OPINION – There comes a point where you have to draw a line in the sand and simply say: “No more lies.”
All of this talk about polygamous marriage being nothing more than a “lifestyle choice,” that most polygamists are good, law-abiding people, that, perhaps, only a few participate in such illegal activities as sexual assault upon little girls forced into marriage with older men, the practice of “bleeding the beast” (which translates into welfare fraud), and other criminal activity is nothing more than talk and it is time for the state to stand up to the realities of polygamy rather than shove them to the side.
We have seen it take what it calls a “moral stance” to do all it can to oppose same-sex marriage, which does no harm and poses no threat to what is referred to as “traditional marriage,” yet allow these horrible transgressions by a group of religious fanatics to propagate.
The thinking is flawed, especially in the face of continuing evidence that these holier-than-thou claims from Short Creek are hollow.
Last September, Arizona’s Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson told us that the community of Colorado City, Ariz., has been taking outrageous amounts of money through the Department of Economic Security’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Payments and Medicaid.
These welfare benefits are generated by hard-earned taxpayer dollars.
Colorado City, of course, is part of the area referred to as Short Creek, which also includes the town of Hildale, Utah. Short Creek is home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a fundamentalist Mormon group that practices plural marriage, or The Principle, as it is called.
Johnson recently received an updated report from the DES detailing the number of recipients receiving SNAP and Medicaid payments in the Colorado City area.
“This new report continues to show that over 90 percent of the population of Colorado City is receiving supplemental nutrition and medical assistance,” Johnson said. “Over $400,000 a month in SNAP benefits alone is being paid out for a town with a population of only a little under five thousand.”
According to DES figures, more than $12 million in SNAP assistance was paid out from July of 2011 to December of 2013.
The figures are in for December of 2013, revealing no change, as approximately $428,099 was paid out for SNAP benefits on 529 cases resulting in a total household SNAP benefit of a little more than $800 a month.
“The average benefit for a household in the state of Arizona is roughly $288,” Johnson said. “The households in Colorado City are receiving over two times that amount.”
That does not take into account the amount paid in medical assistance to the residents of Short Creek.
This is part of the deep context of polygamy that is largely not understood by those with only the distorted view of the subject that is presented and popularized in the glut of pro-polygamy reality TV shows offered by TLC.
The network, which once represented itself as The Learning Channel, boasts “Sister Wives” as one of its strongest entries in a lineup that also includes such reality programming as “Sex Sent Me To The ER,” “My 600-pound Life,” “Hoarding: Buried Alive,” “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” and a host of other shows certain to stimulate intellectual curiosity.
Missing from the lineup, curiously, is a show that was scheduled for a six-week run that was cancelled after only three airings.
“Escaping The Prophet” was a program that was supposed to show the other side of fundamentalist Mormon polygamy, to expose the downside of a practice that is force-fed into the hearts and heads of FLDS followers from cradle to grave.
The show followed FLDS escapee Flora Jessop, who was born in Colorado City, had two mothers through polygamy, and 27 siblings.
She has a history of familial sexual abuse and was forced to marry her cousin when she was 16 before eventually fleeing.
Jessop became an activist, her purpose to help others escape from the abuses that robbed her of her innocence and left her scarred.
It wasn’t a pretty show, it wasn’t a funny show, it was a somewhat gritty show, in spite of the obvious scripting influences of the show’s producers.
But, it was a good counterpoint to the sit-com that is “Sister Wives,” where Kody Brown bumbles, stumbles, and fumbles his way through life with his one legal wife, three so-called “spiritual wives,” and 17 children.
“Sister Wives” is sanitized, it’s superficial, worst of all, it is one-sided.
We shouldn’t be surprised, not with the niche programming that is taking place on television these days, which follows the model of the Internet where truth is a commodity often difficult to discern.
The thing is, TLC was under mounting pressure from some corners to tip the scales into some sort of balance, to offer something that wasn’t all puppies, kittens, and unicorns when it comes to polygamy, which is, I believe, the only reason why Jessop’s show, “Escaping The Prophet,” was aired.
The thing is, it wasn’t a fair run.
Jessop’s show was not given the same kind of production values, the same sort of promotional boost, the same public relations push as “Sister Wives.” She made a fraction of what Brown and each of the women on his show earn per episode.
The show never had a chance, yet TLC can now say that it tried to show the other side of polygamy and that viewers just weren’t interested.
I realize polygamy is a complex issue, that to understand it takes patience and a willingness to dig a little beneath the surface and realize that there is a deep context to that world, that it is not simply a lifestyle choice, or a freedom of religion issue; that the sexual, emotional, and fraud abuses are all part of that context.
Jessop’s show gave us a dose of that context, that truth.
And, as the Georgian Orthodox Church author Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov) wrote, “The truth, even if bitter, will prevail with time.”
We can only hope.
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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