The ‘culture’ defense

Kids, don’t try this at home:

The story of the Greenfield man who allegedly sold his 14-year-old daughter to a young suitor for cash and beer went worldwide, and the police chief who ordered the arrest said Tuesday the incident arose from a clash of cultures.
The social mores in parts of rural Mexico, where arranged marriages are common for young girls, ran head-on into California law designed to protect juveniles from sexual predators.
“It’s kind of a clash of two different cultures, but I have to uphold the local law,” Greenfield Police Chief Joe Grebmeier said.
The case involves a father, Marcelino DeJesus Martinez, 36, a young male neighbor, Margarito DeJesus Galindo, 18, and Martinez’s 14-year-old daughter who Galindo sought to marry.

Notice that the “clash of cultures” argument is only ever offered by the media in defense of foreign cultures. If Americans expect our own culture to be respected elsewhere (e.g., the Middle East), that’s “imperialism.” But any foreigner who can manage to get across our borders, legally or otherwise, is entitled to receive the “Get out of jail free” cultural-defense card from the MSM.

So, while any American who sold his teenage daughter would be denounced as a misogynistic oppressor, and the case cited as conclusive evidence of how our culture is infested with patriarchal exploitation, as long as your name is Martinez and you’re from Oaxaca — oh, what quaint rural customs! It’s a “clash of cultures”!

PREVIOUSLY: Diversity is our strength!

UPDATE: Barbara O’Brien (Mahablog) thinks she understands this story, and my reaction to it:

[W]hen done by an illegal immigrant, sexual exploitation of a girl is an outrage. But sexual exploitation of girls by native-born Americans is perfectly OK.

Ah, the comparison to the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) is invoked. Very well, then. I didn’t get up this morning expecting this discussion, but let’s go ahead and have it, shall we?

Shortly after Texas officials raided the FLDS compound in Eldorado last year, it became apparent that officials were not merely seeking to prosecute specific crimes. Instead, they launched a paramilitary exercise that seized 432 children — including babies and toddlers — from their parents and put the children into foster care, evidently because officials considered the entire sect to be a criminal conspiracy. Furthermore, the media jumped on the story with lurid “teen sex cult” headlines, repeating as gospel the most sensational allegation in the search warrant affidavit.

What you had in the Eldorado raid, then, was (a) prosecutorial overkill and (b) flagrant media bias in favor of the prosecutorial overkill. The same media that waxes hysterically indignant about the treatment of al-Qaeda detainees at Gitmo were acting as cheerleaders while SWAT squads swooped down in America to seize babies from the arms of their mothers.

There was a distinct whiff of bovine excrement about this story and it soon emerged that, contrary to the sensational media tale about an abused teen victim named “Sarah Jessup Barlow” making a desperate call for help from inside the Eldorado compound, the original tip to Texas officials apparently came from a Colorado hoaxer. Rozita Swinton, who had a history of similar hoax calls, evidently became obsessed with the FLDS as a result of media accounts (including an “Oprah” episode) about the cult.

Furthermore, the FLDS claimed — and the official report indirectly confirms — that Texas officials were grilling every young mother at the Eldorado compound in a desperate hunt for the non-existent “Sarah Jessop Barlow,” obviously because the officials did not want to admit that their massive raid (which cost taxpayers $12 million) had been launched under false premises.

Barbara O’Brien accuses me of saying that FLDS is “perfectly OK,” but I never said any such thing. At the risk of offending Harry Reid and Orrin Hatch, I’ll say that I consider Mormonism to be an un-Christian cult, a transparent fraud perpetrated by Joseph Smith, and would go so far as to say that the mob that stormed the Nauvoo, Ill., jail on June 27, 1844, did a service to humanity. Insofar as the FLDS intend to revive the original doctrines of Smith — especially including polygamy — they are on a mission of evil. They might as well be trying to revive Heaven’s Gate or the Jonestown cult, so far as I’m concerned.

Rather than defending the cultic practices of the FLDS, what I actually said was this:

[I]f Texas officials are going to launch a paramilitary raid every time a 15-year-old girl gets pregnant, they’re going to need to hire some more SWAT police. In point of fact, Texas leads the nation in teenage pregnancy. The crime that justified this raid in the minds of CPS officials obviously wasn’t that teenage girls were having sex or having babies — that happens every day in Texas — but that they were “married.”

A couple of points quite relevant to this topic:

  • As the 2007 Dallas Morning News story I linked makes clear, a growing immigrant population was directly implicated in Texas’ first-in-the-nation teen pregnancy statistics: “In 2004, Hispanic girls ages 15 to 19 accounted for 61 percent of teen births even though only 39 percent of Texas adolescents were Hispanic, according to the federal National Center for Health Statistics.”
  • In 2005, specifically to address the issue raised by the relocation of FLDS to Eldorado, Texas raised its minimum age for marriage from 14 to 16.

Which is to say that, confronted with two cultures in which early marriage is common, it was the arrival of the FLDS, rather than an influx of Mexican illegals, which provoked action by Texas legislators. Yet which culture actually contributes more to the teen pregnancy situation in Texas? The official report of the Eldorado raid found that 12 FLDS girls had been “married” before age 16, of which seven had been age 14 or 15 and thus would not have been victims of a crime if not for the 2005 revision of the law. (Whether or not you believe that 14-year-olds should be permitted to marry, such marriages are still legal in several states.)

So, 12 victims of FLDS, compared to how many hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of Hispanic girls the same ages who become mothers every year in Texas? The latest CDC statistics don’t give us raw numbers state-by-state, but we know (Table 6) that 9,870 Hispanic girls 15 and under gave birth in the U.S. in 2006, including 320 who were giving birth to their second child before age 16 and — believe it or not — 10 cases in which girls under 16 gave birth to their third child.

If Barbara O’Brien is serious about “sexual exploitation of girls,” then she must deem victims the nearly 10,000 young Latinas who give birth before age 16 each year in the United States — to say nothing of the untold thousands of similar girls in Mexico where, we are assured by the San Jose Mercury News and the Greenfield, Calif., police chief, “Everything they were doing would be legal.”

UPDATE II: John Hawkins muses on multiculturalism in a relevant way.

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