Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Many problems ... and counting

That whole Duggar thing. Man.

I’m pretty sure no one is shocked that a family of 21 (and counting?) would have some skeletons in its massive cluster of closets. It is, after all, 21 people, not counting cousins, spouses/side-huggers, grandkids, the TV crew, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Nobody’s perfect, but dozens of people are really imperfect — to say nothing of the parochial pressure they’re all under. I suspect there are many, many more revelations that will inevitably arise.

But, hopefully, there’s nothing else on the level of child molestation. I don’t think even the most hardcore rubberneckers expected that.

A few points we need to keep in mind:

No one should be gloating over this. Child molestation is a tragedy with few equals. I hope those of a typically compassionate nature don’t reduce this to a punch line.

But no one should be dismissing it either. One popular refrain has been that this news is driven mainly by a desire to discredit the Duggars out of jealousy or somesuch. Nonsense. It’s a case of a boy committing a crime and having his family cover it up with the assistance of a police officer (who was later busted for child porn), then lying about the counseling he received (helping build a house is not counseling). To say nothing of the victims (which none of them have).

The Duggars have built their brand largely on the specific political concept of “family values” and that their strain of patriarchal Christianity is the source of all that is decent and good. Josh Duggar was (until now) a top player with the Family Research Council, a political lobbying group that depicts gays as threats to children. During his 2002 campaign for U.S. Senate, Jim Bob Duggar called for incest to be treated as a capital crime. So for them to cover up sibling molestation particularly brings to mind the Bible’s advice about beams in the eye. 

And it illustrates one of the nastiest aspects of religion — the idea that the rules don’t apply to you because you are among the chosen ones. That you can claim forgiveness from Jesus so there should be no consequences. Because it’s different somehow.

Josh was a minor, yes, but he was a teenager. I knew when I was 5 years old (and possibly before) that you don’t do … that. By 14, I was versed in the finer points of asking out, making out and breaking up. Yes, the Duggars teach a polar-opposite approach to dating that mostly involves the bliss of ignorance. But that’s still no excuse for a teen to not know that there are at least 73 levels of wrong in fondling/violating your baby sisters in their sleep.

It’s unfair to jeer Josh’s past allies and defenders. Not because of this, anyway (the irony of politicians decrying a “celebrity” president embracing reality-show stars is fair game). It’s not as if they were aware of his past. What matters now is how they react now that it’s out. Many of them, to their credit, are creating distance.

But it is fair to raise eyebrows at those who are still on board. Some defenders of Josh, like Mike Huckabee and Matt Walsh (who wrote the Matt Walshiest column ever about it), are doubling down. Come on, guys. It’s not like he’s a close friend or relative and you have to wrestle with that moral ambiguity; he’s a celebrity. It’s OK to say, “I liked him before, but he has irrevocably disgraced himself and I will not rhetorically contort to embarrassing degrees to justify his transgressions.” See also: Cosby, Bill and Sharper, Darren.

This sad incident should put to rest the lingering idea in America that any group of people has a lock on morality. It’s weird to say in a blog, but deeds, not words, matter most.

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