The news out of Eldorado, Texas is ugly, ugly, ugly. We’re told that the “polygamist sect ruled with fear.” And while the news depicts them as a “splinter group” I’d say that there’s a clear connection between so-called mainstream fundamentalism and these groups that the mainstream would like to repudiate when they come to light. The connections include a tendency toward black and white thinking, an uncritical respect for authority, and large gobbets of fear.
Here’s an interesting and disturbing site tracing (from a sympathetic perspective) the fundamentalist strain of Mormonism through history. I hadn’t realized that the main element defining this strain is the practice of polygamy. Now, according to this site, Warren Jeffs’ practices are not in keeping with the mainstream Mormon Fundamentalists, and the article I’ve linked digs into many arcane theological discourses that I am sure are meaningful and interesting to someone!
Disturbing is what I find them. Hard to get my head around this belief system and not see it simply through the lense of men finding yet another way to assert control over women and children. Dolores Chew addressed this idea back in 2005:
As feminists we need to remind ourselves that though there are chinks in the armour, patriarchy is alive and well and like capitalism and its corollary imperialism, it’s constantly finding new and innovative ways to re-invent itself. Patriarchy is about power — for some, while convincing all men that no matter how oppressed they are by political and economic systems, there is always someone below them who they can control — their wife, their mother, their sister, their daughter. Fundamentalism too is about power and control, often in collusion with patriarchy. What we need to remind ourselves is that we cannot be smug. Fundamentalism is to be found everywhere. Every tradition and culture has the possibilities of fundamentalism. And fundamentalism has little to do with religion and everything to do with politics and control. In fact we need to remind ourselves that religiosity, spirituality have answered and continue to respond to human needs. They are not in question. It is the manipulation of people’s religiosity and the exploitation of a sense of insecurity, powerlessness, of not knowing where to turn to in times of economic and political crisis, when there is a sense of hopelessness and helplessness that fundamentalist forces move into the vacuum, with promises of formulaic, quick fixes that are grabbed onto by those who feel they need something to hold on to.
Sound familiar? The fear? The quick fixes? The patriarchal mindset? The fear-mongering and the platitudes of the Bushies and the Neocons aren’t that far from the fear-mongering and platitudes of Warren Jeffs and his cronies in Eldorado, or Osama Bin Laden and his cronies in the mountains of Pakistan. It’s all in the same ballpark, folks. We need to wake up and see it for what it is.
Meanwhile the Dean of Berkeley Law School has explained why he won’t fire John Yoo … he wasn’t the decider. I was particularly interested to see that the aforementioned Dean is Chris Edley, a highly respected individual in his own right (and fellow Swarthmore grad).
It brought me up a little short, to see that Chris was the Dean, and inclined me to delve a little deeper, respecting him as I do. Here’s his entire statement. As I read it, it’s pretty damning of Professor Yoo, while supporting due process, academic freedom, and other “small protections” that I am quite sure Professor Yoo would have gladly overturned in specious legal memos for the deciders just a few years ago. I get why you couldn’t fire him, Chris … but I sure hope he’s miserable or (even better) reflective and repentant (fat chance, I realize).
By the way, in other Swarthmore-related news, HBD MLD!