Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Enter the Controversy

First of all, let me just say that I'm writing this on the wireless keyboard usually reserved for my desktop. Only I'm using my iPad. I just MacGyvered myself a friggin' laptop. I'm feeling very smug and impressed with myself. Especially because this means I can sit on my couch and watch Netflix and still write at the same time. Hopefully that means I'll blog more and maybe even write something worthwhile. Heh.

Now that was a damn good show.
Not exactly realistic, I'm sure. But entertaining nonetheless.

I mentioned briefly in my previous post that I'm wasting valuable procrastinating time watching the reality show. "Sister Wives." I hate reality shows. The only ones I will admit to loving are: "What Not to Wear," and "Say Yes to the Dress," which hardly count. But something about this show grabbed my attention. I've been on a polygamy kick lately, which seems like a very weird thing to say. But I've been reading The 19th Wife, and just watched a documentary about the scary compound polygamist, "Sons of Perdition." Both of which were excellent. I was also a fan of "Big Love," back in the day, though I stopped watching about halfway through the series due to my atrocious television ADD.

So. Much. Estrogen. I would feel bad for the guy,
but he's happy as a clam on prozac.
I guess the reason I'm so fascinated by "Sister Wives," and polygamy in general, is mainly the logistics. The majority of the show's content isn't terribly compelling and its subjects are not especially likable (the husband Kody is obnoxious and douchey but in a nice way, and the wives are mostly batshit insane drama queens who never want to hurt anyone's feelings and yet get their feelings hurt so absurdly often. Also, many of the kids have the stupidest names I've ever heard.). It's not that they're bad people. They're just normal. Normal, boring, folks from Utah. And that is why this show is so interesting (in spite of the fact that they repeat themselves over. and over. and over to the point where I'm currently concocting a "Sister Wives" drinking game). I'm caught up in the coordination of it all. How they accomplish basic tasks like grocery shopping, paying bills, going on vacations, packing up and moving. Suddenly things we take for granted become so much more complicated, especially if they have to be secretive about something so major. And yet, they have a whole team working to make it happen. It's just a different practical dynamic.

There's also a different emotional dynamic. The show explores the jealousies, insecurities, and divisions of time and affection that naturally emerge in such relationships. Even though the wives are well aware and willingly consented to plural marriage, their husband courting a fourth wife becomes a source of contention. Simple things such as whether it's kosher to kiss his fiancee knowing he's technically a married man, suddenly cause major (albeit exaggerated) drama. A woman with fertility problems becomes that much more sympathetic when she sees her sister wives with six kids a piece, and more on the way (Meri breaks my heart!)

The Brown Family Home

It's even more fascinating given that I was raised Mormon (distinct from the Browns' religion in that we do NOT practice polygamy). I know that there must be a lot of doctrinal differences, but based on what is depicted in the show, the culture seems very similar. The manner of dress, the colloquialisms, the prayers, and other minor aspects instantly take me back to my childhood, or at least what I witnessed around my uber-Mormon family members around Salt Lake City. I remember visiting my aunt in West Jordan and her pointing to a large house we were driving past on the freeway, whispering, "That belongs to a polygamist and his wives," as if it were a scandalous, shameful secret. Clearly there is a divide between LDS and FLDS, and a pretty fragile one at that. Both sides would be offended at the comparison, but it is undeniable, especially when it comes from the same root.

Regardless of my own monogamous upbringing, watching this show has confirmed my belief that I honestly don't think polygamy should be illegal. This is just another type of family. I preach tolerance and freedom of religion, and believe that the government shouldn't interfere in the personal lives of citizens who are consenting, law-abiding adults who are breaking no other laws. It's only right that it should be legal. That's not to say I believe in it. In fact, I barely believe in marriage at all, despite my own parents having been happily married for decades, and most of my many many siblings being hitched with young'uns. I'm terrified of commitment and I'm not even 100% positive that I want children of my own.

But I do believe in freedom. If they're not committing tax or welfare fraud, child or spousal abuse, pedophilia, or any of the other crimes associated with this lifestyle, then why the hell not? Yes, I realize it's problematic when viewed through a feminist perspective. That multiple women should submit to and revolve around a man for the ultimate purpose of breeding what some may deem obscene amounts of children, is definitely disconcerting. At the same time, it's not for me to decide. I'm not involved in their relationship. Just like they're not involved in my relationship. What's important is that they get to have the choice.

I highly recommend watching this documentary as well.
Some may also argue that they were brainwashed to believe that this is the only way of life. And so many polygamist wives are. But I'm not referring to the cultish compounds out in the boonies that haven't been exposed to anything else, as showed in "Sons of Perdition." They weren't given a choice and many of their practices make me sick. Each of the Browns arrived at the decision to become polygamists as adults after much deliberation. They made it clear that their children are welcome to choose whatever lifestyle they wish. Some of the children mentioned that they don't intend to be polygamists, though they appreciate the way they have been raised. I think that's admirable, seeing as many other religions or cultures forbid their children from even considering other options.

Fuck you, Warren Jeffs. Fuck you.
A major plot line of the show is the constant threat of a serious police investigation into their family. Because bigamy is technically illegal. As a viewer, it seems crazy to me that these folksy, though somewhat misguided, people could conceivably go to jail for a religious practice which should be protected by the constitution. Of course those laws were written to prevent sickos like Warren Jeffs from rising up and subjugating and abusing women and children, as well as other financial malpractices. But that is clearly not what is happening here. As someone whose primary political persuasion is based on the fact that the government should not waste time, money, and resources on unnecessary things (see my blog regarding legalizing marijuana for essentially the same reason), this sickens me even more. Are the Lehi police really so bored and rolling around in piles of taxpayer's money that they feel like chasing after a large family who just wants to extreme coupon, carve pumpkins and wear multiple layers of clothing in a burning desert?

I realize that this may be a hot-button issue for some people. Other people may not have even given polygamy a second thought. Personally, I hate debate and avoid any subjects more controversial than whether or not I enjoy "Breaking Bad," (which actually sparked quite the online tizzy, believe it or not). I just hope that people see this show and realize that these are not criminals. They are a loving, spiritual family, that has to work extra hard and sacrifice a great deal to stay together and maintain a strong bond with all the branches. It's almost admirable in a way, especially when so many mainstream relationships can barely handle one other person in their lives, let alone four.

Seeing as there's no way I'd ever become a polygamist, the legality of the practice isn't something that directly affects me. And as soon as I'm through with the show, I'll probably forget about it altogether. But for now, it's sparking a very small fire of political fervor that's usually neglected within me. Although the second the Browns try to cheat on their taxes or take advantage of federal social programs, I will turn on them so fast, every single one of their heads will spin. (That's my fiscally conservative side acting up again...).

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