After much thought on the matter, I have come to believe that this whole Texas FLDS raid, where 416 children were yanked from their families and are now awaiting placement in foster homes -- with state officials talking about actually putting them up for adoption -- one of the scariest things I've seen in a long, long time. For a state that's big on maintaining personal liberties and eschewing big government, Texas may have shown more redneck chutzpah than we've seen since Antietam.
Do I think the leadership of YFZ is corrupt and evil? You betcha, by golly. Do I think that somebody needs to prosecute those men for any crimes that can be proven? And how! But going into the compound, pulling away all the children from an incredibly closeted, isolated community, dragging them into foster homes, away from their mothers (plural, though those mothers may be), then ripping them away from each other and putting them in separate homes, most of them non-LDS, is just about the cruelest, most ill-thought-out plan to come along since... well... Antietam, come to that.
The first of my positions on this situation is that I don't believe that polygamy should be criminalized. Do I think it's a good idea? No. I'm not all that convinced that marriage is a genius notion to begin with. But if consenting adults want, for either spiritual or personal reasons, to enter into plural marriage, why on earth should they not be allowed to do so. If Republicans were really serious about smaller government, they'd stop this nonsense and put the world right. That way, people who were in consenting, adult plural marriages would be able to live in the light, making it that much harder for the Warren Jeffs of the world to hide behind them.
The problem with the YFZ isn't that husbands have more than one wife apiece. It's that grown men had gotten into the habit of having sex with children. And that's pretty much wrong, whether you're an atheist, a Mormon or a Catholic priest. If the state of Texas had truly wanted to right a wrong, they should have found a way -- using DNA tests on babies and mothers -- to determine how many 50-year-old men had screwed 14-year-old girls and gotten them pregnant. Perhaps they plan on doing that, as soon as the 13- and 14-year-old girls who are currently expecting give birth. But this is not why the children were taken. They were taken because the state attorney general had no case against the individual men, and used what may or may not have been an authentic call for help from an as-yet-unidentified girl who called herself Sarah to a women's shelter. So far, after collecting the 416 children, "Sarah" has not been found.
Mind you, I was one of the few people who felt that Elian Gonzales should have been returned to Cuba -- not because Cuba is better than the United States, but because stripping children away from parents who have not been convicted or even charged with a crime, but simply because we do not like the way those parents live is a violation of everything this country was founded upon. Perhaps Texas could have made a case if they'd only taken the girls at or near puberty, but taking the small children as well is tantamount to prosecuting a crime that hasn't been committed yet. Last time I looked, we hadn't quite slipped into a "MINORITY REPORT" world yet.
This tactic of rounding these kids up, yanking them away from their families and putting them with complete strangers who are undoubtedly untrained and uninitiated in dealing with the pecular problems these children face is more than just idiotic -- it's mean. It's cruel and it's mean and no amount of sweet-faced CPS media spokeswomen is going to change that. Much like Iraq, they went in without a strategy -- search warrants a-blazin' and no plan of attack. Maybe that's a Texas guy thing -- invade first, ask questions later.
And there will be questions. From high court judges, from elected representatives, but mostly, no doubt, and most disturbingly, from the children themselves, years from now, when they want to know why they were punished and imprisoned for the crimes of others.
Update: For CNN's Sunny Hostin's take on the issue -- which is WAY different than mine -- click here.