Diana West

Even so, Benkin's occasional updates have seemed confident that activism would ultimately persuade the Bangladeshi government to cease its monstrous prosecution. Earlier this year, things were really looking up when the House of Representatives passed a resolution introduced by Kirk and co-sponsored by Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., calling on Bangladesh to drop the capital charges against Choudhury. After all, the United States provides $60 million a year in foreign aid and the resolution passed 409-1.

R: Who was the one stinker?

Rep. Ron Paul.

R: Figures.

Nothing has happened. Well, one thing. Things have gotten worse. Recent court maneuvers indicate Choudhury may soon be re-incarcerated. This, Benkin writes, "brings home starkly how his freedom -- perhaps his life -- remain in danger. But each one of you can do something to help Shoaib and the cause of justice."

And this is the exact point at which I realized the case made a fitting post-Thanksgiving column. For what Benkin is hoping for isn't more media or calls to Congress. He is hoping "each of us" raises this matter with the leading importers of Bangladeshi textiles -- Wal-Mart, The Gap, Nike, VF Corp. Phillip-Van Heusen. He is hoping good, old-fashioned American dollar-power can accomplish what human rights activism has not.

And what are we, post-Thanksgiving, if not consumers? With the holiday shopping season here, the Choudhury case cries out to Americans to hold themselves accountable for their shopping dollars, and not just to the bottom line. In this particular instance, the question becomes whether we, as consumers, should continue to buy Bangladeshi and support the kind of government that basically considers interfaith dialogue a capital offense.

R: But doesn't that just hurt "the people"? And what about that devastating storm?

These are important questions. I almost didn't the write this column today because of them. Holding the Bangladeshi government accountable for human rights violations just as Bangladeshi people are suffering (again) is a tough sell. But I don't think the one negates the other. That is, charity will to flow to Bangladesh as generous peoples (very notably, the US of A) respond to crisis. But Shoaib Choudhury's plight tells us this is not enough. Simple charity is not enough to make the turkey go down.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).



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