Monday, July 10, 2006

The Real Lost Boys (and it's usually not a happy ending).

I've decided to add another link to my 'other sites' listings. I'm doing it because of a tragedy that has been underreported in the recent rush of stories about the FLDS church (no connection at all to the actual LDS church, to which I belong, and which banned polygamy in 1890) and its leader, Warren Jeffs, who is now on the FBI's ten most wanted list for, among other crimes, child rape, for his role in forcing underage girls to get married to old men who already have multiple wives.

Now, I want to say at the outset that what any number of consenting adults does, is not the state's business. However, in this case, we see girls who have been forced to drop out of junior high school being forced into marriages with men old enough to be their grandfathers. Neither the word, 'consenting' nor the word, 'adult' applies here, so this is child rape, pure and simple.

What has not been reported much is what has happened to the 'lost boys.' We are talking about those boys who have been raised in the polygamist community, consisting of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah (what amounts to a border straddling community is one of the ploys they have used for years to dodge various court orders and other matters that involve jurisdiction). If you do the math, you will realize that in order to maintain a polygamist community, they have only two choices. One is to go out and convert a bunch of females (one reason why it is highly advisable for women to avoid stopping there when traveling alone, especially with baby girls-- my wife once had to stop there with my two young daughters, who had to use the restroom on their way back from my mother in law's house, while I was working, and 'uncomfortable,' and even 'threateningly uncomfortable' are mild compared to the creepy kind of terror she felt as some of the men in the store looked the young girls over). In today's day and age, such kidnappings or very hard sell conversions are rare though, and they don't want to involve Federal Authorities, so while there are plenty of rumors that this used to happen, it apparently isn't happening now.

The other way is to get rid of some young males. And that is the way they do it. The 'lost boys' as they are called, are teenagers, raised in the insular fundamentalist community where they have probably read the Book of Mormon only (this community is so fundamentalist that some families don't even read the Bible) and who usually about 15 or 16-- though some have been as young as 13, on the pretext of committing the smallest transgression, are dumped in some nearby town and left there. The families file runaway reports with the local police in order to protect themselves legally.

These boys have very few skills to make it in the outside world. They do probably possess rudimentary construction skills (when driving through Colorado City, as I have many times, it's not hard to pick out the polygamist homes-- large, unfinished homes that look like under construction hotels, except they aren't.) Their reading and schooling level is junior high level at best (and they know one or perhaps two books (if they come from a family 'enlightened' enough to read the Bible), as described above, mostly from memory, but know virtually nothing else that might be read about). They have been forbidden since infancy to speak to females except for their mothers (who they have several of), and so have no social skills at all when it comes to knowing how to talk to or relate to a female at or near their own age.

Many of them when they get out into the world, end up in prison, sexually abused by older men or women who 'take them in,' drug addicts, or dead. Others stay together and live in small groups, finding what work they can, in towns across southern Utah (very cosmopolitan to these boys, though my wife is from one of these towns, and thinks Flagstaff is a big city.) And ironically, as white males, they don't even qualify for any kind of affirmative action, so that they don't have any preferences when trying to find work either.

A past they can't go back to, a present they don't understand and have trouble surviving in, and a future that is devoid of hope.

And that is where the link comes in. It is a link to the Diversity Foundation, an organization founded by Sandy, Utah dentist Dan Fischer, himself a former FLDS member (more on that here). Fischer has taken in about fifty of the boys.

Fischer wants to stop the church's most extreme practices, so he can stop cleaning up the mess. In the high stakes legal game to end the FLDS as an institution, he could be the unwitting sculptor of a new legal definition for freedom of religion. Fischer maintains that, while they have the right to practice their beliefs, religious institutions don't have the power to disrupt and exploit lives.

Polygamy's enemies have long argued the practice means exploitation for young women and even girls trafficked among older men. The Lost Boys lawsuit is perhaps the first to point out that young men can suffer polygamy's effects as well. They may not lose their sexual innocence, but ejected from a religious community and mindset they've known from infancy, they can be rendered homeless and hopeless.


Fischer requires that the boys keep out of trouble and go to school while they live with him. Some of his opponents claim that he is using it to promote his dental business. Whether he is or not is actually immaterial-- if he wasn't doing this, there is no one else who would.

I think this is important enough to put up the site, because until a couple of years ago, this was going on just as much, but was completely ignored and not covered. Still pretty close to that.

13 comments:

shrimplate said...

Good work, Eli.

Coincidentally, I recently met one of the original "Lost Boys of Sudan," who marched across desert to avoid pre-teenage conscription in the war there.

One of the remarkable things about him was his mild appetite. Some days he still didn't eat at all. He said it was because of his past when they didn't eat every day.

He is a gentle and well-spoken soul.

Anonymous said...

Hmmn... While you make a bunch of good points, you also fall into the trap of "polygamy's enemies" in assuming that it's the polygamy that's responsible, when in fact it's the practices of the group in question that are to be denounced.

Eli Blake said...

shrimplate:

Yeah, there are unfortunately more than one such group.

anonymous:

Perhaps the practices, but in maintaining a polygamous community you run into the hard fact of the math sooner or later.

I know there are some very responsible people who (for whatever reasons) practice polygamy, and as I said in the first paragraph, what consenting adults do is not the state's business. And there are cases I know of where it would be hard to figure out who to charge even if you did press charges (i.e., an adult bisexual woman sharing a house with straight man to whom she is legally married and a lesbian woman, or two couples who cohabit and switch back and forth.)

The problem is with, as I pointed out, the fact that the victims are not adults.

Not that I would advocate that they kick these boys out when they are eighteen either, but at least if they did that, then they would have time to finish high school and have some options (such as college or the military) that aren't available when they kick them out at 14.

Tom & Icy said...

This is scary to think about. Considering these uneducated individuals with no hopes and surely feelings of resintment for their treatment could well be loose canons harvested to become home-grown terrorist. I wonder if there are just a few dozen of them or thousands? That guy is doing something to help. Just hope there aren't some out there taking them in for ulterior reasons.

Eli Blake said...

Tom & Icy:

Actually, this has been going on for at least a couple of generations, so there are thousands of them out there (of various ages) by now. In the past, knowing a little about construction was enough to get by on (probably a lot of them working as carpenters in Utah) but in today's increasingly high tech, specialized world where job skills are a must, more and more of them are falling out of society.

Good point about people who might use them for ulterior motives and homegrown terrorism, and that is a big concern. I blogged a couple of days ago on the Aryan Nations' attempting to infiltrate our military to gain weapons training, obviously these kids (who are white) are a great target for them to recruit from and I'd be amazed if that hasn't happened, probably more than we want to know. In fact, given what the Aryan Nations does, their connections throughout the rural west, and the situation these boys are in, I'd almost say (without having ever explored that specific situation personally) that it is virtually certain that they have and probably are recruiting them.

Anonymous said...

Shrimplate made a good point which was virtually ignored, that being that this is a problem with the group in question not the practice of plural marriage itself. The only response was a blow off talking about the being more such groups out there, the implication being that all fundamentalist mormons groups/churches do the same. Being a member of one of the smaller fundamentalist churches, I personally know this to not be true. Generalizations and stereotypes are bad no matter who you apply them to, and Mormons with their past being full of persecutions and slander against them should understand this more then anyone.

Eli Blake said...

uh, shrimplate was talking about groups of lost boys-- namely, the lost boys of Sudan, who were displaced by the genocide there (boys were killed selectively because of the fear that their tribal background would lead them to become rebels) and forced to flee their homeland. So that remark had nothing to do with fundamentalist churches.

And like I said, I'm not against anyone practicing their religion, I'm against exploiting children. If your church limits plural marriages to adults, then I have no quarrel with you.

Jack Hampton said...

It just doesn't make any sense to me. These boys are their sons, what kind of a human sack of excrement would dump their 13 year old son on the street and tell him not to come back? These people need to go to prison, and all their kids (boys and girls) need to be put into foster homes.

Eli Blake said...

Jack:

Good point. You have to wonder about the mentality of someone who could do that to his (since the women don't make any of the decisions) own son. Maybe it's because they have dozens of sons, so they have a way to pick out three or four who they really like and dehumanize the rest. But this still seems hardly possible that anyone could do something like that.

Obviously your son is lucky you are his father.

Jamie LaJolla said...

The girls still get the worse of it though. At about that same age, they get married off to be some 68 year old's fifth wife, then he rapes them and they get pregnant, then when the old fart croaks they get 'assigned' to some other old fart.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so it was the post after shrimplate, paaardon me! Thanks for not addressing the point though. I'm also glad you believe everything you read in the newspaper and see on TV, it shows your really thinking for yourselves.

Eli Blake said...

Oh, the comment about the math? Well, that's the truth of the matter. It's not such a big problem if people choose to practice polygamy in their private lives and live in a community with others who don't, but if you have a completely or mostly polygamous community then it's a fact that there will be a number of young men who have to look elsewhere. True, that the parents can be responsible and 1) give them the schooling and other background they need to succeed in the world, and 2) help them to make that transition, but the math remains as it is. In fact, this does in a way tie back to Shrimplate's post, because while the boys in Sudan were killed, many of the girls, either at the time or later on, were taken by slave traders, where they end up in some rich muslim's harem (Islam permits up to four wives if a husband can support them).

Also, while I don't generally agree with the 'enemies' of polygamy (in that I don't think the state should ban it or bother people who aren't abusing children), I am also not a 'friend' of the practice, in that my own personal beliefs don't support it. Like marijuana, I think it should be legal but I don't want it in my own life.

Anonymous said...

To say, "I am not a 'friend' of polygamy, in that my own personal beliefs don't support it; it should be legal, but I don't want it in my own life," is a moral cop-out. Either it harms people and is morally wrong, or it isn't. Believe me, polygamy is a harmful, exploitative, immoral practice,and it should be illegal. I know, because my family suffered because of it. I have studied the matter quite seriously for years. Polygamy was never sanctioned in the Bible,but rather condemned. It is also strongly condemned in the Book of Mormon as an "abomination" (see Jacob 1:15, 2:24,3:5, Mosiah 11:2). And yet, Section 132 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants says unless a person practices it, they will be "damned". Eli Blake said that the LDS fundamentalist groups have "no connection" with the the "actual" LDS church based in Salt Lake City, however this is not true. The fundamentalists are simply living closely to the teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor and other LDS church leaders up to Wilford Woodruff. All these leaders taught for many years that unless polygamy is practiced in this life, there will be no exaltation in the world to come (see Journal of Discourses and pre-1890 conference reports; there are many, many quotes). Eli Blake believes that LDS leaders stopped practicing polygamy after the 1890 Manifesto, too. Unfortunately, this is not correct. Church leaders continued to authorize plural marriages in secret up to 1906. This is well documented also, and these marriages are recorded in church and temple records. See Richard Van Wagoner's book, "Mormon Polygamy," and many other documented sources for proof. Because polygamy caused such pain in our family, I began searching diligently into the history and origins of it. It led me to find out that Joseph Smith practiced it but blatantly lied about it for years. He lied to his wife Emma, to his closest counselors and friends, and publicly to his followers. It led me to find out about many other lies he told. I encourage any believer in Mormonism to diligently research your own church history. If the church is true, it will stand up to scrutiny. As for myself, I have since become a follower of Christ, that is, the Christ of the Old and New Testaments. I no longer harbor any doubts about polygamy. It is wrong and should be illegal. The Lost Boys are more proof.