Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Warren Jeffs... BUSTED!

Not all supervillains wear a cape.

Those of you who do not live in Arizona probably saw a story on this a-hole on 48 Hours or 20/20, watched with some morbid fascination and then promptly forgot about it.

Warren Jeffs is leader of a cult in northern Arizona that makes the Branch Davidians look like a Sunday School picnic. The cult is an off-shoot of Mormonism and does not just fill a compound, but an entire town in the farthest reaches of the state. The town is mostly walled off and is a sort of black box as far as what's actually going on. The police, the school system, the city council and the whole operation are all part of the cult.

Warren Jeffs was finally picked up by the cops last night in Nevada.

What we know: The cult is centered around polygamy and, surprise, surprise... believes Jeffs to be some sort of messiah figure. The polygamy includes a lot of thirteen and fourteen year old girls who are barely literate being placed into marriage with guys in their 40's and 50's (as wife number five or so). Girls who were recently "rescued" from the town didn't know who the President was, where they were in the United States, or, in fact (if memory serves) that they were in the United States. To them, the world was Warren Jeffs and his teachings.

Cult Leading Jackhole

With just about as many boys as girls being born, in order to make the operation work the popular story is that the cult kicks a lot of boys out of town at a very young age.

In theory.

If I were the FBI I'd be looking for shallow graves around the town. I find it difficult to believe that dozens (or possibly hundreds) of boys could have been kicked out of town and only a handful would have gone public.

Traditionally, Arizona's culture has been to let people do as people do. It's a big state, and, culturally, it's had a very laid back atmosphere that boiled down to "if you don't bother me, you can do whatever you want on the other side of the hill." Resources have long been scarce, and nobody has had the political will to bother with things like kooky cults that don't effect the business of the two big cities which are both hours away. Add in one fiasco in Waco, mutiply that by a cult which dwarfs the Branch Davidians, and you've got a pretty handy stalemate.

Well, lately Jeffs has been on the run after being indicted for arranging a marriage between sixteen year old girl and married older man (one of many, many of these marriages). I heard that he'd bought some land near Alpine, TX and planned to move the whole shooting match to West Texas. Unfortunately for Jeffs, (and I heard this only fourth hand) the good folks of West Texas heard what these guys were up to and did their best to use that grand Texas gentle persuasion (ie: threatening to burn his compound down) to convince him that maybe he shouldn't think Texans were going to turn a blind eye to his activities. For once, I'm totally behind the pitchfork and torch wavers.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the stories you hear about the Jeffs cult. As citizens of a 1st World nation, we all like to think we're pretty clever and above falling for some line of malarkey. But, in a way, we're also in our own little fenced town where the cops are part of the operation. We hear what we hear growing up, and we assume that because we heard it growing up and we're comfortable with it, it must be The Truth. Anyway, it's always good to look at the folks trying to sell you The Truth with a healthy dose of skepticism. They could be your Governor or your Ultimate Frisbee captain, and they may even believe what they say, but that doesn't mean they don't want you sitting in your own little compund in the desert without the slightest notion there's a world outside.

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