Sunday, April 20, 2008

Not brainwashed?

If you have any misgivings about the horror that is the cult at the center of the El Dorado, Texas, brouhaha, check out some sober reflections on the situation of the women involved. They will sound extremely reasonable and claim they are not brainwashed. And what brainwashed persons wouldn't deny what has been done to them?

Check out the posts by Sara Robinson at Orcinus, especially the one titled "Are FLDS women brainwashed?"

Part of what Sara writes:
The problem, as it so often is with the mainstream media, is that absolutely everybody involved with reporting or commenting on this story has been airlifted into it in the past few days. (You'd think somebody would have at least taken the time on the plane flight to skim Krakauer's book and get up to speed. You'd be wrong.) And this is just one example of the ways that ignorance of the backstory cheats the rest of us out of a real understanding of what's going on here.

Because, by the definition offered by these experts, the FLDS is very coercive indeed.

Almost every feature of these women's lives is determined by someone else. They do not choose what they wear, whom they live with, when and whom they marry, or when and with whom they have sex. From the day they're born, they can be reassigned at a moment's notice to another father or husband, another household, or another community. Most will have no educational choices (FLDS kids are taught in church-run schools, usually only through about tenth grade -- by which point they girls are usually married and pregnant). Everything they produce goes into a trust controlled by the patriarch: they do not even own their own labor. If they object to any of this, they're subject to losing access to the resources they need to raise their kids: they can be moved to a trailer with no heat, and given less food than more compliant wives, until they learn to "keep sweet."

There is more and I believe people need to be aware of what lies beneath the surface. Here I am preaching to the choir, I know. But if you hear some fatuous comments, Sara and Orcinus will provide you with information you can use.

In a second post she touches on religious freedom issues. Here is one paragraph:
There's no shortage of people in the media trying to make this a debate about religious freedom, which is fair enough. But the question they're not asking -- and the one that is central to that debate, in my mind -- is how we can reasonably and justly incorporate America's historical ideas about religious freedom with what we know now about how to identify and chart the prognosis of dangerous cults. As I've written before, governments in both Canada and the US are well aware of the signs that indicate a community headed toward violence. The FLDS exhibits almost all of those signs. As a society, it's time to figure out where the line gets crossed, and when government intervention becomes justified.
Sara will be writing more, so check it out: Orcinus, where Dave Neiwert and Sara Robinson post.

Update: h/t to digby (apologies for forgetting this at first posting)

--the BB


susankay said...

Paul -- As we listened to the FLDS stories on the mainstream media where they alternated with stories of the Pope's visit to USA, we wondered which church requires that women be more submissive to men in the spiritual realm. It could be a toss-up. Not to mention the Southern Baptists -- and not to mention TEC until the 1970's.

Not that I hold any brief for the FLDS. The women are sad and all sound alike. Can you say "Stepford Wives" -- without the makeup, of course.

And I am lucky enough to live within a few miles of another FLDS compound here outside of Mancos, CO. We do not know if there are any "families" living here.

susankay said...

And I should have added that the most pernicious domination of any sub-group is always justified by some sort of religious belief. It would have to be, wouldn't it? Otherwise decency would stop it.

Paul said...

It's all pretty damn awful, susankay.

I wanted to post more, such as these two paragraphs:

At the very least, women who do decide to leave the sect leave without money, skills, or a friend in the world. Most of them have no choice but to leave large numbers of children behind -- children who are the property of the patriarch, and whom many of them will never see again. If a woman is even suspected of wanting to leave, she's likely to be sent away from her kids to another compound far yonder as punishment for her rebelliousness. For a woman who's been taught all her life that motherhood is her only destiny and has no real intimacy with her husband, being separated from her children this way is a sacrifice akin to death.

At the very worst, death is indeed what awaits them. The FLDS preaches "blood atonement" -- the right of the patriarchs to kill apostates who dare to defy them, usually by slitting their throats. And they've done it: Krakauer hung his entire book on the murder of Brenda Lafferty and her year-old daughter, who were both killed by her husband's brothers because Brenda rejected (and mocked) her husband's desire to take plural wives. (Warren Jeffs also liked to rouse people out of their beds in the middle of the night for dramatic mass meetings testing their readiness for the Final Judgment -- meetings that had dark shades of Jonestown.) Brenda is the only one known to have been killed, but others who've left report being threatened with the same fate.