Belated Concern

22 Apr

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.


Posted by on April 22, 2008 in Life, Newsmakers


9 responses to “Belated Concern

  1. John Burgess

    April 22, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Very few Saudi women think they deserve fewer rights because they live in a ‘holy land’. What the majority does seem to think is that they have different rights because men and women are different.

    Not all Saudi women agree, of course. This is the argument Saudis are having among themselves, right now.

    If you’re interested in what Saudis have to say about reforms in the country, you might like to stop by Crossroads Arabia, where I’ve been covering this and other issues for the past four years.

  2. sidekick

    April 22, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    What is it about Texas that these bizarre stories are uncovered? First Waco, now this!

    There is no good way for this to end as far the kids are concerned. Returning them to their parents returns them to some strange parallel universe and possible abuse, putting them into foster care turfs them into another alien world. I don’t know what the solution is.

    …and polygamist fashion? WTF??? I was wondering what special markings on the dresses protect the body and remind you of commitment — some nails which dig into yr flesh? It brought up some gruesome pictures of the opus dei priest in the da vinci code.

  3. M

    April 23, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Well, I live in TX, and have often heard the statment that TX attracts wierdos because there is enough room for them to go unnoticed here – the place this camp/ranch was in, is fairly remote..

    That said, our local paper had the same questions as you did, Amrita – as in why are these people being treated so carefully, when so many “others” are not – race was brought up as a factor as well.

    Foster care is a pretty messy solution here, but I doubt there is anything else…what about the kids who are legally children but have had years of this indoctrination?


  4. Sanna

    April 23, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Must say I haven’t heard much of this news story…and that in itself is a validation of your opinions. A story like this would have undoubtedly crossed many oceans to become the headline in the UK as well. But why hasn’t it? Surely there is a reason that both our broadsheets and tabloids who have had story after story about so many more “cultural” or “religious” practices that could be considered even slightly dubious. Then why is it that a story like this in Texas will probably only make it onto an hour special “Panorama” on BBC1 late one night over a year after the actual story broke out.

    As for the children, I agree with M…though foster care is undesirable…the children deserve to live their own lives and not be trapped in the warped reality their parents have opted to live in….

  5. Amrita

    April 25, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    John – I didn’t mean to imply all Saudi women felt that way. Just the really religious ones as per at least one panel discussion on the BBC. Although that’s an interesting point you bring up viz. different rights. Thanks for the link!

    Sidekick – I think its what M said about Texas being big enough for all the crazies to hide out. Although maybe they should have stuck to Utah. And I don’t even want to think what special things are going on under those big gowns. ew ew ew.

    M – I’m sure race was a factor. somebody on another site asked if all the reporters being so respectful of these people because of it being a matter of religion would feel the same about Mohammad Atta and his merry band of jihadis coz that’s a matter of religion too isn’t it?
    Those kids will probably go back to the sect if its allowed to operate coz they don’t know any better. those men they interviewed just turned my stomach – who the hell doesn’t know that its not ok for 12 yr olds to get pregnant? and did you hear what that woman who escaped the cult had to say about the children being unenthusiastic about dolls because they’ll always have real live babies to play with instead? gross.

    Sanna – yeah this is really more of an American story isn’t it? I wonder why – Newscorp is usually really good at thinking up the headlines for stories like this but … nothing.
    I don’t think anyone is a fan of foster care but you’re right, it really is the lesser of two evils here.

  6. Baldur

    April 28, 2008 at 8:35 am

    You folks are what worry me about the USA. The police show up without a warrant and kidnap over 400 children, using a phone call from a deranged woman in another state as a pretext. Then, they go on a fishing expedition to find evidence to use against the people whose rights they have violated, whose families they have torn apart . . . and you lot are HAPPY about it. There’s still no evidence of sexual abuse, and the number of teenage mothers is probably not much different than what you would find in a similar population anywhere. How would you like it if the police came to YOUR neighborhood, told you they had a phone call from a girl living in another state who said she was being sexually abused by someone in the area, and then proceeded to take every child in the neighborhood into custody and ransack all your homes?

    Well fact is, you’re going to find out. The English-speaking nations are becoming totalitarian states, and any action can be justified by accusing someone of sex with a child. (Incidentally, all the actual RESEARCH suggests that there is no significant harm done to children who willingly engage in sex. Amongst our two closest species, Bonobos, who enjoy sex at all ages, are far more peaceful than Chimps.) But of course it hardly matters any more if someone is “guilty” or not, because it’s all about establishing state control. Well, enjoy your slavery. I’m figuring a way out of this hell hole while I still can.

  7. Amrita

    April 29, 2008 at 11:08 am

    How’s the weather in your alternate reality? Coz you seem to have left out a few details like:

    –This woman (and how do you know she’s mentally disturbed by the way? do you know her?) called the sherriff’s office for 4 years before they moved in. Also, whatever she said, turned out to be true.
    — The police didnt go to anybody’s “neighborhood”. They went to a walled in compound where children were being abused.
    — This research: where exactly did you find it? the offices of NAMBLA? Coz there’s plenty more research to show that kids shouldnt be having sex and they most definitely shouldnt be getting pregnant.
    — Also these kids werent exploring their sexuality on their own. They were being brought up to service older men. There’s a huge difference there.
    — That “hellhole” is actually the first line of defense against the police invading your home. Think ACLU. Now think being in some other hellhole – what do you think would have happened? You think people would have politely bused an entire compound of child molesters to face the law? I think not.

  8. Sachita

    May 5, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    I am new here, have been reading your blog for some time now but never dared to comment.
    But this commentator whoever he is, totally irritated me.

    “there is no significant harm done to children who willingly engage in sex”
    — Children @ the age of 6/7(or say even 10 depending on the exposure and acumen) don’t understand sex. Saying children willingly engage in sex is equivalent to saying an illiterate made a thumb impression on a stamp paper, so the agreement is valid.
    I really can’t figure out how you can make a statement like that.

  9. Amrita

    May 6, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Hi Sachita, welcome to the blog 🙂 nothing scary here.

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