Looking for People and Answers
Call me obsessive. I don't care. Five years ago, the Natalee Holloway disappearance was, in my mind, just another media feeding frenzy masquerading as journalism. Now I ask: for all the attention the case got, how much interest did the U.S. government take in the plight of a missing (likely murdered) U.S. citizen and her family?
Five years since, and families of the missing are still left on their own to invent the wheel when a loved one disappears outside their country's borders. It has been a year since my brother Joe disappeared in Roatan, Honduras. During that year, at least a dozen men have vanished in Central America and the Caribbean (the 12 are the ones that have been brought to the attention of the Missing Americans Project), and their home governments -- the U.S., Britain, the Netherlands, Italy, and Belize -- have shown little to no interest. These are simply unfortunate incidents in the eyes of these governments. Flukes. Outliers.
It would be tempting to play the "pretty white girl" card -- and that may, in fact, explain the media's fascination with the losses of Natalee, Laci Peterson, et al., to the exclusion of wasting ink or pixels on Ron Scheepstra, Joe Dunsavage, David Gimelfarb, Michael Dixon, Leo Finley, Alex Humphrey, Richard Alicea, Edwin Pritchard, Joseph Garbutt, Erleon Garbutt, Luca Pagliara, and Mauriliuo Mirabella -- but it cannot explain the indifference of these men's governments to the disappearances of their citizens. I cannot speak to the policies of any nation other than that of the United States, which claims to be simply respecting the sovereignty of these foreign nations. The U.S. will only get involved if these countries request U.S. assistance in their investigations -- investigations that, let's face it, either are not happening or are insufficient.
These "sovereign nations" receive hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars in direct aid; they receive hundreds of millions more in U.S. tourism dollars; they benefit still more from the activities of U.S. charitable organizations working within their borders -- many of which would not exist if they were not subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. When a U.S. citizen disappears or is murdered in one of these countries, the only appropriate response is "How can we help?"
Before we can get to that point, however, the U.S. government will have to be made to care about the interests of ALL its citizens outside its borders, not just those of corporations and affluent, influential individuals.
Had the U.S. taken a direct interest in the Holloway case, it might not have been botched as it was. Stephany Flores (and other young women around the world?) might well still be alive. How many disappearances and deaths will fail to be prevented by "First World" indifference to its own citizens when they get into trouble in the Third?