Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Other Project

While IJM Thailand's focus for the last five years has been the Legal Status and Documentation Project that I previously blogged about, we are also hoping to begin a new project in 2012 aimed at combating sexual assault against children.  Even though the project has not officially started, it's hard for IJM to sit back while such horrible things happen to God's children.

Just to let you know, I cannot discuss any current cases due to confidentiality.  However, I will share some of the commonalities I've seen from some of the cases

Today, I was with the IJM staff attorney when we met with one of our clients and her parents.  While I couldn't understand what they were saying, I saw the deep concern in each of their eyes even after the perpetrator has been arrested and is waiting for trial.

I remember being confused in my Health class in 9th grade when the teacher started talking about rape.  I wasn't lost on what rape was -- non-consensual sex -- but on what the reason for it was:  Power.  More specifically, the abuse of power.

Working at CitySquare's LAW Center, woman after woman was stuck in an abusive relationship because of physical power of the husband and the power given him by the culture they came from.

Only two months into my time with IJM Thailand, and I can see that rape is truly about the abuse of power.

David Allen, a friend of ours from church in Dallas and Chiang Mai, told a story about a hill tribe woman who was working on the construction of a house.  When his friend met the woman, she was sobbing.  She said that she had been raped earlier in the day by one of the other construction workers.  When David's friend called the police, the police told his friend it was the woman's fault.  What did she expect being from the hill tribes and working construction.  No report was ever filed.

Of course people will abuse power if there is no recourse.

We've also seen perpetrator's attempt to get off through high-level government connections.

If a person chooses a victim who has no power or he or she wields a great amount of power, it is easy to abuse that power.

Read Psalm 10.  Think about the victim.  And consider what the person who abuses power is like.

In the next entry I'll tell you how IJM is fighting against this violent oppression.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Boyz n the Hood and a boy in a small town

I can't remember how old I was when I first saw Boyz n the Hood.  For some reason, my brain puts me in a movie theater when Laurence Fishburne shoots a giant hole through his front door.  I'm not sure that was possible since I was only 10 when the movie came out.  I definitely wasn't older than 13.  Either way, it underscores the impact the movie had on me when I watched it for the first time and the way it still affects me.  Since I was about 16, I had the movie poster hanging in my room.  Even now, quotes from the movie come to my mind that I want to say, but most of the time they are inappropriate or no one will understand.  ("We got a problem here?  I said, we got a m-f'in' problem here" as I lift my shirt.) 

Growing up in Round Rock, Texas was almost nothing like South Central Los Angeles.  I rode my bike everywhere.  Even the "bad part of town," "the Flats," was a place I had several friends and where one of my favorite parks still is.  We had gangs that increasingly got worse as I grew up, but even then it was always a joke about whether certain people had "flip-flopped" to Bloods or Crips this week.  People still used their fists to fight and almost everyone was getting a good education even if they weren't trying hard to get it.

South Central L.A. is so notorious that "South Central" anything brings images of innercity.  Before Boyz, people knew about L.A., but it was always from a mainstream media perspective, which usually focused on the crime rather than the communities of struggling people.  The fact that it is home to America's modern gangs is well documented.  On many levels, South Central Los Angeles stood in direct contrast to much of the life I knew in Round Rock.

But for some reason I connected to this movie.

Here's a theory on why this movie hit me like it did and still does.  One of the keys to the film is that it is told from an insider's perspective.  It's not a story that sees Crenshaw from above or from outside.  Also, it doesn't seek a "good vs. evil" divide that so many other innercity stories tell.  The movie is about Tre and his friends trying to figure out life in a place where friends and enemies are right next to each other, while the American dream of "opportunity" always seems far away. 

The fact that it is not told from the "white guilt" perspective that has been popularized by movies like The Blindside and The Help also gave it a different vibe.  The movie is about the people in the struggle, not about those who come to rescue them.  Singleton told a story about life, not a story about escape and rescue.

Finally, despite the violence of the movie and what the media reports said at the time, the movie is about seeking a solution.  It is definitely a movie that expresses the bravado of violence while recognizing that violence only begets violence.  This is also something unique among most movies. 

(I realize I'm blabbering now.  Like so many blog entries, the vision is always greater than the actual words on paper.)

If something affects you deeply, it changes you.  Partially because of this movie I recognize a world outside of the pretty suburbs or nice parts of town.  I have sought to learn more about a world I was blessed enough to not be immersed in while growing up.  Despite my lack of this experience, I have learned to deeply respect those who have struggled through this life.  I'm quick to praise those who are able to sieze opportunity, and I'm slow to judge those who remain trapped.

The biggest change is that I don't just see the wrong of the person, but I'm able to see the environment the person is from and how that shapes them as a person.  It's not about condemning Ice Cube's character, but about all of us coming together to condemn our allowing a society to be created and sustained where people have to turn to drugs and violence just to survive.

Boyz n the Hood sent me down a path I remain on today. 

Must reads:  "What does hip-hop tell us about our faith and society?" and "Boyz n the Hood, 20 Years Later: The Making of a Movie that Did Race Right."