Pay attention, please. It matters.
Please take the time to review, contemplate, and sign the following petition:
This Thursday, June 4th (Wednesday Night in the US), Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two American journalists will go on trial in North Korea. They have been detained by North Korean authorities since March 17th, charged with hostile acts against the DPRK. Conviction could result in 5-10 years “re-education” in notorious labor camps. From the very few accounts from those that have either escaped or survived the camps, they echo the infamous Soviet gulags of decades past.
At the trial Laura and Euna will not have the benefit of lawyers, witnesses, family members, nor - if prior accounts are to be believed - even translators, who may help them fully understand the proceedings. It is not entirely clear if the trial will be the 24 hour kind endured by Roxana Saberi, the Iranian-American journalist detained, imprisoned, charged, convicted, and released in Iran just a few weeks ago for similar sounding “crimes,” or the interminable type put forth by American authorities against various “enemy combatants” identified and rounded up since 9/11/01. The lack of clarity is because there really isn’t any precedent for what Laura and Euna are about to endure. No American has ever gone through the North Korean judicial system.
According to various online groups, over 100 journalists are being detained by assorted governments and regimes around the world. Laura and Euna just happen to be amongst the most well known, if only because their situation is entangled with greater geo-political and global security matters. Just this past week, the North, in defiance of the United Nations, conducted a nuclear test, flexing their military muscle for all the world to see. Global condemnation soon followed, further backing a defiant North Korean regime into a corner and the isolation they have become accustomed with.
For 1 minute, forget the politics. Forget the fact that no one in the world really has any moral authority left to stand on. When the US and others condemn the North for detaining Laura and Euna on such charges, they are reminded of their own questionable judicial tactics. We need look no farther than the current crisis still ongoing in Guantanamo, Cuba. When the UN condemns North Korea for its nuclear testing, they are quickly reminded that well over 90% of the thousands of nuclear weapons sitting in various depots around the planet belong to the 5 members of the United Nations Security Council.
The truth is everyone is always right from their own point of view. Self righteous morality is a tale as old as time. To claim idealism while not practicing it all the time (a virtual impossibility) is a fatal flaw. Totalitarianism cloaked as imperialism or colonialism - vague terms, that throughout history, have ended in the same somber graveyard of failed idealism.
For this moment, just know that Laura and Euna are sisters, wives, daughters. Euna is also a mother. This week, you will hear from their families, their muzzles removed by the US State Department that has had little success up until this point in negotiating their release. They now agree that you should know what’s going on. You will hear stories of these two women as compassionate, intrepid, committed journalists, and more importantly, as caring, thoughtful, and passionate people. No doubt, many of the dozens of other reporters around the world – whose names we don’t even know – have the same sorts of family situations, personalities, and passions.
The other sad truth for us is that we are only writing this post, because we know Laura Ling as a close friend. Until her predicament, similar sorts of situations endured by others have just been passing headlines. There’s no way to defend such laziness or indifference. When the story becomes personal, you pay attention to every minute detail, and grasp any piece of information. The urgency to pray for compassion and clemency from people you have no way to reach out to becomes your only hope.
Our hope is that in signing this petition, we as global citizens can ask that individuals lives can be separated from global politics. That these two women have faced enough fear and suffering. And that no matter where we come from, no matter what ideologies we possess, we can find compassion and humanity for our fellow human beings.
Gotham and Mallika Chopra regularly blog at www.intent.com