People who watched what happened after the Short Creek raid of 1953 may have speculated (as I did) that the raid on the FLDS community at the YFZ Ranch near Eldorado, Texas would have little impact, other than to drive polygamists farther underground. But in fact, the whole community has been influenced by this forced dialogue with the state and communication with the media. Plural wives have spoken for their way of life, have taken media people on tours, have written op-ed letters to newspapers. Their children survived life outside the compound, lived in a variety of care centers and foster homes, and endured exposure to movies, television and public education. Even the men have engaged in conversations and correspondence, not only with reporters but with governors, directors of social service, and attorneys general.
What have the FLDS people learned? Only time will tell. We can assume a few things: Some have undoubtedly noted that those doomsayers who predicted that the government would interfere with their life at the first provocation were, in fact, right. Some will use these events to feed martyr and persecution complexes far into the future. Certainly some have been gathering evidence that government workers and others in the 'wicked world' are minions of the devil. The FLDS people are probably more knowledgeable and therefore craftier about playing the system-and they already knew how to exploit religious exemptions, welfare, and public education assistance.
But public sympathies favored the mothers bereft of their children, the children torn from their mothers. People have showered them with gifts of money and other kindnesses, offering shelter and goods and emotional support. People have prayed and fasted and wept for them. They have written letters to editors and senators and governors and even the president. Even those who cheered the state's action have done so in the name of the children's safety and well-being. No longer can the FLDS people pretend that all the people of the world outside their community are wicked.
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