16, 2015 photo, former slave fisherman Myint Naing and his mother, Khin Than, cry as they are reunited after 22 years at their village in Mon State, Myanmar. Myint, 40, is among hundreds of former slave fishermen who returned to Myanmar following an Associated Press investigation into the use of forced labor in Southeast Asia’s seafood industry. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Myanmar fisherman goes home after 22 years as a slave

I am struck by how very sheltered my life has been. I live in the United States, and although poor, have lived a life of tremendous privilege when compared with the rest of the world, especially those who live in third world countries.

If the primary problems were the lack of food, potable water, shelter, sanitation, education, medical care, and other life necessities, that would be one thing. We could figure out ways to provide some of those things and build the infrastructure to levels of sustainability over time where many of the remaining needs could be met.

It is the corruption and human rights abuses adding hellish dimensions to each of these challenges which make it nearly impossible to resolve them in any way that will stand the onslaught over time.

The realities of abject poverty and starvation around the world are not new to me. In my work tracking disasters and humanitarian crises around the globe I have become somewhat inured to seeing people living and dying amid dire circumstances. But from time to time I will come across a story that will take my breath away with the depths of utter depravity it shows and the unimaginable courage required of those who are fighting incredible odds in order to just survive. Such is the above story of Myint Naing.

The impact of just one person having to endure this hell is tremendous. But there are literally thousands who have been subjected to these horrors. There is, in reality, no word in the English language that is adequate to describe what they have endured and many more who remain undiscovered are currently enduring. The word “outrage” pales in comparison to their plight.

It goes without saying that most of us who are the end customers for the goods provided are clueless of what is being done by the people who commit these crimes against their captives. But should we be? What are our responsibilities for knowing where our goods and services come from?

Somewhere between Myint Naing and the fish which appears on our dinner table are people who are aware of what has been happening and have turned a deaf ear to all of it in order to maximise their profits. Somewhere up the supply chain are others who have heard rumblings and done nothing. Somewhere in the companies who put these products on the grocery shelves are people who may not have been aware of these practices, but it is their responsibility to find out. And they have not.

We can say that we could not have known. We can wring our hands and say that this is not our fault. But are either of these things true? Or do most of us go through our lives concerned with only what is immediately in front of us with no regard whatsoever as to how it got there and why?

We need to ask the hard questions and demand answers from the manufacturers; from agribusinesses; from those in the meat, poultry, and fish packing and canning industries; and from our governments. What are the sources of what we are being sold and are human rights guaranteed for all involved along the supply chain?

But more than that, we need to ask ourselves a very important question: When is enough enough? In our relentless drive to acquire more, to experience more, we are going to any lengths to attain our goals. We are out-stripping our resources in any number of areas, yet, we demand more and we demand it faster.

What price has been paid by others so we can live in the opulence we enjoy?

How many men, women, and children have died so that we can gain whatever status points from the society in which we live, empty acknowledgements which mean absolutely nothing? They shift and change like the wind. What gives status today is passé before nightfall.

This man was a slave for 22 years. Primarily in the fishing industry. He was stolen from his family and his community and held captive for longer than he had lived when he was taken. He was maltreated, his life was under constant threat, he was fed swill, and chained so that he could not escape. So we can have fish for fancy cat food?

We say we want justice and fair practices for everyone, yet, our mindless greed to have whatever “they” say we should in order to have “respect” out in the streets is exactly what drives stories like this one.

In truth, many of us do not care one whit about what it takes to get it to us as long as it is there.

The question is not about the outrageous treatment he received. The question is how many others are going through this particular hell and what we are going to do about it?

So, the next time you go to buy fish from Southeast Asia, are you going to ask yourself who died in order to put that catch on your table? Harsh as it sounds, that may very well be the reality of it.

The next time you want fish for dinner and you are shopping at Walmart, Sysco, Krogers, or another company, are you going to ask yourself the question of where the fish came from and whose life and freedom was on the line in order for you to have the catch that is in front of you?

The next time you go to feed your cat Fancy Feasts, Meow Mix, or Iams cat food, are you going to ask yourself if another human being had to go through the tortures of the damned in order for that can to be in your hand?

Or are you going to be aware and responsible for telling the packing and canning companies that you will not support these horrific practices and instead buy brands that verify their sources are companies who guarantee their employees are treated humanely and their human rights are respected?

We each vote with the dollars we pay to these industries for goods and services rendered. It is the leverage we have to either make these practices stop or to allow them to continue.

Vote wisely.

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