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Cognitive Dissonance

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Cognitive Dissonance

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I’m of two minds about the YFZ children going home.  I’m glad that the children—especially the babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers—are reunited with their mothers, and that they’ll be living and sleeping in familiar surroundings. How well I remember the first raid that separated us, and when my mother and her children reunited with my father and the other mothers, what a celebration; what joy!  There’s nothing like losing what you took for granted to make you grateful for it.

But FLDS leaders will be vindicated by this capitulation. I can hear them now:  Sanctimonious voices saying that God intervened in their behalf.  They’ll hold it as proof that they are leading righteous lives (regardless of any child abuse).  Uplifted eyes and hands, pointing out that they prophesied the events of the past six weeks, and holding it up as a litmus test of their divine connection.

I’m sorry for the FLDS people, particularly the cookie-cutter FLDS women and those children whose eyes and voices sound more and more like Warren Jeffs with every year.  I’m sorry that Jeffs will continue to be their “prophet” and the only person many of them will ever give credence to.  I’m sorry for my two half-brothers, tall, strong, lanky men with gentle hearts and kindly spirits who have been dismayed and punished by Jeffs even though he’s their first cousin.  I’m sorry for my half-sister that she’ll continue to operate under his thumb or as an outcast. Since Jeff’s perversity manifests as a need to dominate and control, the FLDS people can do it his way or they can hit the highway, which really isn’t much of a choice. 

I hope that the parents, especially the women of the FLDS community, can see the high stakes they’re risking when they allow someone like Warren Jeffs to dictate the terms of their existence: their children, their family unity, their personal freedom, their right to pursue happiness.

Whenever we’re of two minds, there’s cognitive dissonance.  And wherever there’s cognitive dissonance, we’re left with unsavory emotions—frustration, anger, guilt, sorrow, regret, shame, etc.  These feelings materialize in the gap between reality and what we wish for.  I wish that everyone had behaved better, myself included.  I wish the media and the courts and social services and the FLDS people had been more effective in articulating the basic challenge to comprehend the situation.  I wish we had arrived at viable solutions that serve the highest good of all concerned.  I especially wish that Warren Jeffs had not taken advantage of a frightened and isolated people and perpetrated his own insanity on them.  The price has been high, especially for the children who will always bear the scars of this raid. But wishes don’t make reality.

The best thing we can do with cognitive dissonance is to resolve the gap: either accept the reality or take the challenge to create the ideal. Since that can only happen when we face reality, we must learn from this, in the hope that we don’t repeat the mistakes of this and other dramas perpetrated by the state in conflict with families. The best thing that can come from this is a viable, long-term solution.

What lessons would you have the FLDS people learn from this raid? What do you wish the Department of Family Services and CPS would learn from this custodial action? What would you change in this circumstance if you could change anything?  

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