Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thoughts on the News of the Day



It started out to be a nice day. The temperature was 1C and the sun was shining. Alas, winds picked up and brought rain clouds into the valley. It is winter, I know that, but where oh where is my sunshine? Too many days like this and one might be reduced to single malt scotch for breakfast.

I came home from work early on Tuesday in the teeth of the last heavy snowfall that hit us. Barely made it up the hill from the highway! It took me most of Wednesday morning to (again) dig out the driveway. Things are slow at work this week so I booked off until Monday; I wasn't feeling good about leaving Bryan home alone with his painful back, especially after he fainted from pain on 01 January so it was just as well.

We don't have television service, mostly by default rather than purpose. It was frustrating to pay much money for satellite service up north, only to endlessly flick through the channels looking for something interesting to watch. I do miss the news programs although I admit they were a sick addiction for me. I'm a news junkie.

So once again, my primary source of news from the outside world is CBC Radio One. Yes, I staunchly support the publicly-funded Mother Corp. You nay-sayers, turn off CNN and CTV for a week and see if you change your mind.

Big news in BC the last 24 hours is the arrest of Winston Blackmore and James Oler on charges of polygamy. For those not resident in Canada or unaware of the FLDS community near Creston, BC, Blackmore is the leader of a fundamentalist Mormon group at Bountiful (their name for what is not an official 'town' or place). The group has been under investigation for something like 20 years. They defend their lifestyle under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, declaring that polygamy is part of their religious observances.

I have problems with the arguments on both sides. Hiding behind the Charter rubs me wrong. Although religious rights are protected, those rights can be superseded when an individual's health and/or welfare is put at risk. For example, Jehovah Witnesses are against blood transfusions and other interventionist medical treatments, yet child welfare Ministries have taken JW children with life-threatening illnesses into protective custody in order to adminster treatment, in defiance of the parents' beliefs. The primary concern about FLDS practices are child welfare issues, in particular underage marriages of the girls and suspect sexual exploitation. If there is to be a challenge of their rights, that should be the focal point.

BC Attorney General Wally Oppal has decided to proceed with charges on their polygamist practices because they are again the law. Why? Not why has Oppal proceeded, but Why is polygamy illegal?

I did a quick search using that query: Why is polygamy illegal in Canada? and there was no answer. Opinion but not substance.

I may not want to enter into a polygamist relationship (which could just as easily be one woman with several men as one man with several women - remember that totally hilarious movie 'Paint Your Wagon', with Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood?). That doesn't mean that others couldn't/shouldn't choose that lifestyle. What is inherently wrong with it?

If I choose to live in the same house with several men, who is to know whether or not I'm legally married to one or any of them? Even if I was married to one, who would know which others I was sharing my bed with? And who's business is it other than those in the relationship?

Don't get me started on the possible effects on the lives of children who may be raised in such an environment. There are so many abuses perpetrated in the legitimate cover of a 'normal' family, 'normal' marriage that it is to laugh. There can be loving and nurturing child-rearing in many family configurations with fabulous results. A monogamous man-woman family unit has no exclusive claim to the successful care and wellbeing of children.

The problem often comes back to the word 'marriage'. I do believe that it has one use only, to describe the civil, legal union between one man and one woman. That doesn't mean that I have issues with any other couple configuration, because I don't. Just don't use the word 'marriage' to describe it. If governments at all levels could get past that (they did with unwed man-woman couples by coining the term common-law marriage) and issue the same benefits to all declared family units (or remove them from everyone and keep it on a level playing field) then the word wouldn't get everyone hung up.

You and I both know people who have used a conventional marriage to hid all types of socially-unacceptable behaviour. It makes a travesty of the thing.

Wow, I've totally gone on a rant, haven't I? And I'm kinda nervous about reading it over in case I discover it's a real irrational mess.

It's just that I don't see the rationale in trying to fit all people into narrow parameters of what is 'normal' and acceptable. Just because it's not the lifestyle I choose doesn't make it wrong.

Coming the long way back to the news item about Blackmore and Oler, what is it about their lifestyle that gets people so riled up? If it's the suspected exploitation of women and children, then call a spade a spade and base the charges on that. And while you're at it, make should you also charge and prosecute all other perpetrators of such exploitation.

At the risk of both offending friends and inciting outrage, I'll be so bold as to suggest that the reason people are riled up about Bountiful is jealousy. I have a friend who lives in close proximity to Bountiful (you know who you are, honey!) who's been heard to say there's hardly a man in the region who wouldn't want to be Winston Blackmore (at least on a good day when the women aren't squabbling).

Why do you think polygamy is illegal? What, exactly, is not legal or right about it? I really want to know.

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