Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What I Saw: Long Dresses and Much to Think About

Racing up State Street yesterday morning:

State Street ends at the Utah State Capitol Building. It also goes past the home of Brigham Young, one of the early leaders of the Latter Day Saints. That's his house on the left, the one with the little half circle hanging from the balcony.

I was running late as usual, but out of the corner of my eye I noticed a woman wearing a long dress, with long sleeves walking across the street. Then I saw a few more similarly clad women, and then I saw this:

That's the City and County Court House in the background. The signs?
I vaguely remember there was something going on with the Fundamental Latter Day Saints (FLDS) property...something about one of their leaders, Warren Jeffs who was arrested for marrying minors...something about a whole bunch of somethings.

(Above: More shots of the old City and County Building.)

Being inquisitive I checked the local news once I got to work. Apparently the FLDS were holding a protest in the park around the courthouse while awaiting the results of a hearing concerning their property that had been put under a law firms management by the government after Jeffs' arrest. The law firm now wanted to sell the land to pay for their legal costs.

Hoo boy. That doesn't sound very fair to me.
I decided to swing by the protest on my lunch break, to see what I could see.

Truth be told: I wanted to see the dresses and hairstyles up close. And maybe get a glimpse of a man with several wives in tow.

Don't the ladies look fresh, modest and sweet?
I found myself feeling rather "exposed" in my knee length skirt and sleeveless blouse.

I only saw a few infants...and only two noticeably pregnant women.
That very morning I had read that statistically only 1% of females in America are pregnant at any time. Blogland seems to buck that average...

It was 90 and getting hotter. Notice the ladies are not only wearing long sleeves and high necklines, but they also have long undergarments under their neat woven polyester dresses.
All that can be seen are their hands and faces.
Isn't it interesting that polygamous societies always insist on their women being well covered?
The Islamic faithfuls of course would also be covering their hair and perhaps their faces as well.

All the women did have long hair neatly braided up in a variety of styles. Check the braids on the green dress wearing woman on the right. Isn't that a pretty style?

I found myself smiling as I saw the groups of women chatting together. They all looked so...nice.
I almost found myself wishing I could be dressed like them, and being in such a closely knit group.

Often groups of women would be all in the same color and style dress. I wondered if they were a family...Mother and Daughters, or from a household?
I also looked for wedding rings. All the older women had wedding rings, and very few of the younger looking ones. I saw one woman who looked about 20 walking with her arm around her equally young husband's waist, and one elderly husband and wife walking hand in hand.

The men all wore long sleeves as well, with slouchy jeans and could easily blend into a crowd anywhere. I saw few mixed groups. The guys were in clusters, and women were in other clusters.

I only saw this one woman with a hat, while the men mostly were hatted. In this shot they were gathered around listening to their "leader" giving a television interview.

Many of them lined the sidewalk staring across the street at the building where the hearing was being held. Inside the building you could see other FLDS women inside. Those lining the sidewalk watched this building so intently I wondered if they were expecting a verdict at any moment. I finally asked a young woman if they were expecting to find out what was happening from the building across the way...not know where exactly the case was being heard. She very softly glanced at me, and with her eyes down, murmured softly "Yes ma'mam." I wondered if it was the first time she had ever spoken to some one who was not of her faith.

The news reported later that this was the largest protest ever held in SLC, and the largest gathering ever seen of FLDS members. It was estimated that 2,000 people were in attendance.

FLDS members had come from Arizona, Nevada, Texas and British Columbia.
I wondered how many stayed behind...and wondered how many of the women were gleefully seeing relatives from far flung places.

It really was quite surreal. The smell of crushed grass underfoot, the dappled shade on the walk ways, the flowers around the beautiful fountains

It is quite odd that when it is really hot outside fountains even start to look sticky and warm instead of refreshing.

With the old style courthouse in the back ground, it would have been easy to imagine myself time traveling to an earlier era. (Except in an earlier era they would have sensibly been wearing broad brimmed hats with those outfits! Or holding a parasol at the very least.)
I made the picture above into sepia tones to illustrate my point!

But it was even more surreal that that: The grounds holds "Brown Bag Lunch Concerts" and as the old fashioned garbed women visited, in the background was the music of a rock group blaring out across the grounds.
At first I thought it was weirdly their choice of music to underscore there protest. It took a while to find the source of the loud guitar music and wailing rockers!

By the time I left, the scene had become even more bizarre. Two 20something gang members had got into a fist fight...just before noon...and had managed to fight their way onto the rail tracks and got hit by an oncoming TRAX train.

They had gotten trapped beneath the train. A cop was overheard to say "I felt bad for the guy until I saw who it was" and the other cop (a woman) smiled at the remark.
I myself had to laugh at the comment that obviously the gangsters were punks: real bad guys would fall THROUGH the train windows, then CONTINUE fighting up the train aisle, then wind up ON THE ROOF of the train as it is about to go through a tunnel.


At least that is how it always happens in the movies!
(the two guys were taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life threatening.)

Interesting things to see everywhere. Love the yellow race car!

Back at work a fire truck had arrived in response to a student undergoing a panic attack during finals. I was so annoyed...I didn't get to see the fire guys as my office has no windows.
Fire guys are always worth a look-see, if you know what I mean.

Clearly it was just a very very strange day.

(And yes...I know...I should be ashamed of myself...seeking to get a good look at someone of another faith. Especially since I had refused to gawk at the Amish and Mennonites when I saw a bunch of them one time. I even had decided it was rude to take pictures of the Amish and Mennonites. I got over it though...Mennonites Julie, Lovella, Terry, Becky and Ray didn't seem to mind my taking their pictures at all!)

FLDS routinely practice and approve of polygamy, and that is illegal here in America. In fact, polygamy is a felony. I believe people should obey the laws of the land.

So the group of people protesting in front of the court house are by definition supporting seriously illegal activities. Illegal activity that is part of their religious faith. They believe that polygamy is commanded by God as a means to attain the highest level of heaven.

I also believe in religious freedom. Separation between church and state, meaning the state should butt out of faith practices that do not cause physical harm. The "state" seems to constantly be dreaming up ways to limit religious freedom...and isn't it always easiest to pick on a small group like the FLDS first to test the waters so to speak?

On the other hand this group believes in marriage to minors. I know that is not in the best physical interest of children that have barely achieved puberty.

On the other hand...and I am running out of hands here....our country barely bats an eye when scores of 13 and 14 year old have babies out of wedlock by adult males with no religious affiliation or accountability. Our taxes pay for those unfortunate mothers and children...who often are a second or third generation of early teen aged mothers. The polygamous fathers stick around and care for their wives and kids.

Yet it is said that the FLDS believe in "bleeding the beast" by applying for governmental assistance for their families whenever possible, while avoiding paying taxes as much as possible.
Writing this, it occurs to me that most folks try to avoid paying taxes as much as possible, and accept government hand outs for education.

My Bible praises several males that were involved in eye crossing levels of I really can't say it violates the Word of God. The Bible says a church leader should be the husband of only one wife...and is silent for those who are not church leaders.

As a women I loathe the idea of sharing my husband with another woman. Except of course on the days when I think being a senior wife might be nice because I could make the junior wives do all the gunk work around the house. (I'm joking by the way!)

So I am conflicted about the issues concerning the FLDS.

There is discussion about legalizing gay marriage, and polygamy/polyandry marriages in our country. What I find most interesting about the polygamy legalization movement is that it would not only serve the FLDS, but also the Islamic people. Right now Islamic men with multiple wives can not legally enter the country. If the marriage laws were to be many more Islamic people would choose to come here?

And why?

Something to think about for sure.


L&D said...

This was a great post, very informative. I found you can easily present both sides of the argument.

This part you wrote in particular really made me think, "our country barely bats an eye when scores of 13 and 14 year old have babies out of wedlock by adult males with no religious affiliation or accountability. Our taxes pay for those unfortunate mothers and children...who often are a second or third generation of early teen aged mothers. The polygamous fathers stick around and care for their wives and kids."

Hmmmmmmmm. Something to chew on.

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

Quite a lot to ponder...a very strange day indeed!

I noticed one or two of the FLDS were watching you take their photos...

La Tea Dah said...

A very interesting post, Jill. Lots to think about and comment on. Did you watch Oprah's interview of the FLDS group in the homes of some? It was very interesting. Regarding the dress and hairstyles --- the teen-age girls told her that their styles were not at all alike from one another, and that their hairstyles were each different from one another. They even compare dress patterns --- asking 'where did you get your dress (or pattern)'. And they said that it was only to outsiders that it appeared they all looked alike. It was a very interesting interview.

Vicki said... definitely had an unusual day. Interesting...thought-provoking...


Julie said...

I wish I could have walked through your day with you! I enjoyed your post - as always entertaining, informative and thought provoking!
Your pictures are great! I love the sepia toned one.. It was soo easy to imagine it being taken in the long ago!
I felt hot just looking at the clothes they were wearing and yet they managed to look so fresh... and yes their hair was beautifully braided !
and yes.. Jill, you may take a photo of me anytime !! smile

Lovella ♥ said...

I did love to see the ladies in their dresses. It reminded me of the Canadian Centennial year.. 1967 when my mom made her and I matching long dresses with long sleeves right to our neck. They were red gingham. . .no picture but I don't need one to remember how fun it was to wear them. We also had matching bonnets with the brim that framed the face.

Anyways. .yes. .back to your post. .
The ladies have amazing hair. Truly they all seem to have hair thick enough to put into amazing braids.

I love people watching.

I agree with RW. . your post does cause a person to pause and think.