Because you could become compromised . . .

Right. It’s like Mafia investigations. These are really bad guys. Look at all the port cities in Mexico right now: Juarez, Tijuana. Here in Orange County, we live an hour-and-a-half drive away from martial law. The Mexican Army is surrounding those towns and Tecate. My entire life, I have never seen the military presence in Mexico like it is now. And the death toll and the beheadings in Juarez are a dark omen of something. It means there is more human trafficking in this country than ever before.

Do you still talk with Perry Farrell?

Oh, yeah, I went to Coachella, and backstage, I saw Paul McCartney and Perry and Flea and his girlfriend and my girlfriend, Jennifer, and Perry came over and gave me a big hug and congratulated me on some stuff I had been doing. Then he took me over to meet Shepard Fairey—you know, the artist who did the Obama “Hope” poster. He was really sweet and said, “I want to use my art to free slaves. What can I do?” By coincidence, Brian Sirgutz of Causecast [an interactive community that connects notables and brands with human-rights activism] had asked if I could get Shepard Fairey artwork for our Burma campaign. Perry made the big introductions, I now have the portrait here, and we got a Burma benefit together in New York—all in a week—because of Perry. So, yeah, I’ve been really blessed to have wonderful friends.

Considering Iran’s role in these global crime networks you’re fighting against, what do you make of what’s happening there now?

On the one hand, you have people looking at the world from an older paradigm. Others are looking at it with fresh eyes, through a lens of peace and reconciliation and communication. Iran has to open up its country. The power of technology, I think, is going to effect peace in the world. Some look at scriptures and believe in peace through apocalypse, but the same scriptures also talk of love and peace and reconciliation. The Middle East is the epicenter, where we should be operating as human-rights activists because that is where people are falling through the cracks. The [anti-slavery] cause is just an omen of something else that is happening in the world around us. So is the collapse of investment banks. This isn’t wild conspiracy-theory talk; this is current events.

I can’t imagine you feel settled and comfortable while abroad, doing what you do. And yet, because of what you do abroad, you probably do not feel settled and comfortable at home, either.

I joke that when I arrive at the airport, I’m finally home. I’m comfortable: I have my online connection there, everything is working, all my food is ready, I don’t have to clean up afterward. I travel so much for so long I’ve lost my roots, the need for home. My girlfriend helps me with this now. Jennifer has me thinking about home and missing home. Since my father passed away, I’ve been on nonstop missions.

That’s how you dealt with it?

Yeah, I dealt with the pain of losing both parents by putting myself right into the epicenter, the Middle East. When my parents died, it gave me courage. It’s like this is a way to be with them.

For more Slave Hunter talk, see our exclusive interview with Cohen's co-author, "'Slave Hunter' Co-Author Christine Buckley Wears Her Journalism on Her Sleeve."

mcoker@ocweekly.com

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