Can’t We All Just Get Along by Jean Marie Keenan-Johnston

I’m a bona fide TLC channel fan!  Among other cable channels, this is one of my go-to’s when trying to find something to watch.  The kids go to bed, and I immediately grab the remote, punch in the numbers 1-2-9 and start surfing my way up the channel number line (just in case you were wondering, SyFy is at the end.).  Between the channels that teach me something, the channels that throw me into the life of a foodie, the channels that send my dreams of a better home soaring, or even just the channels with shows that I’m usually too embarrassed to admit I occasionally watch (you Housewives of New Jersey fans can probably relate), I’m rarely left with nothing to entertain myself.  Right now I’m watching the second episode of Breaking Amish, and I’m loving it! 

Other cultures FASCINATE me!   As a teacher, I loved teaching cultural geography SO much more than physical geography.  I loved sharing with the students everything there was to learn about food, music, literature, everything that makes a “people” the culture that they are.  In my personal life, I’ve always loved walking through old houses in historic locations and wondering what the lives of those of generations before me were like…how it was to eat dinner in their kitchens or put their babies to sleep at night without the luxuries of cd players for lullabies or nightlights to scare away the monsters under the bed.  Before cable TV, I was only able to get a taste of other cultures by actually visiting historic or cultural sites that attract sightseers from all over.  Trips to places like Washington D.C. or Williamsburg interest me much more than Disney World or Hershey Park.  Our current budget doesn’t allow for vacations in locations outside the continental United States, and medical bills and health conditions have actually limited us a LOT more since our wedding.  We went from carefree dating days when we could travel anywhere we wanted…we’d hop in the car and drive someplace for a long weekend away…to newly married couple with a baby on the way who was limited to the Jersey shore.  As moms know, that situation usually ties us to the house more than other times.  We had hoped once the babies got a bit older we’d be able to travel more, but medical bills and physical limitations have carried the obstacles that came with little babies a bit farther into our family life.  But that’s a topic for another time.

Getting back to my love of different cultures, I think that curiosity and love of learning may have helped make me a more accepting person than some others coming from a Roman Catholic background may be.  I won’t go so far to say that I completely relate to or understand some of the different lifestyles there are out there in the world, but I can confidently say I refuse to be judgmental of those people, and I hope to raise my children to be the same way. 

Besides Breaking Amish, I also enjoy Sister Wives.  I understand this may rub some people the wrong way, but my way of thinking doesn’t confuse their polygamist lifestyle with those of the child abusers that find themselves in the news.  I tuned in to their first episodes a bit warily…I didn’t know what I was in for or how I’d feel about it.  But after I watched just one or two shows, I found myself looking forward to their show.  I felt like these were women I could relate to on some level as a housewife and a mother.  They just had a lot more children to deal with…among other differences of course!  I love how much they enjoy living as a family of that size, and I respect them for trying to live a life so dedicated to their faith.    They feel a calling and they dedicate their lives to living it out to its fullest.   I know others can’t relate to their way of thinking, and I say to myself “To each his own.”  (I say “to myself” because I tend to avoid conversations with others about controversial topics like religion and politics…which is kind of funny since I’m posting this now.)  I try not to judge, and that goes for ANYONE, not just this family made famous by “coming out” on TV but any other human being.  I’m an open-minded, caring, loving person with a HUGE caretaker type of personality, so that leaves me open to wanting to accept and help others rather than condemn them and make their lives more difficult.  I don’t judge others for not agreeing with me, but what I DO disagree with is their way of voicing their reactions and opinions when they’re hurtful and hateful.

Last week the mothers were at a trade show trying to market their new product line, My Sisterwife’s Closet.  They were a bit nervous about being there because of the proximity to the nearby community that draws the negative attention to polygamy and the possibility of being associated with those people.  I personally think they deserve a lot of credit for participating in a trade show like that.  I really respect them for starting such a business…it’s not an easy endeavor even without the extra stressors they deal with.  What truly bothered me was the locals who were interviewed there at the trade show.  Like I said already, I don’t expect everyone to agree with my way of looking at things.  It’s impossible to have the entire world be fuzzy, lovey-dovey, touchy-feely.  It will never happen!  But as this one woman ended her little interview, she said one sentence that seriously bothered me…”I hate them”.  And with those words, she laughed.

Why???  She didn’t personally know them.  What she knew OF them was what she saw on their TV show.  Her reasons for considering them “evil” were that she associated their similar lifestyle with those of the ones I do feel are capable of evil, the men who marry twelve-year-olds, creating situations of babies making babies. The Brown family consists of grown women who entered into these spiritual unions as they call them with a man they say they love and choosing to live as one whole family…of their own free will.  It’s not forced upon them…it’s not even expected of them.  Because this isn’t accepted by society, these people are judged.  Because they are different, these people are judged.  I get all that.  And I’m really not posting in an effort to show any approval of their chosen lifestyles. 

What I am voicing out against is the hatred they must endure.  Our young country really isn’t that far from the days of slavery.  We all have learned about the difficulties women endured trying to earn the right to vote.  We hear stories of gay young men and women who can’t handle the pain other people impost upon them because they can’t deal with their sexual orientation, and so they make the drastic decision to end their lives.  Or just as bad, we hear other news stories of people who assaulted them because of their way of life.  I believe this family’s situation is really not any different from any of those types of bigotry.  My jaw hit the floor when I heard this women say on national TV that she hated them.  And the fact that she added a laugh at the end…not a nervous kind of laugh like she felt a little funny about what she just said…but a different kind of laugh, one that made her comment just a bit more sinister, like she thought “I know this is wrong why I’m saying, but I really don’t care”…that seriously bothered me.  I was going to blog about this last Sunday night, but I couldn’t get my thoughts together soon enough to post.  I was going to just let it go, but it’s been bothering me every day since I watched last week’s episode.  So I decided to go ahead with speaking out against using that word in such a way.

I’m not condoning their decisions to live as one man with four wives.  I’m not saying I understand their calling, and I know myself well enough to know that I could NEVER live that way of life myself.  I’d be too jealous a women to share my husband in such a way!  (Maybe these women should be praised for even just their self-control and love of each other as sisters to be able to put up with the difficulties that such a way of life would bring!)  And I can hardly stand to have two kids who don’t listen to me on my toughest parenting days…how would I deal with fifteen or more in one room?   What I am saying is this…haven’t we as a nation been hateful enough??? 

Can’t we start to teach more of our children, by example, to live a more loving and accepting life?  We’ve already started as a nation to slowly accept gay marriage.  For decades we’ve been trying to make up for the wrongs against African Americans, Native Americans and other peoples.  I don’t believe this situation is any different.  As long as nobody is getting hurt by their actions, I feel the same toward their situation as others that are similarly misunderstood and misjudged…they each deserve respect and acceptance.  This is the message I choose to teach my children.  Maybe posting this will help, or maybe it won’t mean anything to anyone.  But if just one person has an a-ha moment that leads to some soul-searching or even a conversation with his or her children, then maybe a few more people on this earth will experience a loving acceptance that will change their lives for the better, both on the giving end and receiving end!

Because that’s the kind of world I want my daughters to grow up to live in.  None of us knows what the future holds in store for us or our children.  As parents we all try to do everything we can to raise them properly with the values and morals we each live by, sending them off into the world with the hopes that they’ll feel as strongly about those values and morals as we do and apply them to their daily lives.  I can’t speak for anybody else, but I know I’ll live out my golden years a lot happier when I witness my children passing on these ideals of love and acceptance on to their own children.