In Nepal, there is a child trafficker named Golkka. By most estimates, he has trafficked over a thousand children into slavery and institutions.
If you ask him (I happen to know) he would say that he has trafficked none. He would say that he is helping the children escape a life of poverty in the villages of Nepal by bringing them to the urban chaos of Kathmandu.
Never mind that he locks these children in decrepit rooms, or that he sends them out to beg on the streets as "orphans" to bring him back donations from tourists, or that he sells them to wealthy families as domestic slaves, or even that he forges death certificates for the children's parents and puts them up for international adoption -- the most lucrative scheme of all.
Those of us fighting Golkka in Nepal -- rescuing these children from illegal orphanages and searching the remote mountains of the Himalaya for the families of these lost children -- have been threatened by him. Children have died because of him. But because the world has never heard of him, he can continue to operate.
And therein lies the problem.
Osama bin Laden is one of the most formidable villains our country has seen in decades, because he embodied the three principles of what makes a true villain:
First, he was genuinely, indisputably evil. He targeted civilians. The point of the 9/11 attacks were to murder innocent people who had never even heard of him.
Second, he believed he was making the world a better place, and was able to delude others into agreeing with him. That makes for movement, and creates a ring of protection around that leader.
Third, he had a powerful and visible nemesis. There are many evil people all over the world doing terrible things, but Osama bin Laden was America's (and the world's) "Most Wanted Man."
This third and final point set Bin Laden apart. The head of al-Qaeda was not the Most Wanted Man in the world because he killed the most people, or because he had the greatest following. Bin Laden was the Most Wanted Man precisely because of what that label implies -- he had a powerful adversary who kept him on the map, at the front of the public consciousness. His name and face were recognizable to millions.
To fight evil in this world we need to elevate the villains out of the shadows. We need to hang their photos and broadcast their names. We need to detail and document their crimes and tell those stories.
Golkka, the child trafficker, is still operating in Nepal. He is the villain in the book, Little Princes. The reason I wrote the book in the first place was to shine a spotlight on the man and his crimes. I wanted to help readers get to know the children that he abducted, abused, and sold. I wanted to show these readers that these children are just like our children -- so similar, in fact, that if you changed their names and accents they would be indistinguishable.
Why is it so important? Because this type of trafficking in Nepal is virtually never prosecuted. Because corruption in Nepal protects men like Golkka. Because the only thing stopping Golkka from being a villain -- a true villain that the world rallies to fight -- is a powerful nemesis. The moment he is elevated to that status, we can stop him. It takes pressure and people willing to fight for kids they've never met. That's a hard thing to do.
We're starting to have success. I get questions from readers, both in media and audiences, about what happened to Golkka -- the real life villain of the book. I inform them that, alas, not only is he not in jail, he is the head of a local political party in Nepal.
That's my villain. There are many more. Osama bin Laden is gone, but he has shown us that the world can unite against evil and celebrate in our triumph over it.
We celebrated our victory over one evil man. Now let's go get the next one.