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polygamy, abortion, and the words

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 10, 2006.

Here’s the thing about words. Their repeated misuse can calcify arguments so that the emotion people bring to their presentation seems at variance with the level at which they’re forced to debate. It can make them seem irrational.

For example, abortion. Virtually nobody wants abortions except as a medical procedure to save a life. It’s not a fun day at the doctor’s office for women. Statistically nobody wants to get pregnant unless they choose to do so, and are able to support the kid. But women also want a healthy sex life. For whatever reason, a great many of us are uncomfortable chatting that aspect up, because it can be made to seem trivial compared to the claimed murder.

This requires rational argument about birth control and the sexual emancipation of women, and their right to have sex or not with whomever they find willing when they themselves are. For whatever reason, we end up arguing over cell division and whether recently two conjoined cells institutes human life, and whether it would be murder to eliminate them. And we do so under the heading of abortion rather than the actual issues because it’s politically beneficial for both sides.

But if we addressed the issues of sex education and birth control, and instituted rather obvious solutions, abortion as a topic vanishes. As it should.

Because of a weekly series melodrama about a Mormon splinter group, a polygamous extended family on HBO, polygamy has made the grade as a topic of civil discussion, something it has not been since that unfortunate incident at Mountain Meadows and Brigham Young had a clarifying dream. On the surface, polygamy is a violation of something or other sacred to the Judaic and Christian God, depending upon what you read and don’t read. Mormons take the brunt of the condemnation, but there are any number of religious cults in this nation that allow or practice it.

The reality is, polygamy as practiced currently often, hardly always, involves pedophilia and the rape of the most decidedly under aged girls who are given as property from one man, perhaps their father, to another. And it is given religious sanction. There’s no way to pat that into acceptable shape, so somehow the issue of polygamy is always framed in terms of various other adult women, in terms that flatter male vanities, and perhaps desires.

Because it’s been practiced by a closed community, to say no more, polygamy’s biological effects of inbreeding are now said becoming visible in the children currently spawned in Colorado City and other places. By the way, if you have not read Under the Banner of Heaven, by Boulderite Jon Krakauer, you should. In that book, one of the Mormon splinter groups he talks about was, and probably still is, led by Warren Jeffs, the top ten FBI fugitive who may be in Lakewood as we speak.

When polygamy is just adultery sanctified with hocus pocus, and if everyone in the arrangement came to it as an informed adult, who cares? Well, we probably all should if the husbands get to call their wives beyond the first ";unwed mothers" and both they and their children go on the dole, which they call "bleeding the beast", the "beast" being the cruel government which doesn’t let men who act like and closely resemble buck-toothed weasels to have sex with children. So for that alone, perhaps we should care, because it’s no different than that object of our contempt, the irresponsible father - often conveniently black - who brags about all his children by different women and supports none of them, leaving us with the bill. Well, so do these polygamists.

There are many men who have mistresses and produced a second spawn of children as a second family, who support them honorably, and maybe never broach the idea of marriage. Charles Kuralt did that, although his actual wife was clueless. So did Charles Lindbergh, whose attachment to Germany may have had more to do with his personal affairs with several German women and his children there than with his politics or heritage. This caused no pain to the commonweal, and government shouldn’t care.

So that's the thing about polygamy. Polygamy isn't really what we should care about. It’s the pedophilia, incest, and government fraud that should have our attention and for which penalties should be exacted. If a stick with a nail in it is involved, I have no objection.

As in all discussions about issues with sex, we use a coded language. The arguments about the issue called Abortion sound hysterical because it's really about female equality, so it serves the purposes of fearful patriarchal conservatives to frame it in terms of murder. Because they mostly succeeded in that we are on the cusp of women losing the right to an abortion because liberals failed to focus attention on the real issue.

Polygamy between adults is mere magic dust on concurrent and possibly long term affairs, and really, who cares? Well, imagine a woman with three husbands married in a Wicca ceremony who knowingly shared her. Would that be viewed as a suitable topic for a weekly series on HBO? No? Explain.