As with many Americans, I have been following and reacting to the recent Supreme Court rulings and other political events. I am very passionate about human rights. I know what it is like to have my freedom stolen from me. Some may say that I am an extreme example, and while that may be true, I know that the oppression of an individual always starts small.
Those who defend DOMA may say that it’s “just” marriage. “They can still have a civil union.” “We are not telling them they can’t live together.” Of course, that isn’t the point. They cannot receive benefits when a partner dies. They aren’t considered family at a hospital where a partner may be sick. I can argue the need for gay marriage all day long, but that is not the point of this post.
The issue is so much broader than gay marriage. The issue is that some segment of the human population is being treated differently. If sexual preference keeps a person from getting married, or the sex of an individual keeps them from having reproductive choices, or their religion requires them to wear a star when they leave their house, it is just the beginning. It is how oppression starts. It is how wars start.
How do I know this? I have seen it on a micro level. In the trafficking world, there is a concept called “boyfriending”. It is very similar to the evolution of a domestically violent relationship. The perpetrator or pimp starts by acting excessively kind and generous. He may buy special gifts or compliment his victim all the time about the way she looks. Then, he may tell her that she is so pretty, they can make a bunch of money together. Then, he may start restricting her conversations. He may tell her not to talk to someone or not to go out with her friends. If she is underage, he may convince her not to tell her parents about him. He might hit her once and then apologize profusely or buy her gifts, but imply that she somehow provoked it. These are all tests. How much control is she willing to endure?
This can quickly escalate to a complete loss of freedom. I am not just talking about beatings, chains and locked doors. She could be controlled through death threats and brainwashing. The method doesn’t matter. Her freedom is gone. It started with some small change in her rights, a slight shift in the power dynamics, but it ended with oppression.
I will spend my life fighting against oppression in all forms. Although most of my efforts may be focused on child trafficking and sexual abuse, it doesn’t change my interest in ensuring freedom for the rest of the population. I know what oppression looks like. And I know how it starts.