A Man and his Wife and his Wife and his Wife and his Wife

I admit to watching a lot of strange TV, and I’m willing to do it publicly, here on my blog. After an obsession with “Big Love,” something else came along. It’s a reality show I find alternately fascinating and mundane, TLC’s “Sister Wives,” about this guy, Cody Brown, and his four wives (he’s only legally married to the
first one, Meri, but that’s one of those redundant bits of information, you can
only be legally married to one person at a time in this country).

They are practicing polygamists (I’m not sure what a non-practicing polygamist might be), and they believe polygamy to be a religious mandate (and yet they still have fewer children than the Duggars). They recently left their home in Utah due to fear of prosecution as a result of their public acknowledgement of their  lifestyle. According to the family’s account on the show, the police investigated, turned over evidence to the district attorney, and the Browns left the state rather than find out what the district attorney may conclude. Their fear was based on a family past history where wives and children were separated.

We’re not at the fascinating part, at least not for me.

What I’ve found I can’t get enough of with this show are the tiny interactions, the interactions behind the interactions, among the wives. From moment to moment they may appear like strangers, like best friends, like annoyed siblings. Through it all they share a single man.

Amazing.

This whole set-up might make your skin crawl. I get that, it’s different, it’s confusing (incredibly confusing, because really? Are the wives really ok with it all?), it’s not what we’re used to.

But that doesn’t mean I think it should be illegal. And I don’t think it’s a good use of resources to prosecute this family.

Don’t misunderstand me, we are not talking about abusive situations, like those with the polygamist groups recently prosecuted for rape, and investigated for child marriages and child abuse. Cody and his wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, were all adults when they made the decision to live in this way; in fact Cody converted to the religion as an adult (well, yes, it does seem the men get the better end of the deal).

We should not defer to culture or religion or lifestyle when it means that people are being mistreated or abused.

But if no one is being abused, if everyone is an adult, does anyone really have the right to say that since I don’t like your lifestyle, you shouldn’t be allowed to live it?

I know what you’re going to say: what about the children in this situation, they don’t have a choice. Well, no child has a choice of the religion or culture to which s/he will be born, and if you watch the show, you’ll see these children are fine. I may not agree with what they are being taught, or how, but that’s no reason for children to be removed from their parents.

We evolved from group animals. Who’s to say that polygamy isn’t the natural order of things, at least from an evolutionary perspective?

It doesn’t mean it would be my choice. But my choice doesn’t have to be everyone’s choice. There are many lifestyles that are not my choice, or not my nature, but that reason alone doesn’t grant me the superiority to legally veto them.

Whatever consenting adults want to do, consenting adults should be able to do, here in this land of freedom. Forcing decent families like the Browns into hiding only adds camouflage for the polygamists committing abuses under the same banner.

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