The Duggars: Privilege and Personal Irresponsibility

The Duggars: Privilege and Personal Irresponsibility June 5, 2015

Nothing has laid bare how obviously conservatives’ own privilege trumps the “personal responsibility” they demand of everyone else than the ongoing saga regarding Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s oldest progeny and his apparent teenage preoccupation with molesting young girls.

On the one hand, the Duggars are so committed to sexual responsibility that they adhere to a rigid gender and procreative ideology that eschews all sexuality outside of heterosexual marriage, birth control (even within said marriage), and of course abortion, to the point that they will blithely imply that anyone who falls outside their sexual orthodoxy is prone to molest and prey on children.

On the other hand is their son Josh Duggar, who we now know made it a recurring habit as a youngster to not only molest females while they slept, but to do so to his own sisters, who were as young as 5 years old, annihilating pretty much every sexual taboo across cultures worldwide.

Yet of course, the Duggars are the true victims, as they told Fox News Wednesday night, because:

  1. Liberals have it in for them, because they’re “Christian.” Actually, if liberals have it in for the Duggars, it’s because of the very public campaigns they’ve waged against equal rights for gays and lesbians throughout the years. Liberals don’t have a problem with “Christians” overall. Many liberals are Christians.
  2. The wicked Springdale Police Department released a report via the Freedom of Information Act even though Josh was a minor at the time. Take a minute to let this one sink in: the Duggars went on Fox News – the network that drudges up every minor offense or report on black youths gunned down by cops across the country – to complain that a police officer shot and killed their son released a police report in accordance with Freedom of Information laws. So like we’ve seen time and again with this family, they accuse people of doing something that did not happen (violate records laws) because people now know about something that did happen (Josh’s molestations).
  3. The family just wants to be left alone. What? No, they don’t. They’re the stars of a REALITY TELEVISION SHOW. They did not retreat into their home and spend time together healing; rather, they went on national TV to try to repair their public image (which failed, by the way). Why? Because the Duggars care about the World after all – it’s their bread and butter.
  4. The Duggar girls have been re-victimized. This comes closest to generating real sympathy, until one finds out that two of them, hence unnamed amid a clan of double-digit kids, are also going on camera Friday to apparently downplay the abuse and defend their brother, a wholly predictable maneuver in the patriarchal environment in which the family lives.

I’m from Northwest Arkansas. I remember when Jim Bob Duggar was just that weird state lawmaker from Springdale who was voted Arkansas’ worst legislator by the statewide paper (yes, really) because he spent his entire time filing meaningless, symbolic bills about abortion that never had a prayer of passing. The Duggars were sort of Northwest Arkansas’ personal sideshow for a while, showing up at every social-issue campaign with their orchestra of offspring to campaign against gays, abortion, etc. They have always been a public family, even if not one known nationwide until recent years.

Once the family sought to not only gain national fame and recognition via the celebrity of reality TV, but also to use that celebrity to promote their own ideological agendas and family lifestyle, they themselves – not just their causes – became a subject of debate. And it seems pretty clear that they hoped to use their celebrity to “witness” for their version of Christianity and social policy.

So it rings hollow when they claim that the celebrity status they themselves sought – even after these allegations had been “dealt with,” as Jim Bob summarily suggests – has caused them unwelcome attention. The Duggars have been using their constant advent of nurslings for two decades to gain attention for their social causes, so an attempt to now divorce their first born’s actions from their family activism is of course absurd.

That’s why it’s nonsensical to hear conservatives suggest we “leave the Duggars alone.” The Duggars don’t want to be left alone. They just want to be excused for the behavior in their home that actually happened, even while continuing to allege — based on no evidence whatsoever — that the same exact thing might happen if we extend full rights and privileges to LGBT citizens.

Get it? According to the Duggar playbook, we’re all supposed to be good Christians and forgive Josh Duggar for actually victimizing young girls and his parents for whatever part they played in failing to prevent it, but we’re all supposed to live in abject fear that trans* women we don’t even know might somehow victimize a young girl while using a public bathroom. That’s what Michelle Duggar, as recently as Wednesday night, referred to as “common sense,” a phrase increasingly invoked to mean one hasn’t bothered to think about a matter in any detail whatsoever.

That’s why there’s so little mercy and grace finding its way to the Duggars, no matter how much people may assert they deserve it. The Duggars, and the conservative media suddenly very concerned about the sanctity of juvenile records, have shown no such grace and mercy to virtually anyone else outside their circles.

And you shall reap what you sow.


Don M. BurrowsAbout Don M. Burrows
Don M. Burrows is a former journalist and current college preparatory school teacher. Don holds a Ph.D. in Classical Studies from the University of Minnesota. A former Christian fundamentalist, Don is now a member of the United Church of Christ and contends most firmly that the Bible cannot be read or explored without appreciating its ancient, historical context. Don lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two young children. Don blogs at Nota Bene and can also be found on Facebook.

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