Tuesday, May 09, 2006

American Polygamy

For several years I lived in southwestern Utah.
Polygamists, or Poligs as everybody in Utah calls them, are just part of the scenery like fantastic rock formations and quakies on sides of mountains.
I learned about poligs in the same casual manner I learned about rock climbing; it's just part of culture.
The women wear long dowdy braids with the trademark bump of hair over the forehead. They don't wear make-up, but always wear pioneer-style, long-sleeved dresses, even in the roasting desert summer, when the sun doesn't shine so much as it thunders.
It always irritated me that the women look like freaks, but the men just blend in. The only way you knew a man was a polig was when you saw him with the women. Otherwise, you might be dating one and not even know it.
That really happened to a roomate of mine.

Poligs keep to themselves; they don't even like to make eye contact.
To get to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, you have to drive through their little town, but nobody stops there for gas.
And thats the way it's been in Utah for the past century: We know they're there, we know what their doing, but everybody just looks the other way.
Recenty, only within the past 10 or 15 years, women and men who've escaped or been forced out of the polig community have been speaking out.
The 2002 Olympics also shone a spotlight on Utah poligs, their renegade ways, and the general public's complacency about it.
Now the Utah Attorney General and the FBI are getting tough, and if you've heard what Warren Jeffs is accused of, you know why.

You may think me strange but, I'm not against polygamy under the right circumstances
Chinua Achebe, author of "Things Fall Apart" writes about pre-Christian western African society. Polygamy there is completely normal and practical.
West African women had way too much work to do by themselves, and men were always doing crazy things like attacking neighboring tribes and getting killed, so polygamy worked.

Modern Utah poligs like to say they are living a 'higher law' or practicing the 'old-time religion', but in reality theirs is a weird sexual thing that has long out-lived it's practical purpose.
The Mormon Church practiced polygamy over 100 years ago, at a time when female chruch members outnumbered men almost 7 to 1, and women simply couldn't be alone on the American frontier.
When the FBI put Warren Jeffs on it's Top Ten Most Wanted list I know that a secret cheer went out in the hearts of many a poligamist woman. And probably some of the men, too.

I knew one ex-poligamist woman and she told me she wanted to be normal, just like everybody else.


At 8:54 PM, Blogger Cityslicker Mom said...

That's interesting! I didn't know that people in Utah looked the other way. But isn't it a division of the mormons or something like that, so if there are alot of mormons there, I guess it would make sense that they'd look the other way!
ps. did you get my message? I didn't really want anything, call me back whenever.


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