Yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer featured an disturbing op ed piece by Laura Agustin writing against the United States’ soon-to-be realeased annual “TIP” report – trafficking in persons. This is an annual evaluation of the global trade in sexual slavery, with an eye towards eradicating it.
Agustin’s view is that the US is once again exhibiting Ugly Americanism in foreign policy, and sticking its nose in where it does not belong. Yes, she argues, sexual slavery is bad, but our demand for improvement or else is high-handed moral armchair indignation that does little more than place additional downward pressure on our international reputation. Not only that, but it is more effective at diverting attention from our own pile of dirty laundry (prisons overflowing and malnourished children) and making us feel good than in actually improving the lives of the victims.
The crux of her argument is the lesser of two evils:
“‘But sex for money is disgusting and degrading; no one should have to do it.’ And should anyone have to clean toilets all day? Risk being maimed in unsafe fireworks factories? Should children have to spend their lives in lightless tunnels of mines, or women have to remain married to men who are cruel to them? The world is full of things we wish we could eradicate – but isn’t starvation the first of them? Why is there no equivalent moral furor over hideous poverty? Are we meant to believe that sex without love is worse than military violence? All over the world, selling sex pays better than most jobs readily available to women, and many do not believe it is the worst possible experience they can have. “
Since Conn was known and suffered for his Christian ministry among Southeast Asian prostitutes, one can only imagine his response.
Agustin’s ending would have given him a superb opening:
”In assuming its creators’ moral values are or should be universal, the TIP ignores local cultures and the complexities of human desires and functions – yet another reason tourists from the United States will be less welcome everywhere this summer.”
The thing is, Laura, the creator’s moral values are indeed universal . . .