I spent this afternoon and will spend most of tomorrow at a conference titled “‘The Unfinished Work….’ 24 Hours Dedicated to Fighting Modern Slavery.”
Full disclosure: I’m only attending because of a class requirement. I was not in any way excited to attend. After spending the rest of the week nursing a sinus infection, the last thing I wanted to do was sit around with others and discuss modern slavery. As a Civil War historian, I get plenty of time to talk about slavery from a historical perspective— far more than anyone could ever want. Truth be told, as much as I love history, this aspect gets really depressing really quickly; I’m perfectly capable of depressing myself without it, so the thought of spending my weekend surrounded by it was as far from appealing as possible.
But, I’d missed more class in the last few days than I had all year— I couldn’t miss this too. So I bought myself a new notebook and pens for motivation, and headed into the first lecture.
My first surprise was the crowd: the place was packed. I’d feared being one of few attendees, honestly. Yet, as I walked into the room, not a head was turned. Dozens of activists from across the country milled around or sat in folding chairs, preparing to discuss this topic for which they share a passion.
As the afternoon continued, I was certainly intrigued. The panelists and attendees were the definition of “activists”…except for those like me, who were there entirely for class. Holden Caulfield would have been pretty upset with me as I sat there, diligently taking notes…. I was a phony.
The speakers so far have been interesting, unquestionably. I have the utmost respect for the work these people are doing; as a human being, I can’t help but care about their cause.
That being said, it’s not my cause. Not that I shouldn’t take action, not that I wouldn’t if the opportunity presented itself, but simply because it’s impossible to advocate for literally everything. As my extensive collection of Pura Vida bracelets reveals, I care about a lot of different causes. Realistically, though, you can only throw yourself entirely, heart and soul, into a few.
For me, a lot of these are animal-based. I volunteer with PETA and the local SPCA. I’m a quiet advocate, signing petitions and making personal choices rather than throwing fake blood on people and protesting outside of a circus. I’m a vegan, for crying out loud, primarily by moral choice.
I totally respect what these people do, but I can’t give my all to every cause that tugs at my heart.
I’ll go to these presentations, I’ll hear what they have to say. I’ll take their suggestions to heart, and make the morally just choice when it’s available (though I try to do that in all of my choices). I’ll do my small part, but I’ll still be nothing compared to these incredible people.
I like to think I’m incredible in my own way (don’t we all?), but I’ll stick to freeing Lolita for now.
For more information on the issues and organizations discussed at this conference, visit: