Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Breaking the silence

This blog post title has a double meaning. I am breaking my own personal silence on this blog, silence which was brought about by a winter that tried the best of my abilities to cope, as well as this mental block thing which challenges my every effort to write. And, lately, the question of the futility of blogging when most of the bloggers I know have given up, and blogging has gone from a platform for everyone to a means to "create content", "attract followers", and "monetize". And sell something. And hope someone hears you out there.

It seemed so much more friendly and open in 2006. But, times change and technology marches forward. It also means that few people are likely to ever read this. Given my innate nature to avoid controversy, that's a good thing. But sometimes, things happen that I just can't keep quiet about.

The second meaning of this post title has to do with something that was going on in 2006, actually from about 2000-2008, about 20 miles away from here. Apparently no one knew, or if they suspected something, they kept their suspicions to themselves. Minnesotans are like that.

On Friday, April 11, Victor Arden Barnard, age 52, was formally charged with 59 felony counts of criminal sexual conduct. His whereabouts are unknown; he was last seen in Spokane, Washington. He was the leader of a religious group (cult) called River Road Fellowship, which operated near Finlayson, Minnesota, until 2008. I won't link to the news stories; they can be easily found.

This pervert represented himself as a Christ like figure to the men and women whom he convinced to follow him, and to the children who had no choice in the matter. They had a religious community around here, and pretty much kept to themselves. I think I know some of the land areas which they communally owned, at least by the looks of it, and every so often I would see people in the grocery store whose manner of dress suggested that they were following some rules I did not know of. But, I have nothing against people dressing and living simply. Maybe they have something to teach the rest of us, if only they will interact.

This pervert established a "camp" for select young women in the community. With their parents' blessing, these young women went to live in a commune type situation, with Mr. Barnard presiding. I know the place; it was sold to the Salvation Army and is now a camp for inner city youth. But this "camp" the young women lived in was something different. These young women were supposed to be the "chosen", to remain virgins and never marry. Except when Mr. Barnard wanted their favors...

The group broke up in about 2008, when some of the men in the congregation found out that Mr. Barnard had also been taking liberties with their wives. The group scattered, with some moving to the Spokane area. In 2012, two young women who had been part of the camp came forward, and a long investigation ensued.

The reason I am writing about this is the inevitable image problem it gives Pine County. But further, it is about the apparent willingness of most of the people of this county to accept these stereotypes, and think there's no way to fix it. Most people around here, given this news, will say "Well, that's Pine County for ya!" I have seen tweets by young people that give into the myth that somehow this is just the worst hick place to grow up in. My response: If you feel that way, you aren't living, and you aren't trying.

Stuff happens everywhere. If it ain't yours, don't own it. If it happens to have happened in your county, but happened in an isolated group of individuals who refused to associate with the rest of the community, don't own it. There are derelicts everywhere. To think your school has more of them, or to think that once you graduate and move as far away as you can, your life will be so much better, does not solve anything. I am proud of my kids for acknowledging that not everyone is good, but still being proud of their school and becoming good members of their community.


Lausten North said...

Good points. There are good and bad everywhere. How well you get along anywhere depends more on you than them. Kids have a natural sense of wanting to "escape" where they grew up, which is good, they should explore, but it often leads to an appreciation for home.

webb said...

Good post, Deb. Can't imagine how frustrating it must be to learn that "stuff like that" was going on so close by.

What is it about these megalomaniac men who prey on the week and trusting. Of all the con men that we seem to produce by the bushelful, i hate the most those who take advantage of people who are simply seeking faith. Somehow that seems like the worst betrayal of all.

I think it is sad when a person doesn't have an appreciation for their home place. It's fine to live elsewhere and to make your nest where you live, but we are all products of the place where our families are rooted, and we need to remember that much of our character comes from there.

Hope spring is finally in view for you and that this darn winter will soon be just a bad memory.

Susan Maricle said...

I agree. Blogging used to be a joy, now it's a grind. Especially when you hear the words like "monetize" and "produce." Blog posts have become widgets.

The saddest part about the Barnard crime is the effect it will have on the community. Anyone looking to move to the country will inevitably say "Finlayson? Isn't that where that cult lived?"

Uri said...

I love your non-monetized blog. I'm going back to blogging myself, I don't care how irrelevant some think it is, to me it's a place where I can share ideas without the constant bombardment of marketers selling products and people promoting their brands. Thank you!