One wife, two wives, three wives, four? Five wives, six wives, seven wives? Really? More?

July 27, 2011

Suspending judgement tends to be a good policy for the intellectually inclined. So much of our human knowledge is frail, fraught with errors, subjective, or misinterpreted as deterministic. Yet, far too often, we acquire a bit of knowledge and feel compelled to castigate everything around us that doesn’t dovetail nicely with our new information. A sort of irony masquerading as enlightenment like when you blame the dog for your fart simply because the dog lacks the vocal chords to effectively lodge a retort to your outright lie (and before you think too long about it, the previous analogy doesn’t stand up logically).

Live and Let Rape?

In the normal course of daily events, I tend to believe that the rationale “live and let live” is compatible with the concept of suspended judgement. People should execute the details of their lives to the best of their ability and allow others the opportunity to do the same so long as neither party is adversely impacted (certainly difficult to quantify) by the other’s choices. Simple concepts to grap, however, real-world implementation remains a challenge since it is difficult to clearly draw the lines (especially with broad legal language) to articulate where my rights end and your rights begin.

Take the issue of polygamy. Personally I don’t give a shit if Jed has 100 wives so long as he:

  1. doesn’t receive preferential tax treatment as a result of his choices, and
  2. the most vulnerable among us are not subjugated, oppressed or otherwise victimized

Personally, I’m happy not to be swimming in that estrogen-fueled madness that Jed has to endure, especially when the menstrual cycles of five score align with a full moon. No amount of sexual variety can properly temper so much hormonal insanity.

Unfortunately, for one isolated Arizona town, polygamy is merely a gentle cover for a culture of oppression, subjugation, rape, abuse, racism and even disease. In this community, Jed’s not marrying a stable of educated, adult women of their own volition, rather, Jed is being given 13 year-old brides, with 9 year-old educations by an all-powerful “prophet” enabling Jed to relieve his pedophilia tendencies on multiple child-brides under the guise of religion. Furthermore, much of this activity is financed by tax payers because Jed believes it is his duty, as a man of God, to “bleed the beast” (ie: US Gov’t) of funds to support his unmanageable large household of incestual rape.

Now I give a shit and can’t suspend judgement.

Westward Bound

So I found myself out west last week (not in the existential sense – simply on a quick visit), far from my cramped Brooklyn apartment and spared from the 114 Fahrenheit radiating from the concrete. On a high-speed romp through the desolate, crusty nothingness north of Las Vegas (still can’t figure out why anybody likes this place), I was compelled to pass through the little town of Colorado City while en route to visit my Jack Mormon friend up in Salt Lake. Colorado City, you may remember, is the community of FLDS polygamists formerly ruled over by FLDS ‘prophet’ and imprisoned serial rapist Warren Jeffs. My interest here was a sort of sociological one; an itching curiosity to attain even just an outsiders glimpse at such a secretive and brainwashed community. My intent wasn’t to gawk so much as it was to simply experience whatever there may be on offer. I set the GPS to northern Arizona.

A Stop at Big Devil (WalMart)

On the advice of my SLC buddy, I paid a visit to a Walmart about 30 miles outside of Colorado City. The site, he claimed, provided an excellent juxtaposition of new-world consumption with old-world polygamy. It did feel a little weird stalking grandmas and kids in a retail establishment, but curiosity has done far worse to the cat in the past. I did my best to enter stealth mode and because of it, I’d say my pictures are mostly crap. I’m a terrible spytographer:

polygamists shopping

polygamists buying goods from Satan

It was odd to say the least. Not quaint, simplistic and old-worldly like a visit through Amish country, more like a sort of white-trash-come-wanna-be-wholesome with a dash of Little House on the Prairie. A mashup of “yes, I made this cotton dress with…aren’t these Nikes just to die for?” A blending of beehive hairdos and trailer-park braids. A “fuck you outside world” mixed with a bit of “how much did you say this digital camera costs?”. I hope this is coming across clearly. I hope you get the picture. You’ve got Grandma’s furiously punching buttons on her smartphone while daughter(or more probably, sister-bride) is pushing the cart full of Lay’s potato chips to the Ford F-150. Modernity appears to be perfectly acceptable beyond the thin veneer of an ugly hand-made night-gown thing. Strange. Fascinating. I stalk on.

Arriving in Zionborhood

It only got increasingly odd after entering the pearly gates of Colorado City:

welcome to colorado city

welcome to colorado city where "We Lik'em Young"

Straight away it was clear outsiders were not welcome as “No Trespassing” signs hung from every fence, gate and building. Houses were massive and crudely built with nearly all of them sided with plywood Spackled together at the seams. Many houses had boards or plastic sheeting as windows. Every house had “Zion” emblazoned above the front door. Few people were out and about. The few kids that were outside stared us down, scowling; it felt like a segment from Children of the Corn.

plywood polygamist palaces

plywood polygamist palaces

victims, I mean kids

victims, I mean kids

Unfortunately, many of the pictures are fuzzy because I rushed, fearful that some crazy fundamentalist might fly off the handle (at this point I’m thinking Waco, Jonestown, Taliban, and on and on). We drove around the dirt roads for about 25-30 minutes snapping pictures and trying to get a feel for daily life in this isolated community. Some houses had industrial metal trash bins out front. Several houses had massive, metal shipping containers in the backyard (storage?? extra lodging??). Each house had multiple cars parked in front of it. We did spot traces of kids playing behind corrugated aluminium fences…normal stuff…jumping on trampolines, riding plastic cars, smacking at a water tank with tree branches. All the while, huge puffy white clouds drifted along a brilliant blue sky and massive red cliffs provided a beautiful backdrop to the community:

Colorado City backdrop

Colorado City backdrop

We did happen upon one Zion which had a clan hanging out of it (given the size of the home, it most likely belongs to an apostle fleecing the community of its meager, gov’t subsidized funds):

pious plygs party on the porch

pious polygamist porch party

As we were leaving, we happened upon Mother Plyg and her little ducklings; can’t help but wonder how many of those kids have already been sexually assaulted. Sad.

mother plyg duck

mother plyg duck

Final Thoughts

All up, the visit to Colorado City was strange, surreal. It would have been interesting to have a conversation with some folks, but without anyone on the inside, it is difficult to engage. After the visit, propped up in some dingy motel dive about 40 clicks east, I dove into a late-night Google-hole of an evening and learned about the timing coincidence of my visit. In July of last year, Warren Jeffs’ multiple rape conviction was overturned due to deficient jury instructions. His new trial is set to begin this month (July 2011) with potential life sentence hanging over his head. Unfortunately, this trial will probably not get nearly as much coverage as the Casey Anthony trial. White trash is Florida is apparently much more broadcastable than an isolated rape factory in the middle of nowhere Arizona. Sad, because the many victims rotting away in FLDS communities around the country could certainly use popular support and media attention to bring about much needed change.

Ironically, even through his years of incarceration, Jeffs has held a rather substantial grip on power – conducting sermons from his jailhouse home and breaking up homes at will. Even after he admitted that he lied about being a prophet in jail, many FLDS members still believe he is their prophet.  Since admitting he lied, he has retracted the statement, gotten back to health, and retained power among many FLDS members. Currently, he is being challenged by another power player (William Jessop) in a struggle to wrestle hearts, minds and property from the followers from Jeffs. Time will tell who grabs the reins. It is difficult to determine the power structure (if there is a formal one) in Colorado City today, however, one thing seems clear; FLDS leaders are clearly centered around a perverse ideology and will continue to abuse power and rape kids until outside forces intervene.

There are many interesting documentaries/reads out there on the FLDS. Here are some I highly suggest:

Finally, a weird sort of “drive-by documentary” (in three parts) done by a former polygamist. Basically, this is a Lost Boy doing a driving thru Colorado City 3 years after being kicked out of the community. He drives around the city pointing out places of interest. He also stops by his parents house in an attempt to talk to them. It is a fascinating view and explanation of some of the specifics from the community: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTv4zVyTk_8&feature=related
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If you have a moment, check out my debut novel, Where’s Unimportant. It can be found in any major online retailer (or on my website at http://www.danielshortell.com) in ebook ($2.99) and paperback ($10.99). (Disclaimer: no children were raped in the process of writing/editing/publishing the book).

Cult Shopping – A Search for Belonging

June 17, 2011

I’ve detected a certain hole in my life here recently. This hole is not so black that it sucks all else into it, yet it’s presence has created a type of longing, a need to belong to something, anything, to fill the void. These flaws of mine, these fragile human emotions. These needs, wants and desires sitting just beyond the periphery of my control, sucking me into a vortex of self-reproach. It is time for me to go shopping. It is time for me to become something better, something more, something of consequence. I need to evolve beyond the base that surrounds me. The options are many, so just how does one choose?

The Tea Party

(Express, Patriots, for Prosperity, Nation, Federation, ConglomulationMasturbation and all other associated factions and brain fractions)

Ok, I like it when people congregate together, united under a banner of disparate beliefs yelling racist, unintelligible slogans about fascism, government-sponsored baby killing and oppressively high taxes.  I really get incensed when poor, lazy people (especially if they are Mexican or Black) think they have a right to receive healthcare for which they didn’t even pay! Why should I have to fork over my hard-earned beer money when some dumbass 5-year poor-sot-of-a-kid gets chicken pox? I digress…what else? Well, I like to let my emotions air-out in public beyond the oppressive accountability of logic and reason. This process is cathartic and deeply connects me to like-minded people wrapped in red, white and blue with Jesus resting humbly on righteous lips.

This cult looks pretty good, but the ideologies are a little too wide-ranging and sometimes I doubt my coherence when I’m yelling. I think I could use a bit more structure, some ‘rails’ if you will to keep me on track, on point with the message. To this end, I think it would make good sense to define some concrete terms and talking points to carry the weight of the message. Additionally, I’m going to need some emotional ‘Spackle’  to help fill that hole, a hole which simply cannot be plugged even with the most disembrained political venting.

Landmark Forum

Ahhh, structure, beautiful STRUCTURE! I have found you in plentiful supply! And a leadership, oh wonderful authoritarian leadership, scowling on critical thinking as it attempts to bubble-up from the flock! Add to that a heavy dose of unqualified psychotherapy and psychological manipulation leveraged to create a dependency among followers. Oh sweet, sweet emotional euphoria achieved only through the inculcation of anxious dependency on the group and, more importantly, its leaders. Destabilize me through deprivation, abuse and control, then, build me back up into a subservient being acting on a script with a tailored vernacular (‘winning formula’, ‘strong suit’, ‘create a possibility’, ‘breakthrough’, ‘rackets’ , ‘the vicious cycle’, ‘already always listening’, ‘being authentic’) connecting me to my fellow drones. Masquerade your harassment as a method of friendly, caring support and exploit me both psychologically and financially while fraying the threads of previously established relationships built over many years. Subtle manipulation to extract my true authenticity? A sublime sort of authoritarian poetry!

(click here if you want to see a BRILLIANT docu-infiltration of a Landmark Forum in France entitled “Journey to the Land of the New Gurus” …oh you know you want to click down this rabbit hole!)

Hmmm, lots of structure and doctrine here, but what I really need is something with a religious pretense and a reputable figurehead. Perhaps something with an extra-terrestrial vibe to help nurture my otherworldly tendencies.

Scientology

Ahh, the perennial favorite. It has some bona fide star power behind it and a clear, methodical history which pulls heavily from speculative fiction (of which, I must say, I am a Harry Potter nutter to the core!). It also has a scientifically valid ‘auditing’ method which can detect the most deeply implanted memories in my immortal (yes, I am an alien…cool huh?) brain going back trillions of years. Once detected, I can pay a small earthly fee to get those suckers sussed out. Wham!! I’m all better and I didn’t need some bogus shrink to pump me full of drugs. Did I mention I’m a motherfucking alien? That’s super cool. Super Star Trek cool.


(or, if you have some time… and prefer to hear it from the founder’s mouth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDMEt4eIqYQ&feature=related)

I like the self-improvement aspects of both the Forum and Scientology, but I’m looking to go farther, plus, I think I need more than just a dead figurehead. I need a flesh and blood leader, a charismatic demi-god who can opiate my troubled mind, take me by the hand in the direction I’m supposed to go.

Aum Shinrikyo

Alrighty then, a blind yoga master who charges me thousands of dollars to drink tea made from his pubic hairs? Say no more, I’m in. What? What’s that you say? Drugs to manipulate my levels of anxiety, survival training, sleep and food deprivation and endless hours of mind-numbing chanting? Yeah right. Next your going to tell me “there’s a helmet I can wear that will transmit God’s brainwaves directly into my head”. No shit, really?

Tens of thousands of followers worldwide manufacturing apocalyptic propaganda in anime/manga fashion, Aum Shinrikyo is a compelling choice. Followers don’t simply give voice to their fascination with the end of times, they actually work hard to bring the end of the world by gassing people, extorting members and cultivating member phobia.

Hmm. It sounds pretty good in all, but let me think…

Family Radio

You know, I don’t really want to hurt anyone, I’m actually a very peaceful person. But, I do harbor certain concerns about the end of the world. There’s clearly lots of evidence that the end is near, and I just need someone to consolidate all of these facts into succinct soundbites and advertisements and plaster them all over the world (focus the canvassing on buses…I like buses). Preferably an older gentleman, with a odd mucously-thick, deep voice who lacks any sort of charisma but has a knack for growing healthy sideburns and establishing communication networks. Contribute my money to the efforts you ask? Of course, why the hell wouldn’t I? On September 6, 1994, I mean May 21, 2011, sorry, I’m not good with numbers; I mean October 21, 2011 the world will turn into a flaming ass-pile of nothingness…in this situation, what use will I have for worldly assets?

Hmmm, I don’t usually let my inner skeptic enter a the realm of intellectual thought, but President Bush did teach me an important lesson about not being fooled. It is probably best for me to take his advice in this case. Besides, I’m an alien-lover… can’t we get back to something beyond our mundane existence here on Mother Earth? Clearly we have reached the end of times and there is an abundance of proof that extra-terrestrial beings are instrumental in bringing this about.

Heavens Gate

Oh yeah, this is the shit of Kings! Screw a mere demigod, give me a straight line to the Big Man! Here you get a kick-ass name (I’m going to request PEYODY), a nice haircut, and a ride in a spaceship cruising behind a freakin’ comet! Heading to that next level in a bad-ass uniform, with a super cool space patch alongside my classmates after being brainwashed by my older members who are really Jesus and his Father in human vehicles…WHOA, this is for me! As a bonus, you get to cut-off those rapscallion testicles which is nice cause everybody knows those buggers are just holding you down like a large, sweaty ball ‘n’ chain, completely restricting your ability to soar to the next evolutionary level. Learning the real-facts, the real truth about how to leave self and world behind from a nurturing and caring son-of-a-Presbyterian-minister who cut his teeth teaching music. Oh dear, my beautiful extra-terrestrial, comet-trailing salvation, is almost at hand. I want to belong. I want to believe. I want a $10 pair of black Nikes.

Wait, what the f*ck? They’ve already exited? You mean I missed the comet-ship? Son-of-a-bitch, this had all the goodies I was looking for, now what to do?

Hold On…Scratch All of That…

I don’t have to follow. I can harness my inner strength, be an innovator. There is a self-righteous egotist lurking within, waiting for the opportune time to emerge. I just need a regimen, a blue-print for how to control my flock:

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If you are still awake after all that, you should check out my debut novel, Where’s Unimportant at your favorite online book retailer, or at my website: http://www.danielshortell.com

debut novel by Daniel Shortell

debut novel by Daniel Shortell

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before you go, please consider using the following addendum section to aid in your choice of cult:

ADDENDUM: CULT SELECTION ASSISTANCE

Isolation factor: An unscientific ranking based on a scale (1 – 10) designed to roughly indicated how isolated from the general population an individual should expect to become  upon entry into a specified cult.

“everyone loves you – consider starting your own cult immediately” (1) <——-> (10) “you will die alone in a strange outfit”

Tea PartyIsolation factor = (5)  “You and thousands of Glenn Beck fans can concoct conspiracy theories and draw tiny mustaches on President Obama together.”

Landmark ForumIsolation factor = (6) “You and several hundred thousand other critical-thinking-haters can empty your wallets and create possibilities together.”

Scientology – Isolation factor = (7) “You and a couple hundred thousand aliens worldwide can chat about your respective states of Clear.”

Aum Shinrikyo – Isolation factor = (8) “You’ll be sipping hair tea with tens of thousands of former communists while putting your PhD to work making sarin gas.”

Family RadioIsolation factor = (9) “You will find companionship among several thousand worldwide doomsday revisionists.”

Heaven’s GateIsolation factor = (10) “You should expect the company of a couple dozen like-minded nuts with cool names and tightly cropped hair.”