Thursday, May 8, 2008

Degrees of Separation; St.George

Feelings and notions that have been swimming around in my head surfaced today while talking to Polly, a sweet red haired polygamous woman from the Centennial Park in Northern Arizona. I had been photographing and interviewing panel discussions all morning on polygamy. The dinner break came around and by the time I was done sending photos everyone was gone except for Polly and myself. We started talking, within moments Polly sat up moved closer on the couch in the lobby towards me and said, "I don't think we've formally met." Candidly we talked about everything under a polygamous sun; the Texas raid, the break between fundamentalist Mormon groups and the FLDS church, and then further back to the separation between the LDS church and those who opted to continue polygamy. We talked about coffee and tea; sneers at Wal-Mart and a world that according to Polly, "just didn't understand." She told me about families being pulled apart when the church declared the Manifesto which banned polygamy. I listened more than I talked and wondered what my ancestors felt. They settled St.George and Orderville, and I don't know the specifics but opted to stay with the Prophet of the LDS church and leave polygamy. Out the window of the convention center I could see a white building above green treetops and below red cliffs. The temple my ancestors built. A polygamous man walked by, maybe 25 and asked when they were opening up the doors for the next panel. Polly told him, "6:00", smiling. I wondered how close I was to being his brother, cousin, nephew. Separated only by a decision-100 years ago. I haven't given much opinion on the Texas raid, and I really don't have one yet. I truly don't know how to feel about these people. The constitution, laws, enforcement of these laws, religious freedom and the kinship I feel whenever I see them is so muddled. I'll stick to being a journalist, unbiased and forbid myself from worrying that I can't seem to form an opinion. I did realize today that regardless of how I feel the degrees of separation between my life, and the path my ancestors paved, and theirs, is starkly fewer than I originally realized. This explains the feelings all last month covering the raid in Texas. Feeling connected doesn't change whether abuse is right or wrong. Things in that category are fixed and set. This country and our own morality couldn't stand for abuse of not just children but anyone. It has just been the most introspective assignment I have had yet. Unless we do a massive dossier on prematurely balding men, this story will probably remain so. A common plea of the polygamists today was for the press to see things from their shoes. I feel like not only have I put myself in their shoes, but because of my own heritage, I have tried on their history as well. If that makes sense at all.


RYAN said...

Mike- it seems like it has been awhile since you have added a story to your pictures. I have always thought that your pictures are amazing but the things you write are a very close second. Good Job

Alma Naylor said...

Yeah, it actually makes a lot of sense. Nice shots and good writing. It's nice to see someone from the press actually try and understand these people.


Baroque said...

Amazing thoughts ... thanks for posting them. Your insight always amazes me and pushes me into new realms of thought myself - thank you.

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