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No one votes extreme (like Americans)


I have long taken for granted the fact that, while religious extremists in America were savagely repugnant human beings (especially dictators-and-diamonds Pat,) their more extreme views were largely ignored by the American masses. I took comfort in this. I took even greater comfort in the fact that they weren’t as radical as the religious extremists produced by other nations. They didn’t openly advocate political violence, and occasionally apologized when they knew they’d crossed the line. America has always had more than its fair share of extremists, but they didn’t run the show, and they never approached the heights of fanaticism reached by some of the world’s more notorious religious leaders. Then, I looked at the numbers.


In Pakistan, a terrorist group previously banned from the polls is hoping to win local offices in a tried-and-true tactic that’s become downright red white and blue: They’re trying to sue their way in. Of their 370 candidates in Punjab, 170 are challenging their losses legally; 90 of their 190 candidates in Sindh are contesting results there. They face an uphill battle, though: Many of their leaders have been arrested in a post-7/7 terror crackdown. How this could have happened to an organization with a name like Millat-e-Islamia is beyond me.

The important thing is that they wouldn’t have to challenge results if they hadn’t lost the elections to begin with. The party, simply, can’t win at the polls. In the last regular election, the Millat party joined with two others in a coalition that captured under 5% of the vote. This is a little difficult to track, however. For some reason, they keep changing their name.

Now, compare that to the 27% of the vote that Alan Keyes received. Against Barack Obama. In the very blue state of Illinois. After calling his opponent’s positions, “wicked and evil,” the Vice President’s daughter a “selfish hedonist” (much like Keyes’ own, unfortunate daughter,) and referring to the President as “Massah Bush,” in criticism of the tax code. To be clear here, I’m not saying that Keyes’ positions are as extreme as a terrorist organization; I’m saying that 27% of Americans will vote for anybody who says God tells 'em to.

The same cannot be said of nations in regions dominated by religious extremists. Voters generally reject religious extremists more overwhelmingly than we defeated Alan Keyes, or they would Jerry Falwell. For heaven's sake, people; can't we do a little better than Pakistan? Time after time we see this pattern in world elections.

The 62% hardliner win in Iran is certainly alarming, but it does seem there is just cause to doubt the validity of the run-off election. Hamas made major gains in elections earlier this year, but they had the advantages of Tehran corruption scandals and conflict on the Gaza strip. Even with all that on their side, they still couldn’t win a majority. Generally, the bad guys are in charge because there weren’t fair elections. We get to choose which bad guys get the big guns, here.

About five years ago, a growing number of westerners—left-wing women’s groups and European journalists, mostly—began to focus the public’s attention on the largely ignored plight of women in Afghanistan. In 1998, Clinton had ordered strikes on Afghanistan, yes, but these were aimed at terrorist training camps, and had nothing to do with the bizarre and rising level of oppression Afghan women were subject to. The world was outraged by a BBC program and film documentary on the subject, and worldwide protest came as a reslult of the Taliban’s March 2001 destruction of the 1,500 year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan. Still, there was no U.S. intervention. Some feminist leaders claimed that all of this was tolerated by the United States in order to secure a pipeline deal. Then, when things hit home on 9/11, we were finally forced to take action. And the pipeline still happened.

Under the Taliban’s version of Islamic law (very little of which was derived from the actual Koran or any prior form of Islamic law,) women were forced to wear oppressive clothing and spend most—if not all—of their time in a home, usually with black painted windows. This, leaders claimed, was justified “protection”. And it is true that the women of Afghanistan were no longer subject to the systematic rapes that ruled the land before the Taliban, and came to be once again under “coalition” (read: warlord) rule. But, this is clearly not sufficient cause to “lock yer women away,” as they say, let alone bar them from receiving an education, or allow them only to work in the health care industry. (Try to reconcile those two thoughts for a moment, and you’ll see why average life expectancy in the impoverished and war-torn country was a youthful 43.)

But, these decisions were hardly made democratically, and women weren’t the only ones suffering. Men had to enforce these deranged rules, under penalty of death. And, if you think they liked it, you’re not really considering the realities of the situation. Not every man can channel his repressed sexuality into a sadistic game of domination. It takes a special type. Although, I will admit that to get that sort of thing in the States, you do generally have to pay extra.

Men were also subject to another set of barbaric rules. Their beards had to be a certain length, they weren’t allowed to play sports, and were subject to forcible conscription in the Taliban. It wasn’t exactly the sort of ol’ boys environment we associate with sexism. Extreme forms of female oppression are never the will of the male population as a whole.

One British journalist held by the Taliban for daring to roam the streets without a husband actually described most of her captors as sympathetic. She even called them “too nice.” Stockholm Syndrome? Unlikely, since she had nothing good to say about the Taliban upon release.

To put it simply: No people as a whole, and very rarely as a majority, want to live under the rule of an oppressive fideist. Not even Afghanistan, a feudal society as backward as any other on planet earth, wants that kind of leadership. So how is it that Americans in this day and age will still, from time to time, buy into it?
I can’t think of a better example of “sexism gone wild” coming back to slap the asses of a male population than the “lost boys” of the FLDS church. The cult itself is an offshoot of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) faith, which splintered away in the early part of the 20th century over some minor philosophical issues. What are these subtle, nuanced differences between the faiths? The FLDS church believes that women are spiritually inferior to men, and that a man must then have at least three wives to get into Heaven. Mainstream Mormons disagree. (Also, at least one of the church’s four US sects teaches that black people are the "rude and filthy… seed of Cain," but that’s another story entirely.)

Now, in a sexual sense, three women to every man is some people’s idea of a good time. Many people’s, in fact. But only in that sense. Three wives is a fairly unappealing thought to anybody who isn’t frenetically obsessed with the subjugation of women. This system has serious, negative consequences for men, as well.

All of this, of course, is in service of a system that aims to mistreat women. And in order for the girls to play along, it either requires a great deal of force, or women who are convinced that they aren’t a man’s equal. Reports from ex-members imply that this is done through not only theological teaching, but psychological and sometimes physical abuse. It also requires a lot of women—which drives members of the church to marry girls off young (meaning, in their early teens).

These three offenses mixed in a horrifying way in the head of Allen Rex Harrod, a self-described “Mormon prophet” living in the Sacramento area. Harrod allegedly took his fascination with early FLDS polygamist writings to a disturbing end: He stands accused of ritualistically raping and molesting three of his daughters and a stepdaughter for over 25 years. The stepdaughter he was known to refer to as his “second wife.” Scholars have long believed that while it was common for teen girls in polygamist sects to be assigned marriages to much older men, child abuse was unheard of.

In 2003, however, a police officer and FLDS church member Rodney Holm was convicted of statutory rape and bigamy. His wives were re-assigned to other men. During the upheaval that followed, two teenage girls, Fawn Holm and Fawn Broadbent, fled the community in Arizona, shedding more light on the church’s treatment of women. As if the fact that between the three of them they only had two first names and two last names wasn’t enough to confirm suspicion of incest, the girls were also eager to talk about their experiences with reporters and authorities. They helped confirm claims that girls within the church were forced to marry, often at an early age. Church leader Warren Jeffs is now in hiding over charges stemming from all this and welfare fraud, too.

So, with the women down at heel, the men must be living it up, right?

Time to test your math. The birth ratio of males to females is very roughly even, with minor variations from generation to generation. Females generally survive longer, but this hardly changes the nearly 50/50 ratio. Now, assume that in order to get into Heaven, each man has to marry three women. How are you going to achieve this? Answer: Get rid of 2/3 of the men, as soon as they show interest in women.

In recent years, about 400-1,000 teens (brought into the spotlight through a series of news reports in June,) have been expelled from the church, driven outside of the community, and dropped on the side of the road. This was most often for offenses as grievous as wearing short-sleeved shirts, listening to music, or having girlfriends. The vast majority (if not all) of these children are male teenagers.

As a result of one man’s psychological deficiencies, and inability to do simple math almost a hundred years ago, boys are being abandoned outside of communities in Utah and Arizona at an incredible rate. They are deprived of contact with their family after essentially being told that they’re going to hell by the church they’ve bought into. And, since the church exists within communities it controls entirely, the boys are expelled from the world as they know it.

Once again, we see that oppression of women destroys the lives of men, as well. And once again, a community buys into it. But this time, it’s happening in America, today. It took a long line of gullible, dimwitted Americans to carry this movement to the 21st century. Can we really say that our culture is safely out of the reach of hellfire-wielding despots?

Are we really any more progressive, all things considered, than Pakistan? I wonder: If Warren Jeffs ran for office in his home town, would he receive Millat Party’s 4.6% of the vote, or something closer to Alan Keyes 27%? And, would he win?

Avery Walker is a Managing Editor for Raw Story, and can be reached at [email protected].

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