communication, Duggars, mental health, psychology, Reality TV, religion, social media, true crime

We need to be able to rationally discuss difficult topics…

*Trigger warning* Today’s post is on a sensitive subject that may be offensive to some readers. I’m tackling Josh Duggar and his abuse, as well as that topic in general, but I’m doing so in a way that I hope is objective and rational. Please proceed with caution or skip this post if you think this topic might be too triggering. If you choose to comment, please be civil.

Two days ago, I finished reading Jill Duggar’s book, Counting the Cost. I wrote a review of the book, which you can find by clicking here. I only shared my link on my own personal Facebook page, but I am a member of the Duggar Family News page and group on Facebook. Other people are now reading and/or listening to the book, and they are offering their opinions. This morning, I happened to read a comment by a woman who is now listening to the audio version of the book. She wrote:

So I’m listening to the book… And I’m at the part where the letter is found about Josh… First she talks about being on Oprah, which they weren’t because Oprah got word of what was going on with Josh. Second it seems like she was also angry about information getting out…. Here’s the deal I understand she was a victim… And I worked with a victims of molestation for over 34 years.. But it seems like she is blaming everyone but her parents for what happened with Josh… Maybe later in the book she changes her tune… But I’m finding it really irritating and wishy-washy.

To me, this comment, while kind of negative, was basically the poster’s genuine reaction to the book so far. Maybe it was her use of the phrase “here’s the deal”, that set off some people, but I noticed that some folks immediately jumped on the woman’s case for what she wrote. The first comment I noticed was this:

I haven’t read the book, but I think it’s not up to us to judge victims of sexual abuse for how they process it and whom they blame for it.

At this point, the above comment has 94 likes. When I first read it about an hour ago, it had 89 likes. People think it’s a good rebuttal. I guess I can understand why people like the comment. It seems very patient, victim edifying, and kind, while the original comment seems a little “judgey” and critical.

Personally, I am a little troubled by the rebuttal to the original comment, because there’s an element of shame to it. It’s basically a subtle suggestion to the original poster that she should just “shut up” and stop “victim blaming”. It’s as if the person who responded to the original poster thinks Jill Duggar will be reading her comment and feeling hurt by it. Maybe she will read it, though I doubt it. I’m sure Jill is feeling kind of overwhelmed right now, even though the response to her book by the public has been largely positive. Her family may be really angry with her right now, and their opinions will mean a lot more than some random person’s in a Facebook group.

If we assume Jill Duggar won’t be reading the critical, but honest, comment about how the reader thinks she was “wishy-washy”, maybe we can be more objective about the original poster’s opinion. While it didn’t occur to me that Jill was “wishy-washy” in her explanation about how she was victimized by her brother, Josh, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that someone else had a different take and dared to express it. I support allowing people to express their opinions without automatically being attacked or shamed for sharing their views. Maybe if people shamed and knee-jerk reacted less, more people would be willing to ask for help when they really need it.

Someone else wrote this– it came across as kind of angry, shaming, and judgmental to me, compounding the issue. Shouldn’t we encourage people to share their opinions, insights, and impressions?

As someone who ” worked with victims ” for 34yrs I’d like to think you would have more understanding and empathy.

No 1 victim processes nor deals with what has happened to them in the same way. Every single person eho has ever experienced this kind of trauma has every right to FEEL and PROCESS hiw they like.

Your statement is extremely ignorant considering the yrs of expertise you should have.

The discussion continued…

Jeez, it was just an observation. Why can’t people take a deep breath before popping off at strangers for simply commenting? This hostile response just shuts down communication and the sharing of ideas. Why are people so threatened?

The Duggar children were raised in a home where they weren’t allowed to dance because dancing might arouse sinful thoughts in other people. Jill wrote extensively about how the girls were all expected to dress modestly, so the boys wouldn’t be tempted by them. Jill’s mother, Michelle Duggar, told her daughters that she used to dress inappropriately “before she became a Christian” and that led men to think sinful thoughts. When she changed her “sinful” ways and started dressing more modestly, she became a “better” person by not causing men to “fall” into sin.

Jim Bob and Michelle made their daughters responsible for half the population’s thoughts and actions by telling them that they had to think of the men when they got dressed in the morning and in literally every move they made. They attached shame to their daughters simply for being who they are (beautiful, young females), giving them a duty to always have to think about the lustful thoughts of males. What a burden to put on their daughters and every other woman!

Jill further explained that her mother used certain kinds of music– mostly classical or religious– to train her children. When they didn’t do the right things, she would turn off the music, and the joy would stop. They learned to curb the natural desire to dance– move rhythmically to music– which is a source of great joy to many people and an art form. And yet, in spite of the fact that dancing was banned in their home, four of the Duggar sisters (that we know of) were still victimized by their brother, Josh. Josh went on to view illegal material on the Internet, cheated on his wife, and was accused of having very rough sexual relations with a sex worker.

Meanwhile, Josh was “punished” by having his head shaved in front of people in his community and being sent away to do manual labor for a family friend. Later, he got a stern “talking to” by former Arkansas State Trooper, Joseph Hutchens, a (presumably) former friend of the family’s. Hutchens is now himself in prison for sex crimes, having been sentenced to 56 years for child pornography charges.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar did NOTHING to help Josh with his obvious problem. They did NOTHING to help Jill or her sisters deal with the trauma of what happened to them. I think the commenter has a point– Jill does hold Jim Bob responsible for the financial abuse he perpetrated toward Jill and her siblings, but she doesn’t seem to realize that her parents failed her and her siblings in their responsibilities to protect their children from their oldest brother.

Indeed, although reportedly Josh told his parents about his problem in 2002, when he was still about 14 years old and legally a child, his parents responded by having MORE children. Several of their youngest children are girls. Instead of dealing with Josh– trying to find him appropriate treatment and minimizing the risks toward their other children (and not making more victims)– the Duggar parents simply made more rules for everyone else to follow. The whole thing was swept under the rug, and the abuse continued– seemingly under the radar. Then, Jim Bob put his whole family on display for the world to see. Frankly, I’m shocked that the news about Josh’s abuse wasn’t made public long before 2015.

When I was earning my MSW, I had a professor who had done a lot of work with domestic abusers and sex offenders. He was very matter-of-fact as he talked to us about the clinical work he did before he became a professor. I remember him telling us that in a clinical situation, we must never react with shock or revulsion when someone talks about distasteful subjects. As therapists, it would be our job to listen objectively to those who came to us for help.

The professor explained that sexual preferences are hard wired. Those drives are very powerful and difficult to fight against– like eating, drinking, or sleeping. So, we must realize and understand that while it’s illegal and extremely damaging for people like Josh to act on their impulses, they truly can’t help themselves for having those urges. If we were to work with sex offenders or domestic abusers, it would be up to us to try to help them find ways not to be abusive. The first step in helping people with that problem is to not automatically be repulsed by them. That is how trust and rapport builds, and people can then feel comfortable enough to talk about their problems. That is how problems can possibly be solved.

To be very honest, at this point in time, I don’t think we have very many effective avenues of real help to offer people like Josh. Part of the reason why we don’t have more ways to help sex offenders is because people don’t want to talk about the problem. Instead of trying to understand where the deviance comes from and address it, we attack, revile, and shame the people who have these feelings. So they continue to suffer in silence until they finally decide to hurt someone.

Most people– if you ask them what should be done with a sex offender like Josh– won’t even think twice about it. They’ll say the person should be taken out and shot, or exiled to prison, or something extreme like that. It doesn’t occur to them that no one really wants to have these dark urges. It must be a terrible way to go through life, actually– having these highly taboo obsessions and not being able to act on them without great risk– maybe like having an intense itch that can’t be scratched. Complicating matters is that there are very few people who can be trusted to give them real help. If you are someone who has these obsessions, you can’t just go to just anyone and tell them that you have the obsessions without risking your freedom, your safety, or even your life. So there’s no real help available, and the person is left to try to deal with those thoughts and feelings in secret. Some of them are successful. Some commit suicide. A lot of others end up victimizing innocent people.

A lot of people also assume that they will never be personally affected by this issue. When they glibly suggest that someone ought to be taken out and shot for being a pedophile, it doesn’t occur to them that perhaps one of their loved ones or friends struggle with this problem. That’s because the vast majority of people would never talk about it with someone else. Another poster shared this thought, which I thought was very astute (bolded emphasis is mine– I’m sure someone whose child is a sex offender wouldn’t necessarily want to see them taken out and shot):

I am wondering if Jill just didn’t want to blame her parents. After all, they gave her such a “wonderful childhood” and she loved them with all of her heart. It’s easier to blame people that don’t really matter in your life, and aren’t immediate family.

As Bill and I were discussing this issue today, I was reminded of a professor I read about who had worked at Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, Virginia. The professor, whose name is Allyn Walker, is non-binary and uses the pronouns “they” and “them”. Walker was teaching sociology and criminal justice at ODU, and researching minor-attracted people (MAPs). They wrote a book titled Long Dark Shadow, which is about so-called minor-attracted people. Walker faced huge backlash due to their research of this topic. People at ODU were offended by the work Walker was doing, accusing them of “normalizing” pedophilia. I suspect the vast majority of people who had issues with Walker’s work knew very little about it and hadn’t been able to bring themselves to think about the topic rationally. Ditto to the reviews on Amazon about this book. I’ll bet a lot of the people who left one star reviews never bothered to read the book.

Walker’s work is about pointing out that not everyone with inappropriate thoughts commits crimes. It’s not a crime to think “bad” thoughts. It’s a crime to act illegally on those thoughts. Moreover, putting it on everyone else to avoid dancing, dressing “immodestly”, or otherwise behaving in ways that might cause other people to sin is not effective. We can see that by simply looking at what happened in the Duggar home. Worse, the girls were blamed for Josh’s sins, and “rewarded” with even more rules and restrictions.

Walker is providing a potential place for people with this problem to seek effective help and increase understanding of it so that fewer people are abused. Ultimately, their goal is an extremely valuable one for all of humankind. But instead of realizing that this is a problem that needs to be solved, people were reacting emotionally, judgmentally, and extremely negatively to Walker’s work and the book they wrote. They weren’t taking a moment to consider that being able to treat pedophilia safely and effectively is a good and valuable thing. It would be a good thing to be able to keep people out of prison, stop them from feeling like they should commit suicide, prevent them from hurting innocent children, and help them be productive members of society. As a result, Walker left ODU and is now at Johns Hopkins University. Ultimately, they may be better off– Johns Hopkins is certainly a more prestigious university than ODU is. But what about the criminal justice and sociology students at ODU? Are they better off that Walker left their campus?

Imagine what might have happened if, instead of sending Josh Duggar to dig a pond, humiliating him in front of the community, and shaving his head, Jim Bob and Michelle could have sent him to skilled and highly qualified people who could have helped him try to master and effectively control those dark obsessions and impulses. Imagine if, instead of acting like the abuse had never happened, Jim Bob and Michelle confronted it, and got help for the children who were victimized by their brother. Wouldn’t it be better for the entire Duggar family if Josh and his sisters could have gotten real help for this problem? How about Josh’s wife, Anna, and their seven children? What will it be like for Josh’s children when they decide they want to get married? Especially his sons!

We, as a society, need to be able to talk about these tough subjects. But we need to be able to do so without shaming people who bring up views that aren’t necessarily mainstream. I, for one, commend Allyn Walker for doing the work they’re doing. We’ve got to do better than just sweeping this problem under the rug. Automatically condemning people for simply having inappropriate obsessions and speaking up about them doesn’t solve the problem. Those people need real help, before they turn into someone like Josh Duggar… who, I think, is exactly where he ought to be right now. In her book, Jill wrote that when Josh first came to Jim Bob and Michelle, he was very tearful and remorseful. She said that he’d apologized to her many times. By the time he was facing a federal judge for his crimes, Josh was acting like the whole thing was no big deal and his crimes were no more significant than a parking violation! He’s become callous and cruel, and he will never be safe to walk the streets as a free man.

Wouldn’t it have been so much better for everyone if Josh could have been helped by someone qualified when he was still a child? I think so. And I agree with the original poster who inspired this post that Jim Bob and Michelle certainly share in the responsibility for what happened to their children… and what is now happening to their reputation. Perhaps Jill isn’t yet ready to face that fact, and I agree that we shouldn’t judge her for that. I’m sure she has a lot of processing to continue to do, and it will be ongoing for the rest of her life. But the original poster also wasn’t wrong to express her opinions or her observations about Jill’s book.

I wish more people would stop being so intent on correcting other people’s opinions and impressions. We all have different takes on things, and being willing to hear other voices and rationally discuss other perspectives is one of the best ways to learn about and expand our understanding of all things… even if we ultimately don’t agree with the other person’s viewpoint.

Please note, however– this does NOT mean that I think we have to argue until the argument is somehow “won” by a particular side. In this world, there are a lot of things that don’t have a “right” or “wrong” answer. Sometimes agreeing to disagree is good, too.

I am considering reading Dr. Walker’s book. I may or may not review it, if I do decide to read it. I simply think Dr. Walker’s work is brave and important, and it needs further discussion by people who are willing to set aside their emotions and communicate rationally and objectively. I’m not sure if my blog is the right forum for that… but I do think Dr. Walker’s book should be given a fair chance.

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book reviews, Duggars, Reality TV, religion

My thoughts on Jill Duggar’s “bombshell” book, Counting the Cost…

I know I’ve written a lot of posts about the Duggar family. There was a time, years ago, that I watched their reality television program on TLC. I remember seeing them featured on the Discovery Health channel back in the early 2000s, when Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were just a fundamentalist Christian Arkansas couple with fourteen children and another on the way. I watched with amazement as they went from being a seemingly very humble family from the “sticks” of Arkansas to household names.

I’ve never been a very religious person myself. So why was I so interested in the Duggar family? Well, the truth is, I do find strict, fundamentalist religions very interesting, even though I have no desire to participate in them myself. I also got the sense that the family was too good to be true. I know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Sure enough, it turned out my suspicions that there was some underlying trouble in paradise was on target.

Although I used to watch the Duggars’ show– 17, 18, or 19 Kids and Counting, (depending on how many kids they had at the time) and later Counting On, on an intermittent basis, I have never been one to read their books. Like I said, I’m not a very religious person myself, so I don’t really have any desire to read books about promoting Christianity. The Duggars aren’t people I look up to, either. But, when I heard that Jill Duggar Dillard was going to be writing a book called Counting the Cost, with help from ghost writer, Craig Borlase, I decided I would read that one. I finished the book yesterday, and now I’m ready to offer my thoughts.

Jill Michelle Duggar Dillard was born May 17, 1991. She is Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s fourth born child, and the second oldest daughter of their brood of 19 living children. In her book, Jill writes that she always felt compelled to be a people pleaser. She always tried to be the most mature and best behaved of her siblings. She was so sweet that she earned the nickname Sweet Jilly Muffin.

Early in her lifetime, Jill and her siblings lived in a house next to a church that was much too small for their growing family. She writes of how her mother, Michelle, trained her children, using music and other rewards to influence their behavior. Jill writes that the kids were not allowed to dance, because her parents worried that moving inappropriately, wearing “immodest” clothes, or being exposed to worldly media would encourage sin in themselves and other people. From a very early age, Jill was trained to obey without question, and taught that if someone fell into sin, it was her fault. That early training set the conditions that made it especially difficult for her to break free of her father’s hold on her.

Thanks to Jim Bob’s wheeling and dealing with the TLC network, they were able to build their own “big house” in Tontitown, Arkansas. Jill and the other oldest siblings were involved in helping to build the Big House, to which she refers frequently in her book. The “Big House” is the specially built home the Duggars built to accommodate their huge family; it is about 7000 square feet, but it only has about four bedrooms in it. There’s a master bedroom, a girls’ room, a boys’ room, and a guest room. TLC filmed the family building the house, doing all they could as a family before professionals had to be called in to do the more challenging work. Jill writes that she was happy to have had a part in building a house for her family.

As she grew older, Jill realized that finding a husband would complicate her life, especially since she was a “star” on the Duggars’ reality show, and her father was famously very strict. Jill writes that she was raised in Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), which is a lifestyle system ultra fundamentalist Christians adhere to as a means of preserving their version of raising godly families. Gothard founded the IBLP in 1961. It should be noted that Bill Gothard was eventually ousted from the IBLP because he was accused of preying on young women. Jill mentions that her sister, Jana, the lone blonde older Duggar girl, used to work for Bill Gothard. He specifically requested that she come to Chicago to work for him, running a training program for girls in the IBLP. Gothard reportedly favored blondes.

The “Umbrella of Authority” idea promoted in the IBLP.

Within the IBLP, there is the idea of the “umbrella of authority”, which is a hierarchical structure of the family within a church. Jill explains that she was raised to always honor her parents, especially her father, who would then honor the church. She believed that if she simply did everything she was told to by her father, she would never be in any kind of danger. Meanwhile, Jim Bob had a hunger for money and power. He wanted to keep the reality series going, because it brought in a lot of money and prestige, although he claimed he saw the show as a “ministry”, bringing the masses to the Duggar brand of Christianity. He bought rental properties and airplanes, new RVs, and other trappings of success. The Duggars had always said that every child is a gift from God, and that they were open to taking as many of God’s gifts as God wanted to send them. But then they used God’s gifts to fund their own prosperity gospel… to show everyone else how much God favored them and their way of life. To me, it just looks like plain old greed disguised as something “godly”.

Even though finding a mate as a Duggar wasn’t an easy prospect, as the potential spouse had to meet with her parents’ approval, Jim Bob wanted to marry off his children. Why? Because every time a Duggar got married or had a child– especially the Duggar daughters– it brought in a lot of cash for Jim Bob. And I do mean for Jim Bob— because as Jill and her husband, Derick, discovered, Jim Bob was getting paid by TLC, but he wasn’t sharing the wealth with his adult children. Instead, he’d do things like give them places to live or cars to drive. Jim Bob Duggar, it seemed, wanted his children to work for him for free, and forever. He wanted them to be under his control, and make themselves available to his every whim and command. And he even went to tricking or coercing them into signing extreme “scientology like” lifetime contracts, to force them to stay under his control.

Jill and Derick have always seemed to me like a very close and loving couple. And, in fact, that is exactly how Jill makes it seem in her book, as Derick has encouraged Jill not to let Jim Bob run her life. However, it turns out that Jim Bob actually picked out Derick for Jill, and encouraged her to get to know him, as he was serving as a missionary in Nepal. She writes that she wasn’t interested at first, but he managed to capture her heart. TLC arranged for Jill and Jim Bob to travel to Nepal to meet him in person, and that’s when they entered their “courtship”– so called “dating with a purpose” of getting married. Jim Bob was right in that Jill and Derick were very suited to each other. But he didn’t know that Derick was not going to stand for Jim Bob dictating everything in their lives together. If he’d had a clue that Derick is as assertive as he is, there is no way Jill and Derick would have ever been allowed to wed.

As the Duggar children became adults, Jim Bob realized that he needed to make everything legal. So he tricked Jill into signing a contract she didn’t read– asking for her signature on the day before her June 2014 wedding, and not giving her the whole contract, or the time to read it. Jim Bob later told Jill and Derick that he had paid Josh and Anna for awhile, but found that arrangement wasn’t to his liking. So instead of giving his children a salary, he basically paid them in gifts in kind. But he had his accountant tell the IRS that they were being paid, for tax purposes. Later, Derick, who was a trained accountant before he became a lawyer, figured out what was going on. The couple later sued Jim Bob and prevailed in getting a small pittance of money for all of the time and labor Jill put into the show.

As if the the demands of the reality show wasn’t enough stress in their relationship, back in 2015, the tabloid, In Touch, got ahold of police records from 2006, detailing interviews Jill and her sisters had with law enforcement. The 2006 police interviews stemmed from a tip that Oprah Winfrey got regarding Josh Duggar’s deviant behavior.

In 2006, the Duggars were supposed to be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, but the producers got a letter about Josh Duggar’s abusive misdeeds in 2002, when he was about 14 years old. The producers called the police, and that led to an investigation of Josh’s perversions. The police records were supposed to remain sealed, since Jill and her sisters Jessa, Jinger, and Joy Anna, were all minors at the time of the investigation. But In Touch got the records, and they were later released to the world, which led to the reality show being temporarily axed. The loss of the show was, of course, bad for Jim Bob’s finances, but the records’ release also revictimized Jill, her sisters, and the other person who was molested by Josh. It was devastating and humiliating to have that incident revealed to the public years after they thought it was in the past.

Jim Bob later finagled an idea to make a new show called Jill and Jessa: Counting On, later retitled simply Counting On. It would focus on the oldest children’s lives, minus Josh and his wife, Anna, and their children. However, once again, Jim Bob fixed it so that he was the only one being paid by the TLC network. Jill and Derick were “volunteers”… except they were bound by a contract that required them to work, while Jim Bob pocketed all the money. It prevented them from living their lives on their own terms… everything from forcing them to be available for filming, even when they were out of the country, to allowing cameras in while Jill was giving birth. It was unacceptable to the couple. So they decided to fight back, and that caused great strife in the family. Jim Bob used a variety of different tactics to get Jill and Derick back under his control. They resisted him, but it came at great cost… hence the title of the book.

My thoughts

Overall, I think Jill and her ghost writer, Craig Borlase did an excellent job on this book. Borlase did a good job making the book sound as if it came straight from Jill, yet it was very easy to read and understand. I spotted a few awkward sentences and at least one typo, but even the awkward sentences lent an air of authenticity to Jill’s story. I would not expect her to sound like an extremely educated person, because she was homeschooled using a fundamentalist Christian curriculum. She hasn’t been to college, nor is she super worldly, although I think she’s probably the most worldly of her siblings.

I did notice a couple of things that I haven’t seen other people mention about this book. I think I detected some subtle shade thrown at Ben Seewald. I know Ben and Derick had a falling out a couple of years ago. Jill never mentions Ben by name. She refers to him as “the guy Jessa was courting”. But later, she mentions Jinger’s husband, Jeremy, and refers to him as a “great guy”. Very interesting indeed. I don’t know if that was intentional, but I did pick up on it.

After all she’s been through, one might expect Jill to be super bitter and angry. I don’t know how Jill really feels off the record, but to me, this book is a very even-handed, yet honest, treatment of her situation with her family. She makes it clear that she loves her parents, even though her father has, quite frankly, been a totally narcissistic creep.

There are a few bombshells in the book. For instance, Jill shares how her father justified telling the IRS that he paid her about $130,000 when they never received that money. Jim Bob sent an itemized list of things he’d spent money on for Jill, to include her care and feeding when she was still a minor! And he never accounted for all the work she did for him– to include doing the heavy lifting of raising several of her siblings from the time she was a child herself.

It blew my mind that Jim Bob had made so much money off his children’s weddings and grandchildren’s births, but he was unwilling to so much as help Jill and Derick pay their $10,000 insurance deductible when their second son, Samuel, was born and Jill almost bled out and died. Jim Bob offered Jill and Derick $20,000 to “settle” the situation– a total insult, really. He gave them two days to decide, then rescinded the offer. Jim Bob also used the threat of lawsuits to keep his adult kids in line (definitely not a very Christian or Christlike thing to do) .

Fortunately, Jill and Derick were smart enough not to take Jim Bob’s monetary offerings or sign any other contracts with him. They have maintained their freedom and independence. They can make decisions for their own family, including sending their sons to public schools, drinking alcoholic beverages, wearing what they want to wear, and deciding if they want piercings, tattoos, or whatever else on their own bodies. I think they know that the freedom to make their own choices in life is worth so much more than money is. I also think they will make a lot more money on this book than any lump sum monetary gift Jim Bob could ever give them. It’s too bad most of Jill’s siblings weren’t as clever as the Dillards were.

Personally, I think Jim Bob Duggar is a narcissistic dirtbag. I’m sure he comes by it honestly, as a lot of narcissists do. I know he had a difficult upbringing. There was a lot of uncertainty and periods of poverty during his childhood, and that makes him very anxious about his own station in life as an adult. He corrects that anxiety by being hyper-controlling and dictatorial, and being a fundie Christian is one way to keep everyone in line. I get that. However, I still think Jim Bob is a creep for treating his kids the way he does… especially his daughters. He acts like his children, their spouses, and his grandchildren are his property. Jill even pointed out to Jim Bob that he treats her worse than he treats his child molester son, Josh. And all because she doesn’t want to live under her father’s thumb for the rest of his life or hers.

I also don’t think Jim Bob Duggar is a very good Christian. There’s a lot more to being a Christian than simply following rules and reading the Bible. Jesus Christ was not someone who craved riches, power, and control over other people. Jesus hung out with the people who were misunderstood and cast out from society. He served other people with no strings attached. He loved other people and ministered to them. Jesus didn’t seek to own other people, nor use them to prop up his image so he could be “example” for others to follow. Christ also didn’t threaten people with lawsuits or use shady contracts to keep people under his control. Jim Bob seeks admiration from people, control over them, power, and MONEY. That is not Christlike behavior.

Somehow, Jill has managed to show grace toward her parents. The book even ends on a positive, hopeful note. She shares a sweet picture of her parents holding her youngest son, Freddy. I know Jill loves her dad, in spite of everything. I admire her for that. She’s probably a better person than I would be in her shoes.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading Jill Duggar’s book. I applaud her incredible bravery and insistence on living her life on her own terms. I hope some of her siblings will follow suit. Living under the thumb of a control freak narcissist is no way to go through life. I think the Dillards are living proof of that. So bravo to Derick and Jill! I wish the best to them and their family, and I recommend her book.

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communication, condescending twatbags, Duggars, narcissists, religion

Easy for you to say, armchair quarterback…

Thursday already! This week is flying by, which is a good thing. Tomorrow is the big day. I don’t usually start packing before the morning of departure or maybe the night before, if we’re leaving early. For this big trip, I started filling my new suitcase on Tuesday. I am very ready to get out of here, even if there’s a part of me that kind of dreads the logistics. But I think I have most everything planned appropriately.

We’ll take Noyzi to the Hundehotel tomorrow morning, then head for the airport in advance of our early afternoon flight. It’ll be my first airplane ride since November 2019! By tomorrow afternoon, we’ll be in Oslo, the first stop of our multi-city Scandinavia/Baltics tour. 😉 I know it will be over before we know it, so I hope to savor everything… but I also know myself, and I’m sure there will be first world problems to complain about. I’ll try to confine them to my blogs.

And since we aren’t on vacation yet, allow me to offer some observations I’ve made since yesterday. Wednesday’s post was about the “right to complain” and how complaining doesn’t necessarily make a person a “karen”. And how I’m not a “karen” because I think the term “karen” is stupid and needs to go out of style. 😉

I’ll admit, I was a bit all over the map yesterday, because I was overwhelmed with examples for my post. That’s a problem, but it’s less of a problem than not having any examples to write about. Then, maybe you might have some trouble explaining exactly what you mean.

Today’s post, thankfully, does offer a good example of what I mean by its title. That is, it’s easy for people to pass judgment and get on a moral high horse about some things, when they aren’t actually in a given situation, and won’t suffer any hardships for advising someone to do what they think is the “right” thing to do. Once again, I’m going to bring up the Duggar family.

In the Duggar Family News Facebook group, the group leader, Pickles, shared some commentary from someone who used to work on 19 Kids and Counting. The person whose comments were referenced wasn’t identified, but it was someone who spent a lot of time around the Duggar family.

One person in the group wrote that crew members who filmed everything were complicit in the abuse, since they stood by and allowed all of this stuff to happen, but said nothing about it. She wrote:

The crew witnessed girls being forced into arranged marriages, forbidden to use birth control and then pregnancies with no prenatal care and agonizing childbirth. They suffered for days without proper medical care. The crew saw children that were not allowed to go anywhere without chaperones. They saw substandard teaching and educational materials because they were not allowed to go to school. The network constantly allowed them to praise their ATI and IBLP training sessions. The crew saw that their patriarch had total creative control. The crew saw girls made to wear long skirts with long uncut stringy hair that were constantly being slut-shamed. They saw girls that were forced to cook, clean and raise their siblings while the boys played. They saw the constant abuse of women and girls due to their Christian beliefs. The crew was silent and complicit.

As I read the above passage, I couldn’t help but think that it would be very difficult for the crew to do anything about what they saw. As Pickles pointed out:

Yes, but is any of that reportable to child protective services? In this country kids only need to be fed and have their basic needs met. It is sad sometimes that we can’t do more.

And Pickles is right. In many places in the United States, all that is necessary is that children have their basic needs met. We may not agree with how other people raise their children, but that doesn’t mean that the government has the right to intervene. And, honestly, as much as I don’t like seeing children raised in cults, I also think that there’s a slippery slope. A lot of well meaning people think they’re doing good, when they don’t have the whole story… or they think their way is automatically always the *best* way.

People often think they are above reproach, as they point the finger at other people. They never seem to realize that the standards they want to impose on other people could just as easily be imposed on them. Who’s to say that while you point your fingers at people you think are doing wrong, that certain other people won’t be pointing at you and saying the same thing? Would you want them to be able to dictate what’s right, and what’s not?

The original poster’s response to Pickles was this:

My belief is that the standard should not have rested with CPS regulations but rather with doing the right thing for women and girls. The crew should never have participated in promoting this patriarchy.

Who’s to say what is the “right thing” for women and girls? Those of us who were born and raised in western cultures often think our way is the best way. I think Americans, in particular, are guilty of trying to impose our mores on other cultures, thinking the standard way we do things is the way everyone should do them. But, if you look at other countries around the world, you realize that when it comes to oppressing females, the Duggars’ ways are actually pretty lenient! I mean, I haven’t heard of any of the Duggar girls being held down and having their clitorises cut off by their aunties, right?

And secondly, has this poster considered that by “not participating in promoting the patriarchy”, the Duggar insider would have aided in keeping all of this stuff hidden? It probably would have been much easier for Josh Duggar to keep abusing people if he hadn’t come from such a famous family. Moreover, television work was this person’s livelihood, and TV jobs are, presumably, not that plentiful. It’s easy for some random person on Facebook to condemn the Duggar Family TV show insider for not “stepping up” and “refusing to promote the patriarchy” when it’s not the rando’s paycheck at stake.

Besides… everyone who watched the Duggars on TV saw this stuff going on every time an episode aired. No, we didn’t see the unedited parts that the TV crew saw, but we saw enough of it to speak out about it, if we were so inclined. Most of us didn’t bother.

I remember back in 2008, when the FLDS sect at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas got raided. So many relatively “normal” people were glad to see it being raided, because they were absolutely sure the children in that sect were miserable and being abused. And, if I’m honest, I think a lot of the kids in that sect probably were experiencing what a lot of us would consider abuse. BUT… that lifestyle is what they knew, and their abusers were their family. When the children were eventually reunited with their mothers, there was no mistaking the joy on the children’s faces.

When you’re a child, you won’t necessarily see CPS workers as heroic when they yank you out of the only home you’ve ever known. Moreover, sometimes kids who are removed from abusive homes end up in foster homes that are as bad or even worse from where they came. Read up on the Turpin siblings’ hellish experiences with foster care for some verification on that. I’m not saying that calling CPS is never necessary or lifesaving for abused children, but foster care and government intervention are certainly not panaceas against preventing or stopping child abuse. Like it or not, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are the parents to that huge brood. We may see them as awful parents, but they’re still the only parents their children have.

This doesn’t mean that I support the Duggars’ way of doing things. I am absolutely sure there’s a legitimate hotbed of abuse in that family. I doubt that Josh is the only one who did pervy things, either. However, I do think it’s a lot to expect random people to intervene/be heroic, especially when they don’t have the whole story, haven’t been asked to intervene, and are relying on a paycheck. Because while it’s very noble to think that we all have our principles, when it really comes down to it, people have basic needs that have to be fulfilled. It’s hard to be tough when you realize that speaking up or speaking out could lead to unemployment.

My husband went to war with a man who was later outed and very publicly fired from the Army for abusing troops in Iraq. Bill was similarly abused by this man when they went to Iraq a couple of years prior. Bill didn’t say much to Army officials about what happened in that war zone because he wanted to stay employed and promotable, and he did not want to be labeled a complainer. If he had spoken about the abuse, maybe he could have prevented his former boss from abusing other troops. But, there’s also a good chance that he would have been punished for being vocal about the abuse, and his boss would have still gotten ahead. It’s easy for those who aren’t directly faced with a dilemma to say what they think should be done. It’s much harder to take those actions when it’s your ass on the line and you have other people depending on you.

I am a big believer in speaking out and taking action when it’s possible to safely do so. However, I am also a realist, and I am wise enough to know that speaking up and taking action isn’t always something that is easily done without severe reprisals. And, unfortunately, when you’re dealing with powerful narcissistic types like Jim Bob Duggar, Donald Trump, Bill’s “war buddy”, or even his ex wife (when the kids were minors), you find that doing the “right thing” is very often easier said than done.

So no, I don’t blame the Duggar TV show insider for not “refusing to promote the patriarchy” and “refusing to take action” on behalf of the Duggar daughters. That would have been a tall order that probably wouldn’t have ended with good results. But I am glad to see people like Jill, Jinger, and Amy Duggar standing up now, and speaking out against the abuses perpetrated in the name of “Christianity” and Bill Gothard’s IBLP cult.

I think being married to a man who attracts narcissists has made me more aware of what is at stake when a person confronts one. The bigger and more powerful they are, and the more money and prestige they have, the harder it is to confront them. And while it’s easy to armchair quarterback– I do it myself sometimes– the reality is, when it comes down to it, we all have to watch our own backs first. You can’t help someone else if you’re not wearing your own oxygen mask, so to speak. 😉

Hopefully, we won’t be needing any oxygen masks when we fly to Norway tomorrow. 😀

As I posted earlier… my blog may be less attended while we’re away, but I will bring my laptop and see what I can do. I hope you’ll wish us luck!

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Duggars, religion, videos, YouTube

Fundie Fridays dishes on Shiny Happy People…

Happy Saturday, y’all. I started today off by writing a new post for the travel blog, washing a load of laundry, and watching Jen on Fundie Fridays’ latest video on YouTube. For those who don’t know, Jen is a great YouTuber who makes videos about Christian fundamentalists while she does her makeup. She’s hilarious, adorable, smart, and compassionate, even when the fundies clap back at her for snarking on them with her boyfriend, James.

Jen was featured on the Amazon docuseries Shiny, Happy People, so she is in a unique position to add some insight into the making of that very popular program. I enjoyed listening to her talk about it… and yes, I was just listening this time, because I was also writing a blog post at the same time. I think you should watch too, if you’re interested. Apparently, Jen found being involved in that series very special and fulfilling. She even comes to tears in her latest video, as she talks about how happy she was that she got to be part of making Shiny Happy People.

Worth watching, if you have the time and inclination!

I’ve been watching old episodes of the Duggars’ defunct reality show this week. I always thought it was kind of a boring show when it was still airing, and now it’s so obvious that Jim Bob was cashing in on his huge family. Like, for instance, there are some obvious product placements in the old episodes. Swiffer products were quite obviously and prominently displayed in one episode about cleaning the house.

I watched one episode yesterday that featured Jim Bob and his older sons making what they called a “redneck water slide/Slip n’ Slide”. They ran a huge piece of sheeting down a hillside, dug a hole, and ran water and dish soap on the sheeting to make it slick. Then, the gaggle of younger boys in rash guards and Joy Anna in her Wholesome Wear burka slide down the hill. I have to admit, it did look like a lot of fun, even when Jim Bob slid down fully clothed. But it also seemed like a waste of water. Oh well… at least they didn’t swim in a water drainage ditch, like the Duggar wannabe family, the Rodrigues family, did. On the redneck slide episode, the Duggars announced that they were expecting “tiny, precious Josie”, who barely survived her birth, due to her being born very prematurely. Otherwise, Ma Duggar, Michelle, would have been sliding down the hill with each of the children she delivered (excepting the smallest ones).

Jen has extensively covered the Rodrigues family, too… Yes, I’ve written about that, too, but just because she’s so funny, I’ll also share those posts.

I wish I were this entertaining…
Cue the crazy!
This video includes the Rodrigues performance of the infamous anti-gay song, “Come On Down the Farm”… At the 20 minute mark, you can see the kids play in the water drainage ditch.
And finally, part four, which is even more about how weird this family is… and more water drainage ditch swimming at about the 27 minute mark.

So yeah, I am a devoted fan of Jen’s channel, Fundie Fridays, and I’m happy to plug it. If you have some time to kill and want to laugh a lot as you learn new things about the bizarre world of Christian fundamentalism, I recommend tuning in. I think it’s awesome that Jen and James have been able to parlay their creativity into careers on YouTube, and I’m happy to help them out by plugging their channel. I don’t know how much help I’ll be… but then, sometimes my posts take off, too.

I suppose I could also write more about what’s been going on in the horrifying world of American politics, but I don’t really feel like it, today. It’s Saturday; Bill’s home; and we have plans for the evening. So, I think I’ll keep today’s post short and sweet.

Catch you later…

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documentaries, Duggars, narcissists

Wow! So abuse victims are supposed to just shut up and “keep sweet”, then?

It’s been awhile since I last wrote about the Duggar family. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about them, though. Tomorrow, a brand new series is going to be released on Amazon Prime. It’s called Shiny, Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets, and it’s a four episode documentary about the Duggar Family and The Institute in Basic Life Principles, founded by Bill Gothard.

I realize not everyone knows who the Duggar Family is. You may be among those who have never seen the enormous family on their TLC reality show, 19 Kids and Counting, followed up by Counting On, a reality show that was supposed to focus on the adult children after eldest Duggar “kid” Josh Duggar was outed as a sex pest. Or, maybe you just don’t care about the Duggars, which is a very fair sentiment. In fact, I think it would be best if fewer people cared about that family. Family patriarch, Jim Bob Duggar, has been cashing in on his and his wife, Michelle’s, astonishing ability to reproduce for much too long.

I wish I didn’t give a shit about the Duggars. I have long been interested in large families, though. My father was one of nine children, so I grew up with a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins. I always thought I wanted a large family of my own, but clearly that didn’t work out for me. I think religion is interesting, too… although I tend to be pretty critical of extreme beliefs. The Duggars are pretty extreme in the way they follow Christianity. Moreover, they turned out to be massive hypocrites. The squeaky clean image Jim Bob Duggar tried so hard to promote turned out to be 100 percent manufactured bullshit.

I don’t want to write too much about the Duggars today… although the quote that is serving as today’s featured photo did give me pause. Yesterday, I learned that yet another Duggar sister is publishing a book. This time, the book is coming from Jill Duggar Dillard, who is reportedly “on the outs” with Jim Bob, as she and her newly minuted attorney husband, Derick, sued him because they were never paid for their work on Counting On. Jill also participated in the making of Shiny, Happy People, and has been somewhat outspoken about how her brother, Josh, victimized her and three of their sisters.

I remember, back when the original show was popular, thinking that Jill was the biggest fundie “Kool-Aid drinker” of the whole family. She seemed to be a bit of a tattletale, which seemed to endear her to Jim Bob. But then she got married, and the truth about Josh was revealed to the masses. Jill was supposedly forced to help do “damage control”, to save the show so that the money train could keep rolling… Keep in mind, Jill wasn’t even really being paid for this, at least not a regular, guaranteed salary, paid to her, and later, Derick, directly by the network. Instead, the couple had to rely on Jim Bob, who doled the money out as he saw fit.

I’m not a big fan of conservative Christians, and Jill and Derick still qualify as such. However, they do seem to genuinely love each other, and I have enjoyed watching Jill blossom into a modern woman with the guts to stand up to her obviously narcissistic father. I applaud her decision to speak out to the masses. Hell, after all she’s been through, why shouldn’t she try to “cash in” on her experiences as a Duggar? I sure would!

If you read my blog, you may already know that I don’t mind speaking up, and speaking out… and sometimes that pisses people off. Some people would rather that other people just shut up and color. And if you’re a writer, you do face the danger of having people object to what you put out there. I’ve faced that situation myself a number of times. Writing takes a certain amount of bravery, because you never know how people are going to take what you write. Some people may like it, or even love it. Others may hate it, and hate you, even if they don’t even know you. Celebrities face a similar problem on a larger scale, although many of them at least make some money for their troubles. Jill Duggar was a celebrity who didn’t really profit from her celebrity status… and she was never asked if she wanted to be on TV.

I have never read any of the Duggar books. Jinger Duggar Vuolo published a book criticizing Bill Gothard a few months ago. I didn’t read it, because I had a feeling that her book was more about promoting faith. I’m not interested in that. I’d rather read some “tea”. I don’t know if Jill’s book is going to deliver the truth we’re all curious about, but if it does, sure I’ll buy it. I think the Duggars should realize by now that most people aren’t buying their facade anymore. They might as well come clean.

This morning, I was in the Duggar Family News Group, and someone posted the above quote, which was on Jedidiah Duggar’s Instagram page. Jed had “liked” the comment, and he was promptly taken to task by another follower, who posted this:

Yes, it’s harsh… but I think the poster is spot on, minus all the religious stuff.

Jed, who seems to have replaced Josh as Jim Bob’s “golden boy” son, posted this response…

It’s not necessarily wrong to point out that this is “no one else’s business.” But Jim Bob Duggar pretty much sold out his family’s privacy when he turned them all into public figures for money. Moreover, I think it’s likely that a lot of strangers know more about the Duggars than the Duggar “kids” themselves, do.

It seems that Jed wants things both ways. He wants the trappings that come with fame. I noticed this morning that he and his wife, Katey, put out a video about their recent trip to Hawaii. I don’t give a fuck about that, because I suspect they put it out there to distract people from the new documentary. But yes, they seem to expect people to care about their trip to Hawaii before the birth of their latest kid, a daughter who will reportedly be called Nora. However, the scandalous news about Josh Duggar, which proved that their image was fake, is “100% no one else’s business”.

Josh Duggar has proven that he’s a danger to other people, especially children, who are the most vulnerable of all! If that doesn’t make this story other people’s business, I don’t know what does. Moreover, Jill was one of Josh’s victims. Of course she has the right to be heard! And again– if she wants to sell her story for profit, I don’t see why she shouldn’t. Jim Bob sold her out for years! When she finally protested, his response was to ostracize her! So I say fuck him, and fuck his wife! Hopefully, by now, there’s no more chance that Michelle will be knocked up anew. 😉

Katie Joy’s latest video about Jill… interesting how such a conservative guy like Jim Bob would stand for his kids needing a “socialist” program like SNAP…

Aside from Josh being a pervert who preys on children, Jim Bob has been outed as a less than honest businessperson, not just in terms of how he treated his children, but also in terms of how he’s dealt with people in his community. I certainly wouldn’t say that his dealings have been particularly Christlike. What I’ve observed is a man who uses extreme religion to make money. He’s no different than any narcissist, really. You can easily see how they operate. They don’t subscribe to any particular religion or political movement; they just use those movements to promote themselves. Meghan Markle does it by being a supposed liberal feminist. Donald Trump does it by being a supposed Republican. And Jim Bob does it by being a supposed Christian. It’s all part of the image, which is supposed to get unsuspecting people to trust and follow. The reality is, the whole thing is fraudulent, and only meant to get people under control, working for their aims.

I hope this new book gives Jill some much needed income and a platform.

Jill’s book will be released January 16, 2024, and it will be ghostwritten by Craig Borlase, who is a credible writer who has worked with some well known outlets, such as The New York Times and the Sunday Times. Derick Dillard is also credited as an author. I don’t know how much of the book will be about their religion, which I’m not interested in reading about at all. My guess, though, is that this book is not going to be like the others. Jill, who had always seemed to be the biggest Kool-Aid drinker, is likely going to be the downfall of Jim Bob’s empire. And good for her.

Here comes the tea!

Someone recently uploaded some of the old Duggar episodes on YouTube. I watched a couple of them and couldn’t help but cringe, especially of the shows that highlighted Josh. What a total farce.

Anyway… I can understand not wanting to alienate one’s family members, especially when one or more of them are narcissists. But, I know from personal experience that breaking away from abuse requires bravery, and that means telling the truth. I would absolutely believe Jill’s truth over Jim Bob’s. And it’s high time she spoke up, and spoke OUT, about whatever she wants. She’s been silenced for much too long.

If I were Jed, I think I’d be boning up on my job skills… because he’s probably going to have to find work outside of working for Jim Bob and being on social media before too long. I hope a lot of people will pay attention, too… especially going into the election season of 2024. Bill Gothard and his ilk would like nothing better than to see the United States turn into a fundie Christian dystopian theocracy. Be very careful who you vote for.

Now, off to create some music and do my dreaded Thursday chore. Cheerio!

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