There are five miles of tunnels underneath the city of Portland Oregon that were used long ago to surreptitiously move drugged and drunken men who wouldn’t be missed, out of town and onto ships headed east. They all end up at the waterfront and the tunnels interconnect under the city to form a spider’s web that had ensnared many unsuspecting drunks when the slave trade was a booming economy in the Pacific Northwest.
Bartenders would target their customers doping them with opium “knock out” drops, and as the victim began to stagger around the bar they would inevitably stumble over a strategically placed trap door that would be activated by a lever behind the bar. Counter weights made the trap door snap shut after dumping the foggy and surprised mark into tunnel below where they would be bound and transported to the port not to awaken until long after the ship was out to sea.
Innkeepers also worked with the smugglers tipping them off when travelers returned from a night of getting shit canned. With their guard utterly diminished the inebriates would become chattel to the slave traders who provided a ready supply of able bodied men that could work on the ships that were continually leaving the port for far off lands.
Crystal is someone that I know who had to endure years of rape and abuse at the hands of her drunken father before she ran away and became swept up in the modern slave trade that operates out of sight, generally ignored in America today. One day her mother gave her a small bottle of some sort of poison with instructions to pour it in to her father’s whiskey bottle, and when he went to the park that day to get loaded, he never came home to rape his daughter again.
Upon arrival in Seattle she was convinced, like many young runaways, that her options were non existent so she took the “help” of a couple of pimps who tritely convinced her that they would take care of her. For years she and two other girls were forced, through violence and intimidation, to have sex with men who had contacted the escort website that her captors had set up.
One of the girls who had been there longer than the others got to the point that she could not face the abuse that was continually being directed her way, and she refused to continue being victimized. As an example for the other two captive women, the girl was beaten and told at gunpoint that she would continue to do what the men told her. Beyond the end of her proverbial rope, the young woman refused to continue on and as a result was shot dead in front of the other two, who found that their will to resist was extinguished along with the life of the stalwart young woman who would no longer submit to further degradation.
Eventually Crystal escaped the second stop on her houses of rape tour, only to return to life on the streets of Seattle, which can be as mean as the streets of any other major city when you are young, alone, and without options. Life on the fringes of society is one struggle after another; where to sleep, what to eat, and the continual threat of assault from the rest of the flotsam that aimlessly roam the streets like living dead.
One night in Pioneer Square, Crystal was grabbed by an assailant who dragged her, kicking and screaming down a darkened alley intending to inflict the same redundant fate upon her that she had, seemingly, spent a lifetime enduring. This time, hardened by the experiences that she had survived, Crystal was ready for her attacker, who she stopped cold by producing a knife that she repeatedly plunged into the guy’s chest. She ran blindly into the darkness, narrowly escaping fate’s cruel grasp leaving the would-be rapist to unceremoniously bleed out on the filthy pavement.
It is my understanding that the global slave trade is more widespread today than at any other time in human history. As Crystal’s stories reveal, we in the United States are not immune to the type of callousness that cynically allows life to be bought and sold as merely a commodity. Within the borders of this very country, humans are bought and sold like property everyday, and even though many of us have not been misfortunate enough to have been subjected to such nefariousness, the practice continues today, like it did in Portland long ago.
Five miles of tunnels were dug under a city, to facilitate an immoral slave trade that implicated an entire community as responsible for the people who mysteriously disappeared from its taverns and boardinghouses. To this day those tunnels remind us of how we are all guilty when no one is willing to step up and take a stand against something that is so entirely wrong.
Though lives continue to be bartered and traded for within our society, one that proclaims the equity of all, the practice is not as systemically approved of as the tunnels under Portland are indicative of. These days the slave trade is repudiated by much of the civilized world, but until it is completely eradicated, we are all to blame for allowing it to exist within our midst. There are none who are innocent so long as any others are forced to endure a lifetime of indentured servitude or rape.
Free will is something that all humans share, and when personal freedom is usurped by force or violence, we are all to blame for the lives that are negated as a result.There is absolutely no reason that humans should be passed around as unwilling objects to be used for another’s pleasure or gain. Only when society cumulatively takes a legitimate and unified stand against human trafficking, will the slave trade cease to be profitable. Until then, the fact that human trafficking exists at all makes every single one of us guilty by association, because of our shared humanity.