A Wiccan of 25 years, Sage likes to put her background as a writer and teacher to use by helping people learn about this NeoPagan path.
What Wiccans Can Learn from The Duggars Scandal
I'm not a big fan of reality TV. Well, I do like documentaries and cooking competitions and such, but as for the whole branch of shows that let people into the lives of random people just so you can see how they live doesn't interest me. I don't want to watch people because they are rich, poor, a current celebrity, a washed-up celebrity, single, married, pregnant, and I still have no idea who the Kardashians are or what they ever did that made people want to keep up with them in the first place.
I have seen the Duggars show occasionally because my husband used to watch it on Netflix and I've occasionally been in the room when it was on, half-paying attention. I've also read a couple of articles on them in regards to parenting and homeschooling when the headlines caught my eye.
So why am I bringing this up? Because the big scandal with the Duggars right now – or more accurately, the reaction people are having to the Duggars – is a perfect example of the problems of polarization. I actually began writing this a week ago as a blog post, but the more I wrote about it the more I found something else to say. As it continued to grow I realized it would do better as a hub than a blog entry.
This scandal illustrates perfectly a lesson I’ve had to learn in my life, and one I strive to teach my Wicca students.
Exploring Polarity in Current Events
What’s Up With the Duggars?
Just to help catch everyone up to what I’m talking about, let’s start with the basics. The Duggars are a family—a big family. They have long had a reality show on TLC, most recently called 19 Kids and Counting (I think there were 14 or 15 kids when the show started). Basically, they’re a very clean-cut, old-fashioned, traditional family, they practice a very conservative fundamentalist Christian religion, and they are very politically conservative as well. Their show is basically about how they live their lives with all these kids and don’t lose their sanity, but bits about their politics, religion and unusual lifestyle choices tend to seep in.
The Duggars have always drawn both praise and criticism for their lifestyle. I guess that’s how you get to be a reality TV star—you push people’s buttons. The star either validates the things the audience already believes and garners support, or contradicts the things the audience already believes and pisses everyone off. A really good reality star can apparently do both simultaneously.
The Duggar family has been in hot water recently because it came out that their oldest son Josh Duggar, now 27, had sexually assaulted at least five young girls when he was a teenager—four of them were his sisters.
If you’re not familiar with the case you can read the pertinent details here.
It's a Game No One Can Win
The Lesson I’m Talking About
As I’ve said, this article is not really about Josh Duggar, or his family, or how his parents handled the situation. It’s the public reaction that illustrates a lesson. The lesson is polarity.
Look how polarized people are lining up on one side or the other of this issue. On the one side, you have the Duggar’s bigger supporters. They say things like:
- It’s not that bad; it’s not like he raped them.
- The Duggars took care of it and tried to help Josh.
- They turned to God, and he helped them through, and made it all better.
On the other side, you have the Duggar’s harsher critics, who say things like:
- The Duggar parents hid this and just let this pervert abuse their daughters.
- The Duggars act like they’re perfect but they’re hypocrites.
- Josh Duggar is a pedophile and a rapist who shouldn’t be allowed access to his siblings or children.
So what is the difference between these two sides? Would you believe me if I said ‘there is no real difference’? If not, I bet you dollars to donuts that you're polarized.
The Polarity of It All
One side underplays the whole thing; they trivialize it, brush it off, try to justify it, rationalize it, makes excuses for it, or even to deflect by pointing to other cases (such as the Lena Dunham sibling sex abuse debacle).
The other side over-exaggerates; they leap to conclusions and jump on hype bandwagons. They dehumanize and demonize Josh, his parents, and even his wife. They give the family no sympathy, no credit for overcoming the problem, and even seem to revel gleefully in the family’s downfall.
Somewhere in the middle lies the truth; but polarized people will never be able to see it.
This whole scandal illustrates perfectly the issue of polarity, and why it’s a problem. Just look at the way politicians are chiming in; look at the way the media won’t let it rest; look at the way people are going at it on internet message boards. There are far worse sex crimes committed and reported every single day, and yet the masses seem to be stuck on this one family, this one issue, even though it was resolved for them a decade ago and both victims and abuser have moved past it.
It’s not just about a family anymore, their mistakes or their trouble. It’s become a game of both political and religious dodge ball. The Duggars are just the field the polarization game is being played on right now.
The Principle of Polarity
The fourth Hermetic principle is the Principle of Polarity:
Everything is dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled.— The Kybalion.
While Hermetic philosophy is not Wicca, Wicca is influenced by Ceremonial Magic, of which the Hermetic principles are a large part. Hermetic teachings demonstrate that things that seem to be polar opposites are actually the same—they’re on the same spectrum, they’re just different degrees.
Let's take stress for example: there's eustress and distress. Eustress is good; it's what keeps us from being lazy lumps who don't do anything. Eustress is the type of stress that motivates us to get up, to work and pay the bills, to take our medicines and brush our teeth and want to keep a certain standard of living. Distress, however, is not as good. It's what gives people high blood pressure and heart attacks. It results in fear, paralyzation, problems and such.
A Quick Visual Aid:
Evaluating the Curve
See how both extremes are on the same line? They're the same thing, just to different degrees. See how the more you are to one extreme or the other, your performance goes down? See how the more centered you are, the more performance goes up? The height of performance is dead center—the further you are from dead center, the more performance suffers.
How the Duggars Scandal Demonstrates Polarization
Who are the people who are mostly lining up to support the Duggars? The people most like them—Christians, religious conservatives and political conservatives; people who support the same traditional family and gender role values. What they’re really supporting is not the Duggars, not Josh’s behavior, but this entire world view that the Duggars represent. Celebrities (especially reality show ones) become more than just people; they become symbols of a certain perspective.
So to these people, to criticize the Duggars or say there is something deeply flawed in their family or lifestyle is like saying there is something deeply flawed in those who align themselves with the Duggars whole world view (religious, political, family, etc.). By standing up for the Duggars, they’re basically standing up for themselves.
And who is lining up to criticize the family? The people most unlike them—the liberal Christians or people of alternative (or no) religions, those with liberal political leanings; people whose values are more progressive about things like family, gender roles.
For these people, the scandal is good news. Sure, they feel bad for the victims, but the scandal is like a big old silver lining on a dark cloud. They are against the Duggars world view and what the Duggars represent; they don’t like that world view and they don’t want it. Because they’re polarized, they can’t live and let live. So this scandal can’t be put into perspective; it’s used as ammunition to try to shoot down that entire world view.
For polarized people on both ends of the spectrum, it’s not about what happened to the Duggar girls, what Josh did, or what kind of people the Duggars personally are. It’s about advocating or discouraging a particular world view that the Duggars represent. It’s about trying to villanize the people on the opposite side of the spectrum, the perceived ‘enemies’.
Let’s face it—the issue is not what either of the extremes will claim. Josh Duggar is neither a martyred victim whose innocent mistake has been exploited; nor is he a raving sex-crazed monster preying on children. The Duggar parents are not neglectful child abusers, nor are they saints beyond reproach. The truth lies somewhere in between, and the less polarized a person is the better they’ll see that.
Polarized People Close Themselves Off
The Problem with Polarized People
Polarized people fall on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they are not different. They are the same, they are just at different degrees of that spectrum. Polarized people aren’t looking to resolve problems. They’re not looking to educate themselves. They don’t want facts, they don’t want fairness.
What polarized people want is a fight. They want to be right. They want validation. They want to ‘win’ what they see as a war. That is what they ultimately care about, and they’re even willing to sacrifice justice and intellectual honesty to achieve it.
Some polarized people are smart; they use incidents like the Duggar scandal to promote further polarization of others because they have something to gain from doing this. These are the people who love to start the arguments, who write the headlines and who try to put this scandal to use in their agenda. These people are often found working in the media, as politicians, as lobbyists, or as someone in a business that profits from a polarized viewpoint.
Some polarized people are just dupes who are manipulated by the smarter ones. They’ve aligned themselves with a side, even though they often don’t even fully understand the issues. They pick the side that has more in common with their values, that’s more attractive to them for whatever reason. The smart ones spoon-feed these opinions and arguments to them, and the dupes swallow it whole and regurgitate it. The dupes further the work of the smarter ones.
If you’ve ever wondered why we can’t solve the problems in the world today, it’s because of polarized people-- on both sides (because one can’t really exist without the other).
Example: The Duggar Polarity Curve
Balance is Key
So What Does this Have to Do With Wicca, Anyway?
Wicca does have a world view of polarity, but unlike some, we don’t see the two sides as distinct opposites; they are opposite sides of the same coin. The goal is not for one side to obliterate the other side, but for both sides to find that happy, more honest and productive medium. The polar opposites are complementary; they don’t have to work against each other, they need to work with each other for us to benefit from them.
It’s all about balance. That is a key tenet in Wicca—finding a healthy balance in all things.
The more polarized you are, the more your mind (and those who can infiltrate it) is controlled by outside influences. The more polarized you are, the more 'mental filters' you create that obscure your ability to see things clearly, or to express yourself clearly. The more you give up control of your own mind, the more filters you create for yourself, the more it serves to stunt your growth, spirituality and ability to perform magic.
You can see this in more than just the Duggars scandal—it’s quite rampant in the ‘information age’. The smart polarized people with agendas have more platforms to use, and the dupes are more exposed to these polarized viewpoints and persuaded – not through intelligent argument but through emotional appeals – to follow along with it.
Take just about any issue and draw it on a spectrum, and you'll be able to see why the more polarized viewpoints are generally the least productive or helpful. Something always suffers more the further you get to the extremes.
For students of Wicca, or just those interested, I urge you to step back out of the fight and just observe it. Watch the polarized extremes, watch the tactics they employ. You will see they have more in common than not.
Amy DeMarco from Chicago on October 08, 2018:
I know this is an older article but this resonates so much right now with the political climate right now. I admit that I have been guilty of taking extreme stances in the past but it's very frustrating trying to be rational with someone who is very polarized. I have always been attracted to the craft because it's supposed to be about balance. It's taught me to be less judgmental and to try to have an open mind.
I also want to add that this comment you made pretty much nails it: I guess that’s how you get to be a reality TV star—you push people’s buttons. The star either validates the things the audience already believes and garners support, or contradicts the things the audience already believes and pisses everyone off.
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on November 07, 2017:
My experience with Wicca, and as a Wiccan, has been extremely different from your view of it. So I can't personally relate to the idea that Wicca is all 'love & light', or the idea of there being 'no dark' or 'no winter', etc... My spiritual path has certainly not felt like 'lip service' to me, but we all must find our own path. Wicca does not 'speak' to everyone.
Thanks for your comments!
Novemberwind1967 on November 04, 2017:
I agree with you about what you say here about polarization. And it seems I often find myself in the middle of things able to see both sides perfectly, but unable to get both sides together. However, I totally disagree with your comparison of Wicca. Wicca isn’t a well balanced religion. It’s very unbalanced. To me it’s Paganism’s Christianity. It highjacked parts from other established paths, is very contradictory and very unbalanced. It’s very heavy skewed towards “the love and light” crowd, when in reality life and all components of it require balance. There is no light without dark, no summer without winter....and Wicca only pays lip service this. I do agree that polarization causes people to become closed minded and unable to see the truth of things.
Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on June 23, 2015:
In our state the judge had no jurisdiction to rule on police records, only court records, so she has been criticized as being out of line. There is a difference in court records and police records. As a legal editor, I am trying to stick with the legal aspects of the case.
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on June 22, 2015:
Thanks Carolyn; the extreme reactions are always interesting to watch like this. It reminds me to try and keep an open mind and stay objective, because I don't want to be like that. Thanks for commenting.
Carolyn Emerick on June 20, 2015:
Hi Sage, I found your article interesting and thought provoking. I spent some time watching interviews on this to try to get all aspects of it... I honestly can't stand the Duggars for a lot of reasons, but I felt that a lot of the commentary surrounding this scandal wasn't fair.
When you hear the details it sounds more like a 13 year old boy did a lot less than even "playing doctor," sounds like all he did was cop a feel and then his Christian guilt complex made him confess and the whole thing snowballed. It doesn't even sound like molestation at all to me.
Not to mention that a judge recently ruled that as Josh Duggar was a child himself at the time, that these records were illegally released and should be destroyed (as are all criminal records for minors).
So this is a complex topic, but I enjoyed that you thoughtfully explored it and found it as something to take as a lesson that we can all learn and grow from.
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on June 14, 2015:
Hi MizBejabbers; I totally agree we all can have our opinions, be they negative or positive or somewhere in between. After all, apathy is just another unhealthy extreme, isn't it? Again, I totally appreciate your taking the time to list some of the facts of the case... I'll let people make up their own mind about the Duggars. I'm more interested in urging people to take note of extremists who use these kinds of headlines to further their agendas.
Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on June 12, 2015:
Thanks, Sage, I can't imagine what it would be like to suffer that kind of abuse. I'm sorry you had to endure it. I have a family member who was falsely accused and we had to go through a kangaroo court prosecution, so I'm really caught somewhere in between. I believe it is impossible not to have an opinion of some sort on this case. That is why I tried to bring out facts of the law that nobody, not even the media, had thought about, like the father's duty as a state official.
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on June 12, 2015:
Miz Bejabbers, thanks for commenting. I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with you. Yes, I know the facts of the case-- I'm also aware of facts about sibling sexual abuse, both from a research perspective as well as a personal perspective-- it is something that I myself was a victim of growing up. I'm neither defending nor trying to persecute the Duggars. They went through a difficult time and like most families weren't prepared for it or sure how to handle it (the majority of families in which there is SSA do not report it, and the majority of teens who perpetrate SSA statistically do not grow up to be pedophiles); so they handled it very poorly, and it was probably their skewed world views and lifestyle that made their home fertile grounds for just this kind of dysfunction.
A lot of people could debate the Duggars, the incident, the way they handled it, the way the media handles it. But that's not actually my point.
I'm talking about how cases like these illustrate polarized attitudes (the people who will exaggerate, be intellectually dishonest, distort the facts, etc.; the one side against the Duggars over this specific incident with their son, just because the parents are anti-GLBT activists, as if one thing has to do with the other; the other side because they are conservative Christians who have stuck to their faith, as if that makes it all okay).
I'm not suggesting that having an opinion on this or any other topic makes one polarized. I'm suggesting that the dangers of polarization are easily spotted in people when issues like these arise, you can see people at both extremes distorting the facts to suit their agenda. Polarized people, unfortunately, are incapable of seeing just how distorted their world views are.
As always, I appreciate the comments, and thank you for taking the time to list some of the facts of the issue.
Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on June 12, 2015:
You and I must agree to disagree on the Duggars. I see that you are trying to bring balance to the polarity and emotionalism over the Duggar flap. I don’t think there is any balance, but there are facts . As a journalist and a legal editor, I can put my views and emotions aside and come at the situation from the standpoint of law.
In 1999, incoming State Representative Jim Bob Dugger took an oath to uphold the Arkansas Constitution and the law. One of his committee assignments was as vice chair of the House Corrections and Criminal Law Subcommittee. Rep. Dugger served until he chose not to run again when his term was up in 2002.
Rep. Dugger’s son, Josh Dugger, is now 27 years old. Authorities say he admitted the molestations occurred when he was 14 and 15 years old. A simple subtraction would put him at that age about the time Rep. Dugger decided not to run for a second term. Josh, according to facts released to the media, was counseled by a person of unknown credentials in his church and put to work at “hard labor” in a home construction business owned by a family friend. Neither he nor the girls were sent to professional counseling.
Josh was a minor, and under the law, neither he nor the victims would have been identified had professional counseling been sought. Even if Rep. Duggar had not reported the transgressions, he could have chosen to get private counseling for Josh and the girls. Rep. Duggar was in the position of keeping the situation hushed up anyway. He reportedly did take Josh to Arkansas State Trooper Jim Hutchens, an acquaintance of Duggars. Hutchens gave Josh a “stern talk” but did not report the crimes. Hutchens was later arrested and convicted on child pornography charges himself. He is now serving 56 years on the conviction.
The molestations reportedly became public after as the media puts it, the “three-year statute of limitations ran out.” It is claimed that the clock started running when Jim Bob took Josh to Hutchens, and that the three years had run out by the time the situation became public.
In 2014 the town of Fayetteville, Arkansas passed an anti-discrimination law, Ordinance 119, that would include discrimination against the LBGT community. Then they repealed the ordinance a few months later thanks to a movement spearheaded by Michelle Duggar. Mrs. Duggar personally recorded the voice track for robocalls that were sent out to the community and the Duggars contributed money to help fund this movement. The ordinance was repealed by 52 to 48 percent.
These are the cold hard facts. State Representative Jim Bob Dugger broke his oath to the State Constitution and his family are now contributing to laws that are considered to be discriminatory. I’m really not sure what kind of lessons Wiccans and the general public are supposed to take from this.