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Klavan On The Culture

The Mystery of Elizabeth Smart

October 9th, 2013 - 6:22 pm

Elizabeth Smart is making the rounds, flogging her new book My Story (written with Congressman Chris Stewart). Smart is, of course, the beautiful Mormon girl who in 2002 at 14 years old was abducted for nine months by evil lunatic Brian David Mitchell and his wife. Then, miraculously, she was found and reunited with her family. Today, she’s married and says she “couldn’t be happier.” She does good work fighting human trafficking and speaking to sexual abuse survivors.

I’ve always been kind of fascinated with Smart (I’ll read the book and get back to you on it if it’s any good). Her kidnappers dragged her around the country, chaining her up like an animal and raping her daily. And the two questions everyone always asks her are 1) why didn’t you run/call for help and 2) how come you’re not, like, bats**t crazy?

The first question doesn’t mean much to me. Fourteen-year-old-girl, threatened, brutalized, terrified: in the movies, she’d have run away. Real life, not so much. I think anyone with half an imagination can figure that one out.

But that second question — that haunts me. It really does. Nine months of trauma, raped every day, mentally tortured by these demonic lowlifes with their threats and their sick religious delusions. Hell, I know women who’ve been assaulted once and have never gotten over it. I know people whose whole lives are defined by the cruel things that were done to them. I myself just have to hear Smart’s story and I start having angry fantasies about what I’d like to do to Mitchell (hint: it involves a ball-peen hammer and pliers). So how does she, who actually went through this stuff…  how does she live her life without being consumed by rage every day all the time?

She gives answers in her interviews. Her mom told her that being happy was the best revenge. She plays the harp. She rides horses. She has a great family. A great community. She believes in God. She doesn’t dwell in the past.

I believe all that — I truly do — but somehow it doesn’t answer the question, does it? Not fully. Not for me anyway.  I look at Elizabeth Smart and I wonder about what she’s got inside her, that thing that Mitchell couldn’t touch, couldn’t break. Was she born with that?  Or did her parents give it to her? Can it be isolated, taught, shared, cultivated?

In our whiny, victocratic, nurse-your-wounds, therapy-and-drug laden culture, this poised young woman gives you faith there really is a better way. Whatever is in her, it’s an amazing thing, that’s for sure. I just wish I knew what it was!

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All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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You write she was dragged around the country. I could be wrong, but I assume that is your answer. She had hope she would eventually be rescued. Despite all the horrifying, impossible to accept trauma and physical and mental scars, she had hope. If she had been locked away without being moved around where people might rescue her, then she might have given up and accepted madness.
Thank you for admiring her strength which she has despite her long ordeal.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
As a child I was badly treated (nothing like Miss Smart). I was beaten many times, but not sexually abused.

The worst beating was at the age of 13, in a Juvenile home that I was sent to by 'clerical error' - it was a high security place for 'hard cases', minimum age 16.

A bunch of them stood in a circle and beat me systematically. A couple of days later, when I still couldn't walk they called in a Doctor, who blew the whistle and got me out there.

I think I'm the happiest person I know. I trust in God, and try to live right.

However over the years on three occasions I have beaten down guys who (1) threatened a woman with knife, (2) bashed my sister-in-law (her nogoodnik Polack husband), and (3) attacked a puppy with a stick.
The anger I got on those occasions was tremendous, and I think very dangerous. I pray to God I don't kill some fool one day .

I think Elizabeth's femininity protects her from that hidden bolus of rage that erupts at the sight of cruelty inflicted on the weak.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
A person's happiness is never purely a result of external circumstances. The important thing is how one reacts to the circumstances. I've suffered quite a bit in my own life - most of which I'm now very thankful for. The most boring and shallow people are those haven't (yet) dealt with adversity, and the most selfish and vindictive people are those who have let their sufferings turn them bitter. There's a better way.

Check out this relevant speech transcript from February's national prayer breakfast:

On a related note, I would really love to see a review of this book (which may help you solve the mystery):
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wait a minute. You say you're a Christian, and don't understand how she can behave normally after all that trauma? Ok, there are some questions about Mormon doctrine, like that whole thing about Jesus and Satan being brothers and fighting each other, but still and all Mormons use the Bible pretty heavily, too, which is where all the power is. The whole concept of the "word of God" is really interesting. It's the name Saint John gives to Jesus, but it's also the agency by which we are born again, Saint Peter says. It was also the means God used to speak the universe into existence, according to Genesis. I suspect that God made us a lot tougher than we think. Why can the one who has power to create and save not also have power to heal? It's pretty simple, if you happen to have a Biblical world view.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wemedge, your point is logically valid but not true in experience. There are many people (I happen to be one of them) who suffered sustained abuse as children and were permanently damaged, although their faith is strong and valid. Unless you're promoting an Osteenian view that suffering is always a sign of God's displeasure. If you lose a leg and then become a Christian, the leg doesn't usually grow back. The same goes for injuries on the inside, though God always has the option of performing a miracle.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
I didn't intend to imply that everyone comes through trauma intact- a lot of us don't. What I meant was that for those who do, the last half of your last sentence would apply.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Amen, Lars. And the adjective Osteenian should enter the language!
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
This may not be the best Biblical citation, but it's the one I thought of. Clearly (to me) her strength comes from her Faith. It is God's Grace that has allowed her to move on.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
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