Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 16:12
(This is WAY too long, but I got on a bit of a rant. Sorry.)
EWS, I understand what you are saying here, but I disagree with the idea of “that’s just the way the cookie crumbled”. Also, these are very wide generalizations. While some of this may be true, I don’t think that many of us, no matter when or how we left, can be put into these categories. Being one of the early(er) leavers I can explain a bit of how I feel about this.
The phrase, “that’s just the way the cookie crumbled” implies passivity or “well that’s just how things worked out”. If there is one thing that did define many of us who left a decade or so ago, it was lack of passivity. For myself, if there was one thing I was constantly in trouble for in the Family, it was my complete inability to keep my mouth shut when I disagreed. No matter how many beatings, corrections, humiliations, isolations and programs I went through, and even no matter how hard I tried, it is simply not in my nature to sit meekly by when I disagree with something. There was nothing passive about that. There was nothing passive about making a definite decision to leave the group alone. To be terrified of the outside world but so unable to stand living a lie in the Family for one minute more that you are willing to go with nothing but the clothes on your back to save your humanity and integrity before it was destroyed. Some people had to run away, some tried several times before they were finally successful. This was not just “how things ended up”. To consciously decide to do whatever it took to survive is not passive. Without intense and focused determination to survive, I would be dead today, as most of my friends from that time are now. To work your way through school, as many have done, to struggle to overcome the ignorance that was forced on us and earn an education and professional skill set takes an immense amount of work and commitment. People who started with less nothing now have advanced degrees. It didn’t just end up that way. Then to speak out alone against the evil in the Family, to stand up alone to people who have terrorized you for your entire childhood, knowing full well how they have attempted to destroy those who have dared to tell the truth before, takes an incredible amount of determination and courage. There is nothing passive about that at all.
I’ve said many times that when someone left the group is not the issue now. I do believe that. Ten years ago, some of the people leaving now were only ten years old. I left months before the Charter was implemented. It seemed to address many of the things I did not agree with and perhaps if I had been able to keep quiet for just a little longer, I might not have left, then or at all, but somehow I doubt that. My point is that it looked then like the Family was really becoming legitimate and beginning to address the abuses of the past. Some people had already gotten married and had families to consider. Others were doing what they believed to be legitimate missionary or charity work and felt that they were really making a difference. Others may simply have lacked (through no fault of their own) the critical thinking skills needed to objectively assess the group’s claims about itself and it’s beliefs. There are many other reasons as well for people to stay in the Family after reaching adulthood.
However, the cost of being true to who we are and retaining our integrity has been very high for many people, no matter when they left. Some people did stay in the Family (and others continue to stay) for reasons that are deeply offensive to someone who has paid for their success and freedom with their own blood. This is, IMO, where the anger comes from, not because we are jealous of the ease with which others exited. Some people did sell their souls and willingly joined the ranks of the oppressors. Others saw the Family for what it was, a fanatical and isolated group of extremely suggestible people, and decided to exploit that for personal gain. Still others enjoy the “lifestyle” (i.e.: sex and general laziness) but don’t believe in anything the Family says.
The morality of these types of decisions is not something I really want to get into, since claiming to understand or being able to sit in judgment regarding the inner thoughts and motivations of another individual is dangerous ground, for obvious reasons. However I can say that for myself, there is an emotional reaction, fair or not, when I hear of people who effectively manipulated the flaws in the Family for personal gain. It is much more sensible to work things out before you leave the group, to save some money and to have a plan regarding what you want to do. I am not talking so much about planning your exit as much as clawing your way up the ranks in the group. I understand that not every SG who was a “leader” in the group was manipulative or conniving, but there were some.
I suppose for me, what it boils down to is that for anyone to deride someone else’s struggle is offensive. There is sometimes an undercurrent of smugness and superiority that people who left relatively comfortably exude. Unfortunately, and this seems to be a product of our upbringing, there seems to be a tendency in many of us to demean and ridicule what we do not understand. Claire Borowick, one of the Family’s poorly chosen spoke-people for North America once suggested to me that I became a call girl when I left the group because I was too stupid to be able to do anything else. Only Ms. Borowick could be that callous, but the underlying assumption (people get into “trouble” when they leave because they bring it on themselves) is something the Family has stated in no uncertain terms and is extremely offensive when parroted off by people who have no idea what it took to survive.
For myself, well there is a reason for my anger. There is a lot that I did not get closure on. My parents are still tithing members of the group. They have never acknowledged the evil the Family perpetrated on their own children. They again and again choose the group over us, over me. There has been no acknowledgement that my own struggle for survival when I left is because of the inadequate upbringing and inappropriate socialization I received in the Family, or that the many issues I struggle with now are a direct result of deliberate attempts to change my core personality into what I was supposed to be as a Family girl. My parents have called me a liar and “brainwashed by anti-cult propaganda” as have friends I grew up with in the group. I get hate mail from strangers who are in the Family on a regular basis. While perhaps some parents and members of the group have realized that their children who leave are not evil, but simply want a different life, I do not think that Maria and Peter actually believe this. There are many mixed messages in their publications (we are destined to be “Children of David”, we are demonic “Vandari”, we are prodigal sons and daughters, etc.) which clearly show that they do not respect our decision to move on, especially if it is not done on their terms (ie: silently and “respectfully”).
If anything the anger has been building. I was not so angry when I first left, more confused and grateful to be free. The more I understand of what these people have done to so so many innocents, the more I see the hypocrisy and the lies and the intentional and deliberate evil, the more I heal from my own crippling pain and move away from my self-destructive behavior, with every death of one of my friends and peers, the more angry and determined I become. It is not “the cookie crumbling”. It is a definite choice I am making to take back my life and to take a stand against what was done to me and to the rest of us. It might be slow and deliberate, but it is definitely not passive.
(reply to this comment)