Yesterday I put forward what I have been able to gather about the FLDS events in San Angelo, Texas. I asked for readers’ opinions about the events, and the comments were particularly impassioned and came from radically different points of view. I said I would write today about my opinions and interpretations of the events. I acknowledge that some of yesterday’s commenters, and everyone who agrees with their perspective, are going to disagree with me. There’s no way around that. But I still feel compelled to outline my reaction.
First, I want to point out that it seems that if you (1) distrust the media and/or (2) distrust the state of Texas, you’re going to be inclined to think a horrible thing has been done here. On the other hand, if you’re inclined to (1) trust the media and/or (2) trust the state of Texas, you’re going to be inclined to think that justice is in the process of being served.
So where do I stand on the general trustworthiness of the media and the state?
I believe the media is tied to advertisers – and is really only interested in gathering eyes for the advertisers rather than actually conveying relevant and important information. So I think they over-state and sensationalize everything to increase viewers. But there is generally a grain of truth if you dig hard enough.
I believe the state generally, and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services specifically, are made up of hardworking people who are dedicated to doing the best they can to keep children safe. However, these people are generally over-worked, under-paid, and do incredibly hard work. So they absolutely make mistakes, including occasionally over-reacting or under-reacting.
And here’s a bedrock belief that I think guides everything else: Marrying young girls to much older men to produce babies is wrong. This is a form of gender-based slavery (rather than ethnicity-based slavery), and it is wrong. Is it wrong if the FLDS’ religious doctrine tells someone to do it? Yes. Is it wrong if Muslim doctrine tells someone to do it? Yes. Is it wrong even if it was the norm 1500 years ago? Yes.
Was the FLDS compound marrying young girls to much older men to produce babies? All indications suggest that at least some parts of the community were. And that has to be stopped.
Because of the world we live in, it’s most likely the state who is going to step in and demand that the FLDS give their girls enough time to grow up before they become wives and mothers. Is that ideal? No, of course not. But the children must be kept emotionally, developmentally, and sexually safe while it is determined whether and under what conditions they can be reunited with their families.
But here is where I am at a loss. The children who have been taken from the FLDS compound have lived very – extremely – sheltered lives. The foster care system is absolutely not in any way the place for them to live. But where else to go? Not home – not to foster care. This is where my grief at the situation reaches the place where I circle back on myself, not knowing where to turn.
These children need quiet, attentive homes where the daily rhythms are as close as possible to what they have known all of their lives to live in until they are (hopefully) able to go back to their families with an action plan in place. I called the Texas foster care hotline this morning to see if there was a way to become a foster placement for these children. But there is not. I understand – they certainly wouldn’t want to fast track individuals simply to meet the needs of these children because they would inevitably approve people who should not be approved. But nevertheless, this is an extraordinary situation. And I hope the state rises to extraordinary heights meet the needs of these children.
There is so much to talk about in this case – feel free to ask me questions in the comments section and I’ll try to answer as thoughtfully and fully as I can.