What’s worse than having an utter shitstain of a husband in the FLDS? Potentially not having him. When Merril has a massive heart attack, Carolyn has to face the fact that while she doesn’t love him, she needs him.
Content note for emetophobia, forced marriage, child abuse, medical stuff
Warren Jeffs is gaining more control over the FLDS daily. In this chapter, we’ll see just how badly his teachings affect women and children, while giving men the freedom to be as terrible as they want to be. And we’ll see why Merril dying would be worse than Merril living. There’s a horrific thought…
Content note for spousal abuse, spiritual abuse, medical neglect, casual ableism
After leaving her teaching job due to Rulon and Warren fucking up the educational system, Carolyn starts a web design business and sells health food online. She’s soon pregnant with her sixth child, which means unremitting sickness. And Uncle Rulon and his horrid son are squeezing the life out of the community.Movies and television are forbidden. The internet is to be used only for business. Various clothing styles and fabric patterns are outlawed, reducing people to only a few types of solid pastels. Long underwear is required at all times for everyone, including toddlers.
If we take Trump voters at their word, they’re not anti-Muslim bigots. They’re not misogynists or racists. They just want change. Okay: if that’s so, they need to be aware of how easily they can be persuaded to cross the line. If bigotry is not something that bothers you enough to reject the people spouting it, you are perilously close to being caught up in their hate.
The Nazis, after coming to power, expended quite a bit of effort to bring people around to their views on “unwanted” people. Anti-Jewish bigotry was the big one, but they also included Romani, gays, disabled people, and prisoners of war in their campaign to eradicate impurities from their volk. And they convinced alarming numbers of their fellow citizens, whether those citizens had voted for the Nazis or not, to go along.
So. America. Beacon of freedom and example to the world. Nazis must’ve hated us, amirite?
When responding to critics, Nazi racial experts muted the distinctiveness of their aims by noting analogues elsewhere…. While rabid antisemites praised the lynch mobs that kept African American’s “in their place,” more sober but equally determined racial policy makers expressed the hope that one day Nazi racial codes would be as widely accepted as U.S. immigration quotas, anti-miscegenation laws, involuntary sterilization programs in twenty-eight states, and segregation in the Jim Crow South.
We inspired the very monster we later fought. And we as a nation have a terrible time admitting our faults, much less fixing them. We see the outcome of that denial. Nazis do as we do, not what we say. A toxic stew of racism and bigotry simmers as we play the great white knights. And now we find tens of millions of our fellow citizens looking fascism in the face and deciding to hand the keys to the country over to it. We were never as good as we claimed. We never lived up to our aspirations. We never really tried. And now we’re perilously close to repeating a part of Western history that never should have been allowed to repeat.
One of the best ways to control people is to control how and what they think. Warren Jeffs, like many cult leaders before him, knows this well. Seems he may have learned it from his father, who forbade higher education after he became prophet. This allowed him to keep dangerous things like reading and critical thinking in check.
Now, as Angie Jackson often points out, you can be highly educated and still fall for cult nonsense. But it’s far easier to maintain a hold on people if they’re not exposed to outside information.
Forbidding any higher education within the community means there’s soon a shortage of teachers for the elementary and high schools. They’ll need to start recruiting from outside the FLDS community, but the salaries are too low to attract anyone. Even with some families homeschooling, the existing teachers are flooded with far too many students. Something has to give – and Carolyn thinks she has the solution when Arizona starts funding charter schools. After some research, Carolyn figures that with the state funding they would get per student, they could easily afford to hire good teachers. So she and some of her fellow teachers begin working on a proposal. Surprisingly, she gets support from Merril, who tells her she’s got a good idea and that he’ll talk to the prophet about it.
Meanwhile, to relieve the pressure on the existing teachers, Carolyn suggests using computers for students to do reading and math drills. She could even do the necessary software development. The school superintendent thinks this is awesome and jumps aboard the charter school train.
Their proposal makes it past the first hurdles, and so Carolyn and her fellow teachers end up in Phoenix to present it. They’re up against a hundred other potential charter schools, most developed by high-ranking educational professionals. Competition is fierce, and almost all of the presenters before them get turned down. But they sail through to approval: the board is extremely impressed by their assessment plan and innovative ideas. All they have to do is build the school building in time, and the FLDS folks are old hands at putting buildings up fast. Carolyn and her team are elated. Even Merril’s impressed. He goes to tell Uncle Rulon about their victory.
But then Warren gets wind of it. And he doesn’t like it.
It will be a school run by professionals, with professional teachers, unlike his school, where only two teachers have actual degrees and some don’t even have a high school diploma.
Kids won’t have “learning” beaten into them with yardsticks, the way he does it.
The charter school will make liberal use of computers. Warren has banned computers.
The children will be well-educated, which means they can read things he doesn’t want them to read, and think things he doesn’t want them to think.
Needless to say, he’s not a fan. And because by now he’s pretty much in control of his father, Uncle Rulon is also not a fan. As far as Carolyn knows, Merril doesn’t even attempt to change Rulon’s mind. He just accepts the verdict and forbids Carolyn from having anything more to do with it.
I was furious. My anger touched a core in me that burst into flame. For the first time, I began to see how religion could suppress something positive and life-giving. Failure to educate our children was unconscionable.
Carolyn is so distraught that she can’t continue her teaching career – she quits at the end of the school year. She can’t be a teacher while Warren is prophet in all but name. Still.
I didn’t think about what might happen after his father died. No one really expected Warren to become the next prophet. I certainly didn’t. He was too much of a nobody.
When you’re dealing with a “nobody” who’s as cunning and power-hungry as Warren Jeffs, though, you can’t take their failure for granted. That’s a lesson we should all endeavor to remember.
This chapter begins with a brief history of conscience. Perhaps the most important line is this:
But, although every major culture honors the injunction to treat others as you hope they will treat you, the ideal often collapses in practice because the meaning of “others” is not always clear.
Who are the others we should treat as we wish to be treated? Koonz quotes Freud on the difficulty of loving strangers. And then she points out that “who deserves moral consideration” is defined either by religion or experts. In Nazi Germany, experts did the shaping.
The story of a Hitler Youth member is a klaxon, warning us what happens when those experts place a specific subset of others as enemies of the rest. He’d had the belief that the Jews were an immediate threat to Germany drummed into him. When his Jewish best friend was taken by the Gestapo, he didn’t protest. Despite knowing his friend was a good person and no threat to anyone, he “accepted deportation as just.”
Content Note for racism, spiritual abuse, physical abuse, miscarriage due to injury
Warren Jeffs is one of those people who knows how to use those around him for his own gain. He knows how to manipulate his elderly father, the current prophet, and get him to proclaim that Warren speaks for him. He knows how to push the fear buttons. And he knows that making something scarce and exclusive can increase desire for it. This is how he gets his awful recorded racist rants to spread. He tapes his sermons talking about how “the black race had been put on earth to preserve evil,” and how God’s gonna destroy everyone in North and South America except those who do this huge list of stuff, and then he releases a limited number of those tapes. Well, of course, not being able to have them means everybody wants a set.