The ugly reality of “traditional values”

Having been abroad since early 2006, I became disconnected with American pop culture, falling behind the curve and only learning about things via the internet, often late. For example, I looked up Duck Dynasty only after it kept coming up in news just because I was confused by the name. At first I jokingly thought it was some kind of animated show set ancient China but with ducks instead of people, but when I learned the truth, it was more horrifying than I could ever imagine. I think that was the moment I realized how fortunate it is that I am so disconnected from the world of American television.

The Duggar family was another thing I had the misfortune of learning about thanks to the internet, and it only confirmed my convictions about American TV. When I first heard about them I could not for the life of me imagine why anyone would want to watch a show about Christian fundamentalists with too many kids. They barely crossed my mind again until recently, when a totally unsurprising child molestation scandal brought the family into the news.

I find it hard to believe that this family has produced only one pedophile. I think it's time we call Chris Hansen.

I find it hard to believe that this family has produced only one pedophile. I think it’s time we call Chris Hansen.

What is key to remember about this case, wherein one of the sons was found to have been molesting underage girls including some of his sisters, is not so much what he did but the family’s response- i.e. they covered it up for over a year and had the perpetrator talk through his problem with a man who is now serving prison time for possession of child pornography. Takes one to know one, I guess.

If it just ended there, I’d say the whole thing is typical and move on, but of course various conservatives have been putting their feet in their mouths, calling the Duggar boy’s sick crimes “mistakes,” and admonishing the press for airing the family’s dirty laundry. To me this just serves as another perfect example of what “traditional family values” actually means. Allow me to explain.

Conservatives, in almost any country, love to talk tough about punishing people, especially for sexual crimes. “We should just shoot the rapists and the pedophiles! Then the others’ll learn!” Chances are you probably have heard something along those lines. Personally I think it would be better to, you know, stop those rapes or molestation incidents from happening in the first place, because you can’t undo crime, but I guess I’m just a limp-wristed, bleeding heart liberal or something. Anyway, the point is, Mr. Traditional Values knows how they dealt with this in the “good old days,” and he thinks we need to return to that.

Except he doesn’t know. See when things like child sex abuse and rape actually happen in conservative, patriarchal societies, if often goes entirely unreported and unpunished. Far from taking the pedophiles out back and shooting them, the typical historical response seems to be quietly sneaking them out the back door and never discussing the issue again. Remember the scandals that rocked the Catholic church? People forget that the issue wasn’t the priests in question, but the fact that the church knowingly and willingly covered for the perpetrators, shielding them from justice. That’s a far cry from burning somebody alive, isn’t it? Take a look at the conservative reaction within the Duggar family. Where are the calls for street justice a la the Toby Keith song “Beer for my Horses?” All we see are apologetics and defenses, including one claim from a Duggar family member who says we’re really all child molesters at heart. Speak for yourself there, buddy.

Conservatives, both in the US and in Russia, love portraying progressive societies as degenerate, and they point to things like sex abuse scandals or rape cases as being proof. The technique is totally dishonest, because first, the media exaggerates crime all the time, focusing on sensational crime usually involving strangers when in fact the most likely rapist, kidnapper, killer, etc. is usually going to be someone close to the victim. Second, and more importantly, conservatives are basically “cheating” by taking advantage of the “availability heuristic.” In a more progressive society, things like rape and child molestation are big news. Reactionaries will use this to “prove” that modern or urban societies are somehow more degenerate, implying that in their own “traditional” societies this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.

The problem is that it does happen, frequently, and the perpetrators often get away with it. All these horrible crimes happened just as often and usually more so in the past, but they weren’t reported because the more conservative values of those times encouraged people to cover them up. “Was little Johnny molested by an older cousin? Let’s make sure those two are never alone and never speak of this again. Mary says she was raped by the neighbor?! Could she have led him on? What was she doing over there alone, at that hour?” Truth be told a lot of these attitudes, especially in regards to rape, are still quite common today. But which side of the political spectrum is pushing to help rape victims report crimes and fighting the tradition of victim blaming, and which side is terribly interested in what the victim was wearing, whether she had been drinking, and more concerned about not ruining a fine young athlete’s bright future as opposed to seeing justice done?

Russia, which about two years ago suddenly discovered it was a bastion of “traditional morality” to the surprise of many, is another perfect example of this phenomenon. While Russian politicians talk tough against consenting homosexuals, they defended the potentially-forced, polygamous marriage of a 17-year old girl to a man who’s nearly in his 50’s. The kind of sexual escapades that go on in Russia wouldn’t just make a normal person blush, it should make them red with rage. I’m talking massive sexual abuse in the group home system, prostitution exploiting orphan girls, etc. Yet the Russian government has never been too keen on doing anything about that. Far from it- they’re more concerned about repressing consenting LGBT adults and making sure children stay in those group homes instead of being adopted by countries which tolerate said LGBT people. “Russian girls being forced into sexual slavery? You know those are just naive, stupid girls with no education. They probably got involved in that willingly for the money.” Those words pretty much encapsulate what I heard dozens of times, from Russian women no less, when this topic came up. Incidentally, throughout all his Ukraine crisis I have never seen Russian or Ukrainian nationalists ever address this problem. If the topic ever comes up, each side insists that it’s the other side’s women who are prostitutes, and that are totally willing at that.

One would think Islamic societies actually put their money where their mouths are, but even then you’d be wrong. Rape and forms of prostitution are common in these societies, only it’s even worse because there the victim is pretty much assumed guilty and liable to the severest forms of punishment. It’s almost as if the more conservative you get, the worse it gets.

In fact that’s basically the truth. Conservatism is about trying to preserve the past, though typically an ideal past that never existed. American conservatives dream of the 1950’s they saw on Leave it to Beaver, i.e. a fantasy, totally unaware that teen pregnancy in those days was actually higher than it is today. Child abuse was hushed up because it was a “private family matter” and nobody wanted to “air dirty laundry.” If we go back further, to the 19th century, we see that while society was indisputably more religious, things like alcoholism and prostitution (including underage prostitution) were rife. Cities like New York, London, Manchester, and yes, Moscow, were home to hundreds of brothels, operating openly in various states of legality or de facto legality. In fact, at the opening of the American Civil War, Washington DC entertained gathering US armies with no less than 400 brothels, so many that local newspapers published reviews, recommendations, and warnings about them. Middle and upper-class women might have been chaste, but their future husbands got their practice with prostitutes long beforehand. Hey if that sounds bad for you fans of “traditional values” out there, I’m going easy on you. In the Middle Ages people got into some really kinky shit.

When we compare progressive societies to “traditional” ones, insofar as the latter are actually traditional at all, we see that in terms of justice being served and crime being prevented, a progressive society will come out on top. Obviously if society encourages rape victims to speak out and press charges, it’s going to look like we have more incidences of rape, if only because it’s being widely reported. But if we encourage this, and rape victims start getting justice more often, over time potential rapists might think twice about committing the deed, with the knowledge that they are far less likely to get away with it. By contrast, conservative societies that shame victims of abuse and prefer to keep things “in the family” enable and favor perpetrators, be they they pedophiles or rapists.

With that in mind it is hard not to have deep pity for the victims of Josh Duggar and the poor teenage bride in Chechnya. No doubt while the parents were covering up their son’s deeds, they probably interrogated his victims and possibly made them feel responsible for the crime that was committed against them. Likewise that bride was probably being told how lucky she was to be married to a man of such a high position, position being very important to survival in today’s Chechnya. She has no doubt been instructed on her “duty” as a woman. As infuriating as these things ought to be to any 21st century human being, we must never forget this ugly reality whenever we hear the hypocritical blather about “traditional values.”

“Tradition.”

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10 thoughts on “The ugly reality of “traditional values”

  1. gunlord500

    One would think Islamic societies actually put their money where their mouths are, but even then you’d be wrong. Rape and forms of prostitution are common in these societies, only it’s even worse because there the victim is pretty much assumed guilty and liable to the severest forms of punishment. It’s almost as if the more conservative you get, the worse it gets.

    That’s quite an irony, isn’t it? Despite how viciously conservative Christians and conservative Muslims hate each other, they end up behaving quite similarly in terms of repression.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      It’s because they both basically see women as property or at least child-like beings lacking any agency. Of course they always swear up and down that they see women and men as equal and that their rights are “complimentary,” but don’t cha know, men always seem to come out with all the best rights.

      Reply
      1. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

        Guess who wrote this:

        “The logical conclusion to the idea that personal freedom should be fully legalised, provided it does no individual harm to others, would be the legalisation of all manner of currently prohibited relationships, including incest, adult-child relations and multi-partner marriage – as well as the legalisation of euthanasia, drugs, prostitution, pornography, cannibalism etc.

        Purists argue these matters in philosophical terms, that if a matter is undertaken with consent, or is a personal act that harms no one else directly, the law of the state has no place to prohibit these thing.”

        This argument, plugged by the 5Pillars website in response to Ireland’s gay marriage vote, is from the Islamists Hizb ut-Tahrir but it is not even vaguely original, it is the same one that far right US evangelicals have been making for over 30 years [see websites like http://www.rightwingwatch.org/ for word-for-word</b examples].

        I only saw it because a leftie commentator suggested that fellow lefties read it. He’s not the only so called leftie to do this. Blind, unthinking promotion of people who, if they wore another hat, would be seen as enemies.

        Hizb ut-Tahrir repeats word-for-word memes in circulation from the organised American religious right since they decided to start politically organising when Reagan was President. They weren’t invented by Islamists. The history is of them being drawn up in the political campaigns devised by the multi-millionaires running evangelical Xstianity in the US. This stuff has been focus tested!

        The descendants of those people helped to run the No campaign in Ireland and they used tried and trusted tactics invented in the US. Yet just as is now the case in the US those themes failed.

        The American evangelical right knows that it is losing at home. This is why they are pouring millions into other countries and forming alliances with Orthodoxy and – yes – Islamists in international bodies.

        Not only do you see the precise same words but it is very common to see fake science originating from the American evangelical right being promoted by Islamists, as well as by Christians in Africa and Russia. And not just on LGBT rights but also on abortion and creationism. The American evangelical right has numerous let us call them missionaries (or you could call them colonialists) traveling the world selling their market tested package on 'how to fight the evil secularists'. Hizb ut-Tahrir is 'quoting from the same hymn sheet'!!

        It is amusing to me to read words and political strategies formed by those thought to be the 'anti imperialists' arch enemies – the 'crusaders' – being promoted as if it were new. But it is also damning of the idiocy of some of the so-called 'left' to be fooled by such obvious wolves in new clothing.

        *This is a repurpose of the response I made on a socialist site after seeing Hizb ut-Tahrir linked to.

  2. Monica Miller

    You nailed it. Those with more “traditional” or patriarchal perspectives invariably favor the interests of the rich/older/male/powerful at the expense of those who are younger/poorer/female/less powerful. It is not necessarily that they like sexual abuse, but the abusers tend to be more rich/older/male/powerful, and are favored over the abused. The more “traditional” the society is, the more the system is gamed in favor of the rich/older/male/powerful. As bad as things are in Arkansas, it is much worse in India, the Middle East, and most of Africa.

    Reply
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  4. RK

    I have to say as a Christian progressive that you are spot on sadly about what has been the attitude of some people in the past. Christians should recognise that everyone makes mistakes and therefore hang ’em, flog ’em, shoot ’em is never the appropriate response. Sadly the attitude often of some people in the church has been more akin to that of the Pharisees than Jesus – “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” in reality should shut most people up/induce compassion. Self righteousness (which is nowhere advocated by Jesus) seems to lead people too towards often looking down on the victim as having somehow provoked it, in a sort of version of the rape defences that used to be advocated in courts – that skirt was so short, what was any red blooded man to do. It goes without saying that thats rubbish of course. Brushing things under the carpet serves no good purpose as revelations about the scale of abuse that was tolerated in this country has shown but equally of course put them in jail and throw away the key is not right either. More needs to be done to try and deal with people who identify they have a problem in this area rather than simply closing the door after the horse has bolted (ie after the crime has been done and another child suffered) as you could probably devote the entire UK or US police forces to it and that approach alone wont stop new people becoming abusers

    Reply
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