Ed Driscoll

Got Guilt If You Want It

File this Christian Science Monitor headline under “Questions Nobody is Asking,” particularly on 9/11: “Do you know your toddler’s ‘slave footprint’?”

This has come as quite a surprise to me. Like most comfortable and educated Americans, before a few months ago I barely realized that slavery – even as the somewhat more broadly defined “modern day slavery” – still existed. And if I did have a fuzzy idea about the forced labor and human trafficking that exists around the globe, I certainly didn’t think I had any hand in it. I mean, I buy organic. I walk to the grocery story. I even had one of those “(Product) Red” campaign Gap T-shirts, before I shrunk it. I’m a “good” consumer.

But working on this week’s Monitor magazine cover story about sex trafficking, I came across a website supported by the US State Department that lets people find out their “slavery footprint.” Basically, you enter a bunch of information about your lifestyle – the rooms in your house, the sort of food you eat, and so on – and the super easy website shoots back the number of slaves you use, along with other information.

The results are sobering. But so is this: Of my 47 slaves, who is responsible for almost 20? My toddler.

I should have known I was in trouble when the website started asking me about bath toys. But I saw I was really in for it when I read questions about the number of dresses my 18-month-old baby owns, how many stuffed animals, strollers and soft toys, how many pairs of baby jeans and baby dolls. Every time I clicked – increasingly embarrassed – my slavery count ticked upwards.

Of course it did. Back in 2008, the San Francisco Chronicle suggested that parents should be “Throwing less-is-more birthday parties” for the sake of Gaia:

Forget the twisty straws, Tootsie rolls and Dora the Explorer plates with matching cups, hats and tablecloth. There are signs that more parents would like to.

Anxious about the economy, global warming and our national image as people who would rent a limo for a kid’s party while a polar bear’s ice floe melts, many are toning down the trappings of that classic annual ritual, the blowout birthday party. They are saying no to plastic toys and water bottles, paper plates, gift wrap and new toys. There is even a modest backlash against the goody bag, the sack of candy and plastic knickknacks usually thrust into each sticky hand at the end of parties.

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“There is nothing more bacchanalian than a kid’s birthday party,” said Sarah Lane, a founder of Washington state’s Progressive Kid, which has a Web site with suggestions on how to raise kids with good values. “You should see what gets thrown away. It’s disgusting.”

(Apropos of nothing — “There is nothing more bacchanalian than a kid’s birthday party” — there isn’t? In San Francisco?! And since when did that city become concerned with the dangers of excess bacchanalia?)

But the Chronicle and the CSM run articles such as the above with a straight face, along with yesterday’s Portland Tribune article on the inherent racism of a kid’s PB&J sandwich — and then wonder why deep blue enclaves such as ‘Frisco and Seattle consistently have the lowest amount of child births.