Tales of the (UN)Civil Guard

To protect those I mention in this post I am purposefully vague about dates, places and people. Never the less, this is a true report of one of my first-hand experiences with the (UN)Civil Guard and those like them. It began nearly twenty years ago when I met a woman whose son had gotten caught up in one of the (UN)Civil Guard cults that dehumanizes all their members, man, woman and child.

Before any members of the (UN)Civil Guard decide to target me as un-American for sharing this story, they should consider the fact that my parents self-identified as WASP’s. My ancestors were that were part of the flood of White Anglo Saxon Protestants settling on the East Coast in the 1600’s. That means that the pattern of perceiving and treating people as objects to be used abused and discarded at will is long established in my lineage.

On my father’s side I trace back to some of the earliest Lutheran Methodist Germans to leave Europe and settle in Virginia. Those ancestors are related to Queen Victoria, through the Germanic House of Hapsburg. And that West Virginia split from Virginia over the issue of slavery during the Civil War was still an issue to my father.

My maternal lineage arrived on the Mayflower and settled in Salem, Massachusetts. One Salem slaver is on record as saying that he was able and willing to take, put a price on and sell absolutely any one. It should be much more widely acknowledged that he was not alone, that far from being a bastion of freedom, much of Salem’s wealth depended the slave trade and its products.

So I speak from the vantage point of an insider, and I do not like what I see. Neither did this grandmother. And, before any members of any of the (UN)Civil Guard sects begin to spout conspiracy theories and threaten violence at or about me for sharing this story, they should consider the fact that this grandmother was one of their own.

She was a blonde blue-eyed white-skinned working class miner’s daughter raised as a fundamentalist Christian that dropped out of school as a teenager to become a mother and housewife. And she was against government interference in family, faith and finances. But her son’s wife had produced the required baby a year, making sure that there were plenty of soldiers for the cause.

While she was pregnant, she was expected to raise funds for the cult through prostituting herself and selling drugs. She herself used alcohol, uppers and downers to cope. So, her kids suffered from fetal alcohol/drug affect and malnourishment.

Older members of that (UN)Civil Guard abused all of the grandkids both physically and sexually. The girls were out soliciting for their mother when they were barely out of preschool. From the time the boys could walk, they were forced into military-style boot camp training. Punishments included days with no food or drink and standing at attention with their noses to the wall for hours.

Their grandmother was so appalled at how the cult treated her grandchildren that she fought for and got legal custody of the kids. She helped her son flee to Canada where he was out of reach of the cult. And she got the kid’s mother the medical help that she needed.

And then the grandmother settled in to find ways to raise her severely damaged grandchildren so they were capable of functioning in a broader social context. I met the kids through their home-schooling tutor. She was a half-indigenous woman with a PhD in Social Psychology who was willing to invest her time and love in those kids despite minimal pay.

As it turned out, racism was the least of their issues as they matured. To gain a sense of self, they had to learn to look at how their grandmother’s way of treating her kids and grandkids left her son vulnerable to the cult atmosphere. In order to help her grandkids, this woman had to be willing to recognize that greatest challenge they had was learning to see themselves as valued and valuable individual human beings.

There is no quick and easy resolution to multi-generational patterns of institutionalized dehumanization. Dealing with people of any race and gender who have learned to dehumanize others can be traumatic. But under my friend’s dedicated one-on-one long-term loving care, those particular kids turned out to be kind, insightful, creative, engaging caring human beings that slowly but profoundly transformed their extended family.

For the kids to become functional human beings, they all had to learn to look at what drove their own behavior and how what they did affected others. They all had to learn not to let anyone treat any of them as objects to be used, abused and discarded to satisfy another’s need for dominance and control. Most of all, they had to be willing to make mistakes, willing to forgive themselves and others, and willing try again when things went wrong.

Institutionalized abuse of children is not limited by class or color. When water-boarding became controversial under the Bush administration, I told a friend, half-joking, that Bush and Cheney could not understand the public furor because that’s how their parents disciplined them. I was not prepared for my friend to agree whole-heartedly or from first hand experience. He told me that kids being held underwater until they were choking for breath was routine discipline throughout his extended family.

It is also important to acknowledge that abuse is not limited by gender. In the early seventies there was an enclave of women who called themselves Armed Radical Feminists. In my teens and twenties, I was a target of sexual and physical harassment from those women.

I was physically strong enough and willing to be aggressive enough to stop those who accosted me. But my rejecting their crude and unwanted advances triggered accusations of disloyalty to the feminist cause. I found myself having to point out that I did not care who was grabbing at me, it was the getting groped that I did not like.

Like the members of the (UN)Civil Guards and other extremist groups who treat other people as objects, these women treated me as an object because they perceive themselves objects. As my friend with the PhD in Social Psychology pointed out, members of extremist groups bond through abusing others as they have been abused. They are capable of appalling acts of cruelty because appallingly callous acts of cruelty are their normal.

This group had modeled their cult after the Hell’s Angels. They had persuaded themselves that being strong meant acting just like their abusers. And the safe houses for abused women here still include special shelters for lesbians who are abused by their same-sex partners.

It also became clear that once the kids perceived themselves as valued living beings, treating others as valued living beings was a no-brainer. As another friend who had escaped such a cult as an adult told me, giving up constantly judging others for their color, sexuality and beliefs was a huge relief. His own life had transformed for the better when his God become a loving God and his country become a place for all God’s children to love and accept one another regardless of their differences.

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