Through the years I have discovered that a good way to approach life is that of a learner. I feel like I am always on a learning curve and it keeps me open and teachable.
I’m continually learning about the power of words. Do words shape our thinking or does our thinking shape our words? Is it a little bit of both? You may interpret the following as me being picky or over-sensitive. I hope that I’m not. I’m just letting you in on some of my own struggle with words, their meaning and power.
I often hear victims of human trafficking described as “invisible”, “silent”, “defenseless” or as having “disappeared”. I understand that these words are used to describe those who are often in the shadows and go unnoticed, but I suggest that these terms, though powerful, may be pointing us in the wrong direction.
I am reminded of the movie Mystery Men, a superhero comedy film starring superheroes with unimpressive superpowers. One of the superheroes was Invisible Boy, who after years of being ignored as a youth developed his superpower of invisibility. The catch was that he was only able to turn invisible when no one was looking at him.
I think about the children we partner with in Love146 and I don’t believe that any of them would have wanted to be described as “invisible”, “silent”, “defenseless”, or having “disappeared”. I wonder if it is a more accurate use of words to instead speak to our own blindness, refusal to see, or just not knowing where or what to look for to identify victims. The problem is not that they are invisible; it is that we do not see. In addition, I have rarely met a “silent” trafficking victim, though I’ve met many who aren’t listening to them. I think we need to be asking questions — Are we listening? Are we adding our voice to amplify theirs? Do we really see?
Invisibility is not a real superpower — but listening, seeing and learning may be.