Abhorring the Polygamist 'Lifestyle'

OK. Let’s start with the caveat: I frequently feel the need to couch what I’m saying with an offhand phrase that is meant to deflect illogical criticism.

Examples?

How about… “Sure Saddam is a bad guy, but that doesn’t justify invading a country blah blah blah.”

Or… “Drinking and driving is a bad idea, but the so-called field sobriety tests don’t measure intoxication and therefore blah blah blah.”

The real purpose behind this conceit is literally to pre-acknowledge the listener’s unjustifiable reaction to the statement, and to focus them on the point you are trying to make. I don’t want to get into an argument about whether Saddam (or DWI) is ‘bad’, but I know that may be the illogical response to what I’m saying, so I attempt to head it off at the pass. Guilty as charged.

Now on to Eldorado. In response to Grits’ outcry that not enough Texas lawyers have weighed in on the fiasco, No Friends With Salad posts:

As much as I might abhor the polygamist lifestyle, as much as I might have an unsubstantiated hunch that something's wrong there or that a crime has been committed, it don't mean jack.

The true measure of a democracy is how the government treats politically and socially unpopular groups. Texas, we have failed in this regard. [Emphasis added]

NFWS makes good points in other part of the post, but honestly, why does anyone care about someone else’s ‘polygamist lifestyle’?

I’m probably overreacting to the word ‘lifestyle’. To me, that echoes what I hear when someone talks about the gay or homosexual ‘lifestyle’.

Huge difference between them of course. Primarily, being gay is not a choice (or as Fox News likes to call it a ‘lifestyle’). Of course engaging in homosexual acts is a choice – in the same way that engaging in heterosexual acts is a choice. And as long as both participants are lucid and consenting, you don’t need a criminal defense lawyer.

But having homosexual feelings, i.e. being homosexual is not a choice. (For those too stupid to understand the distinction – let me ask you this: In Sixth/Seventh Grade, did you have ‘feelings’ for both boys and girls, but because you are uber-moral you only chose to act out on the ‘feelings’ you had for the opposite sex?)

However, choosing to have multiple wives is… a choice. FLDS members may see it as God’s directive to them, but they are still choosing to live the way (their understanding of) God wants them to.

Also, I personally know the anonymous blogger NFWS, and doubt he cares about polygamy. And I can actually prove his pro-gay (or is that anti-anti-gay) bona fides

So, to recap

  1. I too sometimes try to preempt illogical criticism with a throw away line (and maybe that’s what this is)
  2. I’m hypersensitive when I hear someone describe someone else’s ‘lifestyle’, because it’s sometimes a pretext for bigotry or ignorance
  3. NFWS has – in my book anyway – unquestionable tolerance for others

But…

Why would anyone take the time to care about, much less abhor, someone else’s polygamist lifestyle?  What difference does it make to you?

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elvez1975 - April 25, 2008 1:31 PM

Maybe it's because I think perhaps I am programmed to be bigoted against folks like the FLDS or that despite my self evaluation that I am a pretty easy-going person, I'm a little put off about what they do.

But as much as I don't like the choices that they make, I think they ought to be able to do what they gonna do. Apart from having sex with children.

(BTW, I would question whether or not the "choices" made by these folks are the products of free will. That's another post outside the scope of my ability.)

Alec - April 25, 2008 8:35 PM

It isn't having a romantic relationship with multiple women (or men) that I find problematic. It certainly wouldn't work for me, but if it does for others, so be it. Same with open relationships. When it comes to consenting adults, do as you wish.

The problem is when you start fudging consent with the realities of age, gender and religious beliefs. With respect to age, the FLDS is not exempt from our age of consent laws, period. If they are having sex with teenagers who cannot consent they are breaking the law. They can petition their government for reform, but we do not need to overlook the violations.

With the gender and religious belief issue, well, I agree that the law should not play a part in this debate. But do I have ethical objections? Hell yeah I do. Much like my objections to Roman Catholic sexism and hypocrisy, evangelical hypocrisy, Islamic misogyny, etc. Religion is not a license to coerce, objectify and harm others. When fringe elements of other minority groups invoke their status as minorities to justify questionable or immoral practices we do not hesitate to condemn those practices. No difference here.

Jamie - April 25, 2008 9:13 PM

Alec: Thanks for stopping by. Hope to hear more comments from you in the future.

My post was really focusing on the tendency that folks feel (and I included myself) to throw out a pre-emptive strike against illogical criticism that may be aimed at their main point.

Elvez: You saw me at the HCCLA happy hour just a short time before I wrote this post, and we already had a short talk about BUI (blogging under the influence) this morning.

And I feel the need to say this: the bartender is my witness that I called a cab. Or that she called a cab for me...

Alec - April 25, 2008 10:08 PM

Jamie: No problem. Sorry if I came across as critical. I get your point. I just don't think we need to be as apologetic. That's one of the reasons why I yield nothing on the drug warriors when debating proponents and very little on anti-sex offender maniacs when debating the witch hunters. This insanity has gone on long enough. They need some sobering up.

Love your blog. Keep fighting the good fight.

Jamie - April 25, 2008 10:15 PM

Alec:

Didn't take it as critical; wouldn't have minded if it were though.

Seriously, thanks for stopping by.

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