The Wasatch Behind: Me, you and Waco II
This week I want to follow-up on an excellent letter to the editor that appeared in last week's Sun Advocate, submitted by Jo Sansevero. Jo made some good points and I haven't been able to stop thinking about what she said. Here are a few additional comments.
It was so easy to make it happen. It only took an anonymous phone call, from an alleged victim, of an unconfirmed crime, to set in motion one of the most frightening events in recent United States history. Hundreds of state and federal law officers, wearing SWAT gear, carrying machine-guns, and backed by tanks and helicopters, raided a peaceful compound housing several hundred members of a religious sect. It was Waco all over again, except this time the cult members surrendered peacefully and were spared being burned alive - so far.
We all watched on TV as dozens of families were torn apart by uniformed agents of the state. More than 400 children were ripped from their homes and loved ones, sent to foster care, or remain in state custody in a concentration camp that was once a civic auditorium. We've seen mothers crying, fathers distraught, and children being whisked away in busses. And we've seen an endless parade of smirking news people filing reports about those weird polygamists and their strange dress, customs, and religious beliefs. The whole country has been titillated by stories of multiple wives, child brides, secret temple rituals, and strange holy underwear. And all of this is over an alleged crime that hasn't been proven yet, by a perpetrator and victim who have yet to be identified, and with knowledge that the whole thing might be a cruel hoax perpetrated by someone who is not a member of the cult.
Everyone in the community is being forced to submit to DNA testing. They are being interrogated at length about the most private aspects of their personal lives. They have had their personal papers, family photos and scrapbooks confiscated, their homes searched, their church records seized, and their most sacred religious sanctuary defiled. And at the time I write this, not one of them has been charged with a crime.
This didn't happen in Soviet Russia, Communist Red China, or North Korea.
It happened in Texas. It happened in America. And it happened to all of us. If something like this can happen to our neighbors it can happen to you and me. Where is the outrage?
Whatever happened to due process? What about our constitutional guarantees about innocent until proven guilty, probable cause, cruel and unusual punishments, the right to face your accuser, and protections against unlawful search and seizure? How can the crimes, or alleged crimes, of one person, or a dozen people, justify an armed invasion of a whole community? How can suckling babes be taken from their mother's arms and placed in state custody over an allegation that a teenaged girl has been abused somewhere in the community? Where is the connection here? I don't get it. What crimes did those babies commit to be punished so severely?
But then, what the heck? Those polygamists probably deserve it. They dress and act weird. Their religion is stupid and their prophet makes a profit by shearing the flock. Some of them are pedophiles and nasty old men. We might as well lock all of them up, burn their holy books and scatter the ashes to the wind. Let's confiscate their children and send them to re-education camps like the communists did in Cambodia. Freedom of religion shouldn't cover creeps like them.
And while we're at it, those Muslims practice polygamy, too. Muslims dress weird, pray too often, and oppress their women just like fundamentalist Mormons. We better get those rascals while we're at it.
And there have been hundreds of young boys molested by Catholic priests. Anyone who sends a child to be an alter boy or a boy scout should lose parental rights for placing the kid in eminent danger. And what about those worldly priests? Maybe the state should raid a few rectories and cathedrals, seize all the records and make everyone take a blood test on national TV.
And what about the public schools? Every week we hear of school teachers molesting students. Maybe we should do commando raids on public schools to look for evidence of abuse. I'm sure we can justify it.
We'll say it's for the children. That always seems to work.