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January 21, 2004

Something new in Short Creek
Posted by Teresa at 11:00 PM *

Elizabeth Mitchell has pointed me toward a strange little story that’s developing in Colorado City (formerly Short Creek) Arizona: The town’s children are fleeing. It started less than a week and a half ago, when two girls named Fawn Broadbent and Fawn Holm ran away for fear of being forced into polygamous “marriages”.

You’d have done the same.

It wasn’t the first time children have tried to run away from Short Creek. The difference was that this time, the authorities didn’t return the Fawns to their families. They escaped and stayed escaped. That story went round the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saint) community at lightning speed, and in the week that followed, eight more children ran. All it took was the hope of real escape, and some indication that help was available in the outside world.

Polygamy is nothing new in Short Creek. The Arizona Strip—the isolated patch of northwestern Arizona north of the Grand Canyon and south of the Utah border—has always depended on its wearying inaccessibility and that handy Arizona/Utah boundary line to keep outside law enforcement at bay. It took a long time for that whole area to shake loose of polygamy after the practice was outlawed; but over time, as its holdout polygamist groups have gradually become more and more marginal and self-isolating, their communal behavior has just gotten pathological.

For instance, FLDS boys and girls used to court and marry in relatively normal fashion. Then Rulon Jeffs, their prophet at that time, decided that it was a sin for boys and girls to fraternize, or to seek each other out as potential spouses without priesthood supervision. Courting was replaced by the “placement” system, under which all marriages are decided by the group’s prophet. Teenage girls are assigned to much older and already-married husbands, essentially as chattel, in much the same spirit in which an Anglo-Saxon leader would hand out gold rings to his followers. This monopoly has made multiple wives an index of status and favor for men in the community.

Don’t imagine these households as cheery group or line marriages. Most of these women are leading bleak, impoverished, hopelessly dreary lives.

Placement marriage means FLDS boys are no longer permitted to have normal interactions with girls their own age, social or otherwise. Given that so many semi-related children are living jumbled together in overcrowded polygamous households, it’s not surprising that incest and sexual abuse have become common. The dislocations produced by the placement system have also led to supernumerary teenage boys literally being driven out of town—shipped off to the FLDS colony in Bountiful, BC, or assigned to two-year work missions at businesses operated by wealthier and more powerful polygamists (with their paychecks going directly home to the organization in Short Creek), or taken to Salt Lake City and dumped out on the street, or simply run out of town by the all-FLDS police.

The local slang term for marriageable girls is “poofers”. One day they’re living with their parents, attending school, just being teenage girls. The next day, poof, they’re gone. Marriages aren’t publicly announced or celebrated—often they’re scarcely celebrated at all—and the girls are given minimal advance notice. They just disappear into their husbands’ households: poof! Sometimes FLDS girls from the Arizona Strip are swapped for girls from the Bountiful colony, which makes the girls on both sides of the swap even more tractable.

(By the way, this is scarcely distinguishable from the methods used in the modern-day slave trade. The basic recipe starts when you separate the slaves from everyone who might protect or support them. You physically abuse them so they’re frightened and disoriented. You put them in a controlling environment where they’re powerless and deprived of outside information, and make sure that they don’t have proper ID, access to transportation, or money of their own. You repeatedly tell them that this is where they belong. And then you exploit the hell out of them.)

Once these girls have had babies, they’re stuck. They can’t abandon their children, and they have no more place to go than they did before. They can’t sue their “husband” for support; they were never legally married to him. They may not have a Social Security Number. They may not have a birth certificate. They have minimal education. They’ve been told all their lives that outsiders are sinful, dangerous, and malign. And everyone they know in the world keeps telling them that where they are is where they belong. So they still don’t run. And because they don’t run they have more children, often at a rate of one a year, which leaves them depressed and exhausted.

The FLDS community lives on land owned by their church, which effectively means it’s owned by their prophet. Members build their houses themselves at their own expense, but if they dissent, misbehave, or wind up on the losing side in political struggles, they’re evicted and shunned. Wives or children can be reassigned to other households. The mayor, city council, school board, and law enforcement personnel are all FLDS members, and the town hasn’t had a single contested election since the day it was incorporated as Colorado City.

One of the community’s biggest sources of income is government money. A large number of households are on food stamps, and many get childcare subsidies and free public health care. The local school district has 100 employees for 300 students, and quite a few of those employees have school district cars and credit cards for their personal use. I can’t do justice to the financial details.

For a good overall survey of this subject, I recommend the four-part series by Al Herron that was published by the Prescott Daily Courier. This source is typographically easier to read, but only has the first two installments. This source has all four.

If you want more, you can’t do much better than the investigative journalism of the New Times, which last year ran a series of eleven stories on the FLDS community, starting with this one. That story ends with links to all the later installments. And if this is all sounding just too alien to you, you may want to begin with this overview of Mormon fundamentalist groups.

Is there a moral here? There’s room for any moral you want to draw. My favorite is, “There’s a reason the founders of the Constitution thought separation of church and state was a good idea.” You’re welcome to draw your own.

Comments on Something new in Short Creek:
#1 ::: Bryant ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 01:03 AM:

There's a chapter or two about Short Creek in Jon Krakauer's recent book on Mormon extremism.

#2 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 01:37 AM:

That is absolutely mind boggling - and chilling as well. It puts me in mind of a snippet of Sherlock Holmes that I've always admired:

It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside. . . .The reason is obvious. The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard's blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbors, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.

#3 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 02:31 AM:

Agatha Christie's Miss Marple said something similar about how people thought she wouldn't have experience of all the nasty (& nice) things people are capable of in her idyllic little English village.
<ahem> I went through an Agatha Christie stage, sometime in my early teens, I think. That would be the late 1960s/early 1970s, and the paperbacks had some wonderfully surreal covers.

#4 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 02:41 AM:

The Doyle quote (said the compulsive annotator) is from "The Copper Beeches." Jeremy Brett did it fine service in the television adaptation (it may have been trimmed a bit, but the sense was there).

#5 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 02:55 AM:

You would have thought that a tv movie would have solved all this:

http://imdb.com/title/tt0082169/

Child Bride of Short Creek (1981)

#6 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 03:02 AM:

Holmes was right about the countryside, but I'm not so sure he was right about the city.

Teresa, in your opinion, is polygamy inherently abusive? Should it be legalized?

I've been getting into a discussion on my own blog in the issue of homosexual marriage. I realize now that I have come to embrace a point of view that I considered extreme a few months ago: the government should be out of the marriage business. The government should give out "civil unions" to any group of two or more consenting adults who asks for them, giving the partners the same rights and responsibilities that a married couple now has toward each other.

These civil unions don't have to be based on sexual love; they can be between two good friends. Nobody else's business.

Churches can continue to marry people, and the ceremony will have the same legal, binding effect as Bar Mitzvahs and communions: none whatsoever.

I expect this change in law would have little effect on the overwhelming majority of people, who would still continue to get married in heterosexual couples, by clergy, who would also be certified by law as being able to grant a civil union. The bride would wear white, the groom would wear a tuxedo, the bride would throw the bouqet and the aunts would sit in a corner and gossip. Highly caloric desserts would be eaten. Teen-aged guests would sneak out the back and smoke cigarettes.

But of course this law would legitimize polygamy, and, thinking about cases like the ones you describe here, I balk at that.

Of course, the situation you describe here isn't polygamy. It's slavery.

I'm used to my libertarian instincts collide with pragmatism. I'm also conflicted on the questions of legalizing drugs and prostitution. Yes, the War On Some Drugs is one of the great evils of the past several decades, but should we then go to the other extreme and simply take all the drug laws off the books, and sell heroin and crack cocaine right out in the open next to the Chivas and Pabst Blue Ribbon?

#7 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 06:05 AM:

Mitch, bluntly, I think while I agree with you, the phrasing is the wrong way round: churches should get out of the marriage business.

Marriage has been a matter governed by law for millennia before it was ever - ever - a matter for religion.

People should be free to stand up in church, temple, circle, synagogue, meeting, or whatever place of worship they like, and ask for the blessing of their God/s on their union.

But marriage is a matter of law, and I do not believe that any religion should be allowed to govern the law.

#8 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 07:30 AM:

Mitch:

I very much agree; if some weird verbal sleight of hand wants to make "marriage" between one man and one woman, the government has no business sanctioning, outlawing, giving-of-tax-breaks, anything, for one kind or any other.

I'm curious about the opinions of those who know more about Mormonism, especially the freakisly fundamentalist type. It seems like knowing or living through a situation like that would give people a different perspective than mine, to put it mildly.

To me, on reading the above, it seems as though the problem is the power roles and the social setup, not polygyny (which, not to be anal-retentive, the above situation is) itself. Open relationships, multiple partners, polygamy, polyamory, any of those breeds of relationship, can work just fine for the people involved, and people in them can be a lot more functional than your average Heterosexual Monogamous Britney Spears' relationship.

But jeez, not with kids!

#9 ::: Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 08:00 AM:

Yonmei:

I'm deeply puzzled by what you've written. Currently, I'm in a couple of courses talking about the earliest cultures of which we have records -- Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranian (note: not actually about sub-aquatic civilizations, sadly), and Archaeology of Mesopotamia. So I've been at least doing some reading in the field, though I'm far from an expert.

And it seems to me that distangling religon and government in the cases of Egypt and various Mesopotamian cultures is far from simple. Pharonic Egypt doesn't seem to have had any codified legal structure at all, or at least, we haven't found any evidence of one, which is odd, given the number of texts we have found. In Mesopotamia, there are a number of legal codes, but those are far from purely secular affairs -- they tend to be presented as having been delivered to the kings by the gods.

And it's not as those are the very beginings of the state or of religion; both of those things (as well as the idea of marriage, within certain definitions of the term) came before the invention of writing, which makes it hard to understand how you can say definitively that marriage was a matter for the state for millenia before it was a religous issue -- marriage is clearly a religious issue in various Near Eastern texts that date to a period early enough that the state probably hadn't existed for millenia before then.

#10 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 08:57 AM:

Well, I admit I'm no expert. But everything I've read about marriage in Egypt, for example (and we do have a fair amount of documentary evidence about marriage in Egypt) indicates that it was a legal contract between a man and a woman, with legal penalties should either partner break the terms of the contract, and legal remedies should either partner wish to end the contract with divorce. There is no indication that I'm aware of (I am certain that there are readers of this blog more learned in Egyptology than me) that the marriage contract was considered to be a sacred bond, nor that it was considered eternally binding.

Jumping forward, the idea of marriage as a Christian sacrament is also (again, that I'm aware of) a relatively late idea. We have written records of Roman marriage contracts, and as far as I'm aware, they too are strictly legal documents.

Yes, religion and government have been entangled as far back as recorded history began. But we can, and we do, disentangle them now. Alexander the Great may have invoked the gods before beginning a campaign, but we do not generally regard running a war as the business of the churches. A legal document may have begun with an appeal to the gods: but we do not insist that all lawyers should be ordained priests. Why should we regard it as the business of the churches to interfere in marriage? No reason.

#11 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 09:15 AM:

As Mitch acknowledges, the situation in Short Creek (or "Colorado City") isn't really polygamy; it's slavery and kidnapping. Sixteen-year-olds are being treated as chattel; older women are being forcibly kept from contact with the world, even contact with their blood families. It's like something out of Ur.

I want to find a reference about this, but according to something Teresa remembers reading, Utah has (perhaps surprisingly) come up with a way of prosecuting this sort of thing that doesn't require the state to be in the business of prosecuting households like the one maintained by our friends Arthur, Bernadette, and Kevin. In essence, you're not allowed to purport to be married to more than one person, if (or perhaps particularly if) one of the people you're claiming to be married to is (some large number of years) younger than you are.

This is from memory and probably wrong in some detail, but it does look like the intent is to focus on what matters, rather than go after grown-ups who've decided to be unconventional.

#12 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 09:45 AM:

Marriage is a complex thing, and also a lot of our ideas about it are very recent.

In England and France and some other parts of Europe, in the period between about 500 and about 1500, marriage for ordinary people was a case of literally "a kiss and a promise". Lots of people did this at the church door. Some of them did it inside the church, with a priest preaching a sermon over them and blessing their union. Other people married in woods, in their houses, in bed, in the street... Marriage didn't require witnesses, it didn't require the state *or* the church, it just required two people to kiss and promise to be married.

We know about this largely because of court cases where someone broke their promise, or said they hadn't promised, or where the parents of one party wanted to deny that the promise was of the present time rather than the future. We have court cases where someone was seduced with kiss and promise and the other party later denied having promised. But we also have court cases where people are prosecuted for "leirwite", sex before marriage, which was illegal. Divorce was illegal, except for annullment, by the church, which was therefore in the divorce business before it was in the marriage business. Marriage was a real binding and hard to break contract, but it was entered into very easily. The only time the state took a hand was when money or property was involved. If a dowry was being given with a daughter, someone had to pay (sometimes the bride, sometimes her father, sometimes the groom) a fee that was similar to the fee a peasant family would pay if a son were coming into his inheritance or going into the church.

The one thing a marriage absolutely required, before the Reformation, was that it be freely entered into by both parties.

If we keep that one rule it eliminates slavery cases as mentioned above and allows great flexibility with numbers and genders.

#13 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 10:58 AM:

[Historical aside: Divorce was illegal

Not necessarily. (I grant that all the examples given are of later than 1500, but suspect that the tradition is, nonetheless, older than recorded accounts.) If I can bring myself to ignore the patriarchal awfulness of selling a woman in a halter as if she were cattle, this marketplace method actually looks like an effective and efficient means of publicly declaring a divorce and re-marriage in a non-literate culture without making children of the first marriage illegitimate and unable to inherit.]

The one thing a marriage absolutely required, before the Reformation, was that it be freely entered into by both parties. If we keep that one rule it eliminates slavery cases as mentioned above and allows great flexibility with numbers and genders.

Agreed.

#14 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 11:22 AM:

PNH:

I think I'll have to do some more poking on the wording of the UT laws--my girlfriend said she had heard something about them recently changing things to allow polygamy, but didn't know much more about it. It sounds like this might be what she was talking about. In either event, nifty.

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 11:38 AM:

Steve, I've always found that observation striking.

Mitch, I have several households' worth of good friends who've been living polygamously for years. None of them set out to be polygamists as a matter of theory or religion. The polygamous arrangements were a natural outgrowth of specific relationships between specific people.

There's already a completely civil union of the sort you describe. It's called a business partnership. I have a very broad definition of marriage, but to my mind an essential component is the sense that for the people in it, this demarcated relationship is important in a way that nothing else is. Conceivably, one might be part of more than one such relationship, but it'd be like holding more than one public office, or holding down more than one job: Possible; seldom if ever an ideal arrangement; and at the point that you go from two to three, people have a right to start doubting your committment to any of them.

At bottom, I don't think governments or religions make marriages. People make marriages, and governments and religions are therefore obliged to take notice of them.

You're right that what's going on in Short Creek is better described as slavery than anything else. That includes both the girls being given as chattel, and the boys being ordered into "work missions" where their wages are paid to the FLDS. The older church members' economic subjection comes close to it.

I've been doing a lot of reading about modern slavery. One of these days I have to write about it. Even if you exclude things like abusive sweatshop operations, and the various exploitive employment arrangements you can find around the world, and just concentrate on clear-cut cases of slavery, there's more of it going on now than there was in the early 19th century. The biggest difference is that slaves are much cheaper now. (Yes, really.)

But I digress.

Yonmei, religions aren't going to get out of the marriage business, nor should they, nor do we have any right to suggest that they do so.

As for history, and your notion that "Marriage has been a matter governed by law for millennia before it was ever - ever - a matter for religion" -- well, er, um. Is there a polite way to say "Criminently Christmas, how much history have you read?" If anybody comes up with a good suggestion, I'll swap it out for what I just said.

Maybe I'm missing one or two examples, but right now I can't think of a single human culture where law, religion, and marriage customs haven't been inextricably entangled. They have to be. Marriage touches upon everything, sooner or later, and so does religion, and so does law. If you're looking at one of those societies whose formal religion doesn't much concern itself with day-to-day interpersonal behavior, you can bet there'll be social customs filling that same function.

As for our present society, our separation of religion and state prohibits us from telling religions what they can or can't do regarding marriage. All we can do is choose to not pay attention to what religions do or don't recognize.

By the way, do you have any particular reasons for thinking they should be separate?

Alter: You know a great deal more about that than I do, but everthing I know matches what you're saying. Our evidence for the existence of marriage predates anything we have for the existence of formal law. The point at which we can start claiming to understand the religious life of ancient cultures is good for at least an evening's worth of well-lubricated argument.

Patrick, I apologize for not being able to find the reference you want. I've looked at a lot of polygamy websites lately. The Utah law distinguishes everyday marital irregularity from situations where the second-or-subsequent person with whom you enter into this relationship is under eighteen, or is significantly younger than you are. It's a good place to draw the line.

Jo: Intent makes marriage, in the short version. I'm sure a lot of the girls in Short Creek would say they consented. Freely entering into marriage is another matter. They don't get to freely enter into anything, before or after they're married, so that distinction isn't going to be clear to them.

In my opinion, the first thing Short Creek needs is to have a commercial bus line making stops in town.

Varia, I don't think the Utah law legalizes polygamy of any sort. It just makes it clear that the purpose of the law is not to bust three or four people of comparable age who've been living quietly together for years.

#16 ::: Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 11:54 AM:

It's slavery, all right. For the boys as well as the girls. Is none of this illegal? Are there no authorities doing anything about this?

#17 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 11:57 AM:

TNH:

Yeah, I figured that her comment was one of those "somebody read a reference and commented on an implication and then referred to it and it trickled down" sort of situations, not an actual legalization. It's still interesting to hear more about it.

Can you amplify your comments about commitment or doubting thereof? I'm not sure I understand what you mean.

I understand your point about the business partnership, but it leaves out some very important legal questions--the most central to me being children. It irks me, and scares me, that should I die, children of me and any of my other chosen family, could legally be sent to my dysfunctional hate-filled birth family, and depending on their courts, my chosen family might not even be able to put up a fight. Clean up the laws to protect them from *that*, and I won't get so feisty.

#18 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 12:02 PM:

“Criminently Christmas, how much history have you read?”

*g* I'll accept the intention of polite criticism of my historical knowledge.

By the way, do you have any particular reasons for thinking they should be separate?

Why, yes, I do. Different religions have different rules about who is and isn't allowed to get married. Members of a religion may respect and obey those rules, or attempt to reform their religion if they think the rules are lousy, or disobey the rules and accept or reject whatever religious penalty their religion imposes for this disobedience. But I can't think of a single rational reason why someone who is not a member of a religion should be required to obey the rules of that religion. None.

Yet, in any society larger than one family, I think it's been proven essential to have marriage laws. There are certain rights that a married couple have, and ought to have, that other people should be required to respect: there are certain obligations that a married couple take on towards each other: there are inheritance rights and tax laws and pension rights (and, in the US, health insurance access) and so on and so forth. Marriage is a matter of law.

In any society that has more than one religion, you can have either a discriminatory system, where what legal rights you have depends on what religion you are a member of, or an undiscriminatory system, where everyone has equal rights under the law. The US chose, a couple of hundred years ago, the undiscriminatory system: my own country is gradually, but slowly, working its way there.

I am not objecting at all to people who want their marriage to be religious. That's perfectly fine if that's what they want: they should be able to superimpose their religious values on the legal framework of marriage to whatever extent they wish.

But the legal framework of marriage should be freely available to everyone: it should not be ringfenced off according to the rules of one religion, privileged above others.

An adult who believes in polygamous marriage ought to be able to marry other consenting adults in legal marriage: this does not and should not affect a Catholic couple who believe that marriage is a sacrament for a man and a woman and divorce is a sin: nor a pagan couple who believe that handfasting is a celebration of life and joy. All should have the same legal marriage, with the same rights and obligations.

That's why I think that religious marriage and legal marriage ought to be separate. That doesn't mean I insist that you have to visit a registry office separately from the religious ceremony: if you can have the legal contract formally concluded in your place of religion, as part of your religious ceremony, and you want to do that, fine and dandy. But yes, Teresa: I do believe that whatever someone's religion, and whatever the religion of the person they marry, they still ought to have the same rights under the law.

#19 ::: Elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 12:46 PM:

I could be mistaken (and can't find a handy reference right by me), but I seem to recall that there are some Federal white-slavery laws that expressly forbid the transport of minors across state lines for the purpose of prostitution. I would think that would apply in these cases, at least the ones where it's between the two Utah-Arizona communities.

I would guess that would neatly skip prosecuting the older adults making life-style choices part as well as making it clear that it's plain old slavery, but I'm no legal scholar.

Of course, maybe the Feds are too busy busting almanac readers to take up the gauntlet...

As for ancient law and marriage and religion, the laws of classical Athens were actually pretty complicated regarding marriage, with particular rules about who got which children, who counted as what heir, and how property was divided in divorce. Fascinating stuff. Religion, law, and culture were, like today, interwoven throughout.

#20 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 12:48 PM:

In my opinion, the first thing Short Creek needs is to have a commercial bus line making stops in town.

I disagree. The first thing Short Creek needs is to have the FBI come in, arrest all the adults (sort victims (mostly women) from perps (mostly men) later), and take all the children away to places where they won't be isolated, sexually abused, and enslaved. The entire town should be abolished. If I were writing a screenplay instead of recommending a course of action, I would suggest burning it to the ground.

(Warning: I have no brakes when it comes to the topic of people systematically abusing children, whatever f***ing "scripture" they quote to justify it.)

Separation of Church and State does not mean that illegal, exploitive things have to be tolerated just because a religion believes in them. If I decide to recreate Mayan religion, and my research (or "divine inspiration") suggests that regular human sacrifice is an important element thereof, I'm out of luck. I can't practice human sacrifice in a sane society.

Ditto slavery. Ditto child prostitution, which is what this looks like to me (and ALL child prostitution is a form of slavery IMO).

I can't believe that we ban peyote ritual, and let this sort of abomination (as in Stone Them Who Do This) go on.

Their "Prophet" is the pimp of a child prostitution ring. Why hasn't some law enforcement agency stepped in?

Ah, I know: they're not carrying almanacs.

#21 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 12:49 PM:

Rats, Elizabeth, you got in with the almanac thing while I was still writing...

#22 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 12:54 PM:

Yonmei: Mitch, bluntly, I think while I agree with you, the phrasing is the wrong way round: churches should get out of the marriage business.

No, my phrasing is right and it is your phrasing that is wrong-way around.

Churches have been in "the marriage business" for quite some time, and that is as it should be. Jewish and Christian churches have a set of rules as to who is permitted to marry: two people. one man, one woman. The Catholic Church forbids divorce. All of this is right and proper, so long as the members of the church are members of their own free will.

But the government has no business codifying those church rules into law. Homosexuals should be free to marry, and if churches have a problem with that, then those churches are under no compulsion to recognize those unions as binding - under religious law. Members of those churches would be compelled to recognize the union as binding under civil law.

Teresa: Mitch, I have several households' worth of good friends who've been living polygamously for years. None of them set out to be polygamists as a matter of theory or religion. The polygamous arrangements were a natural outgrowth of specific relationships between specific people.

I just want to double-check here: when you say "polygamously," you mean one man and two or more women living as husband and wives, correct? If so, I am rather surprised that polygamy is so prevalent outside of the Mormon territories (or are you talking about people in the Mormon territories?). I knew that polyamory is is somewhat commonplace - two or more women and two or more men.

Everybody I know is either single or in couples, mostly heterosexual, one or two gay couples (and I don't know the gay couples very well). I'm boring.

There’s already a completely civil union of the sort you describe. It’s called a business partnership.

Is there? I'm not an expert on marriage law but it is my impression that there are some legal ties between husband and wife that cannot be entered into through any other form of contract. I can designate another man as having power of attorney in case I become so ill or injured that I cannot make decisions on my own behalf. We can petition the state to have him adopt my children. We can sign contracts sharing our community property. But I was under the impression that there are special recognition given to marriage by law which cannot be granted through any other contract.

I have a very broad definition of marriage, but to my mind an essential component is the sense that for the people in it, this demarcated relationship is important in a way that nothing else is. Conceivably, one might be part of more than one such relationship, but it’d be like holding more than one public office, or holding down more than one job: Possible; seldom if ever an ideal arrangement; and at the point that you go from two to three, people have a right to start doubting your committment to any of them.

Here's some things that seem to me to be intuitively true:

- Group marriages and line marriages of the type posited by Robert A. Heinlein are indeed possible - provided they are a closed group. It would be possible for a person to be "married" to a group of, say, six other adults, so long as each of the seven people were married to each other.

- I'm more skeptical that there can be an open-ended marriage. If Bob says he's married to Sue, and Sue is married to Bill, but Bob is not married to Bill - that's an inherently unstable situation, and in fact none of the three of them are married at all.

- Even within a group or line marriage there will be some ties that are stronger than others. It'll be like ANY extended family. Bob, Sue, John and Mary may all be equally married in the eyes of our (hypothetical future) law, but everyone within the marriage that Bob and John have a closer relationship than either Bob or John have.

Yonmei, there are several errors of fact here. For starters: in any society larger than one family, I think it's been proven essential to have marriage laws.

Actually, no, most societies don't have any laws. A tribe of hunter-gatherers doesn't have law, they have customs and the decisions of the tribal leaders.

Likewise, we've seen elsewhere in this discussion how many earlier civilizations had no laws at all.

I was taught in high school that the Roman Emperor Justinian was the first person to set down a code of law, and that's pretty late in the civilizaton game.

In any society that has more than one religion, you can have either a discriminatory system, where what legal rights you have depends on what religion you are a member of, or an undiscriminatory system, where everyone has equal rights under the law. The US chose, a couple of hundred years ago, the undiscriminatory system: my own country is gradually, but slowly, working its way there.

Actually, the situation in the U.S. is more complicated than that. At least some of the Founding Fathers espoused the undiscriminatory system you describe, but what we now have in the U.S. is a lowest-common-denominator system where we've mostly codified into law most of the religious rules held in common by all the most popular Christian Churches along with Judaism.

If you are not an American, perhaps you don't know this: the Mormons had polygamy at the foundation of their religion, and were running their own separate country in Utah and parts of Arizona through the 19th Century. They wanted to become a part of the United States, and were required to give up polygamy as part of that deal.

Likewise, Moslem law permits a man to take up to four wives if he can support them - but not if the man lives in the U.S., he can't.

I am not objecting at all to people who want their marriage to be religious. That?s perfectly fine if that's what they want: they should be able to superimpose their religious values on the legal framework of marriage to whatever extent they wish.

But the legal framework of marriage should be freely available to everyone: it should not be ringfenced off according to the rules of one religion, privileged above others.

We are in 100 percent agreement on this point, I think the rest of it that we're disagreeing about is just wording and window-dressing.

An adult who believes in polygamous marriage ought to be able to marry other consenting adults in legal marriage: this does not and should not affect a Catholic couple who believe that marriage is a sacrament for a man and a woman and divorce is a sin: nor a pagan couple who believe that handfasting is a celebration of life and joy. All should have the same legal marriage, with the same rights and obligations.

Like I said: I agree with all of the preceding except for the polygamy part; I'm not so sure of that.

Polygamy has, in my mind, been closely associated with the kinds of abuses practiced in Short Creek - before I slap the "Legalize Polygamy!" bumper sticker on the back of my car, I'd like to see some evidence that polygamy and female slavery can be separated from each other.

That doesn't mean I insist that you have to visit a registry office separately from the religious ceremony: if you can have the legal contract formally concluded in your place of religion, as part of your religious ceremony, and you want to do that, fine and dandy.

Yup. We can imagine some process akin to becoming a notary public, which would allow people to certify others as being members of a civil union. The office of marriage-recognizer would be open to everyone - and that could certainly include priests, rabbis, shaman and, um, whatever wiccans and pagans have. :)

If you object to reserving the term "marriage" for religious bonds, and using "civil union" generally, then we can come up with other verbal tags to distinguish the two partnerships: "civil marriages" and "religious marriages," maybe - or "secular" and "ecclesiastic" marriages, which gives us the opportunity to throw around a couple of $20 words.

#23 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 01:02 PM:

Mitch:

Quick clarification. Polygamy, technically, means multiple spouses, and said spouses can be of whatever gender combination you desire, and marriage (however you define it) is a definite part of the equation. Polygyny is the more correct term for what's going on in Short Creek, and refers to one man, multiple women. Polyandry is the rarely seen opposite, wherein you have one woman, multiple men.

Polyamory is a whole different ball game than the other three, in that marriage (however you define it) is not a requirement. Polyamory is a belief in romantic love for multiple people.

Would someone more familiar with healthy adult Mormon relationships care to tackle the question about polygyny? I'm pretty sure it can be, as I can't see any logical reason why not, but I must admit all of the people I know firsthand who're doing this are in polyamorous or polygamous relationships.

#24 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 01:10 PM:

No, my phrasing is right and it is your phrasing that is wrong-way around.

That's odd, I think the exact same thing!

If you object to reserving the term “marriage” for religious bonds, and using “civil union” generally

Yes, I do. A couple who are married, are married, if the law of their country decrees them to be married. To insist that they only get to call themselves a "civil union" rather than a "married couple" if they didn't want or couldn't get a religious ceremony would be to discriminate against a fairly large group of people, ranging from atheists to gay Catholics.

Informally, people can and will say what they like. But formally, yes, I want the word marriage to be the one used for all marriages without discrimination: we can call the additional, extra-legal religious ceremony a "religious union" when we need to specify the difference.

#25 ::: trinker ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 01:21 PM:

To Mitch:
Are there lots of non-Mormons in relationships consisting of >2 adults? Depends on your definition of "lots", but I'd say yes, there are a significant number of households consisting of >2 in a romantic/sexual grouping.

If it were possible to do this legally, they would be less closeted. As it is, it sets one up for ugly battles with child protective services, if there are any children in the family, and with legal tangles regarding bigamy.

You're right about certain rights being restricted to husband/wife pairings. Insurance benefits immediately spring to mind, with the few exceptions for domestic partnership.

#26 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 01:54 PM:

Varia - Ah. I've been using "polygamy" incorrectly throughout this discussion. No wonder I was surprised and confused by Teresa's statement that she knew a few polygamous households. I read it as if she was saying that she knew a few polyandrous households.

#27 ::: Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 02:02 PM:

"Are there lots of non-Mormons in relationships consisting of >2 adults? Depends on your definition of “lots”, but I’d say yes, there are a significant number of households consisting of >2 in a romantic/sexual grouping."

Works for me, as long as the parties are in voluntary consent (and are of age to give such consent meaningfully).

That's not what's happening at Short Creek.

#28 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 02:02 PM:

Mitch, just to further the information pool, I also know of several families which consist of more than two adults, some of whom may be legally married to each other, all of whom live together as if married. In at least one case these people are raising children together.

And these are not the same people Teresa is thinking of, though she and I know many of the same people.

#29 ::: Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 02:03 PM:

A slight tangent here, but the following caught my eye.

Mitch wrote: I was taught in high school that the Roman Emperor Justinian was the first person to set down a code of law, and that’s pretty late in the civilizaton game.

Just off the top of my head, there is the Codex Hammurabi, the Solonian Constitution, the Lex Duodecim Tabularum. All of them predate Justinian's code (which was mostly a consolidation of existing statutes into a single code, too). Did you have an implicit additional requirement here that I am missing?

#30 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 02:04 PM:

Mitch - law existed as a series of individual legislation issued by the emperors, and interpreted by judges, long before it was bundled together in an organized code. Producing a legal code gave judges a single reference that they could use for all extant law, as opposed to requiring them to have access to all of the individual documents; it also resolved the problem that occurred when a judge in one jurisdiction remembered a law that had issued from the Emperor fifty years ago, while judges in the neighboring jurisdiction did not. I wouldn't say that the creation of the Theodosian Code (Theodosius, not Justinian, was the first emperor to put together a code of law) constituted the first Roman law; it took the existing law, simplified and rationalized it, and published it in one place.

There is, I suppose, an interesting debate to be had as to whether or not the edicts of the Emperor - or, in its time, of the Senate - constitute law. :)

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 02:17 PM:

Mitch quotes:There’s already a completely civil union of the sort you describe. It’s called a business partnership.

Mitch sez:Is there? I’m not an expert on marriage law but it is my impression that there are some legal ties between husband and wife that cannot be entered into through any other form of contract. [Examples of things contracts can do.] But I was under the impression that there are special recognition given to marriage by law which cannot be granted through any other contract.

You're correct. I don't believe there is any contract which allows you to file federal, state, and local income tax jointly (not for personal income). And marriage is The. Only. Legal. Contract. that requires (or can require) specific sexual behavior (sexual contracts other than marriage are strictly illegal).

Only if we are married in the full legal sense of the word can I sue you for infidelity, in other words. This impacts people's relationships in many, many ways.

#32 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 02:27 PM:

Steve Taylor writes: "It puts me in mind of a snippet of Sherlock Holmes that I’ve always admired"

I was also reminded of Holmes, but in my case, of the story A Study in Scarlet (I think) which directly involves Mormons, forced marriage, and wives-as-index-of-status.

#33 ::: Rachel Brown ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 02:48 PM:

Jesus Christ. I don't know what's most appalling, that there's a whole community built on sex slavery and child abuse, that it exists in America-- in Arizona, of all places, or that these kids _still_ have to flee to a shelter because the police won't lift a finger to break it up.

The articles say that the trouble is that the wives won't testify against their husbands and that what's going on isn't technically polygamy because only one of the marriages is usually legal, but neither of those should prevent prosecutions for rape, child sexual abuse, slavery, kidnapping, sexual slavery, assault and battery, and possibly violation of child labor laws.

They could also look into welfare fraud and income tax fraud, which often trip up people who can't be easily charged with the main crimes they're committing. Keeping kids from school without home schooling them. Zoning violations. Anything.

#34 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 02:53 PM:

I think I have to agree with the people who say the right-way-'round to say this is "Government should get out of the marriage business."

[Of course, I also believe that taxes should have nothing to do with marital status. (And it has shifted over the years just what that effect is.) But I believe a lot of things about taxes that I'm probably in a minority on, and it wouldn't surprise me if this were one of them.]

The government doesn't get to regulate who I sleep with* (in either the literal or sexual senses), who I share a house with, who I share money with, who I support financially or emotionally, whose kids I choose to help raise and watch over, who I cook for, who I clean for, or other similar life decisions. It does get to regulate, though doesn't really significantly restrict, how I go about sharing ownership of certain things, or the inheritance thereof, but it certainly doesn't limit it to someone I have an official marital relationship with. So why does it get to regulate who I get a little slip of paper with declaring we're married?

(*Note: it does regulate who I sleep with in terms of consent laws, but that is, I think, a separate issue from the rest of the bundle.)

The Church of Your Choice might have rules about marriage but the church is of your choice and you choose to follow them. It isn't imposed on you in an unchangeable way. So churches' involvement with marriage isn't really restrictive; if you're that unhappy with a religion's rules, you're probably going to drift away from or defy that religion regardless of the actual topic. Church involvement in marriage itself causes no harm (people's interpration of it is another matter) and often does some emotional good for the people involved. So why should we kick them out of the process?

Which I suppose is sort of what's said above.

And, just to add to the pool: I also know people living as if they were in group marriages, some with children, and I almost guarantee they aren't the same people Teresa knows (although we do have some acquaintances in common via fandom, it's fairly far-flung).

And finally, let me sum up by quoting Mitch:

"But the government has no business codifying those church rules into law."

Exactly.

I just wrote very briefly about this in my LJ yesterday after reading the news about Ohio's new same-sex ban. I pointed out the fact that the word "sacrament" was included in discussions about the whole concept of marriage was precisely the reason why government shouldn't be making laws about marriage, and remember when we had a Constitution in this country? Could we dust that off again? I seem to recall it had some good points in it.

#35 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 03:09 PM:

Forget what I said about Justinian, it's clear I was talking through my hat on that one.

Xopher - Ah. Thank you for clearing that up.

#36 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 03:26 PM:

Thanks so much for this, Teresa, although it made me feel physically ill.

If you'd like to send a check to the Child Protection Project, here's the address:

The Child Protection Project
c/o David Gould
555 South Flower Street, Suite 4510
Los Angeles CA 90071

#37 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 04:24 PM:

At the point that you go from two to three, people have a right to start doubting your committment to any of them.

Why then, Teresa? I mean, I've doubted the commitment to/in a large number of two-person hetero marriages (or single-political-office-holders, for that matter). Am I just unusually cynical about these things?

I think it would be a very good thing if there was an easy set of forms for declaring oneself near kin with someone else for whatever reasons, without having to go through all of the power of attorney, inheritance, etc. etc. etc. paperwork. Most of us should probably have paperwork explicitly filled out for our medical decisions and the disposal of our property and all that anyway, but my lawfully wedded spouse and I had to fill out exactly one form to become defaults on a lot of legal stuff. There's no way to easily designate a secondary default as far as I've been able to find out.

I don't really get why it would be a bad thing for the government to let consenting adults sign on as each other's family: "No, really, we're willing to take care of this person, too!" What harm there? And what do they care if some consenting adult members of that group have sex and some don't? It's not like we're unable to do that *without* being allowed to make medical and financial decisions for each other, for heaven's sake.

It's a horror and a shame that these children are put through this sort of thing, much less by the very people who are supposed to love them most. I save the lion's share of my indignation and upset for that. But there's a little corner of my heart that sighs, just a bit, that the situation muddies the waters on consenting, loving adult relationships by using some of the same terminology.

#38 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 05:10 PM:

Mris, I'm not saying it's impossible; just that I'd start looking askance -- same way I would with an employee who had two other jobs, or a politician who was holding two other offices.

Mitch, now that I think about, one of the households I had in mind is technically polyandrous. The other is far more complicated. Technical, even. None of the people involved are Mormons. The relationships are serious and of long duration.

As far as I know, I'm not socially acquainted with any Mormon polygamists. You want to hear something funny? I don't have any social prejudices against gentile polygamists per se, but Mormon polygamists are another story.

Yonmei, it's also the case that different administrations, political parties, government departments, and public officials have/had different opinions and policies about marriage.

If what you mean is that government policies ought not take their cues from specific denominations' religious doctrines, I'm all for it.

Rachel, the only part of your post I don't understand is "in Arizona, of all places".

Varia, what Mormons practice is technically polygyny, not polygamy. One man, many women: fine. One woman, more than one man: scandalous, an offense before god, foundations of civilized society crumble on the spot, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

A general observation: You know all those people who go on about the Defense of Marriage? Malarkey. They just don't like gays. If they were really concerned about affronts to the institution of marriage, they'd have funded a rescue mission in Short Creek ages ago.

Oh, and Chris? That approach -- going in with fire, sword, and law enforcement -- has already been tried. Look up "Short Creek Raid". The notoriety of that episode is the reason the town renamed itself Colorado City when it incorporated.

#39 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 06:20 PM:

Ter, you're right about the Defense of Marriage people. There is not one rational argument against same-sex marriage, and there are PLENTY of rational arguments against this sort of hideous exploitation.

I'll look up the raid sometime when I'm feeling up to it. Right now I'd probably have apoplexy. And if fire, sword, and law enforcement doesn't work, how about pitchforks, tar, and feathers?

#40 ::: Murph ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 06:57 PM:

A friend's grandfather (a Jessop, of which there were plenty) was in Short Creek when it was raided. He never knew the man, since his dad and all the siblings jumped ship pretty early, I think.

Note that the governor then lost his re-election bid, and you'll find one reason for the shyness. Also, the whole Waco thing runs deep in that territory, which is why they've used things like welfare fraud to go after these guys.

D

#41 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 07:08 PM:

If they were really concerned about insults to the sacred institution of marriage, they'd have said something about Nevada's laws by now. (*cough* B.S. *cough*)

As for the polygamy issue, the one rational reason I can think of to make "civil marriage" a two-adults-only deal is the issue of tiebreaking when something bad happens (who gets the money, who makes medical decisions, etc).

Speaking of medical decisions, isn't it great that the same folks who like to quote Leviticus against same sex civil marriages are happy to ignore Genesis 2:24 ("Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.") when it comes to the Terri Schiavo case?

#42 ::: Rachel Brown ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 07:10 PM:

Regarding Arizona, the only part of it I've spent much time in is Tucson, which is one of my favorite cities in the US. (Bookshops, glittery sand, saguaros, writers and artists, friends, more bookshops, peeping lines of baby quail...) It's like hearing that the Hellmouth is beneath your favorite pizza place.

#43 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 07:18 PM:

Chris, I suspect that what they're going to send in is the Mojave County Sheriff's department. That's less podunk than you might imagine. Arizona has great big counties. (No point in making 'em smaller; the contents arern't exactly concentrated.) Mojave County, at the northwest corner of the state, covers more than thirteen thousand square miles, and takes in the west end of the Grand Canyon, the Lake Mead area, the Kaibab and half the Havasupai reservations, assorted military bases, and a broad stripe of westernmost Arizona all the way down to Lake Havasu and the London Bridge. Its sheriff's department is not controlled by a bunch of ignernt polygamist peckerwoods in Colorado City.

Murph -- One of the Jessops? No kidding. A friend of mine is one of the Youngs, descended from a wife who jumped ship before the migration west. Another friend -- and here I'm thinking about the "nobody talks about it" aspect -- only found out his family had been Mormon when he got a taste of my mother's potato salad, a distinctive formulation he'd only ever run into before because his aunt made hers the exact same way. Turned out the generation before his -- two sisters and their husbands -- had been Mormon when they'd gotten married, but sometime after that Something Had Happened, and thereafter nobody ever talked about anything. And then there's that branch of my own family that We Don't Talk About; but we don't talk about that.

#44 ::: David Frazer ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 07:31 PM:

As I've mentioned before, I'm descended (I'm not sure of the details) from Mormon apostates T.B.H. and Fanny Stenhouse, who wrote books about the less than admirable history of the Mormon church. IIRC their daughter (who didn't leave the church) married one of Brigham Young's sons, so I'm probably related to half the population of Utah.

I really ought to have the details ready for the next time some missionaries show up...

#45 ::: Colin ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 07:49 PM:

Teresa: A general observation: You know all those people who go on about the Defense of Marriage? Malarkey. They just don’t like gays. If they were really concerned about affronts to the institution of marriage, they’d have funded a rescue mission in Short Creek ages ago.

Clearly. If they were really interested in defending the sanctity of marriage, they'd be banging down the doors at Fox (or whichever network) demanding that all the shows like "The Bachelor" and "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire" be taken off the air because they are disrespectful to the institution.

You may have heard about the AFA's response to the unexpected result on their little marriage poll last month. It amuses me to no end.

#46 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 08:04 PM:

Teresa wrote:
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about modern slavery. One of these days I have to write about it.

I'll look forward to that very much. I'd also be very interested in any books, articles or sites you recommend.

#47 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 08:46 PM:

Teresa - What makes your mother's potato salad special?

(signed) A Potato Salad Aficionado

#48 ::: Jonathan Edelstein ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 09:02 PM:

Why am I getting echoes of Kiryas Joel? (See letter of Samuel Rabinove; see also here.)

#49 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 09:45 PM:

Just to raise a couple complications - marriage has some strong implications for immigration and nationality laws -same sex marriage taken at declarants face value without further ado has shown some odd implications/inducements for male serial polyandry

(if that's the word - perhaps the cross tab vocabulary exists but I don't know it, else polygamy but not polygyny - set notation omitted)

in acquiring residency/citizenship rights in immigrant communities in a European country whose name escapes me (googling left as an exercise)

- could argue that the State does not interfere with property rights in less legally defined relationships but will only defend certain property rights based on simplifying assumptions amounting to accepted standards of evidence - cf. favoring or disfavoring common law marriages in different times and places in the United States mostly to achieve equity.

#50 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 09:56 PM:

I've heard wives say, only half-joking, that they could use a wife, too. Usually referring to someone to help with childrearing or housework.

Have wives ever, in Europe, asked their husbands to buy another wife? I'm not being snide. Really wondering. And, less seriously, wondering if Free Market true-believers would support "privatizing" the marketplace for spouses?

Now that Neil Labute [spelling?] has replaced Orson Scott Card as #1 Mormon Playwright, can we get Labute to try his hand at skiffy?

#51 ::: Murph ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 10:54 PM:

Somewhere my Jessop friend has an old Life magazine with a photo spread of his grandfather and a whole swack of wives. And I remember him telling me that they set the town on the border so that they could all hide on one side and whatever state police were doing the raiding couldn't touch them.

D

#52 ::: Margene Bahm ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 11:57 PM:

This is a fascinating discussion. Being involved on a first person basis with this lifestyle, I feel the need to comment.

I am in a 3 person "marriage" which has live in the same house for almost 11 years. We own property together, including the house and all the cars, and have a sheaf of paperwork from our attorney to complete which will cover everything from medical care to being mutually heirs to each other. Our relationship consists of 1 man and 2 women. We are all in our 40s and 50s so I think we would qualify as "consenting adults". I introduce my spice (plural of spouse) as my husband and my wife. The other 2 are actually legally married to each other and have been for 25 years.

We are not the only ones in Kansas City fandom. We are good friend with a MFM group and a MFMF group.

Life would be so much simpler for us if there were some form civil marriage available to any configuration of consenting adults willing to take on the responsibilities that go with the relationship. The legal papers we are trying to interpret are extensive. I write contracts for a living and I am having problems understanding them.

Over the last few years, I have come to the conclusion (possibly false) that all of the "marriage" laws in this country are probably unconstitutional. My reasoning for this is the fact that all the State and Federal laws have a basis in Judeo-Christian religion. This is a separation of church and state issue. Probably why the Conservatives are pushing for a "Marriage Ammendment" to the Constitution. They think the laws are unconstitutional also. Unfortunately, it would take someone with a lot more money than we have to fight this issue through the Supreme Court.

My comments on the story that started this discussion are coming from my status as a Mother and Grandmother. I think the Short Creek people are disgusting. This is, indeed, child abuse and slavery. Someone needs to find a way to put a stop to this. We are, emphatically, NOT talking about consenting adults here.

Any questions? Please feel free to ask.

#53 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 12:45 AM:

Does anyone know if Sherri Tepper was raised as a Mormon? The beginning of the first of the Mavin the Manyshaped series reminds me of Short Creek. *shuddersome*

#54 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 12:49 AM:

If you want to scare missionaries, claim you know Bill Shunn, a.k.a. William Perry Shunn. Like Mad Baggins, who reputedly disappeared with a bang and a flash, and reappeared with bags of gold and jewels, he has become a mythic character.

Nice guy, Bill. You'd never guess that he's an alarming folkloric figure amongst the Mormon missionary population.

#55 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 12:59 AM:

I've never met Bill Shunn, but I remember him from GEnie days. Next time the boys in the white shirts, clip-on ties and backpacks come to the door, I may drop his name just to get a reaction.

What is the Legend of Bill Shunn among the Mormons? I vaguely remember something about phoning in a terroristic threat, and I know he left the faith, lived with Karawynn Long for a while, and then returned to the faith.

#56 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 01:11 AM:

Didn't return to the faith. Married one of the most charming women in the world (not Karawynn Long), and now lives in Queens.

#57 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 01:29 AM:

TNH:

I'm still trying to figure out your comment about commitment to multiple relationships, but I guess my question echoes Mris'. I just don't see, from my own life or the other polyamorous people I know, that either multiple partners or monogamy is related to commitment. It seems like you personally know other people doing this sort of thing (polygamy or polyamory), so is this based on what you've observed with them? Or is it more abstract?


Margene:

I hear you, I hear you. My family and I have yet to begin the majority of the paperwork that this kind of thing entails, but all of the legal advice I've heard makes me almost despair before we start. It all boiled down to "we'll write it as well as possible, but anything can be challenged, and it only takes one judge." This from a widely experienced lawyer and friend. I don't even hope for social *support* for my "lifestyle" any more. I just wish it wasn't screwed from the get-go.

********

My other favorite thing about polyamory is that since we're acting outside the usual ideas of love and marriage, we end up thinking about, and defining, what we're doing, much more so than your average married couple does (at least most of the ones I know). And during all the discussions, our agreements with each other have come down to two things: unity as a family, and responsibility for our children. It kind of echoes the "marriage" in Heinlein's Time Enough For Love, in that the central promise (although we have others) is to care for our children.

I keep wondering, if the "marriage" vows (if such exist) in Short Creek involved that provision, or even centered around it, would the situation have ever gotten this bad?

My optimistic side wants to say that it couldn't have, that even people who don't *mean* it are at least given pause by the wording of the oaths they take, and that this might have given more power to early dissenters. My pessimistic side points out all the nice normal het people (ahem, Britney Spears, not to flog a dead meme) who can blithely recite vows they have no intention of keeping. Don't know. It's a nice hope, I guess.

#58 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 01:38 AM:

I got the return-to-the-faith thing from something Karawynn wrote online. I wonder what she meant when she wrote that? Did I misread it?

Google to the rescue! William Shunn: Inhuman Swill. His bio. Terror on Flight 789. Hard to tear myself away but alas the bed beckons.

I only vaguely remember when Bill Shunn posted his story to GEnie and yet it appeared it threw all of online fandom into turmoil. Of course, online fandom was being thrown into turmoil twice or three times a week back then, so it was quite possible to become distracted by offline life and miss a turmoil-throwing or three or four.

#59 ::: Hil ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 02:09 AM:

The discussion of unusual marriages reminded me of this article about Elizabeth Marston, wife of William Marston, the psychologist who created the comic Wonder Woman ('In your satin tights, fighting for your rights'). Besides apparently being a pocket rocket all her life, and inspiration for WW, she and William lived in a trio with another woman called Olive (there seems to be some discrepency in these accounts about her last name), the women had two children apiece, and when William died the two women continued living together until Olive's death.

#60 ::: David Frazer ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 05:42 AM:

If you want to scare missionaries, claim you know Bill Shunn, a.k.a. William Perry Shunn.

I've seen his website, skimmed Terror on Flight 789 and introduced an ex-Mormon online acquaintance to his glossary of LDS-speak. Does that count?

#61 ::: Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 06:45 AM:

Yonmei:

I remain unconvinced by the ability to draw distinctions between church and state in cultures like Dynastic Egypt, where the head of state wasn't just the supreme pontiff, but was, rather, a god, a not a minor one either. The state is the church, working to fulfill the wishes and bring glory to the name of the God, be it by raiding Nubia, or by building large things with limited practical function. It may well be that the justice system that commoners turned to when their contracts were not being fulfilled was not affiliated with the state at all, and was thus at least somewhat secular. But that doesn't improve the argument that marriages were of concern to the state before they were a concern of religion. Oh, and. Most of the written evidence that we have about the lives of the common folk in Egypt comes from the New Kingdom and later -- 1570 BCE is the start date on that, so it's practically modern, and somewhat less than relevant.

As far as the spirituality issues goes, if you look at a traditional Jewish Ketubah, which is the documentary part of a marriage, you'll discover that it's in Aramaic, which you probably won't be able to read. However, if you get a translated version, you'll see a good deal that amounts to a legal contract, and relatively little about spirituality. Nonetheless, there is a certain amount of evidence that current and traditional Jewish practice assigns at least some spiritual value to the marriage process. Absence of evidence, evidence of absence, and so on.

Even if you're going to posit that the marriage as a contract was lacking a spiritual dimension on the basis of that evidence, there's still going to be the usual pile of custom and religious taboo as to who can marry whom, at what ages, when different parties are to be held, or not to be held, and so on.

On another subject, to the best of my recollection, the Ur-Nammu code (2050 BCE) is the earliest legal code that we've found traces of. It would be foolish to assume that it's the earliest code ever, of course, but there were communities larger than families or even clans well before that; Jericho as a city, for example, is a Pre-Pottery Neolithic A site, which dates back to four thousand years before Ur-Nammu. It's not just earlier than writing -- it may well be earlier than agriculture.

Oral traditions are, of course, imperfectly preserved, and it's highly possible that they had what amounted to an oral legal code. But distinguishing between that, and tradition, and religion is beyond me. And beyond you, as well. I'm getting the impression that your model of a religious marriage seems to be one in which marriage is seen as a sacred bond, and one in which marriage is supposed to be eternal. I'm freely willing to admit that this is a fairly late view of marriage. It's also a fairly Christian view of marriage. Well, actually, it could also be a traditional Hindu view of marriage, but I'm far from expert in that area, so I'll ignore that possibility. Babylonian, Hittite, Jewish, and other Near Eastern legal codes all allowed for the possibility of divorce.

I'm not a hundred percent clear on what delineates a sacred bond, so I'll pass on that half of the model.

Teresa:
I'm actually not all that expert in this particular sub-area. If we were talking about, say, the Ma'agen Mikhael wreck, or the mortise and tenon system on the Ulu Burun wreck, or so on, that I'd concede to being at least somewhat expert on. However, I've sat one course that talked about Egypt, and that was focused almost exclusively on trade ties, and evidence thereof. My background in this area is a hobbyist's, albiet a hobbyist who's looking to go into a related field.

One of my favoritist memories on a similar subject was listening to one of the people who excavated at Catal Hoyuk talking to a neo-pagan Goddess type about the finds. He was being very polite, to the Goddess type due to a desire for the precious, precious funding, and to a certain degree his part in the conversation could have been replaced by a tape recorder that interspersed, "yes, that's possible, but we don't have much evidence on the subject" with "if we had more funding we could do more DNA work, and maybe get some evidence." Only a tape recorder couldn't have captured that look of pained horror that he kept trying to hide in the face of firm convictions as to the meaning of finds on the basis of no evidence whatsoever.

Jonathan:
Kiryat Joel has its own problems, as a theocratic township, but I've not heard any allegations of systematic child abuse anything like what's being reported about Short Creek. It would probably be at least polite not to suggest that people are handing out teenage girls like party favors, and driving unwanted boys away without at least some supporting evidence.

#62 ::: Jonathan Edelstein ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 07:00 AM:

Kiryat Joel has its own problems, as a theocratic township, but I’ve not heard any allegations of systematic child abuse anything like what’s being reported about Short Creek. It would probably be at least polite not to suggest that people are handing out teenage girls like party favors, and driving unwanted boys away without at least some supporting evidence

Sorry, I was being unclear. I didn't mean to suggest that child abuse was common in Kiryas Joel, only that the methods of social control there (including enforced isolation and resource monopolies) were similar to those used in the FLDS communities.

#63 ::: Kim Wells ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 09:29 AM:

I totally agree with Xopher on this one. If I lived near that town, I'm afraid I'd have to start up an "Undergound Railroad" with a huge bus and big signs saying "THIS WAY TO FREEDOM AND THE 21ST CENTURY". But then, I'd probably be the one to get arrested.

I like the idea of burning the place to the ground (and I've actually been through Waco, and know exactly what that means). But I'm not sure I would let the slave-trading bastards in charge out first.

I'm horrified that this is happening, and even more so that the legal authorities aren't doing anything about it, even though they clearly are aware of the problem.

Is there anything legally that concerned adults who aren't nearby can do? Yes, I see the link to where we can donate money, but are there letters that can be written or Oprah's to be notified?

#64 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 10:24 AM:

Lydia: No clue about Sherri S. Tepper, but her book The Gate To Women's Country has a polygamist society in it that resembles Short Creek to no small degree. Weirdly enough, right before I happened across the Colorado City story, I had just finished re-reading Gate for the second time in my life--the first time being in my mid-teens. It totally slid by me then as being representative of Southern Utah polygamist society. Then as I started reading about Ruby Jessop on ex-Mormon recovery boards, my interest in the CC/Hildale polygs was piqued. So a few weeks ago, when I ran across Gate to Women's Country in a used bookstore, I snagged it and re-read.

I'm at work, btw, so can't follow the whole thread, but hopefully I can catch up this weekend. :)

#65 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 12:53 PM:

You aren't allowed to have a single marriage with someone who isn't of age or capable of consent, so I don't see how this has anything to do with my views on polygamy. This is a group of pedophile child slavers, and they can call their system feeding carrots to little fluffy bunnies if they want, it still doesn't make them polygamists. They're pedophile child slavers.

There is no private relationship (other than parent-child, which is fairly closely regulated) which is valid when it's not based on consent. I'm an absolutist about that.

I shy away from private vengeance, but it would not keep me up nights if these men ended up in the general population of a federal prison.

#66 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 12:57 PM:

I'm not sure Kiryas Joel's internal problems are primarily theocratic, or that they're any more serious than those in a comparable gated community or in Williamsburg, honestly. The people of Kiryas Joel bloc vote and their leaders are bullies. That's not something that's restricted at all to religious communities.

#67 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 01:49 PM:

One of my favoritist memories on a similar subject was listening to one of the people who excavated at Catal Hoyuk talking to a neo-pagan Goddess type...

[cringe]As a "neo-Pagan Goddess type" myself, I'm aware that we have bozos like the one you describe in our community. The problem is that while absense of evidence isn't evidence of absense, it's not proof of existence either. Some of our more fringy types fail to draw that little line in the mental sand. Or are missing some mental sand outright.

Also, they miss the second part of "If you don't have the story you want, make one up -- as long as you remember that it's only a story." We have lots of 'em.

But there are also lots and lots of Christians who have trouble making this last distinction; in fact, if you call the Bible "just a story" (or worse yet, "Christian mythology") they get all huffy. One would think that if their stories weren't all literally true, it would completely invalidate their religion. Far from true, IMO.

Or maybe it's just that they don't have as much respect for stories as we have. Stories shape our lives; it's good to be able to separate them from scientific fact, but both fact and story have value.

#68 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 02:39 PM:

Varia: My other favorite thing about polyamory is that since we?re acting outside the usual ideas of love and marriage, we end up thinking about, and defining, what we?re doing, much more so than your average married couple does (at least most of the ones I know). ...

And this is precisely something that has turned me off about polyamory when discussing the matter with polyamorous persons: it seems to me that there's a multiplication of the work parts of the relationship that might well be all out of proportion to the multiplication of the good parts of the relationship.

You're right: my wife and I don't think much about or talk about the nature of our marriage. We are done with that, we already decided it. We talk about individual issues that might be bothering us, or making us happy, but the overall nature of the relationship is already decided.

When I hear about the polyamorous pleasures of relationship discussions, I think back to when I was single. I'd be dating a woman for three months or so, we'd be getting along pretty well, and she'd say, "Where is this relationship going?" She wasn't apparently talking about whether we should get married, or date each other exclusively, or move in together, or have children - I'd have been happy to talk about those things. I was not some commitment-phobic young bachelor - I was willing to make commitments. There seemed to be something else these women wanted from me, something I did not quite understand and was unable to deliver. It wasn't commitment, or affection, or attention, or listening to their feelings, it was something else.

And yet polyamorous persons seem to love those sorts of discussions.

If I wanted to be really cynical and offensive I'd say that polyamory represents more birthdays and anniversaries to forget! More people who have food preferences different from yours, thus making meal selection and preparation even more complicated! More obnoxious in-laws coming by to visit! Good thing I didn't say those things, though.

#69 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 02:59 PM:

In my opinion, the first thing Short Creek needs is to have a commercial bus line making stops in town.

In my opinion, the first thing Short Creek needs is a column of Federal tanks making a stop in the town.

The next thing it needs is mass arrests and trials under anti-slavery and treason statutes, just for a start.

#70 ::: --kip ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 03:01 PM:

Just wanted to backstop the Holmes observation with of all people Lovecraft. I think this is from correspondence, but with whom, I know not:

But the true epicure in the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteems most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods New England; for there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness, and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous.

Varia? If I might be so bold: I think the confusion is that Teresa's referring to someone being committed to more than one relationship-set. Not their commitment to more than one person in a single, coherent relationship.

#71 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 03:17 PM:

Ken, I've expressed similar sentiments, but why treason? Not that it doesn't sound good.

Actually, I think they're Enemy Combatants. JUST KIDDING.

#72 ::: novalis ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 05:27 PM:

Mitch Wagner: ...it seems to me that there’s a multiplication of the work parts of the relationship that might well be all out of proportion to the multiplication of the good parts of the relationship.

I'm not poly, so I can't speak directly to your concerns.

Still, your overall attitude in this quote is baffling -- do you really perform cost-benefit analysis when you're in love? I don't say that it's impossible, but it does seem inconsistent with a romantic view of love.

#73 ::: Margene Bahm ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 07:34 PM:

Varia posted

"My family and I have yet to begin the majority of the paperwork that this kind of thing entails, but all of the legal advice I’ve heard makes me almost despair before we start."

I have copies of the legal paperwork electronically. If you would like a copy for comparison purposes, let me know and I will send them to you privately.

#74 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 08:20 PM:

Novalis - I'm baffled by your bafflement. Have you never heard of a relationship being referred to as "high maintenance"?

I think we all do a sort of cost-benefit analysis when relationships get rocky. Ann Landers used to get these letters from women whose husbands were alcoholics, but who were really great guys and perfect husbands when not drinking. The women wanted to know whether to leave their husbands. "I love him but I can't stand his drinking," the woman would say. Anne would respond: "Are you better of with him or without him?"

As to my being "in love" - we've been happily married 10 years, and I don't know if I could say we're still "in love"; that seems to be a phrase best suited to the first flush of infatuation. And as to my not having a romantic view of love: you're damn right I don't.

Romance is fine when you're in the beginning of a relationship, but after a while you reach a point and you start thinking about the long term. You say to yourself: this person is funny, charming, sexy and considerate, but also has some incompatibilities too. Maybe their religion is different. Maybe their family is always in trouble (marry into that family and they're YOUR FAMILY TOO, and their problems are your problems). Maybe one of you wants kids and the other doesn't. If you're smart, at that point you sit down and do some hard thinking and you ask yourself the question that Anne Landers asked those women.

Hmmm.... I suspect that when women used to ask me, "Where is this relationship going," it's quite possible that's what they meant - not did I want to get married but did I think that we were the kind of people who COULD get married?

I didn't have to think about that decision with my wife; I made the decision subconsciously. We'd been on two or three dates and were getting along pretty well, when I went on a two-week business trip. I called her once or twice from the road, and then I got busy and tried once or twice more but we didn't connect. When I got back, I discovered she'd had a medical emergency and had been in the hospital. I went to visit her a couple of times, brought her books and did all the things that people do when friends and family are in the hospital.

Looking back a while later, I realized that was the turning point in our relationship. A lot of people would have cut an SO loose after he or she went into the hospital. There would have been nothing wrong if I had cut Julie loose; we had only been on a couple of dates, we had no commitment. I could've just said, "When will you be out of the hospital? A week? Okay, I'll call you then," and not called. Maybe sent her get-well flowers if I felt particuarly classy. But it never even occurred to me to cut Julie loose; I cared about her already and she was in the hospital. I wasn't particuarly worried - it was minor surgery, she was already on the mend when I heard where she was - we didn't have a tearful and emotional reunion. I just came to the hospital and hung out and told jokes and asked her if she was going to eat her Jell-O. Still, it was a signficant transition.

The preceding two paragraphs are relevent to this discussion; I'm just not sure how.

#75 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 08:55 PM:

As sorry as I feel for the kids in Short Creek, it's just another example of the ways people mistreat their children. Thousands of kids are raped every day by parents, other adult or juvenile relatives, trusted friends of any age - and we only know about a fraction of them.

At least the kids in Short Creek have the comfort of a lifelong religious belief system when they are finally of an age to realize what their life has been and will be.

The ones who don't find a coping mechanism turn into Mansons or worse. My years as a Child Protective Caseworker have given me a rotten perspective.

#76 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 09:43 PM:

At least the kids in Short Creek have the comfort of a lifelong religious belief system when they are finally of an age to realize what their life has been and will be.

Respectfully, Karen, I'm going to have to disagree here. They had a lifelong religious system that explicitly condoned what was done to them. They'd been handed a universe-view that was most emphatically not on their side. I have extreme doubts that that will be of any comfort whatsoever. I think it's worse than if the kids had been raised with no explicit or coherent religion, philosophy, or worldview at all. A lifelong religion designed to make you believe you're worthless? Not on my comfort list.

#77 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 09:53 PM:

Karen: At least the kids in Short Creek have the comfort of a lifelong religious belief system when they are finally of an age to realize what their life has been and will be.

I am baffled by this attitude; it sounds to me like "At least they're so brainwashed that they can think what's happening to them is right." (I doubt that's what you intended, but that's what it sums out to.) And as for "what their life has been and will be" -- why? Why must their life be nasty and brutish if not short? (Some women can survive bearing many children; many can't, especially when they're abused and surviving on food stamps.) And if they do realize what their life has been and make it as it should be -- how comforting can a belief system be that put them in such a life? Yes, I understand some people try to find good in such beliefs, and some find others.

#78 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 10:01 PM:

Mitch--

And this is precisely something that has turned me off about polyamory when discussing the matter with polyamorous persons: it seems to me that there's a multiplication of the work parts of the relationship that might well be all out of proportion to the multiplication of the good parts of the relationship.

You're right: my wife and I don't think much about or talk about the nature of our marriage. We are done with that, we already decided it. We talk about individual issues that might be bothering us, or making us happy, but the overall nature of the relationship is already decided.

You know, the same is true of my relationships. Yes, there's more work in that sense, because what I work out with one person isn't going to be the same as what I work out with another. But we don't keep redoing the same work in the same relationship. Or at least I don't, and most of the polyamorous people I know don't. But my partner and I know what we want the nature of our relationship to be. The continuing work, if you think of it that way, is that we continue to talk to each other, not only about Deep And Meaningful Things, but about the ordinary parts of our lives. Because we want to. Because, before and along with being partners, we're friends, we like each other, we enjoy spending time together.

Yes, if and when circumstances change--and that doesn't necessarily mean a new love, it's at least as likely to mean job changes or other financial issues--we'll discuss what to do. Just like you do, really.

#79 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 12:54 AM:

I find the violently passionate responses of many people to the words "child abuse" to be disturbing. I'm about to get my ass kicked by most of the people here by saying that I think our attitudes about minors and sex are too black and white, and that we have too little compassion for adults who mistreat children, their own or someone elses.

What's happening in Short Creek is horrible in so many different ways, but the biggest way in which it is wrong is that it steals free choice from children and adult women. In a more subtle way, it also restricts the choices that men make in that society, but since they are the beneficiaries of the system, by and large, that seems much less important.

As a society, we tend to totally freak out at sexual child abuse. I don't think that the primary component of that freak-out is sympathy for children, but an inability to deal with the sexuality of children.

I am not saying it's all right for adults to screw kids. The issue of consent becomes more and more complicated, the younger the child is. A sixteen year old may very well know her own mind, but it is also possible that she's succumbed to the sophisticated blandishments of a 30 year old man. The younger the child is, the more likely that he doesn't understand what he's consenting to.

However, what it seems to me that adults just fucking freak when they deal with teen sex in any configuration. Teens with teens, teens with adults, teens masturbating, teens buying pornography, teens buying vibrators, lord lord lord, you'd think the world was going to end. Somehow, even though we all know that teenagers actually do screw, when it comes right down to it, we freak. When I lost my virginity, my father threatened to send me to a nunnery -- and we weren't even Catholic. He wasn't joking, either, just irrational.

Twenty years ago, there was a genuine witch-hunt which centered around sexual child abuse. Did you know that some of the people charged in the McMartin School case are still in jail -- even though we know they are innocent of the things for which they were accused and convicted? I can't remember the name of the scary DA in Wisconsin who went after whole towns, but it was not a pretty sight. This came picturesquely dressed up with Satanic Ritual Abuse, and suspiciously close in time to our cultural admission that parents really did sometimes sexually abuse their children. I thought then, and think now, that the hysteria was a way of derailing a growing understanding of the problems of incest within families by externalizing the threat and literally demonizing it. (Come to think of it, there was a similar way in which concentrating on incest and sexual child abuse seemed to function as a way of distracting people from the problem of garden-variety wife beating and child abuse, something that we only really admitted was a bad thing, rather than paternal privilege, in the 70s.)

The idea that we should kill anyone who's ever commited child abuse of a sexual nature scares me. Not because I condone the crime, but because of the implications and ramifications. Here's one problem: the person was almost certainly a family member. That means that the problem is almost certainly a systemic problem, rather than an isolated one. If it's an isolated problem, it's probably easy to deal with (comparatively speaking) and it would be a terrible thing to tear the family apart for something that is bad, but can be healed. If it is systemic, then just offing the offender isn't going to fix the problem. How often does a woman move from one abuser to another, all her children in tow, all of them potential targets? Real answers have to involve working with the way in which these problems are intertwined in daily life. Sometimes, the best way to do that is to work for forgiveness and reconciliation.

#80 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 12:58 AM:

At least the kids in Short Creek have the comfort of a lifelong religious belief system when they are finally of an age to realize what their life has been and will be.

On the other hand, if they do buy into the religious belief system they have the comfort of, they'll think they're offending against God if they don't want their children handed around like party favors.

#81 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 01:03 AM:

Lydia, the problem I'm having is that while I agree with a good deal of what you have to say about how we in a society deal with the subject of underage sex, I don't see what that has to do with this situation. We're talking about enslavement and systematized rape here. Rape is not primarily, or even mostly, about sex, and enslavement isn't even in the same cosmos.

#82 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 01:29 AM:

Julia: I think that the particular way in which people are reacting to the story of Short Creek is heavily informed by a cultural strangeness about sex and minors. If it were only a situation in which the girls were set up in sweat shops and made to embroider 10 hours a day, and were starved if they refused, the reactions people had would be different.

The common wisdom is that rape isn't about sex. I'm sorry to say that I've recently come to believe that this isn't entirely true. One of the more uncomfortable truths I've faced is that sex and agression really are closely linked, in my own body as well as everyone else's. Rape is about sex. It's also about domination, control, aggression, and probably fear, anger, and insecurity. Because the enslavement at Short Creek involves rape, it piques our prurient interest (mine, too). The passion with which we respond to such stories has a sexual edge to it, in my opinion. We're human, sex is an awfully riveting topic. What bothers me is that because sex is also a very repressed topic, I believe that we let ourselves vent our frustrations and passions inappropriately.

I'd be less wigged out by the suggestion that we burn down the entire town and not let the abusers leave first than I would be if I hadn't watched Waco. Waco scared me a lot, most especially because of the way it all got justified post facto as a response to Koresh having sex with teen-age girls. I don't know if that is true or not, but I can assure you that those girls lives were not improved by being burned to death. There was exactly no reason to storm that commune. Even if the worst had been going on, another month or two of screwing Koresh would not have done so much additional damage to the victims that it was worth the risks that the BATF took with the lives of those people.

#83 ::: Rachael ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 03:02 AM:

Lydia, although my gut was saying no, you almost had my head, but you lost me with the argument about sex and aggression. Sex is not about agression for me!

Is our society wierd about sex and youth? Probably. But I was that sixteen year old girl who thought I was in control and I was wrong. You can be sure my daughter will not have the freedom I did to be in relationships with men twice her age. Does that mean that I think the sexual / sensual / romantic feelings of youth are invalid? No, it means that I know that you can be in emotionally destructive relationships even when you think you are giving consent. What kind of message is it for a teenage girl to internalize that she has social value, attractiveness or worth because she is sexually available or desirable? I think that belief is inevitable when you are sexually active too young. Adults make those mistakes too, but adults have power from other sources than their sexuality, and adults have social networks and emotional resources that children do not. Adults have experiances to put their relationships in context.

You are right that there is a different kind of horror involved in sexual abuse as opposed to other kinds of physical abuse. Perhaps it's because something like one in four women has been raped (I see that statistic everywhere, no idea if it's valid) but how many people do you know who have been beaten? Or, perhaps sexuality is so precious and fragile that it seems more vulnerable than our physical bodies? Because sex can touch the body and the mind together in a way that so few other things can? I suspect the answer is more individual than general.

Anyway, I know you were arguing about the culture at large and not specific individuals, and it is certainly true that American culture has a love-hate relationship with the sexuality of children. (Image of Jon Benet in her lipstick and airbrushed dewy makeup flashing in my head.) I think this case is extra disturbing because of the violation of trust and protection by parents, who should fight to keep something like this from happening, not serve their children up on a platter. I feel the same level of shock about the boy whose mom duct taped him like a mummy and left him to choke on his own vomit. Or the adoptive mom who smothered her daughter in pillows as part of some rebirthing psychobabble. It is the betrayal of childish trust and faith in parents that makes it so horrible to me.

I don't have compassion at all for people who mistreat children. I can't even start to think of something like that happening to my babies, it raises my inner mother-bear. I would willing rend with my bare hands anyone who hurt my babies.

#84 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 03:15 AM:

Xopher: why treason?

For the same sort of reasons as my wife's first reaction to my summary of the story: 'But these people are American citizens!'

But possibly, an over-reaction. Will you have Shermans with that?

#85 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 05:22 AM:

Rachael said, Sex is not about agression for me!

So if sex isn't related to aggression, why is rape such a common form of establishing dominance? Sex and aggression aren't the same thing. They are, however, linked in complicated ways. My belief is that rape is about both aggression and sex, and that our unwillingness to accept the second part of that equation makes it difficult for us to understand and deal with the issues surrounding it.

But I was that sixteen year old girl who thought I was in control and I was wrong.

So was I, but I don't regret it. Sixteen was a useful age at which to ditch my virginity. It precipitated a domino effect of disasters which eventually led to my parents getting divorced, the best thing that had happened to them in twenty years. Not having to carry around the stupid baggage surrounding virginity was an enormous relief, after I left the church.

I wasn't in control. As I recall, I was drunk, actually, and not just on the mead. It was, by most peoples measure, a total disaster. However, it was part and parcel of living in a desperate situation. My sexuality was the only thing that I did possess. It was a rebellion which led, two years later, to my being able to leave my family and the church in which I'd been raised, and send me soaring into freedom. It was also remarkably sordid. *shrug*

Lord knows, there's a host of terrible mistakes that people make about sex and love. My theory is that people should make them early so that they have time to get on with their lives. My mother was married to my father for 20 years. In my opinion, she should have left him when I was a year old, and she was pregnant with Bethany. If she'd had more time to screw around (figuratively, in Mom's case, she's seriously religious), she might have figured out that marrying Dad was a terrible idea. Or not, but she'd have had a better shot.

You can be sure my daughter will not have the freedom I did to be in relationships with men twice her age.

I've no children of my own, but I always thought that if I did, I'd make sure that they had access to good information on sex, relationships, and contraception, and I'd insist that they carry condoms. Maybe I'd chicken out when they got to dating age, but if they want to date really inappropriate people, either something's gone wrong much earlier in their lives, or I don't understand what's going on now.

For most of my life, I've dated men who were significantly older than I am. The age gap has been dropping as I get older, interestingly enough. When I was sixteen, I was dating a perfectly delightful Englishman who was 25. He was courtly, funny, actually took me places, and wanted to talk as well as make out. He was so much better than several of the other people I was kinda sorta involved with at various times during that period of my life. Among other things, he was perfectly aware of the fact that I was not entirely in control, and refused endless opportunities to seduce me. It was Jimmy, who was my own age, who was an actual danger, that way.

No, it means that I know that you can be in emotionally destructive relationships even when you think you are giving consent.

In some senses, part of the definition of abuse is that the victim gives consent. Sometimes that consent is coerced, and sometimes it isn't. My observation is that it is usually a collaborative effort.

What kind of message is it for a teenage girl to internalize that she has social value, attractiveness or worth because she is sexually available or desirable? I think that belief is inevitable when you are sexually active too young.

Seems to me tha this is a message that we are given all day long by our culture. It's the reason that girls become sexually active before they're really ready for it, perhaps, but I don't think the sexual activity triggers the belief, but rather the other way around.

You are right that there is a different kind of horror involved in sexual abuse as opposed to other kinds of physical abuse.

There appear to be some crossed porpoises, here. I don't particularly think that sexual abuse is especially horrible. I think that abuse is horrible, and I think that the real measure of its intensity is how much the abuser fucked with his victim's brain, and how badly he damaged the victim's health. Sexual abuse has real potential as a way to screw with the victim's head, precisely because other people view it with such horror. Kids who are sexually abused end up with not just the abuse to cope with, but the weirded out adults who can't figure out how to deal with the situation. This is unfair to the kid, and it happens all the time.

What I said was that the thing that really disturbs me is people's response to allegations of sexual abuse. It's not the abuse itself that has caused me to pull up short during this discussion. I think I have a fairly good understanding of what was going on in Short Creek, and I think that Teresa's solution is the best one. Things like that do not flourish in the light of day. The ability to escape changes the whole landscape. I'm not underplaying the enormity of what's been going on. What these people need are options, not revenge. They need to be able to get out, or stay and fix things, as their temperment sees fit. They need to be a part of the world, citizens and not slaves.

No, what really disturbs me is the tone I hear in the voices of some of the people here when they talk about abusers. Their anger and hatred frighten me. It's so much easier to get people to do evil things when they're angry, especially if they are suffused with a righteous anger. What could be more righteous than defending children from sexual molestation? And from that passion, we have many people still serving sentences in jail for crimes they did not commit. Using that kind of logic, the destruction of Koresh and his people, including women and children, was back-justified. I didn't hear the accusations of child abuse until several months had passed after the murderous raid. I got no patience for Koresh and his breed, but I've even less patience for my government burning children alive.

Or the adoptive mom who smothered her daughter in pillows as part of some rebirthing psychobabble.

Oh, god, I remember that one. I read endless articles, trying to understand how it was that it could have happened. How could the mother have completely failed to realize that her daughter was dying? How could the therapist have failed to understand? What on earth did they think they were doing? I don't feel a lot of sympathy for the mother. As far as i could tell, she had decided her adopted daughter didn't love her enough, and was therefore defective, and then went round to therapists until she found one that agreed with her assessment.

I don’t have compassion at all for people who mistreat children. I can’t even start to think of something like that happening to my babies, it raises my inner mother-bear. I would willing rend with my bare hands anyone who hurt my babies.

I try to have compassion. Often, I have a complete lack of understanding. I don't really understand how people manage to do many of these things. I am cognizant of what is called the "cycle of abuse," however, and try to keep in mind that these people were victims, once. I also know that it is perfectly possible for a parent to love a child that they are also abusing.

What is love? Pilate washed his hands.

I think that protecting children is a deep-seated response. I found, to my surprise, that I was willing to kill to protect two children I was babysitting -- and I've never been nor wanted to be a mothher. I thought that there was an intruder, and I retrieved a handgun from a lock box, and waited with the intention of shooting anyone who walked into the room. I can't know for sure, but I think I would have done it. Because the kids were in danger. I'd never have done that if it had just been me.

I have to believe in compassion, though. A fairly close relation is serving time for incest. He's in a rehab program, and all I can do is hope that it works. He's only 17, and I dread what happens when they de-institutionalize him, but I'm not willing to just toss him out with yesterday's garbage, either. Not yet.

#86 ::: DM SHERWOOD ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 07:46 AM:

Conflicted.I'm for legalisation of most all sorts of sexual unions but this is exploitative.
The primary problem seems to be the power of the Church in the Area if it wasn't so something would be done.
Someone should e-mail Orson scot card & ask his take on this- he has a web page

#87 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 09:12 AM:

The idea of sending tanks into Short Creek, aresting or shooting all the adults (and sending all the men to prison to be gang-raped), sending all the kids/teenagers into Child Protective Services, and burning the town to the ground, has a certain visceral appeal.

But when you arrest or kill the men who've married/enslaved teenage girls, don't forget that -their- daughters and sisters and mothers are also in the same system.

So when you arrest or shoot all the men, you not only arrest or shoot the victims' direct abusers. you arrest or shoot the victims' families -- their fathers, their brothers, their uncles. The people that, in spite of everything, the victims probably still love.

But I guess if, just before sending the tanks in, you take a bullhorn and announce "WE'RE FROM THE GOVERNMENT AND WE'RE HERE TO HELP YOU!", that'll make everything okay.

Jeez, could we show a bit more imagination here, please?

(The idea of a regular bus line thru the community is a stroke of genius, and the sort of thing we need. Short Creek exists and continues by being a closed community. The walls of secrecy and containment need to be breached, and options, alternatives and knowledge made available to the young people of the area. That's what will make lasting changes.)

#88 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 09:20 AM:

Like -- I suspect -- Ken, my reaction to this has almost nothing to do with any 'sexual abuse' buttons getting pushed and almost everything to do with 'slavery' buttons getting pushed.

People reduced to a condition of involuntary servitude are always abused, personally, emotionally, physically, sexually, economically, you name it. They are beaten and raped and impregnated, tortured, maimed, and murdered, as inevitable consequences of being enslaved.

The habitual, systematic, and highly coercive sexual abuse is, to my mind, a mere bagatelle of consequence next to the crime of slave keeping, and it is that crime which has me thinking that the column of armour is exactly the right response, followed not by a conflagration but by speedy proper trials and hangings.

"Equality and justice for all" means -- among other things -- "good boss or dead boss; no third option". In allowing this -- and many another -- third option, the law fails, if not in its terms but in its enforcement.

Erasing those failures of enforcement is one of those things for which the iron hand may legitimately be used, to present the clear and obvious option, backed by however much force is required to compell acknowledgement of and submission to the law, that one person may not own another and that choice must be respected.

At peril of opprobrium and disdain, if at all possible; at peril of fine and prison and criminal proceedings, if required; at peril of their life, if needs must be.

#89 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 09:27 AM:

Bruce -

The bus line does fuck-all if there is no money in possession of the people who need to escape, as there most certainly will not be. (How will they get any? Have they ever seen any, to know what it looks like?)

If there's a policy of taking anybody who wants to get on to the stop where the county sheriff's department can take them into custody and start emancipation proceedings, well, that's a start, but there will be court cases where the twelve year old is trying -- in a state of bewildered inarticulation -- to get away from her nominal parents, who have the entire weight of the law on their side, in the absence of compelling evidence of abuse.

If the resulting policy involves pre-supposing absolutely every kid in the place is abused enough to void the custodial rights of his or her parents, well, permit me to think that such an operating assumption is grounds for showing up with overwhelming force and forcibly dissolving the social structures engaged in such abuse.

#90 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 10:20 AM:

Mitch: The preceding two paragraphs are relevent to this discussion; I’m just not sure how.

Because they're about sane people in sane relationships, and how you figure out if someone's important to you. This is a sharp contrast to the child-prostitution "marriages" in Short Creek.

Lydia: I agree with much of what you say, and I'm unwilling to cast anyone aside permanently either. (Well, Osama bin Laden. Him I would love to torture to death personally, though I doubt I could keep going after more than, say, 50% of his skin was gone. And I don't claim to be at all reasonable in his case. But I digress.)

This is especially true in the case of minors. I don't even believe in trying them as adults (the issue being fairness; if they're formally emancipated, maybe you could, but lack of adult rights should go with lack of adult responsibility IMO).

But we're not talking about individual criminals here. We're talking about a system that must be destroyed. The people who would preserve that system are the enemy, as in war. The priority should be rescuing the children and rehabilitating the teenagers and such adults as are willing. Getting the perps killed or imprisoned is a very distant third priority; not shooting them at the cost of failing in the first priority would be stupid.

And while the girls and women bear the brunt of this, the "excess boys" concern me also. What happens to them, I wonder? I bet their lives are nasty, brutish, and short for sure. I can't imagine someone raised in such a society, and then just thrown away, being able to function in a sane society (or even in Arizona) without a LOT of help.

#91 ::: Rachael ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 11:50 AM:

Ahh, I see. I think you are right Lydia. I have often thought that although rape is primarily about aggression and control, it doesn't make sense that there is no componant of desire/sex on the part of the rapist. I find in the light of day that I don't care to dwell on it, but I do see what you mean.

I agree with what you said about Koresh too, I think the "he was sleeping with the girls" was an attempt by the government to justify the fact that they got in a chest-bumping match that they couldn't back down from.

And I do think that a parents' lense can distort the real pain of a sexually abused child. We don't imagine someone who severly wounds a hand spending the rest of their life struggling with complex psychological issues related to their hand, but it would not startle us at all if a someone who had been raped had sexual dysfunctions. I think society is getting smarter about it all, but we have a long way to go. An older aquaintance of mine was a victim of insest and never told anyone because she blamed herself. I hope that that is less likely today.

Interesting isn't it? The severe instinctual urge to protect kids? When I helped teach self defense classes we told mothers to react as if their child was with them, that they were after all someones child and deserved to be as protected as their own children. Anyway, thanks for the reasoned explination, I do see what you mean.

#92 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 11:52 AM:

Lydia--Don't have time or energy right now, but just want to say that by and large you've said a lot of what's been bugging me, too, about some of the responses here. Thanks.

#93 ::: QA1` ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 12:47 PM:

Lydy: You are a brave and thoughtful woman and I honor you for it.

MKK

#94 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 02:49 PM:

Graydon,

I believe we are in complete agreement. The issue is slavery. I suspect that slavery always includes sexual abuse, but I've never done a systematic study of the subject. I've always had the impression, though, that the Confederate justifications for slavery had the strong stench of sexual dysfunctionl.

I apologize if it sounded like I didn't think that the situation was appropriate for rage. It is. Family slavey is more emotionally damaging, I suspect, than what we normally think of as slavery. Parents are supposed to protect their children and the betrayal that we feel when our parents don't causes permanent scars.

I may be overly sensitive to the style of discourse that conversations about child sexual abuse take. I've done a lot of thinking about abuse, what it is, why it happens, what its consequences are, and a number of my conclusions are very much off the reservation. One of things playing into this is the simple truth that when I was sixteen, I didn't own my own mind. I still believed, on some level, that my father could read my mind. The only part of myself that I owned was my sexuality, and it was a vital part of my independence and eventual escape from a deeply dysfunctional family. One which, by the way, was steeped in sexual dysfunction, although as far as we four can remember, none of use were ever touched inappropriately. But when your minister father is so far in the closet that he might as well be in Narnia and your mother seduces a couple of your boyfriends, well, you can hardly claim that the home is free of trouble.

Hmm. Short Creek provides more reason for me to believe in my thesis that fundamentalism is a sink-hole for sexual dysfunction. I don't know Mormonism very well, though. Would they count as fundamentalists, do you think? There's a temptation to pitch every religious cult that one doesn't like into that category, but that's not very useful.

#95 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 03:03 PM:

I wonder how many of the people here who are so eager to send in a show of tanks or torture Osama Bin Laden to death are themselves people who have worn a uniform and faced the wrath of other, unfriendly strangers with guns? Show of hands, please?

None? I didn't think so.

Since 9/11, Americans have displayed an unseemly eagerness to send other people off to fight and die, and then we sit back in our comfortable chairs and congratulate ourselves for our courage and righteousness.

Vicki: You know, the same is true of my relationships. Yes, there's more work in that sense, because what I work out with one person isn't going to be the same as what I work out with another. But we don't keep redoing the same work in the same relationship. Or at least I don't, and most of the polyamorous people I know don?t. But my partner and I know what we want the nature of our relationship to be. The continuing work, if you think of it that way, is that we continue to talk to each other, not only about Deep And Meaningful Things, but about the ordinary parts of our lives. Because we want to. Because, before and along with being partners, we're friends, we like each other, we enjoy spending time together....

That's pretty much a picture of my marriage, too. And I don't consider the ongoing discussions to be work.

You don't have to look to polygamy and homosexuality to find exotic marriages. Even monogamous, heterosexual marriages are very different from each other. Here's three big differences, just off the top of my head:

- The simplest, and most important difference between different kinds of marriages: children or not?

- Do both partners work?

- If both work, whose career takes precedence when the careers come into conflict? And they will.

The smart couples discuss these issues.

Actually, all couples discuss these issues. The smart couples have the discussion when the relationship is just starting to get serious, a few months or weeks or days in. The other couples have the discussion at the end, in the presence of attorneys.

Lydia - I think your posts make a lot of sense.

Rachael - Lydia, although my gut was saying no, you almost had my head, but you lost me with the argument about sex and aggression. Sex is not about aggression for me!

It can be. I've known a few men who were sexually very promiscuous.

Funny thing: I don't know if we have a word in our pop vocabulary today for those kinds of men. Twenty-five years ago, we called them "pick-up artists." In the 60s, they were called "womanizers."

These guys loved to seduce women. They had lots and lots of casual sex. But what strikes me as odd about men like these is that they very often did have sexual relations with the women they seduced. They got to the point where they knew the women would have sex with them - and then the walked away.

They said they had come to enjoy the act of seduction more than the sex itself.

And here's the point: The words a couple of them used was that they liked "the hunt" more than the sex.

I should point out that, as far as I can tell, these were not bad guys. Are not bad guys: I still keep in touch with two of them. One of them is now married, with kids, and apparently monogamous - he's put the womanizing behind him. As far as I can tell, he didn't have some blinding revelation and vow to change his sinful ways either - it's just that womanizing is now something he used to do, but doesn't do anymore, like listening to Led Zeppelin albums and playing Ultimate Frisbee.

The other one is still in the game, still seducing many women and having sex with some of them. All the womanizing men that I know have liked and respected women, they treated women well, they were honest and upfront about what they were doing.

Aggression and violence in human beings are complicated drives, and they can be sublimated so deeply and complicated so much that when they come out they don't look much like aggression or violence.

Another anecdote, maybe more to the point: I knew a man who worked for a woman he absolutely couldn't stand. I don't think he had a problem with women in authority, this was just a case of a guy working for a boss he hated. His conversation and thoughts were filled by how incompetent this woman was, how petty, how unfair she was to him, how much he despised her, how much he wanted to see her career ruined.

And yet he said he was also finding her more and more sexually attractive. I knew both of them - she was pretty and bohemian in an office where most of the women looked very corporate. He was spending a great deal of time fantasizing about her: half the time it was about how he'd get his revenge on her professionally, and the other half the time, the fantasies were sexual.

It's a commonplace of our romantic fiction: the couple that at first hates each other, and then - wham! - they are smitten and fall deeply in love. It's in our jokes: She slaps him: "I hate you!" She slaps him again: "I hate you!" She reaches to slap him a third time, and then kisses him on the mouth instead: "I ... love you!" Or she protests: "No! Don't! Stop! No! Don't! Stop! No, don't stop!"

Is our society wierd about sex and youth? Probably. But I was that sixteen year old girl who thought I was in control and I was wrong. You can be sure my daughter will not have the freedom I did to be in relationships with men twice her age. Does that mean that I think the sexual / sensual / romantic feelings of youth are invalid? No, it means that I know that you can be in emotionally destructive relationships even when you think you are giving consent. What kind of message is it for a teenage girl to internalize that she has social value, attractiveness or worth because she is sexually available or desirable? I think that belief is inevitable when you are sexually active too young. Adults make those mistakes too, but adults have power from other sources than their sexuality, and adults have social networks and emotional resources that children do not. Adults have experiances to put their relationships in context.

Rachael, you're being unfair to Lydia, she's said none of the things you've implied that she said. She has clearly and explicitly said that child sexual abuse is wrong and damaging - what she is saying is that society looks at child sex abuse differently, and blows its significance out of proportion to the actual harm caused.

Lydia is right - we are appalled and fascinated by Short Creek because of the sexual elements involved. If the story was about parents selling their kids to work in sweatshops, it'd be far less interesting, but probably equally damaging to the children.

Lydia: No, what really disturbs me is the tone I hear in the voices of some of the people here when they talk about abusers. Their anger and hatred frighten me. It's so much easier to get people to do evil things when they?re angry, especially if they are suffused with a righteous anger. What could be more righteous than defending children from sexual molestation? And from that passion, we have many people still serving sentences in jail for crimes they did not commit.

Exactly so. All this talk about sending in tanks and burning the town to the ground is disturbing. It hurts the victims as much as the predators. Wouldn't it be better to simply send in social workers and cops in regular, civilian cars? Oh, sure, if there appears to be an imminent threat of violent resistance, it would need to be dealt with, but that's not what I'm reading here - people want to skip the imminent threat and go directly to the military action. They don't even care that there's no Weapons of Mass Destruction-- oh, wait, sorry, that's a different military action.

Even better: why were things allowed to get to this point in the first place?

I try to have compassion. Often, I have a complete lack of understanding. I don't really understand how people manage to do many of these things. I am cognizant of what is called the "cycle of abuse"....

It actually doesn't seem all that difficult for me to understand. We react to other people in ways we have seen adults react in similar situations when we were children. How do you react when you get angry at someone you love? You either react in the same ways your parents reacted - or you made the conscious realization that reaction was inappropriate and you worked to make your reactions more appropriate. My father was and is passive-aggressive, and I have to watch for that tendency in myself. The violent child abuser was abused himself, and was wired to believe that is how adults deal with children. That doesn't make it right, of course, because many people who were beaten as children are not themselves abusers.

Sherwood: Conflicted.I'm for legalisation of most all sorts of sexual unions but this is exploitative.
The primary problem seems to be the power of the Church in the Area if it wasn't so something would be done.
Someone should e-mail Orson scot card & ask his take on this- he has a web page

Why the conflict? I'm in favor of legalization of all forms of sexual unions between consenting partners. Short Creek wasn't practicing polygamy, they were practicing slavery. That's not a figure of speech, it's a description of fact.

Orson Scott Card has some beliefs that I consider appalling. But still he seems to me to be a decent man, and I bet he would say the same as what I did: Short Creek was practicing slavery, and perverting the Mormon faith.

Graydon: The habitual, systematic, and highly coercive sexual abuse is, to my mind, a mere bagatelle of consequence next to the crime of slave keeping, and it is that crime which has me thinking that the column of armour is exactly the right response, followed not by a conflagration but by speedy proper trials and hangings.

I'm all for sending in a column of armor - if it's necessary. We should use the minimum force necessary to solve a problem, and no more. A few cops wearing body armor, accompanying a few social workers, would seem to be a more appropriate first approach.

Or, I don't know, maybe we should send in a couple of hundred cars, and make an overwhelming show that the 21st Century has arrived in Short Creek. But they should be cop cars and civilian cars, and the people in those cars should be wearing police uniforms and civilian business suits.

But we shouldn't send in the tanks and armored columns unless we have to.

Xopher: Osama bin Laden. Him I would love to torture to death personally, though I doubt I could keep going after more than, say, 50% of his skin was gone. And I don?t claim to be at all reasonable in his case.

No, Xopher, we are Americans, we don't do that. I want Osama captured and tried in a fair court, and, if found guilty, put in prison for the rest of his life, where he will become an impotent novelty, a comically scary figure like Charles Manson.

But we’re not talking about individual criminals here. We’re talking about a system that must be destroyed. The people who would preserve that system are the enemy, as in war. The priority should be rescuing the children and rehabilitating the teenagers and such adults as are willing.

Xopher, you have a great faith in the police and government's ability to know for sure, without error, who in the town of Short Creek is a villain, who is a victim.

You say: Getting the perps killed or imprisoned is a very distant third priority; not shooting them at the cost of failing in the first priority would be stupid.

How do we know who the "perps" are?

#96 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 03:11 PM:

The trouble is that these bastards of Short Creek have too many legal complications lying in wait for any remedy short of mass arrests. They own the land, etc.

But just imagine all the ways that you could have fun with these people if there was a piece of land on the edge of town which wasn't owned by the abusers.

As it is, if you tried leaflet-bombing the region (I'm sure the Confederate AF would be glad to provide transport) they'd bring charges of littering.

#97 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 03:13 PM:

Lydia: I have a fair bit of problem with that thesis, because I don't think "fundamentalism" as the word is currently used is anything more than a convenient catch-all -- in the sense that, although what it means to be a (Protestant) Christian Fundamentalist, or what it means to be a Muslim Fundamentalist, is pretty well defined by common usage, it's not at all clear how that meaning would be extended to cover what it would mean to be a (for example) Ba'ha'i Fundamentalist. It certainly is difficult to argue in the case of Christian Fundamentalism that it means sticking to the literal interpretation of the totality of the holy texts of the religion; as someone noted either upthread or in a discussion elsewhere on a similar topic, the Bible does not have any texts requiring monogamy, whereas it does have texts that preclude eating pork.

Thus, if the definition is claimed to extend beyond Christianity and Islam, it does (IMHO) become simply a category in which to pitch religious cults (and/or legitimate sects) that one doesn't like -- or, else, it becomes something that's better defined, in which case the definition either has nothing about "fundamentals of the religion" or contradicts the Christian current usage; in either case, "Fundamentalism" would be the wrong word for it.

#98 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 03:24 PM:

Continuing my previous comment, because I had a thought that sort of contradicts it: it occurs to me that it may not be unreasonable to define "fundamentalist" as a religious sect which has as its central core a tradition (as opposed to holy writ) of fundamental tenets of the religion, such that one's personal value is judged by how closely one adheres to these tenets.

A crucial difference between tradition and holy writ is that tradition comes with full interpretation bound up in it; holy writ is often parables or else subject to personal interpretation.

Similarly, by "fundamental" tenets I mean things that are held as axioms from which all else springs, rather than things derived from deeper ideas and the derivation of which can be subject to disagreement.

Given that definition, Lydia, your thesis not only seems plausible but one can see the basis of an argument why such would occur.

#99 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 05:12 PM:

Brooks --

Fundamentalism -- I think -- is usefully defined as a label for a religious practise where some portion of doctrine requires you to actively believe something that's obviously, testably, contrafactual. Doesn't matter what contrafactual it is.

The 'fundamentalist' movements that try to get back to the originating principles of the religion either stop, having become some other workable compromise with life, or go nuts like that.

So Mormons in general are borderline (too much of the original history of the Mormon faith is obviously fictional), but there isn't much difficulty in describing the Short Creek community as fundamentalist in that sense.

Mitch --

I agree that the appropriate thing to use is 'least sufficient means'; in this particular case, I am not sure that the symbolic value -- there is a power you cannot fight, against which you are entirely helpless, and it has come to judge you -- of the column of armour might not be appropriately described as part of the least sufficient means. Short Creek is not the only such Mormon community.

#100 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 05:18 PM:

Mitch, if I recall correctly, Xopher has much more immediate and personal reasons to feel vengeful toward Osama bin Laden than your average American. I'll let him fill in the details if he wants to.

#101 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 05:18 PM:

Note the former Confederate Air Force was more or less compelled (or chose to abandon the issue) to go politically correct years ago - if we go with ancient history how about an Arizona Ranger with a big iron on his hip?

For my money one riot one Ranger makes a great deal more sense than blocking the highways into town with tank transporters and tearing up the streets with treads [appalled at the notion is more like it]

However it does sound to me as though this presents a great opportunity for non-governmental organizations to include all the folks who actually enjoy Bible bashing: mainstream Mormon missionaries, Jehovah's Witnesses and some of the folks who clog the approaches to Temple Square pamphleting along with the Salvation Army to actually do the most good. With so much traffic into the community bus service would naturally follow - also Governmental organizations taking over a building or more by eminent domain to house the case workers and government workers who would supervise all the welfare and test all the children for No Child Left Behind. If we must have a bureaucracy then use the strengths of the bureaucracy.

Room for any moral indeed.

#102 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 09:23 PM:

Here's the reality of a state caseworker's life:

You have 30, 40, 50 -some have hundreds of active cases, each usually represents more than one child per family. There are approximately 40 hours in a work week, many of which are taken up with transporting kids from emergency foster homes to their court appointments, therapy, supervised parental visits, arranging regular foster care and so on. You also get to sit with kids in jail, on suicide watch.

Then, you also manage the parent's treatment for drugs, anger management, other criminal court appearances, etc.

There aren't enough caseworkers in Arizona to handle this problem, even if you recruit the agencies not paid by tax dollars. As far as I know, there isn't a caseworker National Guard. There are really complicated legal tangles when you cross state lines. For every caseworker you take away from their own caseload, you risk the death of more than one child.

Yes, someone could possibly set up an underground railroad, but let's be realistic. Thousands of kids every day face unwanted pregnancy rather than walk alone into a Planned Parenthood clinic. And legally, you can't take a kid away from her parents because you think they may one day force her to do something you think she ought not do.

It's damned hard to take a kid away in the absence of visible physical evidence and then it's only pending a court order, which may or may not be easy to get. Some of the women in Short Creek, especially young girls, are not going to tell a caseworker they are having sex with their putative husband, even if they are. They most likely will not testify in a court.

Also, the workers in such a rescue operation, unless screened carefully, would almost certainly have among them at least one or two potential abusers. It's the perfect place for a child rapist to groom his next victim. If you don't know anyone who is a young female serving in the armed forces, let me enlighten you...rape is so commonplace the women have learned it's easier on them not to report it.

Kids die every day in our towns and we never hear about it. The social workers are working as hard as they can, it is rarely a matter of neglect, rather simply a lack of time to do all that must be done to save these children.

Incidentally, a study I did a few years ago resulted in 28 more caseworkers being hired by our state. My findings were not brought to the attention of state officials until I resigned from my position and made contact directly with legislators. If you feel strongly about Short Creek, I can talk you through the steps of finding the phone numbers to call.

Back to pruning the roses...

#103 ::: Kristine ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 09:28 PM:

If anybody can bear to read more about Short Creek, and wants to consider notions of fundamentalism(s?) at length, there's a good book about the 1953 (and 1935 and 1944) raids on the town. If nothing else, the history makes it a little more understandable why neither state nor federal authorities are eager to rush in.
Book's called _Kidnapped from that Land_, by Martha Sonntag Bradley, who is a Salt Lake City-variety Mormon (though she has been seen by the more orthodox of that crowd as a maverick) and University of Utah history professor.

#104 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 09:49 PM:

Mitch, you misunderstood me (and/or I didn't make myself clear). When I said "I don't claim to be at all reasonable in his case," I was speaking in the context of my deep belief that all such decisions should be made with reason as much as possible. I should absolutely not be put in charge of what to do with Osama bin Laden.

When I was 17, I was briefly arrested because I fit the description of someone who'd attempted to rape a woman. Once they had her look at me, she said "no, that's not the guy" and it was over, but they said "well, you know how you'd feel if it was your sister." (Actually, if the guy looked anything like me my sister could've kicked his ass, but never mind.) Yes, if it were my sister I'd want to do terrible, brutal things to him. Society acts to restrain such natural impulses, because absent that restraint society is impossible.

And yes, I'm quite aware of the difficulties in sorting out the perps. Lots of testimony would be required, and goin' in with guns a-blazin' probably isn't the best strategy. And I believe, with my mind, that presumption of innocence and due process are critical quality-of-life issues for our society. At the same time, my heart wants to go in like an Angel With A Sword and kill them all, every single adult, and give their children to loving homes. (No this doesn't make sense. Heart-stuff rarely does.)

I'm very glad I'm not making the decisions about Short Creek. If I were, I'd certainly hope that my mind would win all the arguments, and in fact in real life I'm very good at making sure that happens (I still have my own front teeth, and that's why).

Back to Osama, torturing him to death is just a pleasant fantasy. I agree with you about what should be done with him in reality (I didn't even favor the death penalty for the guys who torture-murdered Matthew Shepard). A story of mine has a scene where a teenage boy finally has in his power the man who's kept him enslaved for years, raping him regularly; he has an elaborate plan for torturing the man to death (which bits to cut first, etc), but when he finally gets to it, he can't do it. He just can't do that to another human being, one he has personal reasons to know is vile beyond belief.

Osama bin Laden tried to kill me. If I hadn't had a late rehearsal on September 10, he might have succeeded (I was at work at 8:30 on the 10th). He did kill Stacy, who sat right across from me; and Nora, who made sure I got my "security" passes on time, and DuWan, the cute kid who delivered the mail, and the guy down the row with the posable Jack Skellington on his monitor, and...

The terrible things I'd like to do to Osama bin Laden are not suitable for this blog. I have a darkly creative mind; Gene Wolfe has NOTHING on me as far as that's concerned. If ObL ever is caught, I hope that my feelings will not be indulged, frustrating as that will be.

Patrick: Thank you.

#105 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 10:04 PM:

Xopher, I apologize for lecturing you and in general being a jerk.

#106 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 11:30 PM:

Lydia: Sexual abuse has real potential as a way to screw with the victim’s head, precisely because other people view it with such horror.

This sounds to me like cause and effect being swapped. From what I've read, a victim of abuse will run from the possibility of consensual sex regardless of what the partner knows of their history. The pain of their experience was immediate and present (it did not begin with -"What did you do to get yourself abused?"-); even a child so innocent as not to understand any of the pleasure that can be connected to sexuality will have a harder time dealing with pain inflicted during "You want this!" than with pain that is \supposed/ to hurt (e.g. punishment).

Rachael: I agree with what you said about Koresh too, I think the “he was sleeping with the girls” was an attempt by the government to justify the fact that they got in a chest-bumping match that they couldn’t back down from.

There was very credible testimony afterwards about what Koresh was up to.

Not that it was an excuse for the mess the government made; IIRC, Koresh was in town several times a week and could have been picked up any time. The rest of the community might or might not have turtled up, but with the prime (or sole) abuser out of the way they would have had some chance to work themselves through; Waco does not appear to have been a place where most of the adult males were abusers as Short Creek is.

Mitch: - If both work, whose career takes precedence when the careers come into conflict? And they will.

I expect that depends on what they think of their careers. At one point my wife observed there was a lot of work for her in some centrally remote location; she was even less interested in leaving here (let alone moving to there) than I was. Our work was somewhere between job and career, which I understand is much more common now than the sort of "Daddy has to move to advance" psychodrama in Meet Me in St. Louis. (The change is recent; my uncle (b 1927) moved Austin-Dallas-Chicago-Nashville for Honeywell. But it is different for our generation.)

Even better: why were things allowed to get to this point in the first place?

Karen's given you a good answer: because the people who might know don't have the authority or the time. Another reason is that the U.S. still (mostly) believes in local sovereignty; without a clear indication something is (still) going wrong in a way the locality can't or won't handle, higher authorities -- especially in states that believe in rugged individualism -- are short a good reason to step in.

#107 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 01:05 AM:

Mitch, it's OK. I've been known to get a bit lecturey myself, and I didn't think you were being a jerk.

#108 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 01:42 AM:

CHip - Some people who have been victims of sexual abuse do not run from consensual sex, but have come to regard intense sensation, even pain, essential to their sexual pleasure.

In the absence of pain inflicted by others, some will self-mutilate to the point of death.

I'll stop before the gruesome factor gets too harsh even for me. But whoever thinks rape doesn't involve violence has not seen the things I've seen.

#109 ::: Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 02:16 AM:

Lydia said: Sexual abuse has real potential as a way to screw with the victim’s head, precisely because other people view it with such horror.

CHip said: This sounds to me like cause and effect being swapped. From what I’ve read, a victim of abuse will run from the possibility of consensual sex regardless of what the partner knows of their history. The pain of their experience was immediate and present (it did not begin with -“What did you do to get yourself abused?”-); even a child so innocent as not to understand any of the pleasure that can be connected to sexuality will have a harder time dealing with pain inflicted during “You want this!” than with pain that is \supposed/ to hurt (e.g. punishment).

I say to Lydia:

For what little anecdotal evidence is worth, I am actually a pretty fair test case for your scenario. I was sexually abused by a neighbor over a period of years (age 4-6). Because the abuser was a neighbor, I didn't have any family issues clouding the abuse situation. Because my parents got extremely good advice from a counselor, when they found out they handled it very well and didn't make a big deal about it in my presence, ever. So the abuse was pretty unambiguous and the parental reaction was stellar (community reaction, less so, but much more about my family casting aspersions on a respected person than horror about a child being involved in sex).

And I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the consequences of that time will be with me forever, that it's affected my life in numerous ways, and that it really is different, I think, than emotional or physical abuse would have been (though there are of course components of both in sexual abuse). Not to say that you're saying that sexual abuse has no consequences--clearly, you're not. And since I was so young I maybe don't fit the older age you were intending to discuss. But I do want to say that for me the horror, and the damage to my head, was/is all about the experience itself, not the reactions to it.

If you haven't read Harmful to Minors, though, you might like it. It makes the same arguments you do about adolescent sexuality and society.

#110 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 04:13 AM:

Me: Even better: why were things allowed to get to this point in the first place?

CHip: Karen?s given you a good answer: because the people who might know don?t have the authority or the time. Another reason is that the U.S. still (mostly) believes in local sovereignty; without a clear indication something is (still) going wrong in a way the locality can?t or won?t handle, higher authorities ? especially in states that believe in rugged individualism ? are short a good reason to step in.

My question was intended rhetorically - the answer is, of course, that things in Short Creek got to where they are because the people who had the power to solve the problem didn't think it was important enough to be worth solving.

Given the current state of things in Washington, I am respectful of the U.S. belief in local sovereignty. Checks and balances don't seem to be working too well at the moment on a federal level, I'd hate to see the states and local governments simply become arms of Washington.

I've been thinking about this on and off throughout the day, and I have enough thoughts to put together a fairly lengthy post - but not tonight. Tired now. Sleep. ("Oh, goody," say Patrick and Teresa and their readers, "another long post from this Wagner guy? Doesn't he have a life? Doesn't he realize he has a blog of his own? Don't his fingers ever get tired?") Say good night, Gracie.

#111 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 08:56 AM:

"whoever thinks rape doesn’t involve violence"

Um, that would be "nobody," as far as I can tell. At least in this conversation.

#112 ::: Grld Grmmtt ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 03:48 PM:

m th thr f Th Wvs f Shrt Crk, nvl f Plgm & Prphc pblshd n lt 2003 b Lmbrlst Prss (Cld Hll Prss). rd sm ttrl lbls nd trgs ls n Yh wb srch tht m r m nvl hv sm fnncl cnnctn r thr cntct wth th plgmst grps n Clrd Ct.

Bttr cll yr lwyr.

ws xcmmnctd frm th Mrmn Chrch 40 yrs g, nd ddn't vn knw plgm xstd ntl wnt nt th wd wrld t 17 nd nvr lkd bck. B chnc, hd t mv t th, whr fnd cp f Jhn D. L's drs, nd lrnd f th xstnc f Clrd Ct (Shrt Crk-rnmd n 1963).

Ths rsltd ws m frst pblshd nvl, Th Frr Wmn, nvl f Jhn D. L nd th Mntn Mdws Msscr whch ws wdl cclmd b crtcs s wndrfll mvng fctnl nrrtv f th hrrr tht tk plc n 1857 t th Mntn Mdws. Th Frr Wmn ws slctd b th Slt Lk Trbn s Bk f th Yr n 2001.

ddn't rlz ll f th ngr hd wthn m ntl hd t lv gn n Mrmn cltr. Whr Hbr Dn Smth, th mn chrctr n Wvs f Shrt Crk, cm frm nl Gd knws, bt d knw tht lghd nd gggld m w thrgh th ntr prcss f wrtng t. Th SLTrb clld t "Splpstck n Prnt", nd t hs fv str rvws n mzn nd Brns & Nbl lst tm lkd.

m nt nw, nr vr hv vr bn ssctd n n mnnr wth nn n Clrd Ct nd th ds prcts f Plgm. n fct m spprtr nd md cnsltnt fr Sv th Chld Brds whch s n nt-plgm grp tht shltrs rnws. Frthr, ttndd th prss cnfrnc n Clrd Ct (S th Nw Yrk Tms Jnr 24-2004-Plgmsts Fd), nd wrt dtld ccnt fr th xmrmn brd th sm d.

f y d nt rmv ths lbls, slndrs, ntrthfl cmmnts tht m n n w cntrbtng ssctd wth trg f plgm wll s yr ss frm hr t trnt. xpct fll nd cmplt rtrctn b y, r th pstr, r whvr md ths sttmnts. nd wnt n ml cnfrmng ths r th CL wll b n y lk y nvr drmd s m prsnl frnds wth th th CL Ld ttrn n Slt Lk Ct, th.

rpt, th bk s cmc pc f fctn, nd n dctnl lk t plgm s t s prctsd td n Clrd Ct, nd hd fn wrtng t. knw n n prsnll n Clrd Ct, Shrt Crk, r Tmbkt tht s rmtl rltd t tht nst f snks.

rcmnd y g t www.grldgrmmtt.cm nd www.wvs f shrt crk.cm, nd ftr tht pblsh brd nd wdl dstrbtd rtrctn nd n plg. m s pssd ff m s yr ss nw.

Grld Grmmtt

#113 ::: Grld Grmmtt ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 03:56 PM:

plgz fr th tps nd mspllngs n m lst pst, bt y wll b hrng frm m sn.

#114 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 04:34 PM:

Patrick - I may have misunderstood a comment upthread that mentioned some statistics on rape and beatings...and I could be remembering something from somewhere else, but I read so slowly I'll probably never find it again. Until I'm fully up to speed on the social skills, kindly ignore my silly posturing, if you will...

#115 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 05:28 PM:

Stephanie,

And I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the consequences of that time will be with me forever, that it’s affected my life in numerous ways, and that it really is different, I think, than emotional or physical abuse would have been (though there are of course components of both in sexual abuse).

I'm sorry. I try to step lightly through this perilous topic, but it's very hard. I'm on the other side, having received a great deal of emotional abuse, salted with what was physical abuse, but which would never have been considered such when I was a child. (Frequent corporal punishment, but almost never leaving buises or welts.)

I think that what I'm trying to say is that the various types of abuse that people receive are different, but that ranking them as more or less horrible is unhelpful. As a society, we assume that a child who's been sexually molested is more damaged than a child who's been physically abused. The consequences of what was done to us don't necessarily follow some neat chart that other people think up to judge the severity of the situation.

I misspoke if I said that I thought that all abuse was the same. What I actually think is that all abuse is different. A child who has been sexually abused often has the additional burden of the reactions of society, which can have negative consequences, and that burden is not one which kids who've been physically abused usually have to carry. It's my thesis that this additional burden has to do with our inability as a culture to deal with the sexuality of children. I never meant to say that this additional burden is the only damage that is done to the child, or even that it is the main consequence and that if we stopped doing that, the kids would be practically undamaged. I am very, very sorry if I made it sound like I didn't think it was all that important. I was focused on a different issue, and it's easy to overstate something not directly related to the chain of argument in pursuit of a specific point.

I want harming children to be a bad thing, and the type of harm to be a secondary consideration. I think that the fundamental value should be that children are to be kept safe, loved, and in environments that encourage growth. I want harm done to children to be dealt with effectively. With the current caseloads, what I want isn't possible, really, but I want each child's situation considered separately, and the right answer for that situation found, rather than classifying the kid and following some cookie-cutter response.

Karen, I know that it isn't possible for the state to do that, right now, and that it sounds like I'm trying to impose greater workloads on people who are already bleeding under the weight of a killing workload. The reason I write about this is that I hope that if a model of a better way to deal with these issues can be developed, then there may be ways to implement it. If I had my way, we'd spend a huge amount more on child protection than we do.

A friend of mine in Chicago, Neil, was talking to a friend of his who worked in CPS. In the news recentlyy, a child had died right she'd been sent home by her caseworker. The caseworker was being pilloried in the press, local and national. Neil's friend told him that this was the nightmare of every social worker, and that moreover, it could be any one of them at any time. They roll the dice all the time, and every now and then they roll three sixes and the baby dies. They don't have the time, the money, or the support services to do even what they know is best, much less figure out what would be best. I talk about ideals, and if you've been on the front lines, you must want to strangle me. All I can say is that I hope I'm not just sitting here fantasizing about a perfect world. I hope I am trying to think about the problems in real-world ways, looking for additional resources and solutions. Treading water doesn't help you swim to the other side of the Channel, although it beats the hell out of drowning.

#116 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 06:39 PM:

Not at all respectfully disagreeing - "because [b]the people who had the power[/b] to solve the problem didn’t think it was important enough to be worth solving" Emphasis added

What are we to do? Shoot - or maybe some of the tanks can be Zippos? - the adults and place the girls in Magdalene Laundries?

There is no power on this earth to solve the problem for values of solve that include more than breaking things and killing people.

Not that I have a problem with breaking things and killing people per se. I have a theory that every adult woman has at some time in her life been subject to an abuse of the sort I would cheerfully have thwarted. Hasn't been seriously refuted yet.

Wonder why the mothers in a plural marriage simply cannot leave their own children behind though? There were kidnapped by Indian women in Colonial days who left new children behind and made incredible efforts to rejoin their previous society. Any answers?


I suggest things in Short Creek got to where they are because the people who might have had the power to solve the problem were wise enough to turn down the One Ring (or too weak to wield it? and so in fact lacked the power in any case); see especially Gandalf's speech; see any totalitarian leader or some of the God's Army groups in Africa today.

In the circumstances of this case we see I think a situation go from bad to intolerable because, as much as anything, the rules of succession were perverse or perverted. As some have suggested where the losing side in a succession struggle loses everything then every succession is a struggle to the knife. Not sure that less marginal and less isolated is good either.

#117 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 06:57 PM:

Gerald Grimmett, you just calm down and behave yourself. I haven't said a thing about you or your books, and I haven't linked to your websites. Nobody here has so much as mentioned you. (If the fact that nobody's mentioned you is the real source of your beef, tough noogies. Take out an ad.)

Furthermore, if it had happened that I or anyone else here had talked about your books, and/or linked to your websites, we would have been entirely within our rights. And if you really have been pestering the ACLU with this like you claim, the most they're going to do is write back and tell you the same thing I just did.

I have to say, if I were going to yell abuse at someone I'd never met before, and make all kinds of threats and accusations, the first thing I'd do is make sure I'd got my facts straight.

So far I haven't deleted your comments, but I have taken the vowels out of them. You'd be ill-advised to protest. If I'd genuinely meant you harm, I would have left them stand where everybody could read them. That's how far over the line you are.

I'll admit I'm not as calm as I should be. I'm certainly not as calm as I'd normally be under these circumstances. But I cannot begin to convey how little use I have for a man from your part of the world, excommunicated or otherwise, who thinks he has a right to shout at me and bully me.

Got that straight? Good. Let's start over. What exactly do you think is going on here?

#118 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 07:03 PM:

Sorry, everyone. Please continue with the conversation. I was just having a momentary flashback to my youth on the mean streets of Deseret.

#119 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 07:30 PM:

Clark - You clearly intended your post to be a rebuttal to mine, but I mostly agree with what you said, especially the part about violence not being a solution. Violence can sometimes be part of the solution--

No, not even that. Violence can sometimes be necessary to create the conditions where the solution can be implemented.

Violence is a solution to only one kind of problem: a person or group threatened by violence can, and often must, use violence to remove the threat. But violence is not, itself, a solution to any other problem, including the problems in Short Creek.

There, that's kind of cryptic, but it's all I'm prepared to write for now. I hope to write more about this later - still not feeling up to it.

#120 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 07:57 PM:

Wow. I've never seen anyone get disenvoweled before. YIKES! (covering eyes...)

Actually the whole situation makes me say Yikes! Margene has chimed in enough for us.

Child abuse makes me positively feel murderous toward the abuser.

#121 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 08:12 PM:

Lydia - I'm not sure about all states, but out here, a court order is often the reason kids are sent home- and we practically never see the judges pilloried when a kid dies as a result. I got out of the biz shortly after a particularly horrifying night when I had to drop and roll one too many times.

Clark - perhaps the women who were kidnapped by Indians didn't have the benefit of any 'noble savage' sentiment - their half-breed children were, to their minds, less than human - I think it depends on the level of bigotry and fear the mothers felt. Hell, I was disowned by my paternal grandparents because my children were 'half-breed'. I've talked with other women who were disowned by their families because their fathers were Native American. To a tiny degree I'm basing my ideas on having read Custer's diaries. He may have been an exceptional case - he certainly didn't think of the products of his rapes as anything more than targets for shooting practice, from what I gathered. I've interviewed women who risked their lives and their children's lives to get them out of countries where wives and children are chattel. A good friend of mine left eleven children in Viet Nam in the early seventies and has managed to find and bring many of them to the US over the years. We don't all have the skills to position ourselves to save anything more than our own skins, sometimes. Some of us are so attached to our children and so fearful of the world outside or our chances of survival, we are not able to escape.

As a side note, the first 'white' woman to set foot on the Washington coast was 'kidnapped' (a common practice among the people of the coast Salish nations - they got wives and slaves that way) from her abusive husband, the ship's captain. She refused to go back to him and when he tried repeatedly to kidnap her back from the people with whom she was staying by choice, she committed suicide, rather than return.

#122 ::: Grld Grmmtt ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 09:19 PM:

Dr Trs:
M pst hs ntng whtsvr t d wth prsnll, r th wbst, whch fnd grt nd fll f thghtfl dscssn. Bt t llw tht knd f slndr t b pssd lng wtht dmndng crrbrtn r chllng sms t m dngrs. n fct, t cld rn m. hd t b blltprf vst ftr m frst nvl, nw m hv t lv whr lv s ths ttrl fls ssrtn s nt stppd.
hv m bst wshs, bt m jts r stll nt cld ff t th rcklss ssrtn th pstr lvld.
Rgrds,
Grld Grmmtt

#123 ::: Grld Grmmtt ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 09:49 PM:

Dr Ms. H.n:
f wld ml m drctl wld pprct t. Th r nds t b clrd. nvr sggstd tht wr lnkng t m st, bt thr ws pst tht md sch n ssrtn nd w nd t tlk. f, b sm mshcnc, t ws nt n ths st ('m 99% sr t ws) f crs plgz nd rtrct. Hwvr, m f n ntmprt mnd whn t cms t chld bs. m gng t pst blw th rprt f th vnts n CCt.trd fr th dfctn f. pstrs.
Thnks,
Grld

T brng p t dt rgrdng th crss n CCt, Mr. Rss Chtwrth (n wf) hld n pn prss cnfrnc td n CCt ( hstrc ccsn). f h wsn't mvrck, th Brthrn wld ssgn hm mr wvs. Tht's rght. ssgn hm wf.

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Srr fr th lngth, bt thght mn n th brd shld b kpt p t dt s ths wll hv fr rchng mplctns fr th Mrg cnsdrng D&C Sc 132 tc.
Rgrds,

#124 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 09:55 PM:

Hey, Gerald? Since, as you admit, your post "has noting [sic] whatsoever to do with you personally, or the website," why in the world did you post it?

Do you get off on threatening women?

Here's a suggestion for you: Go away.

#125 ::: FranW ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 09:56 PM:

Gerald--

Please clarify for the Utterly Clueless (of whom I am one):

=Which= poster "slandered" you and made "reckless assertions"? I can't find a single reference to you or yours.

(and just by the bye: slander is spoken; libel is written)

#126 ::: Jack LaPlante ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 09:56 PM:

I tend to think of religion as a way for society to cope with the unknown, and law as a way to mediate disputes between factions. Religion and law have been intertwined since our days as roving bands.

When we paused our foraging and hunting to raise crops back in Mesopotamia a few thousand years back, the place of woman was devalued, the property rights of households became sacrosanct, and knowing the patrimony of a family's children became essential to a society now dominated by male power. Engels pointed out that marriage began as a way to control and pass on property. Economics always steer the implementation, if not the aspiration, of religion.

Religious types will want to continue their ceremonies, but only legal contracts freely entered into should be binding. The government should only involve itself in mutually agreed to contracts of civil union, which could include polygamy and same sex marriages. They should not be in the business of condoning religous ceremonies.

#127 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 10:25 PM:

Mr. Grimmett, you're talking complete nonsense. See this screen? See how it's a series of vertical boxes with messages in them? The one before your most recent comment is by Karen Junker, and before that it's Paula Helm Murray, and Mitch Wagner before her, and before that is my previous message?

This is the comment thread -- a general discussion where people participate by posting messages -- which is subsequent to, appended to, a post of mine called Something new in Short Creek. That piece first appeared in my weblog, Making Light, on 21 January 2004.

You were neither mentioned nor linked-to in my original post.

You have been neither mentioned nor linked-to in the subsequent discussion. (We searched the source code for the entire thread, just to make sure.)

In fact, I'd never heard of you before this.

Feel free to contradict me if you're unclear on this point, but where you haven't been mentioned, you can be neither slandered nor libeled. You've been throwing hard words at me, and threatening me, and generally being a noxious presence, in a conversation that has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with you.

You have not been defending yourself. You have been being a jerk. You have pulled the equivalent of breaking down the front door and lobbing a tear gas grenade into a lively and pleasant party where no one knows you from Adam.

I seldom wish embarrassment on anyone, but at this point, hideous embarrassment would be your most appropriate response.

#128 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 10:31 PM:

It's remotely possible that some post in the above 100-and-change messages links to a site that includes some comment about Mr. Grimmett. However, in the immortal words of Karen Cooper, "There are many things on the Planet of Not My Problem, and this is one of them."

Mr. Grimmett needs to get a clue about how the web works before he threatens any other people who have never heard of him or posted anything about him. Any more threats against my wife, legal or otherwise, will be met by the appropriate measures. This is nonsense and it is going to stop right now.

#129 ::: FranW ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 10:32 PM:

"...You were neither mentioned nor linked-to ..."

"...In fact, I’d never heard of you before this..."

Ah! This member of the Utterly Clueless is beginning to See The Light.

#130 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 10:36 PM:

Gerald - Who on Earth are you and what on Earth are you talking about? You have publicly accused my friends of SOMETHING nefarious, and now you want to hide behind a cowardly request to take it to e-mail.

If you've got something to say, say it. If not, shut up and go away.

And also I'd like you to point out where on this site ANYONE has condoned child abuse.

If you cannot do those things, then please apologize and go away.

#131 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 10:40 PM:

Actually, I don't think I need a long post to lay out my thoughts. My concerns about sending the tanks rolling down the main street of Short Creek can be summed up in two words: What then?

So we send the tanks into Short Creek. We round up the residents and quickly separate the predators from their victims? The predators are off to what the announcer on "Law & Order" calls "da krimina justice system." The prey are off to-- where? What do we do with those tormented adults and children?

Well, let's back up a second, actually. Short Creek is likely to be heavily armed and paranoid. They know the land and territory better than the authorities will. How do we go in there and occupy the town without instigating another siege at Waco, a gun-battle in which innocent citizens are killed?

Let's say we do as was suggested SHOULD have been done to David Koresh's followers: put the area under siege, and let nothing come in or go out until the hungry, thirsty occupants surrender. However, these guys are paranoid religious fanatics. How do we prevent another Massada, another Heaven's Gate, another Jonestown?

I do think we must take action to rescue the victims at Short Creek and bring the evildoers to justice, but I fear that the cries of "send the tanks in to Short Creek!" is precisely the kind of simplistic thinking which has caused the U.S. quite a bit of trouble in the Middle East.

I may have more to say about this - but supper beckons.

#132 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 11:03 PM:

Clark: Wonder why the mothers in a plural marriage simply cannot leave their own children behind though? There were kidnapped by Indian women in Colonial days who left new children behind and made incredible efforts to rejoin their previous society. Any answers?

A woman kidnapped as an adult by people she thinks of as inferiors if not savages, is not necessarily going to value children consequent to that kidnapping, and she knows something else is possible -- and that she'll be rescued if she's seen by the people she was kidnapped from. Someone raised from infancy with "Your purpose is to serve the male we give you to" drummed into them, and no certainty that there is something better they can run away to, is in a completely uncomparable situation. (And cases such as Karen describes with the Salish are uncomparable to both of them.)

Not to mention that the kidnappees may already have had children that they wanted to return to....


#133 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 11:12 PM:

Thank you, Jim, Mitch, Fran, Patrick, and the several of you who sent me nice notes in e-mail.

Who is Gerald Grimmett? He's a guy who showed up out of the blue this evening and started threatening me. At the same time he started posting here, he sent me e-mail saying more or less the same set of nasty things. This letter was also copied to The Rittenhouse Review, Slacktivist, and -- oh, joy -- inquiries@tor.com. I believe the legal term is something like "attempted interference with my employment."

This, from a guy who's saying we should take this to private e-mail.

Another answer to the question of what he's doing here is that he may be excommunicated, but he still thinks I'm here for him to yell at, and that my weblog is here to provide him with a venue. And he thinks that the sorrows of the women of Short Creek are his to claim as an excuse for throwing his weight around like this.

He is severely mistaken.

Please ignore him. I'm about to make that easier for you.

#134 ::: Zack Weinberg ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 11:27 PM:

I rather like the idea of sending in a bunch of mainstream Mormon missionaries. It seems to me that they would know how to dispute with these people in terms that they can understand. It also seems to me that this would be far less likely to provoke a panic and Waco-style standoff than a military or even police intervention.

#135 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 11:37 PM:

Wow, I missed this whole Gerald Grimmett thing. I am completely unable to read disemvowelled text, for some reason, so I'm going based solely on Teresa's reaction -- sufficient evidence of wrongdoing, to my mind, that he stirred the almost-pathologically-even-tempered Teresa into showing obvious anger (though she didn't LOSE her temper, even so).

Times like this I wish my oath didn't forbid baneful magic.

Teresa, I suspect Tor will know a fugghead when it sees an email from one. Still, it could be a pain. Interesting that he's giving you grounds to sue him.

#136 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 11:40 PM:

Zack, or those windup radios we heard about at the turn of the present century. Let the girls hear about life in the sane (comparatively) world.

I like the idea of a sort of Underground Railroad too.

#137 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 11:57 PM:

Mitch --

I continue to be amazed by the widespread belief that the outcome at Waco was in any way an accident.

The problem with 'what about harm to innocents?' is, as I see it, twofold.

Firstly, there's already ongoing harm to innocents, which a civilized society has an obligation to stop, if for no other reason than the presence of slavery is corrosive to the institutions of civilization.

Secondly, if threatening the innocent with harm to avoid being called to account for one's own criminal actions is an effective tactic, one has ceded the side of civilization to the brutal, the callous, and the utterly self-centred. This is a problem that it is not optional to solve, if one wants to maintain a civilization.

It's unlikely tanks are the right kind of overwhelming force to present, and they're certainly the wrong thing to start with, but there is a lot to be said with making it clear that there is no prospect of successful resistance right up front. It tends to discourage stupidity.

'After', well, what do you do with a couple hundred uneducated kids? You get them foster homes, or a supervised dorm somewhere, and you get them an education, and you hope it all works out OK. If the state needs to pass a special appropriations bill for the purpose, I can think of positive ways to spin that, and I'm sure you can, too. Despite the state of American labour law, hammering on the evils of slavery still plays.

#138 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 12:06 AM:

Teresa --

My condolences on this outbreak of kook-magnetism.

Typing saint "kook magnet" into google got me only one hit, and that was a comment on the tendency of the saintly to attract same, rather than an indication of who might be consdiered appropriately intercessory.

#139 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 01:10 AM:

We can certainly make an example of anyone who defies state authority - there is a history to show we're good at that. Might well be able to find a few folks with demonstrated skills at destroying the village in order to save it but I'm not going to support that. Wouldn't know where to stop destroying villages either - North to Cedar City and we won't stop till Rexburg is saved?

We could pay welfare only to folks we approve of?

The post says 300 students in the school system -more than a couple hundred but not the biggest problem.

The biggest problem for me is that I would, Lee Marvin style, decline forcefully to cooperate in reclaiming a runaway but also decline to fetch somebody who didn't choose to runaway.

The notion that the child bride would runaway if she could and so I will presume to act as though she did postpartum when she is excused from leaving on grounds of incapacity still puzzles me. Statutory rape I know of but statutory slavery?

I would cheerfully go in to enforce wage and hour laws for anyone engaged in labor law regulated activities but that doesn't seem to be the picture - cf work missions where apparently the letter if not the spirit of the statute law is followed. Workman's compensation paid and child safety enforced?

I have a friend who chose to walk in on an oft repeated wife beating and did point a chrome plated .45 auto (chosen to be both cheap no loss if it ended up in the evidence locker and visually impressive) between the husband's eyes while more or less quoting Jack Benny "now cut that out" He was of course quite prepared to destroy anything his gun covered.

You'll have to explain to me why expanding the notion to a whole community is wisdom.

I'd not bet that willingness and capacity to destroy the town would discourage stupidity on either side in the circumstances of this case. I am sure that one armored bulldozer with civilian police support is ample force.

#140 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 03:08 AM:

I tried "'patron saint', kook-magnet" and picked up a blog entry from A Saintly Salmagundi that appears to recognize St. Lawrence O'Toole as one who knew what it was to suffer fools, full stop.

#141 ::: Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 05:47 AM:

Lydia:

I think that what I’m trying to say is that the various types of abuse that people receive are different, but that ranking them as more or less horrible is unhelpful.

I agree absolutely. I am sorry in turn if I gave the impression that I was offended by what you'd said...I wrote what I did by way of adding to the conversation, and trying to flesh out, as it were, some of the things that you & CHip were saying in abstract terms by relating my experience. But as you mentioned earlier, the topic itself is so loaded that it's tough to write about without giving (or implying that you're taking) offense. So again, sorry if I came off that way.

As a society, we assume that a child who’s been sexually molested is more damaged than a child who’s been physically abused.

I have thought more about that, and I think one reason why this might be is that sex and sexuality is such a cultural minefield generally that it's probably difficult to assess what a healthy sexual norm is, much less how to get someone back on track who's been sideswiped off. And the inability to grok kids + sex probably makes any norm assessment/reorientation that much harder too, and possibly exposes any therapy to its own risk of being called inappropriate or abusive. So maybe folks assume the worst because it's culturally safest.

I don't want to hijack a thread that's clearly gone elsewhere, but you're welcome to email me if you want to discuss further. Or not. :) In any case, your posts are provocative in the good way and I want to thank you for your bravery in articulating thoughts that carry no small risk of backlash.

#142 ::: Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 05:56 AM:

One more thing: I also think that we can tie both ends of the issue to the post-Victorian equation of childhood with 'innocence.' I think that it ends up fetishizing children and childhood, which probably feeds both the deep aversion to linking kids with sexuality and the impulse to abuse.

OK, really done now.

#143 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 09:19 AM:

What I meant about sending in Federal tanks wasn't at all about shooting the place up or besieging it. The object of putting tanks on the streets in peacetime seldom is to do anything like that. Their purpose is to sit there, engines turning over now and again, and make the point that this place is not sovereign.

Likewise with my suggestion of mass arrests - not (primarily) of the alleged perpetrators of abuse but of elected officials and others who (if I've got the story straight) are setting the mores of their sect above the laws of the United States.

#144 ::: clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 11:27 AM:

Still not clear to me what makes local criminal law violations a Federal matter?

In fact I think some of the posts supra could be viewed as a discussion of what jurisdiction ought to be.

With plenty of sympathy for all of the parties I still ask if the folks won't leave then how can I as an evidentiary matter call the servitude involuntary and so invoke at least the Constitution?

What makes interference here so devoutly to be wished and not in some other circumstance? Shall we establish a rule that polyandry is prima face OK subject to fact finding and polygyny is prima face abuse of grown men's physical authority over young women subject to appropriate defence?

Personally I'm chasing an apostate with a small a who fled Rexburg in a sort of panic but I'm not going to scourge the community there with sword and flame - really curious where to draw the line on evidence and not on emotion and projection of emotion.

#145 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 11:31 AM:

What I meant about sending in Federal tanks wasn't at all about shooting the place up or besieging it. The object of putting tanks on the streets in peacetime seldom is to do anything like that. Their purpose is to sit there, engines turning over now and again, and make the point that this place is not sovereign.

I don't think I'd want to see tanks deployed on the streets in this country even by an administration that I liked. I certainly don't want the current administration to get to thinking it's a good idea. Using one bad thing to end another bad thing may on occasion be necessary, but it shouldn't be the first or even the fifth thing that people think of to try.

There's a reason why the motto they used to cast into the cannons was ultima ratio regum -- the final argument of kings.

#146 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 11:33 AM:

Clark --

Poly-anything is in the abstract just fine with me; the specific problem has to do with freedom of movement and involuntary servitude, the evidence for which can in this circumstance be provided for by the testimony of those who have fled.

And, speaking abstractly, if slavery isn't a violation of federal statute, y'all need to do something about that.

#147 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 11:46 AM:

I believe that there is no limit to the damage that can be done to a child, and no limit to the impetus a child can be given to love and achieve.

My mother was a teacher in an inner city 3rd grade classroom in Brooklyn, New York. She saved children every semester from abusive parents and indifferent authorities.

Children, upon abuse, can be driven to suicide, and to becoming abusers themselves. Those in jails, and those in the sex industry, were very often abused. Serial killers were often abused.

There is no limit to what a child can accomplish in life, given loving education. Children are like "totipotent" stem cells -- capable of being programmed (nature + nurture) to be any kind of adult human being.

No limit on the up side, no limit on the down side. This is MORE than a matter of life or death!

#148 ::: clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 12:33 PM:

Ah - but in fact as I understand the hypothetical those who fled are juveniles who cannot provide evidence for those who refuse to flee.

The physical circumstances are apparently not illegal and most further testimony would be hearsay and so excluded. Real real hard to establish state of mind by outside observation harder yet when the observer cannot qualify as an expert or even an adult.

Not at all clear to me that in a Federal system everything need be a Federal crime with Federal enforcement. Lots of reprehensible things aren't Federal crimes why pick involuntary servitude to make a Federal crime when local wage hour enforcement is likely to be more effective - besides most exceptions to involuntary servitude are under color of state law. Should the Angola Prison Farm be a violation of Federal Law?

#149 ::: sundre ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 12:35 PM:

Lydia:

" I think that what I’m trying to say is that the various types of abuse that people receive are different, but that ranking them as more or less horrible is unhelpful. As a society, we assume that a child who’s been sexually molested is more damaged than a child who’s been physically abused. The consequences of what was done to us don’t necessarily follow some neat chart that other people think up to judge the severity of the situation. "

Right. Myself and others in my family have had difficulty identifying what has happened to us in the past as abuse. The blueprint we have been given doesn't quite fit our own circumstance.

The social definitions of all kinds of abuse have shifted a great deal, and they can be hard to identify in some forms. How loud do you have to yell at a child before an outsider can identify it as abuse and not normal anxiety? How much force do you have to exert on a child's arm before a stranger can notice that you have gone beyond "discipline" and the acceptable boundaties of parental control?

Pain caused by emotional and physical abuse is just as real and as wrong as that caused by sexual abuse. It leaves a different mark, but it leaves one just the same. Sexual abuse can be pinpointed as "true" abuse because it carries with it all our other baggage about sexuality. It is expected that people will experience some amount of pain, some degree of humiliation and embarassment, some personal insult as a matter of course. It can be sometimes be brushed off as a thing that should be got over and put aside, forgiven and forgotten and unimportant.

#150 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 12:48 PM:

Clark, we can't deprive people of liberty "without due process of law." While I object to prisoner slave labor (not least because it was, historically, a means of continuing African-American slavery in the South after the civil war), it's not illegal.

And the federal statute is the Mann Act. They're "transporting young girls across state lines for immoral purposes." 'Immoral purposes', in the wording of the Mann Act, is a euphemism for 'white slavery', which in turn was a euphemism for forced prostitution.

Their attempted dodge of living on the AZ-NM border instead brings them under federal jurisdiction, at least whenever a girl from one side was "assigned" (sold) to a man on the other side.

And the US military is not permitted to act in a domestic policing capacity. That's the Posse Comitatus Act (which some believe was violated in Waco).

Disclaimer: I'm no lawyer and can't give legal opinions. The above represents my understanding, no more.

#151 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 01:01 PM:

AZ-UT border, not AZ-NM.

#152 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 01:26 PM:

Sorry. Misremembered. A state border, anyway.

Duh, actually. Utah would have seemed likely to be involved, had I thought.

#153 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 01:36 PM:

Yes, I know - my point is that a scheme of leaving regulation and enforcement up to the states with an ultimate remedy of Habeas Corpus in a Federal Court including a constitutional civil rights violation provides an ample remedy in Federal Court without further federalizing criminal law enforcement. Fugitive Slave Act issues have long been settled with fire and sword.

I simply see no need for a Federal statute to supersede common law when such an act would have to include all sorts of local rule exceptions anyway - or why is cleaning the blackboard after school not a federal case yet but this is? Both involuntary servitude of children are they not?

And I'm not sure the facts would support a Mann Act case - given that the activities do not match a normal understanding of prostitution - [see e.g. Children of the Night for child rescue activities. (I took crisis line training in Denver from the L.A. Children of the Night phone line trainer but they got to call first)] but rather in the circumstances here described something more like interstate flight to avoid prosecution. Moreover every Mann Act case involves the prostitution as state law violation.

I'm stuck on the facts of this case - proof that assignment was quid pro quo purchase/sale with money or valuata changing hands be it so much as a peppercorn. Lots of parties involved. Family of origin, family of assignment: parents of origin and Prophet. See The Puppet Masters for the prime marriage question "who pays and how much" - obligations of parents of the bride to pay for the wedding and parents of the groom to pay for the rehearsal dinner and all don't make it a financial transaction. Show me the money for sex nexus - as opposed to promises of support say - or as described simple ticket punching for the Celestial Kingdom here.

#154 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 01:59 PM:

sundre - emotional abuse is so hard to prove, but it so often comes with evidence of physical abuse. As for how hard is too hard, when it comes to physical abuse - if it leaves a mark, it's too hard. Passersby would have to know the child's name and address to make a report and they usually only get a response after three or more have been filed, depending on the severity of the alleged abuse.

Some of us are more resilient than others. Some become offenders or are trapped in multiple personalities, while others can't even remember their abuse. I hate the expression 'shake it off'. All pain is not the same.

Throughout this whole conversation I've had a nagging feeling that the women of Short Creek don't live such different lives from a lot of women all over the country, minus the live-in status of the other 'wives'. A lot of people have multiple sex partners and keep it a secret. We have folks who believe the only way they'll get out of an abusive home is to marry, or at the least have a child so they can get their own welfare check and get their own place on subsized housing.

The feds do have authority where possible welfare fraud is concerned. If I were to plan a way to get information to those kids about how to escape, it would include long conversations with welfare fraud investigators who simply make the info part of their interview, just as pregnancy planning info was once a routine part of the welfare application. But there are thousands of them and not all in town. It's in the federal food stamp regs that caseworkers can do home visits to verify eligibility. The feds could hire a crack team of food stamp workers to meet with families while the dads are at work. If I were such a worker, I'd be more comfortable if there were at least the FBI's hostage retrieval team waiting outside.

#155 ::: Elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 02:08 PM:

Clark,

I believe that part two, paragraphs three and four, of the article Teresa linked here:
http://www.polygamyinfo.com/plygmedia%2003%2096prescott.htm
nicely address why I, at least, think this is slavery.

Are you assuming that the parents of each girl is the girl's "owner"? As I read it, the church leader "prophet" is the owner (prophet over fathers, fathers over mothers, mothers over children, in a pyramid), and is in control of virtually all goods and services in the community, including land and jobs. The pain of removal of all goods and services, in this life and others, is a powerful motivator and "price". Men who please the prophet (doing whatever) get paid in "wives" (good for this life and the next). Those who displease him may have the wives taken away. What the "wives" or soon to be wives say is about as important as what my compact car says; if that isn't a removal of all liberty I don't know what is. Plus all the deliberate, systematic oppression, psychological torture and induced ignorance and sweatshop labor (for the boys, who don't get their paychecks) and oh...on and on.

Having someone say to me, "Good morning, Elizabeth, and by the way, you're getting married to Bob today," is a such a far cry from "Hey! Elizabeth, stay on task with those math problems or clean the chalkboard later" that I don't even know how to respond to you about your comparison.

I guess I'll just say that slavery was grabbed as a legal issue by the Feds in the civil war, and the previous attempt to deal with this legally and on a large scale was state and appeared to fail because it was hampered by state issues that wouldn't faze the feds.

But really, I don't care who deals with it: Feds or state, criminal or civil, with guns or trains or Greyhounds. I'd just like those people set free.

#156 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 03:30 PM:

Mitch asks "Even better: why were things allowed to get to this point in the first place?"

It's a good question, and I don't have an answer.
The leaders of Short Creek could have stopped it before it started, but in cases where that doesn't happen, what are the reasonable possibilities?

Here's an idea I've been playing with, though it certainly wouldn't cover all cases, and might not have put a dent in Short Creek.

Children have a right to communicate with the outside world. If this were ingrained in the culture (as opposed to the current idea that parents have the right to filter children's communications in both directions), it would at least make abuse less conveniant.

And here's another non-drastic idea: Is anyone working on convincing the leaders of Short Creek that they shouldn't be doing what they're doing?

#157 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 03:45 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz:Children have a right to communicate with the outside world. If this were ingrained in the culture (as opposed to the current idea that parents have the right to filter children’s communications in both directions), it would at least make abuse less conveniant.

Nancy, I disagree. Yes, children should not be completely cut off from the wide world, but they don't have an absolute right to free speech, either. If I caught my hypothetical children joyfully participating on a (say) white-supremacist message board, their grounding would be long and painful. I wouldn't let my hypothetical eight-year-old hang out in a sex-chat room, either. There are too many nutbars in the world to let children say what they want to whom they want, until they have sufficient walking-around sense to judge for themselves. And even then, they need their parents for damage control, when they make the inevitable mistakes.

#158 ::: clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 04:27 PM:

I am in fact assuming that the nuclear family of husband and wife{ves} has the ability to hit the road together - as well off as the Joads - and the parents must collaborate in the assignment for the assignment system to work. Certainly having or claiming? the authority of keys to rewards in the afterlife is not generally subject to criminal sanctions?

F=IW; I am not contending that cleaning the chalkboard and being tweeny in a strange household are the same; I am contending that it is hard to write into the Federal statutes.
a rule to distinguish them

Hard to write a rule that children have a right to communicate with the outside world AND children have a right to be protected from grooming as by blocking internet access. Studies on robustness under abuse in children indicate that an outsider and some faith in the outside help tremendously - school as an escape with a favored teacher. Nevertheless I am reminded of a case I was involved in where the parents were themselves divorced members of a sect with unusual beliefs - the professional assigned to choose a parent in the best interests of the child said neither informally - I offered to donate my services if she wanted to strip the parental rights and adopt the child - end of conversation.

Rumor has it parents would throw their children under the Juggernaut in the belief this was in the child's best interests.

#159 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 05:52 PM:

I don't think communicating with the outside world in general has to allow *all* communication. I didn't read Nancy as saying that children have a right to have their parents pay for hours-long overseas phone calls, either, just that they have a right to talk to some people outside their family/community. Sure, the ruling on specific cases might get difficult, but it often does, as people have discussed upthread in matters of where the line between abuse and general "life stuff" goes.

From what I've seen linked here, it doesn't look as though the government has been attempting to prosecute these families and losing the court cases on technicalities or questions of phrasing.

I think the upswing in runaways since the two Fawns succeeded indicates that people who wanted to leave the situation did not previously believe they could make it out. If they believed they could leave and weren't doing it, why did so many children leave immediately after those two did? So I think, "Oh, they could leave if they wanted to, and I can't go in and interfere if they don't" sounds a little disingenuous.

A drive through Southwestern desert in an air-conditioned U-Haul with a cooler full of food and no psychopaths chasing me showed me how inhospitable that region can be. I'd imagine people who have lived there all their lives know better than I do how easy it would be to have something go very wrong, especially with the entire force of your community trying to stop you.

And put me down for another person against the ranking of types of pain, suffering, or abuse, please. It's just not productive.

#160 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 08:39 PM:

One of things playing into this is the simple truth that when I was sixteen, I didn’t own my own mind. I still believed, on some level, that my father could read my mind. The only part of myself that I owned was my sexuality, and it was a vital part of my independence and eventual escape from a deeply dysfunctional family.

WADR, I think you might be allowing your visceral reaction to cloud the fact that the kids we're talking about have had that one place where they are free of their authority figures taken away from them. Their parents get to hand them over to someone not of their choice, who then gets complete title over their sexuality and use of their genital equipment.

The horror of this is just precisely that what you valued is no longer available to these kids.

I was just noticing on the way past - Fawn and Fawn? Gosh, these people do seem to like naming their daughters after prey, don't they.

#161 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 12:07 AM:

Nah. It's a traditional name. My mother's mother's eldest sister's eldest son's wife was named Fawn.

#162 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 11:57 AM:

Have you seen the further developments in Short Creek? Apparantly, the current Prophet has excommunicated 21 (male) members, including the Mayor, and has redistributed their wives and kids. I read an article in this morning's LA Times, which made no comments about the fact that women and kids could be "re-assigned".

There was a hopeful quote from Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson: "I think they are imploding."

#163 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 12:06 PM:

Ache, ache. (That's ah-SHAY.)

#164 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 01:15 PM:

"these people" of course meaning the friendly folks of Short Creek. Gee, tendentious me much? Shocked everyone else much? Backward reels the mind much?

The whole parents having a right to dispose of their children as they see fit thing has some bad resonance for me.

#165 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 06:03 PM:

Julia,

I said: One of things playing into this is the simple truth that when I was sixteen, I didn't own my own mind. I still believed, on some level, that my father could read my mind. The only part of myself that I owned was my sexuality, and it was a vital part of my independence and eventual escape from a deeply dysfunctional family.

To which you replied: WADR, I think you might be allowing your visceral reaction to cloud the fact that the kids we?re talking about have had that one place where they are free of their authority figures taken away from them. Their parents get to hand them over to someone not of their choice, who then gets complete title over their sexuality and use of their genital equipment.

The horror of this is just precisely that what you valued is no longer available to these kids.

I don't know what WADR means. With all due respect?

Any gate, you've misunderstood what I wrote. I was not talking about the situation of the children in Short Creek, I was responding to Rachael, who wrote: But I was that sixteen year old girl who thought I was in control and I was wrong. You can be sure my daughter will not have the freedom I did to be in relationships with men twice her age.

I was arguing both that a sixteen year old becoming sexually active is not, in and of itself, a disaster, and that a sixteen year old girl being involved with a man twice her age is, again, not automatically a disaster. I also acknowledged that there are problems, as there surely are. However, I think that people point to the horrors like Short Creek to make the argument that teenagers mustn't be allowed to make decisions about sex, and I disagree. The usual argument is that the power differential between a teenager and adult is too great, and therefore it is not possible for the teen to give meaningful consent. I don't believe that. Informed consent? Who the hell can do that about sex until they've been sexually active for a couple of years?

In the environment in which I lived, in the circumstances I found myself, my involvement with Laurence was far from a disaster, it was fresh air and sunshine to an imprisoned soul. Nor did it contribute, I don't think, to foolishly losing my virginity at an SCA event to someone whose real name I didn't know. On the gripping hand, that experience was taught me a great deal, although as with moist learning experiences, it hurt like a bastard.

I would never mistake my situation for the one that the child-"brides" find themselves in. I wonder what the suicide rate there is. I don't know that it's higher than average, but if it were I would certainly not be surprised.

#166 ::: FranW ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 07:10 PM:

"I wonder what the suicide rate there is. I don’t know that it’s higher than average, but if it were I would certainly not be surprised."

Well, their =reported= suicide rate is zero (http://www.hs.state.az.us/hsd/chpweb/places/14870.pdf). FWIW.

Dunno. It seems an awful lot of those girls are so indoctrinated in the concept of their duty being obedience and service-with-a-smile that protest, let alone suicide, would never cross their minds.

#167 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 09:32 PM:

Lydia: The usual argument is that the power differential between a teenager and adult is too great, and therefore it is not possible for the teen to give meaningful consent. I don’t believe that. Informed consent? Who the hell can do that about sex until they’ve been sexually active for a couple of years?

That seems a little extreme to me. Is it not possible for someone to learn about both the mechanics/consequences and their desires before becoming active? I expect this varies according to "community 'standards'", but preparation isn't impossible (even if description fails before experience) just as it is for, say, skydiving.
And yes, when I started skydiving I went out of the plane with a professional on each side of me; absent the advantages of Beta as described in A Civil Campaign, I don't think sex is comparable. There may not necessarily be a raw power differential, but a there's difference of knowledge and leverage points. YMMV, but I suspect there are few adults both capable of a fair initiation and interested in someone so much younger.

#168 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 10:57 PM:

Hmm, I think I agree with both CHip and Lydia. Teenagers are so easy for adults to manipulate that we have to make a continuous effort NOT to; also the desire and ability are there long before the judgement.

This is not just from lack of experience/lack of knowledge. The part of the brain that does judgement and consequence-evaluation develops last in adolescence, usually not until the very last couple of teens (as in 18 and 19). (I learned this from the Discovery Channel miniseries Teen Species, which despite its name is not a murderous-alien-teenager movie.)

I think a teenager (say 15 or 16), judgement-wise, is more or less equivalent to a drunk adult. Just as you wouldn't take advantage of a drunk person (not if you're the kind of person I want to associate with), it's usually wrong IMO for an adult to sleep with a teenager. Usually. (Two teenagers, like two drunks, probably a bad idea but no one's to blame.)

I think, though, that there are people who would be able and willing to do "fair initiations" if our culture supported them. But our culture disses such things even where they're legal. And it's completely unrealistic to expect people to wait until they're 18 to start having sex. That's just not going to happen in most environments (Short Creek, the boys may wait, if they don't get banished).

So IMO the real question society should be asking is "do we want our teenagers falling into bed (more likely the back seat) with one another, willy-nilly, and without protection from disease or pregnancy, or would it be better to have responsible adults show them the ropes, teach them how to put a condom on (and/or put one on the boyfriend), and how to use birth control?"

No way are they asking that. I just think they should.

Disclaimer: I started at 11. The 13 year old I started with probably didn't/doesn't count what we did as sex, but for me it was much like the sex I've had since. All the sex I had until I was out of college was all tangled up with unpleasantly weird emotional shit.

#169 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 11:39 PM:

Don't underestimate how easy it is for teens to manipulate adults right back, Xopher. (Or anyone else, for that matter.) The power is most assuredly not one-sided there, especially when adults are making the teen=innocent assumption. I'm not saying that the teens in the Short Creek situation are most likely capable of doing so, or that their circumstances promote subtleties in sexual relations/politics/etc. But I was someone who was an early bloomer in some key respects. Being 14 and knowing an honorable 40-year-old was attracted to me and felt like a heel about it? That was power. Quite heady stuff, actually. Glad I didn't use it any farther, but...don't underestimate its presence.

I think it's dangerous to approach any situation with the attitude that one is obviously the perceptive, self-controlled being and the other person is the one who can be manipulated for some categorical reason (age, sex, whatever). Those roles are almost never that pure. There are way too many variables to be able to determine based on that type of categorization who is going to have better judgment, self-control, and manipulation abilities.

#170 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 03:21 AM:

Sexual slavery in the US is apparently a more widespread phenomenon than I thought.

I don't feel well just now.

#171 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 06:08 AM:

A few years ago, in a serial killer case in the UK, it came out that the killers' children had told social workers things about their father that could, in the 20/20 vision that is hindsight, have been seen to be about the rape/torture/murders. (The killers were a married couple who had, on a regular basis, imported teenage girls into their home and then raped, tortured, and murdered them for kicks: at least one of their victims was their own daughter, but mostly they preyed on teenage runaways.) The children had been assumed to be fantasising. I am not blaming the social workers for this catastrophic failure: it was the kind of horror that no one could be expected to predict. But the basic presumption in British law is still that children lie.

I did think, and I still think, that a lot of child abuse could be stopped if leaving home were a basic right that any child had. No need to give a reason, to explain why, to do more than state "I don't want to live here any more". And to make sure that all children know they have this right, and have the ability to exercise it.

Granted it wouldn't stop all child abuse, any more than the legal right to leave the marital home stops all spousal abuse. But it would create a means for things to get better which does not, at the moment, exist for children.

#172 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 10:41 AM:

Yonmei,

Not to be difficult, but what would we DO with all those children? At least where I am, child protective services are incredibly overworked and can not intervene unless there is a physical threat to the child. We don't have the social workers to check on these children, nor the decent foster homes to house these children.

It seems to me that the children who are most in need would be out of the frying pan into the fire, so to speak. Out of their homes and onto the streets, which to my understanding is the default for many abused kids anyway.

It's a nice idea, but as far as being practically applied, I think it would be a complete nightmare.

#173 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 12:04 PM:

But the basic presumption in British law is still that children lie.

Considering how completely and utterly suggestible *young* children are, I'd be much happier if there wasn't an implicit presumption on law enforcement's part that they _didn't_ tell the truth . . .

(I'm not sure how old the children were in your example. I'm talking about kids less than, oh, five.)

#174 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 12:28 PM:

Michelle, I agree. While it would be easy enough to set up the principle that any child can leave home at any time, the difficulty then becomes: where do they live, and who pays for it? Care for children who don't live with their parents is notoriously underfunded. (When I try to think of specifics I branch off into Heinleinesque/Robinsonesque speculations about divorced children receiving alimony and living in children's shelters where the children are effectively the employers of the staff. However pleasing an idea, this is not practical long-term.) The problem primarily is more wide-reaching than that: we tend to see children as a class of people to whom things are done, not as actors in their own right. (An instance I recall is of a 13-year-old Shi'ite Muslim girl in care who was found a foster home with a Sunni Muslim family: she rejected the foster home because she found that the cultural differences were uncomfortable for her: the social workers in charge of her case (the girl said, later) didn't seem to apprehend that there are differences between Muslim and Muslim. She ended up back in care, and (her perception) having rejected one foster family, the social workers made no effort to find another for her. A couple of years later, the family of a Jewish friend at her school offered to foster her, and she wanted to be fostered by them, but the social workers turned this family down because it was council policy only to home children with families of their own cultural/ethnic origin. (I admit that my source of information is the girl in question herself, and I have no information as to how the social workers saw the situation.)) But it seems to me that there is a decided reluctance among social workers, certainly in the UK, to see children as people with the ability to make valid choices about where and with whom they want to live - because it's much simpler and has much more tradition behind it to see children as the property of their parents. Only if their parents conclusively abandon them do children seem to get a choice about where they want to live.

Kate, the social worker who wrote the article mentioning the children of the serial killers did not say which child had described her father's actions. But as the child's words had been transmitted via her teacher, the child was probably between 5 and 11 years old - at primary school, not nursery school. I am not in the least happy that children of that age are routinely assumed to be lying.

#175 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 01:05 PM:

But as the child?s words had been transmitted via her teacher, the child was probably between 5 and 11 years old - at primary school, not nursery school. I am not in the least happy that children of that age are routinely assumed to be lying.

Considering that children, especially in the preschool and primary-grades age range, may or may not have the equivalent of an adult grasp of the distinction between the real and the fantastic, or between that which is dreamed or wished and that which happens, or between the literal and the metaphorical, and that they may or may not have an adult's abilities of self-expression, or an adult's grasp of causality . . . I'd say that absent other proof it's not unreasonable to assign a certain inherent unreliability to their testimony.

Which is not the same thing as saying that children lie. It is, after all, possible to state with full belief in its truth something that later turns out to be false.

#176 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 01:12 PM:

But as the child?s words

I have no idea how a simple cut and paste managed to turn an apostrophe into a question mark. Some variety of font weirdness, I suppose. But given the contentiousness of this thread, I thought I'd better make clear that there was no intent behind the substitution.

#177 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 01:58 PM:

Oddly enough, not five minutes ago I explained why this happens, in this comment on Electrolite.

#178 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 02:30 PM:

It’s a form of compression. Thanks to the Internet economy build-up-then-crash, the number of Internet users is growing faster than server capacity. Result: The Internet is filling up. Every so often a bit of text needs to be compressed, and least-significant characters like punctuation marks get dropped.

#179 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 03:23 PM:

And now I've fixed the problem, at least so far as future comments are concerned.

#180 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 03:34 PM:

Seems to me the issue of reliability or weight to give to the testimony of a child is in large part a resource issue combined with the lack of peer judgement for children - it's said that AA members can call each other on lies the world passes and so forth.

The one time I looked at this issue - and talked with a world class Psychologist (who was also K-12 teacher and special ed certified and practiced and all the rest) who might testify with a reasonable professional certainty to conclusions as to the facts in the case - we were talking about a week of paid professional time getting to know one child and the circumstances to reach the first threshold questions of courtroom fact - not yet a conclusion as to the ultimate issues. Believe the child that there is an issue I believe - believe the child as to the facts I don't - I've seen a case of contaminated stories in which the facts presented by one family were true but not of the family presenting for instance.

I have no answers whatsoever and I wish I had seen some in this thread.

#181 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 03:59 PM:

Yonmei,

I think it becomes more than a difficulty, in that I would think it would be more likely for children who desperately needed help not to get that help, if social services were flooded with every child who decided that they were being abused because they were made to do chores. Which is what I fear would happen in the situation you previously described.

Yes, it is a bad thing when children are in danger and adults do not believe them, but I fear that taking what children say at face value 100% of the time could be a problem, only in the other direction.

It's a horrible thing either way, and people are going to be hurt, regardless.

#182 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 04:04 PM:

Back in the 80s, as the Satanic Cult Abuse scam was coming to light (not enough prosecutors went to jail IMO), there was a cartoon showing some Puritans on their way to Salem (yeah, timing is wrong) with a bumper sticker on their wagon that said "We Believe the Children."

All courses may run ill.

#183 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 04:54 PM:

if social services were flooded with every child who decided that they were being abused because they were made to do chores. Which is what I fear would happen in the situation you previously described.

Michelle, I'm not thinking of making it a matter for social services at all. I'm thinking, in I fear a very impractical and science-fictional style, of solutions like the Wellhouses in Golden Witchbreed, where any child could leave their family home and receive an unquestioned acceptance in a house of the Goddess. When the British ambassador asks "what if children just run away?" her guide says "Well, they know they'll have to work as hard here or harder than at home" (paraphrased).

There is a hell of a lot more child abuse goes on than social services could deal with even if they recognised it as an issue. Is it child abuse if a parent forces a terrified child to sleep in the dark, night after night, to "harden him up"? Not by the definition of social services, but wouldn't it be better if that child had an option to say "That's it, I'm leaving" - and head off to the nearest Wellhouse/childhouse/whatever to stay there, without having to justify it to an adult? Such an action might even make the parent doing it to the child realise that the child really is scared of the dark.

Or maybe parent and child just need time out from each other. (I know of one instance where the oldest daughter moved out from her mother's house for six months when she was 11 - entirely her own instignation, she went to stay with her gran - after her parents were divorced. The ostensible reason given was "Because you wouldn't buy me a pony!" Both I and my friend thought there was a lot more complicated reasons than that, but my friend felt that what it amounted to was that her daughter, temporarily (she hoped) had just got to the end of her tether about her mum and her mum divorcing her dad: and after six months away, daughter moved back in, and they get along much better.

Now, that was a situation with a parent who was prepared to take a deep breath, consider the situation calmly, and do the sensible thing: and with a grandmother prepared to offer the child indefinite hospitality. But I can't believe their situation is unique: what's unusual is that they could and did resolve in that way.

#184 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 07:01 PM:

Autre temps autre moeurs - I've seen children passed around the family as farm labor - mostly for older married sibs - who considered it a respite (and in most cases it was - the laborer wasn't necessarily worthy of his hire) and I've seen children tough loved by their parents who were welcomed into unrelated families for a respite. These things do happen and as noted resiliant children will prove to have been children with some sort of external resource - that's not the case under discussion though.

#185 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 07:41 PM:

Yonmei: [wrt fostering a Shia Muslim girl] A couple of years later, the family of a Jewish friend at her school offered to foster her, and she wanted to be fostered by them, but the social workers turned this family down because it was council policy only to home children with families of their own cultural/ethnic origin.

This encapsulates the damned-whatever-you-do problem faced by social workers; I've seen this policy described as the result of flamage about "genocide" by speakers-for-minorities, who may be right in some cases but certainly not all. Given such a shortage of time, it's hard to exercise judgment against the rulebook and not to be punished for it regardless of whether it works out -- and having followed the rules provides \some/ cover in case of a catastrophe.

#186 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 02:33 AM:

Given such a shortage of time, it's hard to exercise judgment against the rulebook and not to be punished for it regardless of whether it works out -- and having followed the rules provides \some/ cover in case of a catastrophe.

Agreed. But officially, social workers are supposed to pay attention to what the child says about fosterage. And in the case of a fifteen-year-old, I think it gets fairly ridiculous if you don't.

A five-year-old Muslim girl with Jewish foster parents? Maybe not the best idea, unless the foster parents have some solid ideas and plans about bringing up a Muslim child, and connections to the Muslim community. And even then, risky.

A fifteen-year-old Muslim girl? There may still be difficulties, but she's got to an age where her opinion about the difficulties ought to be consulted. There may well be other reasons why the fosterage didn't go through: but assuming that the potential foster parents were willing and the girl was willing, I think that it ought to have been the girl's decision whether she could deal with cultural differences. (Which might have been easier cross-religion than between branches of the same religion.)

#187 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 12:41 PM:

Anything at all depends on how you frame it - just as any case at common law can be distinguished from any given authority or follow that authority so too the example could be framed as having more in common with a religious family than a secular family - which I suspect would be correct on the facts here, all people of the book, or distinguished on details of the religion.

One more reason why there is room on this thread for any moral you want to draw - imagination can often follow the rules to justify almost any action.

#188 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 04:08 PM:

Margene:

hope you're still reading this! just got back from out of town. If you would be willing to email me stuff, that would be fantastic. I'd also just love to know more about how you got where you are..I know a few stable poly groups firsthand, many more poly people, and everybody does it differ'nt. Fun to know. The email address behind my name works to email me, or you can post one for me to mail to, whatever works.

Mitch:

If I wanted to be really cynical and offensive I'd say that polyamory represents more birthdays and anniversaries to forget! More people who have food preferences different from yours, thus making meal selection and preparation even more complicated! More obnoxious in-laws coming by to visit! Good thing I didn't say those things, though.

Ahem. Thank you for making me laugh. It just sounds so much like me, not bewailing polyamory, but bewailing living with two other girls. In-depth discussions on everything. Who knew dirty dishes had so much psychological import. Anyway. Humor value is good.

Seriously, I don't think of talking about relationship definitions etc. as work. It's part of a process of finding out more about myself and the people I'm with--it's not like these things wouldn't come up in random conversations. I mean, who doesn't like to talk about the things that are important to them?

************

The discussion of sexual abuse, it's repercussions and our culture's weird attitudes towards children's sexuality has all kinds of reverberations. Last week I watched TV for the first time in probably a year, an episode of Law & Order, the eternal show. My parents adore that show. They watched..oh, three episodes in a row, I think? as I wandered in and out. And all three of them had to do with the sexual abuse of children, generally by family members, at least the fragments I saw.

The emphasis seems a.) obscene and b.) prurient in the extreme. Part of me is glad this is no longer a taboo subject, we can admit children get molested by their families, but this kind of obsessive focus on it? There is something weird in our collective psyche.

As for the effects of abuse on the victim, and the weird hierarchy of severity that seems to sometimes exist (Stefanie, Lydia, several others)--yeah, I think every case of abuse is different, in the perpetrators, in the type, in the victim, in the situation, how many more ways can it vary? It makes the laws trickier, and the need for people who can make good judgment calls all the greater.

And it's an interesting question, how much social mores and reactions contribute to the effects of abuse. There's the obvious type, the "I can't talk about this or everybody'll think I'm a slut" reaction. There's the extreme discomfort that many people seem to have on being confronted with the reality of abuse, which can make it seem all the more shameful. And ironically, I think sometimes our weird overexposure to stories of child abuse has an effect too, in that the reaction of one's acquaintances, friends, family, what-have-you, frequently assumes that once it happens, Life As We Know It Is Now Over.

I truly, truly do not mean that last one to belittle or criticize the experiences of other victims of abuse. It wasn't even the most significant aftereffect *I* experienced, but I know it was there; somehow, all this stuff that I and various people I talked to about it had seen gave me this pattern of reactions that I thought I was supposed to be having, and it took me years to figure out what was me and what was that.

It's a pattern that I saw not only in those idiotic Law & Order episodes, but one I can remember seeing in some fantasy fiction when authors try to be "gritty". Charles de Lint and Mercedes Lackey come to mind, although it's been years since I read either of them. They've always seemed to me like people trying to write dark fiction who haven't actually been there themselves, and they're writing based on having read the reactions of those who have, but the underlying flavor just isn't there.

#189 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 06:21 PM:

Seriously, I don't think of talking about relationship definitions etc. as work. It's part of a process of finding out more about myself and the people I'm with--it's not like these things wouldn't come up in random conversations. I mean, who doesn't like to talk about the things that are important to them?

I have an answer: Guys.

Not all guys, to be sure. But I remember a cartoon that was a parody of a horror-movie poster, something like "...when she utters the terrifying words...Let's Talk About Our Relationship!!!"

That seems to be a run-screaming-out-the-door for a lot of men.

#190 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 07:10 PM:

Xopher: ok, this is a tangent taken way too far...but, I'm not just talking about Talking About Our Relationship talks, or the talc-ing talkers that talk then. (Powder To The People!) I meant the question "who doesn't like to talk about things that are important to them" to include things like, oh, politics, for one, and religion, and environmentalism and what have you. I don't see them as being all that different.

#191 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 08:07 PM:

And sports? And cars?

#192 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 08:39 PM:

and Buffy?

#193 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 10:56 PM:

Yonmei: Agreed. But officially, social workers are supposed to pay attention to what the child says about fosterage. And in the case of a fifteen-year-old, I think it gets fairly ridiculous if you don't.

How officially? What happens to the poor MSW who actually makes that decision, when the Islamic equivalent of Al Sharpton comes howling for the people responsible to be drawn and quartered? (Don't tell me it wouldn't happen; all that's needed for a hue and cry is one loudmouthed extremist with a few followers, however unrepresentative he is of the mass of his nominal co-religionists.) Yes, I'm being grumpy and cynical; watching the Resident try to backpaddle in two directions at once while denying he's doing it gives me indigestion.

Perhaps it would be different in the UK; I'm not convinced from what I've heard that Hutton was fair, but (if it was) starting the BBC resignations at the top instead of the bottom is not something I would have expected to see in the USA.

#194 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 12:43 AM:

This has just arrived in our downtown Antipodean news. If we had water coolers at work, I'd be nicely primed with a host of useful suggestions & thoughtful opinion to convey around them.
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/01/30/1075340842795.html
Headlined: Girls flee polygamous sect as leader splits families
and bylined: By Nick Madigan in Colorado City, Arizona
January 31, 2004

#195 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 03:29 PM:

How officially?

Legally, to the best of my knowledge and belief.

What happens to the poor MSW who actually makes that decision, when the Islamic equivalent of Al Sharpton comes howling for the people responsible to be drawn and quartered?

I have no idea who Al Sharpton is. But the situation you describe is not one I would recognise as likely to happen - I mean, for starters, we're talking about a Jewish family fostering a Muslim child, and therefore religiously speaking, even the most fundamentalist of Muslims wouldn't have a problem: Jews, like Christians, are "children of the Book". Granted that what one person can imagine another person can accomplish, such paranoid fantasisings may have been the reason why the Muslim girl wasn't permitted the foster family she'd requested placement with. Foster parents report that the officials responsible for child welfare tend to be more interested in CYA than anything else. Extreme paranoia in the UK, however, tends to rest on possible accusations of child abuse rather than on religious mania.

I'm not convinced from what I've heard that Hutton was fair, but (if it was) starting the BBC resignations at the top instead of the bottom is not something I would have expected to see in the USA.

It's certainly not something you see all that often, but it is still a British tradition: the seniormost person responsible for a mistake resigns, end of story. (I think Greg Dyke's resignation was in part because he hoped this would draw a line under the unfair attacks on the BBC, and in part to free him up to speak out against the Hutton judgement.)

#196 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 04:05 PM:

POI: Al Sharpton is an African-American "minister" in the US. Currently a vanity candidate for President.

He's a race-baiting asshole, IMO. He'll go in and stir up trouble among people of different races who were getting along fine until he showed up.

Also (and also IMO) he "cries racism" on anything that involves an African American. It's getting so one can't say the word 'racist' without sounding like him, which undermines the struggle against the actual racism that does exist in this country.

#197 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 04:29 PM:

(Yonmei): "But the situation you describe is not one I would recognise as likely to happen - I mean, for starters, we're talking about a Jewish family fostering a Muslim child, and therefore religiously speaking, even the most fundamentalist of Muslims wouldn't have a problem: Jews, like Christians, are "children of the Book".

How exactly are you defining "religiously speaking"? It seems as though approximately two thousand years of cultural warfare would tend to disagree. I think I must be misunderstanding what you're trying to say.

#198 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 05:49 PM:

I understand that the Koran says that the other People of the Book are not to be harmed, as long as they pay a special tax to be allowed to live among Moslems. And every Moslem I know says that peace among the PotB is a goal of Islam.

Raising a child might be a little different. And certainly the Nation of Islam (an explicitly racist African-American Moslem group) would raise a huge stink in this country.

Louis Farrakhan, I believe, would be the "Al Sharpton equivalent" we're looking for -- plus a few degrees of extremism. Sharpton is just an ego-grabber with no discernable ethics; Farrakhan is an actual nutjob.

#199 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 11:51 PM:

Xopher on Al Sharpton:

"He's a race-baiting asshole, IMO. He'll go in and stir up trouble among people of different races who were getting along fine until he showed up."

Jeepers, Chris. I have no particular use for Al Sharpton, who's pretty obviously a charlatan, but you might want to consider that he wouldn't be as successful as he is if various people really were "getting along fine" so much as you claim. Sharpton may have exploited Crown Heights, but he didn't create it--it created him.

I mean, talk about rolling over as the bad guys set the terms of the debate. The idea that racism is a thing of the past and that we only think otherwise because of "race-baiters" is much beloved of people who would like to get rid of, for instance, you. Why are you carrying their water, Christopher? Do you think they'll grant you points when push comes to shove?

Al Sharpton is a big old phoney who gets away with his schtick because racism is alive and well in America, and don't you bloody forget it.

#200 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 11:57 PM:

I was going to say that he's been behaving himself much better in recent years, but of late, I'm sorry to say, he's been backsliding. Still: he's a creature of context, like a tropical storm. Without the solar heat and ocean currents giving him power, he'd never trouble the world.

#201 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 03:08 AM:

I believe that Xopher referred, in the same post, to "the actual racism that does exist in this country," which to my mind innoculates him against accusations of carrying the water for the bad guys.

A couple matters from far up the page:

At the very start, Teresa wrote, "There's already a completely civil union of the sort you [Mitch] describe. It's called a business partnership." This seems to have been misunderstood by some as saying that a business partnership conveys the rights and responsibilities of marriage, but I didn't take Teresa as meaning that at all. Mitch was describing an alternative to marriage that could be between two people or amongst 3 or more people; and that is what a business partnership can be.

In fact there's a lot of guff about marriage, which is really prejudice but is camoflagued as universal truths about human relationships, that can be disproved by simply looking at business partnerships, because those are human relationships too. (e.g. "all relationships must have a dominant partner," used in an argument that in marriage it must be the man, or that homosexual marriages are unnatural because how will you decide who the dominant partner is, etc.)

I'm a little puzzled by the name of the town. Teresa wrote that it was called Short Creek, but renamed itself Colorado City upon incorporation. But I read elsewhere, or thought I understood, that incorporation followed on the FLDS pulling in their scattered bodies and taking over 3 years ago; yet I have maps much older than that that use the name Colorado City.

I realize this is of monumental unimportance compared to most of the extremely interesting discussion here, but it is a question that puzzles me.

#202 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 08:04 AM:

Simon: thanks.

Patrick: Did you not read the part of my post that Simon is referring to? Perhaps I should elaborate. Obviously there's plenty of racism in this country; it's a stink that pervades everything, a disease that infects everyone in the country of any race.

What I'm saying about Al Sharpton is that he's more a divider than a uniter. And that if everything looks purple to you, you can't make out the things that are actually purple. This makes the problem of stamping out purple much, much harder.

That's a metaphor. I like purple. :-)

Of course the phenomena Sharpton talks about are real. 9/11 was real too, but it wasn't a good reason to demolish the Bill of Rights. I think Al Sharpton would rather have a race war than a reconciliation.

#203 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 09:04 AM:

Xopher: "He's a race-baiting asshole, IMO. He'll go in and stir up trouble among people of different races who were getting along fine until he showed up."

This just sounds (to me) too much like personal experience to take it as "carrying water" for anybody. I see it happen all the frigging time. We can all talk politely and interact like normal people, and then some self-serving twitball like Sharpton or Limbaugh starts harping either on a.) the existence of racism; or b.) the existence of Whiny Black People (respectively), and then suddenly we all remember that oops, we're on the opposite side of the racial divide, and I guess we shouldn't be talking after all.

Do these issues need to be discussed? Obviously. Do one-sided attacks by these twerps do anything to further the discussion? Again, obviously not.

I s'pose I do reserve a larger portion of my distaste and irritation for Limbaugh, though. Surprisingly enough.

#204 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 10:40 AM:

With all due respect to everybody: bullshit. Racism is not created by the mention of racism. This is one of the most odious rhetorical ploys of the modern right wing, and I'm bluntly astonished to see otherwise intelligent people promulgating it.

Al Sharpton is a bad man because he's a proven liar and opportunist, not because he "stirs up" people or "harps on" racism. Part of the deal of being a white American is that you get to pretend that the default state of race relations in the country is kindly white people and black people "talking politely" and working toward "reconciliation", until bad old Al Sharpton arrives to "stir people up" with his "one-sided" "harping." Unfortunately, other kinds of Americans don't always have the luxury of this highly convenient self-delusion.

It's possible that nobody else in this exchange is old enough to remember that all the now-sainted leaders of the 1950s and '60s civil rights movement were constantly charged with "stirring up" otherwise nonexistent racial tensions and "harping on" grievances. Not by extremist racists, but by the editorial pages of most respectable newspapers. Martin Luther King, now universally hailed as an apostle of brotherly love, was regularly castigated by the "moderates" of the day as an "agitator" whose "one-sided" approach was "fomenting" tensions that otherwise wouldn't have existed.

So spare us this particular brand of baloney. Particularly the "divider rather than a uniter" bit. Yes, so was King. You get to be a "uniter" after you've done the hard work of sorting out the wrongs. Sometimes massive acts of wholesale forgiveness and reconcilation are called for. But you don't get there just by wishing. You get there with a lot of effort, and noticing and talking about the divisions is a step you don't get to skip. And you can bet that whoever does this is going to be accused of being a "divider rather than a uniter." It's a crap charge levelled against King, who was a good man, and it's a crap charge levelled against Sharpton, who isn't.

You say Sharpton's misdeeds "undermine the struggle against actual racism"? Consider, also, that the persistence of actual racism also undermines our moral authority in going after Al Sharpton. It's interesting that the second strikes us as more unfair than the first.

#205 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 10:58 AM:

How about "exacerbate"? Will you settle for "exacerbate"? He has power, and he has moral agency. We do need some way to say "He makes things worse generally in order to enlarge himself personally."

#206 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 11:13 AM:

He certainly does do that. Unlike the other stuff, this is a true charge against Sharpton that isn't a retread of the same charges that have been levelled against every single other politically-effective black leader in American history.

I don't know if it needs saying, but I'm not charging anybody in this discussion with bad intent or evil racism or whatever. I'm pointing out that in the effort to say something true (Al Sharpton is a putz), a bunch of us are singing right out of the reactionary playbook. If being "divisive" and "harping on racism" is enough to indict any black leader, then racial progress is impossible.

Hooray for divisiveness. It's an absolutely necessary piece of any real moral progress.

#207 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 11:15 AM:

Noted. Yes.

Can I cavil further, and say that not all divisiveness is created equal?

#208 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 11:54 AM:

Varia: How exactly are you defining "religiously speaking"? It seems as though approximately two thousand years of cultural warfare would tend to disagree. I think I must be misunderstanding what you're trying to say.

Well, religiously speaking, Muslims have a Qu'ranic mandate requiring toleration of Jews and Christians because they are, like Muslims, "children of the Book". Christians, unfortunately, have no such religious mandate, and two thousand years of cultural warfare against Jews and Muslims have indeed been the result. Jewish and Islamic dissension is, very largely, a matter of 20th-century history/ME politics: providing there is no issue of the Jewish family proselytising to the Muslim child in an attempt to convert her to Judaism, then religiously speaking, the most hardline Muslim could not have an issue with a Jewish family caring for a Muslim orphan. (This is not to say that a troublemaker might not invent an issue for extra-religious reasons - I'm just saying that it would be no more justifiable than the homophobia which many Christians believe (falsely) to be a religious mandate.)


#209 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 12:37 PM:

Well, religiously speaking, Muslims have a Qu'ranic mandate requiring toleration of Jews and Christians because they are, like Muslims, "children of the Book".

If this is true, then what accounts for certain behavior by certain Muslims that seems to fly in the face of this religious mandate?

I wonder this same question every time some moderate Muslim leader (a few days ago it was the prime minister of Turkey) comes on TV and says that Islam is a religion of peace and does not condone terrorism.

Maybe this is true, but a sharply contrary opinion is not exactly an obscure fringe position in the Islamic world. So what gives?

#210 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 12:45 PM:

Yonmei: Ok, but holy books can say whatever they want. Few people of any religion live by them. It's not entirely a bad thing, either; I for one am quite content that Gerald Gardner's fascination with flagellation doesn't play a more central role in neopaganism. People more familiar with Christianity, Islam, and Judaism can probably all name bits of their own holy books that they prefer to ignore.

In the case of this social worker, it just doesn't seem like the Qu'ran is going to have a real impact on her decisions. What she has to live with is the reality where it does in fact make sense to take into account religious prejudice, intolerance, and violence. To live every day in fear of them? Not necessarily. But to be aware of them? makes sense to me.

TNH: "How about "exacerbate"? Will you settle for "exacerbate"? He has power, and he has moral agency. We do need some way to say "He makes things worse generally in order to enlarge himself personally."

very true. very well put. thank you.

PNH: "It's possible that nobody else in this exchange is old enough to remember that all the now-sainted leaders of the 1950s and '60s civil rights movement were constantly charged with "stirring up" otherwise nonexistent racial tensions and "harping on" grievances. Not by extremist racists, but by the editorial pages of most respectable newspapers."

Good point. I bow to the wisdom of the ancient masters.

However, with all due respect, I don't think I was attempting to blame the entirety of our nation's racial problems on Al Sharpton or anybody else using his types of discourse. I said he was a twerp and a twitball, not a focus point of any kind of significant social movement. Putz is an even better word for it.

I think a lot of people who don't want to admit the presence of racism wouldn't admit it whether it was brought up or not, and are going to continue their behavior regardless of the discussions around them. Sharpton and others of his ilk aren't going to make their racism any more entrenched--it's already there.

"If being "divisive" and "harping on racism" is enough to indict any black leader, then racial progress is impossible."

...eh. I think you state this a bit too strongly. Speechifying is useful for changing social and legal institutions, which is worth doing, but the remaining targets for legislation are so tricky and ambiguous (discrimination in education? cultural biases in test-writing? They're all there, but what's the simple solution?). These things just don't lend themselves to rabble-rousing simplified arguments, and sometimes it seems as though your average demonstration, protest, speech, what-have-you, is doing more to distract than to help.

#211 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 01:53 PM:

Hmm. Patrick, you convince me. As in, I've thought about what you said, and I now believe you're right, which I didn't before.

Just one place where you're unconvincing: I'm not charging anybody in this discussion with bad intent or evil racism or whatever. That would seem to belie Why are you carrying their water, Christopher? Do you think they'll grant you points when push comes to shove?

I should think you know me well enough to know that I don't carry anybody's water, least of all to gain points with them when push comes to shove. When push comes to shove, I'll be in a concentration camp with a pink triangle on my shirt (and/or a black five-pointed star, or whatever symbol they pick for that). I was wrong about the effect of what I was saying, as I've admitted above, but I have to admit I was shocked and angry to have this accusation leveled against me. I'm sure you were shocked and angry to hear me say what I said, too, however. But you did accuse me of bad intent.

#212 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 02:32 PM:

Do people sing out of playbooks?

#213 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 02:49 PM:

Avram, for shame. "Casting spells out of their grimoire." "Singing out of their songbook." "Riffing on their chart." Whatever. :-)

#214 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 03:31 PM:

Participants in this thread might like to read Nathan Newman's essay defending Sharpton.

FWIW, I think Patrick's shot at Xopher was well below the belt. I only mention this because Xopher might like to hear it; in everything else he said, I agree with Patrick.

#215 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 03:39 PM:

You're right. I was pissed off; my apologies.

#216 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 05:43 PM:

Thanks, Patrick. I apologize for mouthing off without thought, and I don't blame you for being pissed.

#217 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 08:02 PM:

Simon said: If this is true, then what accounts for certain behavior by certain Muslims that seems to fly in the face of this religious mandate?

I find this statement unrespondable to as it stands. What "certain behaviour" and which "certain Muslims"?

Varia said: Ok, but holy books can say whatever they want. Few people of any religion live by them. It's not entirely a bad thing, either

Agreed, on all counts. ;-)

#218 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 10:25 PM:

Simon: If this is true, then what accounts for certain behavior by certain Muslims that seems to fly in the face of this religious mandate?

Yonmei: I find this statement unrespondable to as it stands. What "certain behaviour" and which "certain Muslims"?

Widespread anti-Semitism beliefs in the Arab world have been widely reported, Yonmei.

There's this fella Osama Bin Laden who, I understand, is pretty popular over there in the Islamic countries. Also, try some of these headlines out:

- "Saudi Princess Fahda bint Saud ibn Abd Al-Aziz: Conspiracy Theories and Other Writings."

- Contemporary Islamist Ideology Permitting Genocidal Murder

"The Jewish Threat: This threat has two aspects: The first is a Jewish plan, based on religious motives, to control Iraq. The second has to do with ending the Iraqi threat to Israel's existence."

- Based on Koranic Verses, Interpretations, and Traditions, Muslim Clerics State: The Jews Are the Descendants of Apes, Pigs, And Other Animals

- The Protocols of the Elders of Zion: The Renaissance of anti-Semitic Hate Literature in the Arab and Islamic World

- Here's a write-up on an Egyptian miniseries adaptation of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

And a more optimistic article here:

- Harbingers of Change in the Antisemitic Discourse in the Arab World

I do not say that anti-Semitism is essential to Islam, and I don't know whether the majority of Moslems are anti-Semitic. But it certainly is widespread.

#219 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2004, 07:22 AM:

Mitch: Widespread anti-Semitism beliefs in the Arab world have been widely reported, Yonmei.

Yes - and I think you'll find that they source around Israel, and the fantasy of a "Jewish power group" in the US, to explain the US's continued bias and support for Israel.

I do not say that anti-Semitism is essential to Islam, and I don't know whether the majority of Moslems are anti-Semitic. But it certainly is widespread.

Absolutely. It's of (comparitively) recent origin, however. And is fundamentally not so much anti-Semitic as anti-Israel, though I admit that in many countries the distinction between Israel and "the Jews" is not made. Which is why I made the point that religiously speaking there is no reason why a Muslim should object to a Jewish family fostering a Muslim child.

Anti-Semitism itself could, historically speaking, be considered integral to Christianity: it is certainly not integral to Islam.

#220 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2004, 09:49 AM:

sennoma: interesting article. thank you.

#221 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2004, 11:58 AM:

I am not aware that there is a "standard" English translation of the Koran. I've read parts of several, most intensely while researching a screenplay with my wife and Steve Barnes, set in an Islamic country.

I've also taught a class on the theology of cloning, and now believe that the first human clone will be born in an Islamic country.

We must be careful (unlike Emperor Bush II) to distinguish Islam from Islamist.

Jews and Christians are "people of the Book" in the Koran, due special respect. Up until The Prophet, the same names appear as prophets in all 3 religions.

H. G. Wells, in his bestselling History book, claimed that the rapid rise of Islam was because it was a better system than any other for many people, in their environment. Solved problems of ownership, marriage, business, diplomacy, and so forth.

And see "The 100 Most Influential People in History" -- the essay on why Mohammed was #1 is most illuminating.

Without egotism, I can't go into my discussion of Islam from a Jewish-Buddhist perspective that I had with Allen Ginsberg. He brought in Artificial Intelligence to his spontaneous statement.

By the way, computer analysis has counted the number of instances of every name in the Bible. Any guesses on which names come up #1, #2, #3?

#222 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2004, 12:33 PM:

Jonathan Vos Post: By the way, computer analysis has counted the number of instances of every name in the Bible. Any guesses on which names come up #1, #2, #3?

Jonathan Vos Post, and his good friends Moses and God?

#223 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2004, 06:49 PM:

You got me, Mitch Wagner!

Rather than spoil things by blurting out the true answer, I refer those who want to peek at:

A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia, Page 15

after the section about how EIGHT is the first whole number, if all whole numbers are arranged in alphabetical order; ZERO would be the last number. And the section on how DIVIDIVI (a tropical American tree) is the longest word composed solely of Roman numeral letters. And the bit about FABACEAE (a family of beans in some classifications) being the longest word which can also be a hexadecimal numeral (consisting only of A, B, C, D, E, and F).

The part you want, with the most commonly ocurring names, is scrolled down a little from the bit about the two longest words in the Bible having 18 letters each. MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ (Isaiah 8:1) is the name given to Isaiah's son, meaning "swift is booty, speedy is prey." JONATH-ELEM-RECHO-KIM, which is found in the title of Psalm 56, is the name of a song and means "the silent dove of far-off places."

Anyway, the Jonathan, son of Saul, sidekick of David, in Samuel I and II, is an interesting character, and there are about 25 other Jonathans in the Bible, and my father is actually named Samuel, but no point in mentioning any of that...

At least I never got a rejection letter from The Journal of Recreational Linguistics. Just several unpaid publications. The editor of whom used to be the Director of the Census. But that's another story...

The web page on "Swift is Booty" has been taken down by John Ashcroft, anyway.

#224 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2004, 11:55 PM:

Mitch: Widespread anti-Semitism beliefs in the Arab world have been widely reported, Yonmei.

there are certainly asinine public pronouncements about Israel, or Jews, or Judaism (and/or conflating these carelessly) coming out of the Islamic world; the question is whether MEMRI can be trusted to accurately report the content, the prevalence, or the breadth of acceptance of these statements. I don't immediately recognize the name, but it has something of the feel of the self-styled Committee for Accurate Middle East Reporting in America, and Facts and Logic About the Middle East -- neither of which is any respecter of facts.

For that matter, what would somebody find if they dug as vigorously into all the publications in Israel as MEMRI has into Islamic publications? There are nutballs everywhere; is MEMRI's presentation any more accurate than quoting White Aryan Resistance as representative of the USA would be?

Every time I see a complaint about Arab maps labeling Israel as "occupied Palestine", I think about a display in a ]Jewish[ school not 3 miles from here; at first glance it looks like an outline of Israel-with-a-tumor, but if you know the maps of the area you can see that it shows Israel and the West Bank as a single entity. My personal take (cf several comments leading into this) is that the Arab world has rather more cause to slam Israel than Sharpton does to slam the USA, and even to let that hatred spill over to the USA -- there's a nice spot in the Inferno, right next to Guido da Montefeltro, for the people in the USA who encouraged the Israeli colonization of the West Bank. Claiming that such slams as evidence of the great danger poor Israel lives in is past disingenuous and into grey propaganda.

#225 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 05:14 PM:

CHip, you make some good points there. I'm not prepared to prove that anti-Semitism is widespread in Arab countries, but I have seen this reported in many times, in many places, far more than MEMRI. Three years of Bush's lapdog media has made me more suspicious than usual of anything I read in the news, but still, I'm prepared to stipulate that anti-Semitism is widespread in Arab countries, until I'm presented with evidence to the contrary.

Of course, anti-Arab prejudice is also widespread in Israel. That's one of the tragic outcomes of wars that have gone on a couple of generations, hatred for the other guy begins to seep into the fabric of the culture.

Separating anti-Semitism from simple anti-Israeli arguments is a particularly tricky matter, in part because the Israeli and American Jewish leadership themselves have tried to make a claim that to be anti-Israel is to be anti-Semitic. To which I respond: No.

Still, when anti-Israeli propaganda begins to promote the same cliches used in anti-Semitism, I'm prepared to call that anti-Semitism. For example, I've seen the blood libel used against Ariel Sharon.

You write: Claiming that such slams as evidence of the great danger poor Israel lives in is past disingenuous and into grey propaganda. Actually, I can make a greater case for hatred of Israel in the Arab world than I can for hatred of Jews in general. We can argue about why Israel is hated in Arab countries, but we can pretty well agree that it is. Can't we?

It also appears to me that Israel is far closer to being prepared to make concessions to the Palestinians than the other way around and that Arabs are better off living in Israel than in, say, Iran. I am only stating this as my opinion, for the record - alas, I'm not prepared to argue about this, any more than I am prepared to be drawn into an argument about gnu control or *b*rt**n.

#226 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 11:55 PM:

Mitch:

You write: Claiming that such slams as evidence of the great danger poor Israel lives in is past disingenuous and into grey propaganda. Actually, I can make a greater case for hatred of Israel in the Arab world than I can for hatred of Jews in general. We can argue about why Israel is hated in Arab countries, but we can pretty well agree that it is. Can't we?

I certainly agree that it is hated; where I'm balking is the contention I often see that such hatred means that Israel has no course but to smash any opponent who stands up against it.

It also appears to me that Israel is far closer to being prepared to make concessions to the Palestinians than the other way around and that Arabs are better off living in Israel than in, say, Iran.

I suppose that depends on what you consider concessions. I wouldn't call agreeing to live within one's internationally recognized boundaries a concession; and there are increasing numbers of Palestinians who are willing to drop the demand for return rights if Israel will simply leave them in peace on the land that is still properly theirs. (I see in today's news that the Israeli answer to the statement that its colonization of the West Bank is contrary to the laws of war is that this law applies only to occupied land, while the West Bank is "disputed". Would Israel's friends have been able to get it international recognition if it had made this claim at the time?)

#227 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 02:29 PM:

CHip - I agree with you that Israel needs to vacate the West Bank.

But let's look at some recent history here: The Oslo Accords. The Israelis gave the Palestinians 90+ percent of what they wanted, the Palestinians responded with suicide bombings.

Israel as a nation has some severe problems and built-in racism. But there is hope for Israel. On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority is despicable, Yasser Arafat and the leadership of Hamas are monsters.

#228 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2004, 09:21 AM:

Mitch: But let's look at some recent history here: The Oslo Accords. The Israelis gave the Palestinians 90+ percent of what they wanted, the Palestinians responded with suicide bombings.

Let's have a little accuracy here. Following Oslo (early 1990s), Israel got 6+ years of peace, during which it did nothing to advance to a permanent solution and planted another 100,000 colonists in the West Bank. The bombings restarted only after Israel made a questionable solution its final offer (in the late 1990s) and starting killing protesters. (In the first few days \all/ dead were Palestinians; there were ~100 Palestinians killed before any Israeli civilians died.)

And even if 90% is a fair statement of what was offered -- if I mug you and then give you back some of the money, should you be willing to ignore the rest of the money (let alone the abuse)?

#229 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 05:19 PM:


Twenty years ago, there was a genuine witch-hunt which centered around sexual child abuse. Did you know that some of the people charged in the McMartin School case are still in jail -- even though we know they are innocent of the things for which they were accused and convicted?

Not to reduce the tragedy of the McMartin trial, but none of the accused is still in prison. Ray Buckey served five years of jail time, during the trial, but the jury hung on the verdict and the DA decided not to retry the case (which would have been the third trial of Buckey).

Now, for people who are still in jail, look north, to Kern County, in the city of Bakersfield where 12 people, in at least three cases were convicted, four of them were given sentences which totalled more than 1,000 years.

At least 11 others were charged (with two of them fleeing prosecution, on 33 counts) in the years 1982-1985.

At present at least four of the convicted are stlll in prison.

For an overview of why Bakersfield is not a place I ever want to live read the book, "Mean Justice" (in both senses of the word) by Edward Humes.

Terry K

#230 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 05:30 PM:

Mitch

It can be. I've known a few men who were sexually very promiscuous.

Funny thing: I don't know if we have a word in our pop vocabulary today for those kinds of men. Twenty-five years ago, we called them "pick-up artists." In the 60s, they were called "womanizers."

The present slang seems to be, "player," and, if it is any comfort, can be used with a decidedly perjorative slant.

Terry K.

#231 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 06:19 PM:

Yonmei:
"I do not say that anti-Semitism is essential to Islam, and I don't know whether the majority of Moslems are anti-Semitic. But it certainly is widespread."

Absolutely. It's of (comparitively) recent origin, however. And is fundamentally not so much anti-Semitic as anti-Israel...

After reading, "From Time Immemorial" I have to disagree with the comment that it is, "comparatively recent" or that it is anti-Israel, instead of anti-Jew.

Is it what the Qu'ran teaches? No. But for no small period of years (going back into at least the 19th century, and [though I found the book too depressing to finish] IIRC to time well before that).

There is a strain, and it seems deep and wide, of Islamic thought which says those who aren't Muslim are less than people, and it seems that the lowest of the non-people are Jews.

This thought seems less prevalent in "modern" Muslims., but it is not something I can just gloss over as a recent response to Israel.

Terry K.

#232 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2004, 01:34 PM:

After reading, "From Time Immemorial" I have to disagree with the comment that it is, "comparatively recent" or that it is anti-Israel, instead of anti-Jew.

Well, Terry, having used Amazon's "look inside the book" facility, I am unsurprised that From Time Immemorial gave you the impression that there "is a strain, and it seems deep and wide, of Islamic thought which says those who aren't Muslim are less than people, and it seems that the lowest of the non-people are Jews" - it's nonsense, but it appears to be Joan Peters argument. (Plus the old racist claim that Palestine was "a land without a people for a people without a land".)

I found some interesting commentary on Joan Peters book in The New York Review of Books and in Counterpunch. It appears that From Time Immemorial has been discredited as a mainstream historical reference.

#233 ::: Bethany Goluboff ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 11:08 AM:

And besides the mutiple fraud issues, why isn't anyone mentionning the numerous HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS ?!

It is shameful that we(Americans)would let such crimes not only be tolerated, but supported by our tax dollars.

I thought child protection agencies were supposed to step in when children are being raped and abused. Where are they ?????

#234 ::: Bethany Goluboff ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 11:10 AM:

And besides the mutiple fraud issues, why isn't anyone mentionning the numerous HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS ?!

It is shameful that we(Americans)would let such crimes not only be tolerated, but supported by our tax dollars.

I thought child protection agencies were supposed to step in when children are being raped and abused. Where are they ?????

#235 ::: Audra ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 10:57 PM:

After watching an interview on MSNBC last night on Colorado City polygamists I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Two women who were able to escape Colorado City were interviewed and I was absolutely in shock when I listened to what they had to say. This town is NUTS!!! Not only is this a form of slavery going on but it's basically a white supremacist cult. They are teaching their children taht people of color won'tgo to heaven and if they even get near peopleof color it will rub off onto them and they will also not go to heaven. One women brought documentation of what the children are taught and it was so racist the reporter couldn't say it on air. The women also said the children are physically abused along with sexually abused. One of the women who escaped got custody of her three girls but is too scared to try and go in to get her two boys because they are taught their mom is psycho and they are trained to shoot. A state legislator from Arizona said they set up a direct phone line for women trying to escape, all they have to do is dial 201. One of the women being interviewed laughed saying taht would be nice if they had phones or a way to even know about this hotline. The children and poeple of the town have no TV's, radios, newspapers, magazines or phones. Basically when askedwhy nothing has been done the state legislator said they didn't want to see children be torn from their mothers. So what, just let them be abused and treated as slaves instead?!?! IDIOTS!! WHy isn't anyone helping these poeple!??! One of the women who escaped said her sister tried everything she could before being "assigned" to an older man for the sole purpose of procreating. She said she tried to escape but any women who tries is taken back to the "prophet" by the police who are in on this sick and twisted community as well. I thought here in America we are supposed to feel safe around our police and trust them. What about human rights? I understadn the president has bigger things to worry about, but these peopel are being brain washed and treated like slaves, shouldn't taht be big enough. HUMAN RIGHTS PEOPLE?!?!?!?!? The two women also said that most women in the city have nothing more tahn a third grade education. ALl of this is just so mind boggling to me. These women and children are being treated as slaves and know nothingthan what they are taught by their "cult leader" or "prophet" as they call him. It is sickening to me and I can't imagine why nothing has been done to stop these sick, insane people. We are so worried about terrorists from other countries when we are growing them here in our own country.

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