When I was fifteen, my first summer job was selling magazines door-to-door. Except there were no magazines. It was extortion, theft, and slavery. I never got paid, even though they told me I was their best salesman. Sleazy adults took a group of us kids who had been foolish enough to respond to their help-wanted ad to remote, all-black neighborhoods in St. Louis, where we went from house to house, offering subscriptions to magazines geared to a black audience, Ebony, Tan, Whirl, for a mere five cents a week. The profits would send a boy in their neighborhood to college. That was the sales pitch they had us memorize.
As way of encouragement, they kept telling me how much money I stood to make once my “orders cleared.” It turns out not only were there no magazines, but it was simple extortion. A “collector” came to their house a few hours after my visit and demanded payment up front for all the magazines they’d ordered. If they failed to pay he would go to the police.
It wasn’t sex trafficking, but it was trafficking, and the way such things usually work is the adults in charge take the kids far from home, house them in cheap motels, give them little freedom and no money, but reward them with pizza and soft drinks at the end of a long day. They also dish out loads of false encouragement, pie-in-the-sky promises of substantial money someday soon. The police are well aware of these operations, but have a hard time keeping track of them all. When one is shut down, another opens in its place. There are a lot of kids hoping to land a summer job.
I feel like Trump and his multi-billion dollar wall are the modern version of this dilemma I once found myself in. Fortunately, I had an attentive father who advised me to quit immediately, that this was no legitimate enterprise but a scam. If it hadn’t been for his advice, I probably wouldn’t have had the nerve to quit. I probably would have been taken far from home, where I would be even more vulnerable to their lies. As it was, my handlers were mad at me for bailing out.
I’m now five years older than my father was when he died. Who will advise our nation on how to quit Trump and his empty promises? Who will stand up to the bully who has made a career of boasting and brow-beating? Who will free the vulnerable and trusting who still hope for what was promised?
In the Disney cartoon Pinocchio, many boys without good parenting found themselves turned into donkeys on Donkey Island, a place that at first seemed too good to be true, and later was found to be just that.