"All lies and jest, still the man hears what he wants to hear and he disregards the rest" - The Boxer, Simon And Garfunkel
On the Salt Lake Tribune website, polygamy stories draw a group of commenters who generally don't participate on any other topic.
The majority believe that the issues of taking multiple wives, and taking underage wives, are inseparably intertwined.
A few people posting in these comment threads question just how widespread the "child bride" problem is, or whether it is legal and appropriate for the government to act against an entire community as a "criminal class". One lady I have a great deal of admiration for is Deb Lee. She's asks the hard questions, and she's become a popular target for insults and vitriol. The class she shows in the face of it all should be an example to us all.
The Tribune's reporter specifically assigned to polygamy stories is not a rabid polygamy hater, and for it, she is regularly accused of practically aiding and abetting.
What I see in play is some kind of morbid curiosity. For some reason, that eludes me, some people in this country are eager, desperate even, to believe lurid tales of organized abuse rings, masquerading under the guise of religion, holding children hostage as sex slaves today, right here within the boarders of the good 'ol USA.
This is by no means an intellectual exercise for this group of "true believers", they believe it with their hearts, and any skeptic will quickly be accused of being either a child abuser or a child abuse enabler.
This "true believer" phenomenon certainly did not begin with this particular group. In the 1980's, a book called "Michelle Remembers" was released. In it's aftermath, a large number of apparently unconnected individuals, across both North America and Europe, began coming forward with accounts "recovered memories" of satanic ritual abuse. Evangelical Christian traveling speakers Bob Larson and Jerry Johnston were drawing huge audiences, then Geraldo Rivera fanned the flames even more with a primetime special, treating it all as real. But was there any evidence?
Girls, whose bodies showed no sign of childbirth, claimed that they had been held as "breeders", producing baby after baby to be sacrificed on some hidden alter by people living perfectly normal and respectable lives by day. In the height of the craze, the owners of the McMartin Preschool were jailed, and the building was razed to look for underground tunnels where the children claimed they were taken for abuse. In the end, all the frantic digging could not make up for the fact that the tunnels simply did not exist.
We can go back even further, to a town called Salem, where some accusations from a few little girls caused more than a little commotion in the community.
Back to the present. As someone who has gotten to know these people over a prolonged period of time, ultimately coming to agree with with Gordon B. Hinckley when he stated on Larry King Live that plural marriage is not doctrinal, nevertheless coming away with a great respect and admiration for them, I know that enough marriages to underage girls have taken place that law enforcement interest comes at no surprise. Courts of Law have held those individuals responsible for it accountable.
It should also be noted that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who is in no way a synthesizer, and in fact admits that his office considered raiding a Kingston church meeting to forcibly collect DNA samples, stated in an interview on 1 Aug 2010 (Take 2, KUTV) that he was satisfied from the reports of his network of inside informants that no underage marriages had been performed by the FLDS since 2004.
Then there are the more problematic issues, like the "human incinerator" supposedly located next to the Texas FLDS Temple, or the young man who recently published a book claiming to have recovered repressed memories from the age of five, where Warren Jeffs took a him out of class, sodomized him in the bathroom, then returned him to the classroom with no physical injuries.
But the "true believers" scream that a widespread problem exists, and that the authorities are doing practically nothing.
I recently (outdated link removed) challenged a "true believer", who complained that nothing was being done to "eliminate this scourge", on just what she thinks should be done to eradicate polygamy?
Indiscriminately round up children? Raids to capture the lists of every person in membership or in sympathy? GPS tracking for life? Forced sterilizations? Sending out spies to discover if any new groups are forming? Labeling American citizens, convicted of no crime, as part of a "criminal class", and suspending their civil rights solely on the basis of whom they associate with?
Two other "true believers" took their shots at me, neither of them offering anything substantive to counter my reasoning. Afterward the original "true believer" I challenged thanked them "for answering my specious argument", refusing to address me directly.
My question remains unanswered, just what would it take to satisfy these people? Perhaps, operating on such an emotional level, there is no answer. Perhaps they simply perceive evil, want the evil excised from society, and they have not thought it out any further beyond that.
When I actually start publicizing this blog, so that people will actually start reading it, hopefully I can get some insightful comments as to why they so passionately want to believe. Could it just be that some have a pathological need for a scapegoat to hate, or that they find some personal validation in believing the worst of those who seem strange or different from themselves, or could it go even deeper than that? For now, I remain perplexed.
As for myself, I don't want to believe that horrible things are happening in my community, in my country, and in my world, though I will accept that which can be reasonably proven.