This isn't going to be the usual light-hearted post. I ask that you stick with me. Wade through this and see where it lands you.
1) Do you know Jacob Wetterling?
If you're not from Minnesota you very well may not. Neither do I, but it seems as if I have known of him for my entire life...and I left the porch light on for him last night. I meant to post about this yesterday so you could too, but it's never too late, right?
This is Jacob, or at least the Jacob I have known for the last 18 years:
You see, 11 year old Jacob was abducted 18 years ago from a rural road in Saint Joseph Minnesota.
"On the evening of October 22, 1989, Jacob, his brother Trevor, and friend Aaron rode their bikes to a local convenience store to pick up a movie and snack. On the way back home, a man wearing a mask and carrying a gun stopped the boys. The gunman told the boys to throw their bikes into a nearby ditch and lay face down on the ground. He then asked each of the boys their age. After the boys responded, he instructed Trevor to run into the woods and told him not to look back or he would shoot him. Next, the gunman turned Aaron over, looked into his face, and told him to run into woods without looking back or he would shoot him. As Trevor and Aaron were running away, they glanced back to see the gunman grab Jacob's arm. When Aaron and Trevor reached the wooded area they turned around again and the gunman and Jacob were gone." (The italicized passage comes from The Jacob Wetterling Story on the JWF website)
He has never been found. Neither has his abductor.
His mother never gives up hope of either. She has become a tireless advocate. A quiet yet persistent voice for children and families that cannot speak for themselves. Through founding the Jacob Wetterling Foundation she has created a vehicle of support and endless resource so that families may never find themselves without an advocate in their time of ultimate crisis.
"It is the belief of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation that with every missing child case, someone out there knows something. We also believe that when our communities stand together on behalf of children, we give courage to those individuals to step forward and do the right thing and tell someone. It is our hope that as families have had to step forward because of these horrible crimes, the individuals who know something will step forward out of their own darkness and share their information with law enforcement to bring our children home." (again, from the JWF website)
Stories of this nature should give us all nightmares. None of us should be able to rest while horrors such as this happen. We should all be working tirelessly to find these children and their tormentors.
It's not in your face every day, so it's so easy to forget.
It hasn't happened to you, or your neighbor or your family so it's easy to not dwell on it. It's easy to think "oh, that poor family", have a moment of heartache and get on with things.
But what if it wasn't? What if was in your face? What if there was a picture of a missing child in the corner of every crime show on TV? What if every newscast started with the story of a missing child? What if every magazine and newspaper gave one ad space over to publicizing details of these stories? What if more of the media did what Oprah Winfrey did last year and spent a fraction of their air time targeting child predators?
Would we find more of them? I would hope we would.
Would we press our politicians into more proactive legislation to protect our children? I would hope we would.
Feel it now? Wondering what you can do?
Visit The Jacob Wetterling Foundation. Read up on their efforts. READ THE SAFETY TIPS. Visit their Resources page and go find out about missing children in your area. Put them on your blog. Put them on your car. Put their case anywhere someone might chance across it and have that one flash moment of insight that can bring them home or bring them justice.
We're not helpless. We can help. But we have to act.
OK. That's on the homefront. Venturing much further afield...
2) Darfur. Brian Steidle. The Devil Came on Horseback.
Listening to MPR on the way home from errands today I chanced into an interview with Brian Steidle. I literally sat in my car, in the garage, passing fish crackers to the toddler, riveted by his words.
How did I not know about this man? I know I must have seen his pictures. We've all seen the pictures. I have a feeling I'm not the only one that really wishes they could make the pictures go away. They are so hard to face.
Brian Steidle is a former Marine infantry officer who served after his retirement as an unarmed observer in Darfur in 2004. His photographs and experience in Darfur were revealed in a series of op-eds by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.
But hearing Brian's story from his own lips this morning, (and you can too, through the link here) I simply can't be quiet.
We all know it's happening. There is genocide going on in Sudan. It's irrefutable. Why aren't we yelling?
Well, now I am.
Buy Brian's book, The Devil Came on Horseback. Buy several. Read it. Pass it on.
See the movie. If you're in the Twin Cities, The Human Rights Center is sponsoring a free screening TOMORROW, October 24 at 7 pm at the U of MN law School. Find info here. Brian Steidle will be there. He's in town as the Keynote Speaker for the UN Rally on Darfur at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Details on that also available in the previous link.
Follow this link and read Nicholas Kristof's Secret Genocide Archive.
Look at the pictures. It's the least you can do to honor them, these people so far away in so many ways, but oh my gosh they are us. That baby with the bullet hole in her back, she's just like mine, like yours, like the baby down the street, in the supermarket, out playing in the leaves. And she has a bullet hole in her back.
I know you don't want to. I don't want to. It's unpleasant and horrifying and everything that's beyond horrifying. And we're letting it happen.
We need to start yelling and keep it up until someone listens.