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Friday, July 4, 2008

On Celebrating Independence Day--and Forgetting The Lessons of History

Yesterday, on the eve of our nation's 232nd birthday, they released a now-healthy bald eagle near Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida. The proud national bird had been recuperating for the past two months after an apparent fight with another eagle.

Every time I think bald eagle, I recall the story of "Old Abe," the 8th Wisconsin Regiment's mascot during the Civil War that bravely served through 36 battles, including the decisive capture of Vicksburg on our Independence Day in 1863.

The daring "Old Abe" managed to survive the war, despite being repeatedly fired upon by indignant rebel forces. But of course several hundred thousand Americans weren't so lucky. And they were the ones that magnificent bird's namesake called in his Gettysburg Address "these honored dead" that "we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom..."

Freedom. So often such a relative term, depending upon where you might find yourself, and to what authority you're forced to answer to.

Of course, Abraham Lincoln had a decidedly ruthless scorch earth policy when it came to winning the peace for that new birth of freedom, e.g., blocking all medical supplies to the Southern people, locking up anyone he wanted without trial, etc.

Still, I strongly doubt he would have approved of the totalitarian tactics practiced by well-known cultists in peace time, past or present. The most recent news item was the lamentable court decision to return the children to the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) Texas prison farm. Yes, separating children from their mothers can never be easy, yet what is far more agonizing is knowing these children are captives in a horrendously oppressive cult.

Exactly how oppressive is this FLDS "Yearning For Zion Ranch"? Well, here's just a sampling of some of the "privileges" doled out to aspiring saints by now-incarcerated leader Warren Jeffs:

1. Forbidden members to use television sets, VCRs, video games or to have connections to the Internet.

2. Banned boating, fishing and other water activities.

3. Instructed parents to throw away most children's books including the Bible.

4. Terminated community and holiday celebrations, such as observing the birthdays of previous leaders and Pioneer Day.

5. Stopped dances, socials, and other get-togethers.

6. Warned members that laughter causes the spirit of God to leak from their bodies. He based this belief on an obscure statement by Joseph Smith.

7. Expelled many men and reassigned their wives and children to other men.

8. Expelled large numbers of teenage boys from his areas of control in order to artificially increase the ratio of females to males. Only by discharging young males does polygamy become possible.

Tyrannical. Absolutist. Outrageous. And, still, the children were shipped right back into the jaws of the beast.

The "specs" on this particular machine, yeah, might differ from other cult mental meat grinders. Nevertheless, it has all the efficiency of other past and present models.

Santanya, a grand salute as the people keep on keepin' on forgettin' those history lessons...

"Prophet" Jones: "Now if you just had had friends like Herb Caine, John Moore, and Willie Brown, you might be sittin' in the Dallas Housing Authority Chair, Warren--instead of a prison cell!" "Prophet" Jeffs: "....Hey, don't forget Tim Stoen, Jimmy!"