Thursday, December 01, 2005

French riots spreading to Utah

The State of Utah is my kind of country -- great for hiking, not crowded at all, and it is a good place to die :) -- see my "Geography of Death" posting earlier this year. But will the tranquility of the Beehive State be disrupted by the same riots and vandalism that France experienced throughout most of November?

Is the Utahan society and economic system designed to discriminate against some growing, local immigrant community set to erupt into an orgy of violence? No, that doesn't appear likely given Utah's 89.2% white majority population but the French ruling elite have provided this new theoretical explanation/cause for their own rioting -- POLYGAMY -- which was outlawed in France in 1993. This is an intriguing theory given the historic and current population of polygamists in Utah. Let's begin with the accepted definitions:

Plural marriage n. 1. See polygamy. [In Mormon terms it not just more than one spouse, but Celestial marriage (or more than one wife) through special permission, authority, sanction, vow, covenant and sometimes command, by or on behalf of God.

Polygamy (po·lyg·a·my) n. 1. The condition or practice of having more than one spouse at one time. Also called Plural Marriage.

The key timelines (highly truncated by me below) of relations between the Morman Church (LDS) and the U.S. federal government on the issue of polygamy include:

1856: The recently formed Republican Party called, in its national platform, for the abolition of the "Twin Relics of Barbarism, Slavery and Polygamy." 5

1890: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government could deny the right to vote or hold office to all Mormons who practiced the Law of Abraham, or who merely believed in plural marriage. Later in the year, they ruled that the Edmunds-Tucker Act was constitutional, and that the federal government could repeal the LDS' charter and dissolve the church. The situation had reached a critical point in the Utah territory.

Perhaps this bit of US history ( both the positive and negative elements) can help guide the French government leaders as they seek a balance of respecting liberte, respecting private property rights, and allowing freedom of religion to co-exist while working to eliminate discrimination in society.

I first read about this French social theory via a New York Times article by Elaine Sciolino on November 18, 2005 which included this "enlightened" quote:

"Everyone is astonished: why African children are in the streets and not at school? Why can't their parents buy an apartment? It's clear why. Many of these Africans, I tell you, are polygamous. In an apartment, there are three or four wives and 25 children."

Helene Carrere d'Encausse -- Permanent Secretary of the Academie Francaise

Liberty presents challenges but it well worth the debate,


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