Monday, April 14, 2008

MOVE and Polygamists: Child Abuse In The Name Of God

(Pic Of MOVE Child Bride 12 years old and pregnant)

Say No To Parole For "The MOVE 9"

On the surface, the West Texas branch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) seemingly could not be much more different than MOVE.

However, the FLDS, who had some 400 children removed last week from one of their compounds treat their children very much like MOVE members and close supporters treat the children under their care.

As someone who has studied cults and “new religions” over the past several years, I have come to the realization that the most assiduous groups share characteristic that place them in a category outside of mainstream religions and even other cults. The distinction is so pronounced that it is misleading to simply lump all such groups together and regard them as being either equally interesting or perhaps, equally malevolent. All faiths are not created equal and it is without a doubt that some believers are worse than others. For example, it is beyond disingenuous to compare the practitioner of Jainism, a sect of Hinduism so dedicated to the concept of “Ahimsa”, or “peaceful path”, that they wear masks so as not to breath in and kill small bugs and the murderous devotees of Charlie Manson.

There is more than a subtle distinction between eccentricity and violent fanaticism.

But while one must be prepared to accept nuance when looking at an esoteric faith, so too must you be able to recognize the marks of extremism, anti-intellectualism, absolute control, and authoritarian methodologies employed in the use of maintaining power. Unfortunately, these symptoms of the most dangerous brands of cults have the most impact on, and are most detrimental to, those who are most vulnerable. It is the children who are forced to pay the terrible toll for their parent’s “spiritual journey” or who are locked into world of cradle to grave paternalism. It is a world where their lives are controlled by tradition, fear, and a familial bond that cannot bear the weight of non-conformity.

This is the world of terror in which the children of the FLDS and MOVE both inhabit. The most obvious difference between the two groups is that the authorities are doing something about the FLDS and their abuse of children, while the City of Philadelphia sits idle, perhaps fearful of MOVE, and allows the group to sacrifice the minds and bodies of the children in their midst upon the alter of the cult’s dead deity, John Africa and to his heir apparent, Alberta Africa.

Having watched closely the news about the FLDS for the past several years, I have been intrigued to discover that the more I read and heard about the sect, the more I realized that there are striking similarities between it and MOVE. That the differences are mostly cosmetic. One group is urban, the other is rural, one exclusively white and bigoted, the other partially black and similarly hindered by it’s backwards racial views. The differences are certainly there and are obvious, but what is more compelling and disturbing are those similarities.

The first of which was the catalyst for the raid on the FLDS compound and has to do with a generally abusive climate towards young girls. The government swept into the FLDS compound based upon a complaint called in from a 16 year old girl who claimed that "she was being held against her will" and wanted to "escape." She reported, the court records say, that the adult man she married a year ago would "beat and hurt her whenever he got angry" and that if she tried to leave she would be "found and locked up."

This young teen is a part of a culture in which adult men have as their prey, girls who once they reach puberty are fair game to become “married” and impregnated. The situation is much the same in MOVE. Although the age difference for these “marriages” in MOVE is not so grotesque as it is with the FLDS, the fact that girls just barely into puberty are compelled to enter into such relationships and bear children is not. MOVE members are not polygamists, nor did I ever witness anyone in MOVE being beaten. However, the fact that MOVE is a violent group is un-arguable and I think it also fair to say that violence takes many forms. If forcing a young, illiterate, girl to bear children at the behest of cult leaders does not constitute a category of violence than I don’t know what does.

This assault on innocence is by no means the only similarity shared by MOVE and the FLDS. When it comes to education, both groups are clearly enemies of the life of a mind. In MOVE, it has become quite fashionable to claim that the children of the sect are “home schooled”, which to be frank, is rubbish. The children of MOVE are deprived of any semblance of a education, they learn only enough to be functional consumers. If they learn much more than the basics, it is because of their own initiative and inherent curiosity. Simply put, it is easier for MOVE to control their children if they are deprived of critical faculties. It is much the same for the children of the FLDS. The austere lifestyle that is much more “back to nature” than MOVE will ever be does not lend itself well to intellectual pursuits. It is intended for the FLDS members to stay on their compound and live a life of quiet subservience. They learn scripture and they learn to obey. Children of MOVE members similarly learn select teachings of John Africa and know that to live peaceably in the cult is to follow the dictates of the group’s leaders.

It is also worth mentioning that both groups work feverishly to cultivate a fear of the outside world within the children. In MOVE, kids are taught that anyone not a member of the cult is a “pervert”, with all of the connotations that label brings with it, while the FLDS teaches those in the “outsider’s world” are agents of Satan. This fear serves two essential purposes, the first of which is that it helps to ensure that the children, in a state of perpetual fear, will stay close to the sect. It also is a way to foster a sense of uniqueness, while in reality the cult’s leaders are stripping the children of any sense of individuality so necessary to healthy development. They are taught that they are on island surrounded by a sea of depravity. The curiosity inherent and beautiful within the hearts of all children is crushed under the weight of a thousand lies and a crippling fear that is intended to accompany them their whole lives, to be passed onto the next generation.

Another cruel similarity between MOVE, The FLDS, and a thousand other groups just like them has to do with how the children are perceived by the group’s leaders and even their parents. The children are not ultimately in charge of their children, the group is. This is something that really is at the core of most sects defined as authoritarian. Like in MOVE, the marriages of young children are arranged by the cult leaders and the wishes of the parents can be usurped and the children’s destiny is not really theirs, but something pre-ordained for them. It is a useful construct for keeping order, but is also a recipe for psychological disaster as the best interest of the child seldom intersects with the cult’s perceived interest.

Another troubling similarity is in the lack of preventative health care. For the children of MOVE this neglect begins even before they are born as many MOVE members eschew pre-natal care, have their children at home, often without even a midwife, as the mothers lick off the after-birth and bite the umbilical cord. In the 1970's a number of babies of MOVE members were still-born and another died at around six weeks of age. According to MOVE these deaths were the result of Police brutality, yet MOVE refused to cooperate with investigations into the deaths of the children, purportedly as an extension of their disdain for “technology”. It is perhaps ironic then, that MOVE would allow politicians and journalists from “the system” to view the dead children and have their dead babies pictured all over the media. As if this were not suspicious enough, a former MOVE member would come forward and make the claim that the children had died of “natural” causes and MOVE members were tasked with using their own deceased babies as propaganda devices.

Another issue of health care as it relates to children in cults has to do with the fact that these children are in a kind of “bubble”most of their lives and therefore are not exposed to the illnesses that are more prevalent within larger societies. While there are obvious benefits to this, the problems arise when the children leave or are taken out of the sect and they are placed in an environment where illnesses that they have never had a chance to build an immunity to are everywhere. This is something that the children taken from the FLDS compound are dealing with now and it can only make an already difficult situation that much more so.

Both groups seem to have the stain of hypocrisy in that on the one hand they offer devastating criticisms of society and seek to alienate themselves and their children from it, while on the other, they have no problem with taking whatever they can from it. While they vociferously complain about “religious persecution”, they fail to recognize that this country, with all of it’s flaws, is one of the only in the world where groups like theirs could exist. MOVE and the FLDS also subscribe to the notion of “bleeding the beast”, which is a theological way to explain welfare fraud and other ways to defraud taxpayers. The most common tactic of both groups is for “single” mothers to crank out child after child while running a burn on the welfare system. Of course, these women are not single at all, they are often too young to be legitimately married, but they are bound “spiritually” to a husband. It goes without saying that while these young mothers scrape out a meager existence, the leaders of the cults live quite comfortably.

With all of these similarities, one has to wonder when the authorities will take notice and act to halt the abuse of children in MOVE. To be sure, it is not like they are unaware of it. I personally have spoken with a number of people who are in a position to do something about the treatment of these children and without going into extraneous detail, not much came of it.

Another problem is the media’s complete lack of interest in this matter. Again, I have spoken to numerous reporters about the matter and have implored them to take a look at this issue and again nothing has happened and I don’t think it is that they disbelieve me, as I have ample proof. I believe that at the core of this is fear. The City understandably wants to avoid any kind of confrontation with MOVE and has adopted a head in the sand approach to MOVE’s illegalities, and it is the children who suffer as a result of this understandable, but regretful policy. What the City of Philadelphia should understand is that the MOVE of yesteryear is not the MOVE of today. It is a much more fragmented and less committed group of people that it was two decades ago. It is a group that would he hard pressed to mount a defense against a thought out plan of overwhelming force with the limited goal of freeing the children of MOVE from their world of fear, abuse, and sexual degradation. Indeed, the City’s agencies have an obligation to the children of MOVE to get them away from parents who are anything but, and the media has a similar obligation to not just snap pictures of these kids at Mumia demonstration and actually chronicle the miserable lives these children whose innocence has been stolen are forced to endure.

Before these things can occur, I believe it will take a groundswell of people who know the truth about MOVE and what they do to children, to come from out of the shadows of fear and say what needs to be said.

This raid in Texas did not just come out of nowhere. First came the arrest of the sect’s leader, Warren Jeffs and the media attention that laid bare the ugly world of modern polygamy. One could not watch the news for weeks on end without seeing a story about abuse of children in polygamist sects, or stories from survivors who had committed themselves to fighting for the children, often their own relatives who were still shackled to the cult. For years, these brave people, mostly women, toiled in obscurity, virtually ignored by the media and by authorities whose self-interest caused them to turn a blind-eye to the fact that whole cities of polygamists had cropped up.

Operating with impunity and seemingly modeling themselves like pious versions of La Cosa Nostra a host of polygamist groups, didn’t bother themselves with things like state laws or federal laws, and instead lived under a theocracy led by megalomaniacs like Warren Jeffs.

It took years of work, much of it done while under threat of physical harm, to finally convince authorities to act in defense of innocent children. And it will likely take this same kind of dedication and persistence in the face of apathy to force MOVE either to change it’s practices or compel the authorities to protect the children. Either way, it is bound to be a long fight.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Hit Counter
Online Schools