So… polygamists. In Texas. With 416 children. You didn’t expect a media blackout, did you? Coz you’re sure as hell not getting one.
It’s a story that’s got everything – women, children, religion, sex, law, science, sex offenders, you name it. There’s even a story on polygamist fashion – rooted in the 19th century, did you know? So exciting! Get me one of those pioneer dresses and the unibrow please!
In fact the media, on the whole, has been incredibly understanding of these women. And while I’d normally be cheering them on for not going for the easy soundbyte like always, I have to say I wonder what the hell is going on. Is everybody really feeling the pain of these women or is everybody too scared they’ll be viewed as attacking religion if they point out that these women and their children share a deeply dysfunctional relationship?
Would Fox and CNN be this understanding if a Hindu couple were arrested for selling their daughter into prostitution and explained it away by saying that they were trying to revive the devadasi tradition? Would they present this story in the same way if it had been a bunch of Middle Easterners practicing polygamy and child marriage in the name of Allah?
Compassion is a good thing. Empathy is even better. And I really do believe that there is nothing that cannot be understood or sympathized with. Serial killers, child molesters, cannibals, rapists, torturers… none of these people are “inhuman” or acting “unimaginably”. They might be vile, but the simple fact that they did do the things that they did, means that their actions were neither inhuman nor unimaginable. And this is doubly true of religious fundamentalists who are, after all, simply taking what most of us practice to its extreme point.
I’m sure some of these women joined voluntarily, but I expect still others were brainwashed or beaten into submission. Some of them probably even grew up in the system and genuinely think it really is alright for children to marry men old enough to be their grandfathers and live sequestered from the outside world because that’s what God would want them to do. It’s like those women in Saudi Arabia who think it’s only right that they have fewer rights because they live on holy land and must be an example to others.
Plus, this is probably the only world that they know. And their children are perhaps the one connection that makes them feel safe and valued.
But watching the cameras from Larry King Live take a tour through the compound last week was rather surreal.
I don’t doubt the pain in that woman’s voice was real when she said she wanted her children back. But as she moved through the facility and pointed out where the children were supposed to be, I couldn’t help but be glad that they weren’t there. I hate the thought of those kids in foster care or a state facility, especially when they some from such a different background – but they’d have to be placed in the dregs of the system for their lives to be any worse than inside that compound.
For one thing, unlike the people in there, in the outside world everyone knows that children and adults are not supposed to have sex. There are nasty names and horrible punishments for things like that – if not everywhere in the world, then definitely in the United States.
Also, saying things like “This nation is so prejudiced against us” is perhaps a tad idiotic when that very nation’s law is the only thing you have going for you right now. More to the point – it’s the only thing your kids have going for them right now.
Any way you look at it, those kids are not going to have an easy life of it. So forgive me, unibrow lady, if I reserve my sympathy for them.