Okay all you amazing people! I made it home and got excessively hugged and loved by my boys and took a nap, so I’m ready to start putting words down in black and white. 😉
(After the last several days of running on very little sleep and a whole lot of excitement and encouragement, I needed a little break and sleep in my own bed.)
I want to share all the details with everyone, but there’s so much racing around in my head – so many ideas, so many thoughts and directions I want to go – it may take me a few days to have the time and the clarity to put it all into words.
I will start by saying that Washington D.C. is an amazing, beautiful place! It’s so green, lush and full of history. It’s incredible to drive through mile after mile of what looks like a park – but it’s just the natural vegetation. I could spend months just looking at and taking pictures of old buildings – then I would want to research their history. So many of these places I wish I could go back through time as a fly on the wall and see what those walls have witnessed – the changes, the history, the importance of everyday lives as well as rulings and discussions that have literally changed the world.
Having grown up in a society that put a great deal of stress on objects being “idols” I have a profound respect and admiration for the monuments that have been erected. Not only for their beauty in design, but for what they represent. What they stand for. They are symbolic of an idea, an accomplishment – freedoms fought for and won. When I see a monument to one man, I always remember all the unsung heroes who stood behind and beside him. No man achieved true greatness alone. But we have examples of men who we associate with ideals. Who stood at the forefront of a battle and helped guide it to success.
Personally, I wish we could eradicate war, bigotry, and hatred in all of their many and varied forms. I understand that every war has immense and truly immeasurable costs that come due on the backs of the common people, I also understand that many times wars are not fought necessarily for freedom for the people, but for the enrichment of the powerful. That being said, I have the deepest and most profound love and respect for those who give of themselves with the personal desire to serve, protect and bring freedom.
That is an individual choice. It’s a choice that each of us makes, in some degree, every single day. You don’t have to be in the armed forces, or an elected official, or the owner of a large corporation to make a difference in this world. We are all making a difference, whether we realize it or not.
It’s hard to describe the feelings I experienced as I walked around the National Mall. I felt strangely at home – like I belonged there. I felt a great reverence I felt as I walked past the over 58,000 names carved into the wall of the Vietnam Memorial. Behind each one of those names is a real person. Someone who had dreams. They were someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s brother or sister – they were each dearly loved. They each had dreams, and they each have a story. Their stories were cut short by the horrors and ugliness of war.
My uncle Bill, my mother’s only sibling, fought in that war. And he has carried with him the scars throughout the rest of his life. I remembered Mike, the Vietnam War Veteran that I met when I worked at Henries Dry Cleaners a couple of years ago. I have shared his story before, and I will likely share it again because of the impact it had on my perception of war. Of those who never came home, those who came home in a pine box, and those who came home incomplete – both physically and psychologically. Especially in connection with the Vietnam War, too many people took out their frustrations and disagreements with those actions on the wrong people – those who were sent to fight, who did what they were told, and who were left scarred for it.
I don’t know if my perception is different than that of others. I have no way of really comparing it. But I do know how I feel about things, how I look at things, and that nothing is ever as simple as it seems at first glance.
When I first learned a little about the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, I remember hating Hitler, and rightfully so. But after I left the FLDS I became somewhat obsessed with the Holocaust. I watched documentaries, movies, interviews of the survivors, and I learned as much about it as I could. I could see the parallels between the injustices done there and what was happening to my own family and friends in the FLDS. I was shocked as I saw the very same tactics used in both instances, and then I started to see how they are used all around us. In varying degrees, with varied outcomes, but always with the same end goal in mind: control.
“Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” — John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton
I think many of us can relate to this saying very well. We had courtside seats to the spectacle that was increasingly strict and controlling in our own lives. We were indoctrinated in a lifetime of dogma where we were taught things like “Perfect Obedience Produces Perfect Faith,” and “God and the Prophet Always and Only do Right.” Our lives were filled with teachings about submission, compliance and conformity. Those requirements tightened with each generation, resulting in a greater level of control for the leaders. They took over our individual power. We gave it to them. We did submit. We did obey. We trusted them. And they were lying to us.
In the final weeks that I and my family were part of the FLDS, once we had come to realize that what was happening around us was definitely not the work of a loving god, we were making our plans to leave. All around me I saw families being torn apart. I heard of fathers who received a phone call and were told they had been found unworthy of their families and needed to go far away, alone, to repent. Their families were also called and instructed how to act, how to treat their own husband and father. It was horrific. It was also a way of ensuring more complete obedience and submission from the rest of us. No one wanted to endure that kind of pain, so we were all a little more determined to do whatever was required of us.
This fear became very real in my mind. I was almost consumed by it. What if David got that call before we could get out? What if one day I received a call, or had the crews show up at my door to say that David was kicked out, and they were there to move us? What if they cut us off from each other before we could execute our plan? I’m sure I wasn’t alone in these kinds of thoughts. I believe we all were thinking pretty much the same things. Not because we actually believed we were guilty of any great sins, but because things had reached a point where it didn’t seem to really matter what you had or had not done – our lives and salvation seemed to be held directly in the palms of the hands of the leadership. And it appeared as if they were doing however they pleased with us.
One of the most powerful and freeing “aha” moments I had, one that has changed my life and my perspective on life ever since, was the day that I realized that I could say “NO.” I loved my husband, and we loved our children. In my case, David and I were legally married, and the natural parents of all of our children. No one could take them from us. Not without us *allowing* it to happen. In fact, the only power the church leadership had in any of our lives was the power we GAVE them! It was as if the weight of worlds was lifted off my shoulders, and it was all embodied in four little words: I can say “NO.”
This is where I have been heading in my thought process here. We are all in the same position. With our own lives. With our own choices. With our own bodies. That feeling that I had, that came along with that realization, was immensely empowering. I took my power back. It was mine all along, but those around me had spent my lifetime very carefully convincing me that it wasn’t *really* mine, that I simply wasn’t smart enough, or good enough, or wise enough to use it correctly, and so I should surrender it to them. Trust them. They knew what “god” wanted with my power, and I couldn’t possibly know. I did surrender, with disastrous results. We all did to some degree. But we can take our power back.
The greatest tool used by that those who want to control us is fear. As long as we’re fearful we will turn to them and obey in order to feel some degree of safety.
The next step seems to be in destroying love and feelings of unity or sympathy for others in our shared humanity. Whether that comes through marginalizing a portion of the community – usually it starts with creating a feeling of superiority towards a group that is easily separated from you. Through terms such as teaching that your particular flavor of religion is the only one true religion accepted by god. Then adding to it a feeling of pride that you are so “blessed” as to have been “chosen” to be part of this elite group. Starting with easy targets, like for the all-white original LDS to claim that a dark skin is a sign of sins or lack of faithfulness in a former life. Hatred engendered against anything that can easily be seen as “other.”
Especially those who own their own power.
There are words used to describe them. They are portrayed as somehow less than. Less obedient, less fervent, less faithful. We hear terms like “bow your backs,” and “give your ALL,” “hold nothing back.”
Those who dare stand up for their rights and try to keep their own power are seen as threats, and must therefore be broken. Women were called bitches. Lyle Jeffs told many men that in order to be able to learn to govern an entire planet as god, they needed to learn how to deal with all kinds of characters. Thus, he said, it would be necessary for every man to marry at least one bitch. He said Mother Norma was his father’s, along with others, and he had his first wife as his main bitch to learn to deal with. I heard of men being told – when they had a wife who tried to get some equity, who desperately wanted to not be set aside and left behind, when other wives were favorites and they were left destitute of love and affection – that these women were bitches. I heard many stories of the things he suggested for how these women should be treated, and I was appalled.
All of this culminates into this realization: whether it was Hitler in Nazi Germany, Warren Jeffs today, or any number of others who have orchestrated great harm and destruction throughout history, they, as one person, had no power. I don’t know if Hitler actually killed anyone. But he directed it, he instilled the hatred, he separated the people into groups and pitted them against each other. The only way he was able to destroy so many people was because he had groomed others to be willing to carry out his wishes. They followed his orders. Many probably did so in the beginning because of the hatred and bigotry they had fostered in their own hearts. There is a great deal of power in the pride felt when you believe you are truly better than someone else in some way. Then, once they were so far in, and they saw the horrendous actions being taken, they kept going because they feared having the same done to themselves. They need not wonder if their leaders were capable of atrocities.
Warren Jeffs, Lyle Jeffs, Nephi, Isaac and Seth, John Wayman and all those who are at the head of this organization, who are benefitting immensely from controlling the people would have no power if the people chose to one day stand up and say “NO!”
What mother would willingly give up her precious child if she believed she could say no? If she understood that no one has the right to take them from her? If she wasn’t living in fear of destroying her child, and sealing their damnation? If she hadn’t been indoctrinated with the idea that she would have their innocent blood on her own skirts if she tried to keep them? IF she realized that while her honest, pure desires for love, inclusion, and for the safety of her children are being vilified and called “sins,” the very men who accuse her are justifying their crimes. Yes, their actual crimes! I have a very hard time believing that men like Lyle actually believe that they are doing god’s will. They are just exploiting the trust and faith of the people, extorting their money and possessions, and using them for their great benefit. But, if they do think that god condones their behavior, that makes them all the more dangerous. They have proven that they have no intention of recognizing other people’s basic human rights, and no respect for the laws that were put in place to protect the innocent. So, in my opinion, either way something needs to be done to stop them.
My greatest sympathies are with our family and friends who are still trapped by the indoctrination, dogma, lies and deceit of the leadership. I fully understand that they are victims. They are suffering more than anyone should suffer. But if nothing changes, their children, and their children’s children will be subjected to worse. We have already seen it. This is not their true “choice”!
As I sat listening to the speakers in this summit I was overcome with emotions. Never once did I hear anything that I could even construe to be hatred against men, or any kind of agenda to create a “matriarchy” to replace the “patriarchy” we are subject to so often. It was truly about women being allowed to feel comfortable owning their own power. Rising up from being second class citizens, and having an equal voice in their own lives and in the lives of their children. No one was saying that women shouldn’t be stay at home moms if that’s what they truly want to be. But our girls shouldn’t grow up thinking that’s the only acceptable or available option either.
There needs to be a shift in how we approach parenting. In what message we are sending to our young, impressionable children. Boys should be taught to respect girls. They should be taught to never take advantage of another person – ever. We have to stop using the excuses of “boys will be boys” or “that’s just the way it is.” Things are the way they are because we allow them to be. We ignore the issues and carry on with traditions that are harmful. Boys and men should never, never, never think it’s their right to harm or rape someone because of what they wore, or didn’t wear, or because they paid for a nice dinner and think they “deserve” a payout. We need to teach all of our children to respect and understand their own bodies so that they can and will respect others.
Every voice has value. Every life matters. There is no true freedom as long as half of the population is held back, silenced, and controlled.
In the summit, someone mentioned an old Chinese proclamation by Mao Zedong, “Women hold up half the sky.”
We can’t hold up our half if we’re under someone’s thumb. If our views, our opinions, our dreams don’t have equal value. If our voices don’t count. If we’re required to either sweetly submit and obey or be labeled as bitches.
I understand that some of what I’ve written here may be difficult for some to accept. Old habits and cultures are not easily changed – especially when we don’t want to change them. But let me just say that in the last four years I have seen the world from a different perspective. I have seen everything in a different light. I truly believe that “all men (and women) were created equal,” and that as such we are missing out on an immense amount of value when we continue to oppress half the population and label them as “less than.”
I know this turned out to be a long, drawn out, post, and that I didn’t really address the actual issues and things I learned at this summit, but I will continue to add my experiences in the coming days. I am still processing and sorting through the wealth of information and impressions that this short trip brought with it. Intense, powerful and so very amazing.
I LOVE people. We all have value, and we will all be better off, more successful and happier when we realize that fact and utilize the amazing talents we all possess.
Let our voices be heard!