The Book of Love is Long & Boring

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In 1999, the Magnetic Fields released a song called “The Book of Love.” The song, an international success, conceptualizes love as a book and is a tribute to the persistent, faithful, everyday love we show others. Over a decade later, Gary Haugen, the founder, and CEO of International Justice Mission quoted the song in a powerful speech at the Justice Conference in Philadelphia. “The book of love is long and boring,” cited Haugen, going on to explain that genuine love is not glamorous, but boring.

What on earth does this mean in the fight to end trafficking?

The anti-trafficking movement is often assumed to look like Liam Neeson in Taken. We imagine rescue squads that engage in pursuit-driving, sharpshooting, karate, and always-successful missions. Nothing short of heroic. And we can’t forget the happily ever after, of course. Roll credits. However, as Gary Haugen suggests, perhaps we need to broaden our understanding of what a heroic action is.

The truth is that the fight to end trafficking is heroic, but often not glamorous.

It’s less Liam Neeson, and more lawyers spending countless hours digging through paperwork.

It’s less thrill and more people like you and me who give up their time and money to support NGOs in the field.

It’s less glory, and more volunteers willing to clean office spaces and file documents so trained professionals can focus on their work.

It’s fewer action scenes, and more meetings and newsletters.

It’s less sensationalism, and more lobbying, waiting rooms and signatures.  

"The truth is that the fight to end trafficking is heroic, but often not glamorous."

This does not mean real-life rescue missions are not heroic. This also does not mean that real-life advocacy does not involve love that is comparable to that of Liam Neeson’s character in Taken toward his daughter. What it does mean is that the fight to end trafficking is long and boring. Like “The Book of Love”, the movement is mostly about long faithfulness in one direction. It is a fight that is marked by a love that manifests itself in mundane, tedious acts of service

Our tendency to view the fight to end trafficking as an action film is natural. The increased interest of the media is certainly involved in this phenomenon. Films, documentaries, newspapers, and advertisements present us with a rescue narrative that speaks more to action-filled, gut-wrenching adventure than piles of paperwork. While media has brought much-needed attention to anti-trafficking work, the way it has been presented is not always accurate.

"Like 'The Book of Love', the movement is mostly about long faithfulness in one direction. It is a fight that is marked by a love that manifests itself in mundane, tedious acts of service."


To attain sustainable solutions to human trafficking, organizations cannot approach the issue in a reactive manner. This means that lawyers and development practitioners are generally more concerned with prevention than quick, action-filled missions. Prevention includes research, legislation, and addressing the root causes of trafficking.  

Many of the workers who devote their lives to the issue of anti-trafficking never partake in rescue missions or international court cases.

Instead, you will find them working long hours researching the importance of affordable housing, healthcare, and education to circumvent trafficking. They may be at a team meeting discussing how to address the intersection of migration and modern-day slavery. They could also be writing policy briefs to governments regarding the ineffective implementation of strong anti-trafficking laws. You will see them creating programs to encourage the reintegration of survivors in local economies. It is not glamorous work, but it is most certainly heroic.


Ultimately, this work is just as crucial to the success of the movement as a rescue mission is. It is dirty work that we are all invited to partake in. By doing so, we must recognize that we are joining an army of people who work tirelessly, anonymously and patiently to further the cause.

“It is precisely in their tedious, toilsome, everydayness that these acts affirm, almost like nothing else, the value of the one being loved.”

This love, comparable to that of raising a child or caring for a sick friend, is not alluring. In fact, it’s a love that often goes unnoticed. After all, it is long and boring. The fight, as Gary Haugen suggests, is what the book of love is all about. We quickly realize that the dignity and value of the one being loved take precedence over our own agendas. This Valentines Day, we are grateful for this type of love. The one that you may never find in a Hollywood movie, but is a persistent kind of love that is necessary for trafficking to end once and for all.



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About the Author

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Jess, a proud Montrealer, is an International Development major at McGill University, minoring in Communications and World Religions. You can find her reading a book in a coffee shop, planning a trip to a new city or laughing with her loved ones. Her passion for social justice issues has inspired her work in nonprofit organizations both at home and in the developing world.