Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ways and Means

Reading this story made me cringe, but it also made me recall a trip to Japan I took two years ago.

On the plane, I was seated in Business Class (and, seeing as this was business class on Japan Airlines, it was not too shabby) and was comfortable for the entire flight...until I heard a man a row in front of me talking.

The southeast Asian flight attendant asked him where he was going, and he said that he was going to Thailand (JAL hires southeast Asian women on their flights from Japan to Hawaii because the labor is cheaper).

He continued on, saying that "the women there are so beautiful" and that "it wasn't his first trip". The flight attendant was clearly flustered, because he was very sloppy from the complimentary alcoholic beverage privileges that riding in Business Class had afforded him, and he had managed to invite her to his hotel room in Thailand if she ever happened to make her way there. It was clearly obvious to everyone who was listening what the man was going to the country for, though perhaps luckily for him, most people on board were either asleep or did not speak English and were unable to witness the spectacle that was this portly, sad shell of a man.

I've seen numerous stories on Dateline that followed men to southeast Asia on their sex-rampages throughout the destitute and impoverished nations in the region, and I'm always pushed to the point of wanting to vomit.

It's unfortunate that Americans are seen in such a negative light worldwide, but it is no small wonder when instances like this are seen by so many people. It's one thing when Americans are a little unfamiliar with the customs of foreign countries, but it's just deplorable when you are ashamed of what a fellow countryman is about to do. For the first time in my life, I was embarrassed to be an American because I knew what the flight crew was thinking about the man and how they were extrapolating it to be a stereotype of all American men. Of course this stereotype would not come close to being true, but how can we argue this point when it does indeed happen on an alarmingly regular basis?

America needs to stop treating the rest of the world like its playground. I hate to sound like a parent here, but if we (Americans) can't go to other countries without patronizing their people or taking advantage of their unfortunate situations, perhaps we should not go at all. Just because you have the ways and means to do something does not mean it is right. Sure, these people need money and are forced to do things that they don't want to do in order to get this money. But I don't want to ever hear the argument that it's their choice to make. So often, these young women are forced into prostitution and have no choice. These sex tourists are not only sick because they have sex with children, they are more sick because they pay thousands of dollars to travel across the sea to do so. They are not putting money back into the local economy--they are dehumanizing and ruining innocent, doe-eyed children. It's pitiful that some people so often tend to forget that.