Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Big of me. Big of all of us.

Is there a psychological phrase when a subject seems to be following you around? I've been going through something like that over the last several months. Let me explain.

A while back, I picked up a copy of Jon Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven." I had read his previous book on climbing Mount Everest, and it was terrific. It cured me of ever wanting to climb a huge mountain, not that I was thinking about it. Krakauer drastically changed subjects here, switching to an investigation of a murder involving a renegade branch of the Church of Latter Day Saints.

I've had a small interest in LDS ever since my next-door neighbors from my high school days were of that faith. They were nice folks, a little more family-oriented and insulated than the rest of us. Besides, I live about 80 miles from Palmyra, sacred ground to the LDS faith, and I've attended the Hill Cumorah pageant there. It's quite a production.

Krakauer's book is quite fascinating on its own merits. It talks about a fundamentalist branch of the LDS in which polygamy is practiced. Krakauer says the area of Colorado City, Arizona is a hotbed for the group. That got my attention. A few years ago, I drove through Colorado City, which is near the Utah border, on my way back from the north rim of the Grand Canyon. I didn't stop, by the way. The murder in question is a case of sect members hearing a voice from God ordering them to commit the crime, raising a variety of ethical questions in the process.

Later in the book, Krakauer points out that some of those 19th-century Mormons who believed in plural marriage had enough of the fighting in Utah and moved to Cardston, Alberta -- right near Glacier National Park, an upcoming vacation spot for me.

OK, that's all an interesting coincidence. Shortly after that, though, HBO started showing a quirky new series. Having missed some of the other ones like the Sopranos, I figured I would actually watch this one. It was called "Big Love." Yup, it's about a Utah man who owns a couple of big hardware stores ... and has three wives. One of the secrets of such an arrangement, apparently, is large doses of Viagra.

And then a short time ago, the FBI got into the act. It named Warren Jeffs one of its top ten most wanted. Jeffs is one of the leaders of the fundamentalist branch of the church, and has a variety of charges pending against him. When Jeffs' story became national news, Krakauer was interviewed at length on CNN about the group.

I'm not sure what the next step in this run will be, but it has been a little spooky. Maybe I'll put a Marx Brothers movie, "Animal Crackers," in the VCR, and watch a scene in which Groucho is on a ship with a couple of women. He suggests that he should marry both of them.

"That's bigamy," one of the women says.

"Yes, and that's big of me too. It'll be big of all of us. Let's be big for a change," he replies.

Always good to have Groucho supply the last word of any essay.

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