Doomsday Preppers Week 3: Child Abuse
Dr. Tom Perez is a retired chiropractor in Houston, TX. He lives with his wife Monica, daughter Kat, and sons Tommy and Matthew, and they prepare for a terrorist attack (specifically, a radiological dirty bomb). If that happens, and society panics, Dr. Perez plans to bug out to a 700-acre ranch 300 miles to the west in Bracketville, TX, near the Mexican border.
Brackettville was once home to Fort Clark, home to horse-mounted cavalry units from the 1850s up until World War II. It is perhaps best known as the location in which John Wayne starred as Davy Crockett in The Alamo. The Perez family compound borrowed that name for their two limestone homes... rather macabre, when you consider the name is synonymous with a doomed last stand.
Doomsday Preppers, by it's very nature (hint, the title includes "Doomsday"), finds the most extreme preppers, and the Perez family breaks the mold in more ways than one. The family has spent ten years and more than $2 million to build the compound into a prepper's fortress, which is to my knowledge the most money spent by any prepper in any season of the show. He has a windmill and concrete cisterns of more than 2,000 gallons.
The two buildings boast bullet-resistant walls, steel bars over the windows, security cameras, and the entire compound is surrounded by a 7' high barbed-wire fence. He's "contaminated" 10 percent of the food and water as a trap for those who would steal from him. He has 46,000 rounds of ammunition, enough cartridges, as the narrator points out, to shoot everyone in the entire county 12 times.
He's armed everyone... including the kids. Kat is 17, Tommy is 12, and Matthew is 6. He drills them weekly. This is where things get real. Watching and writing about the show this season has been something of a lark for me, but that stopped the second I saw the Perez family teaching a 6-year-old boy to shoot to kill.
Matthew seems like a fine youngster of reasonable intelligence, but a child of that age does not have the mental maturity to understand his actions or their consequences. I'm not sure his brother, who is twice his age at twelve, has the maturity to be trusted with life-or-death consequences. I speak to this from the perspective of once having a friend who, at the age of twelve, was forced to shoot and kill a man to defend his mother. He was never the same.
At best, he forces them to kill or maim at an age where they cannot remotely grasp the consequences of their actions. At worst, he turns them into threats needing neutralization. I understand that Dr. Perez wants his family to prepare to defend themselves, but arming children for combat is child abuse.
Steven Vanasse and his family have joined the Perez family at "The Alamo." A former lawyer and undertaker who bears a passing resemblance to Randy Quaid in both features and mannerisms, Vanasse works as a corporate radiation safety officer. Like Perez, Vanasse wants to teach his teenage daughter Victoria and wife Gobriela to shoot so that they can defend themselves. This is different than deploying your children as soldiers.
Animal rights activists will likely have a fit over this episode of Preppers, and it isn't difficult to see why. A "rite of passage" for the Perez boys is the slaughter of a trussed-up goat with a knife by slitting its throat. Some will make the argument that in a worst-case scenario, ammunition (remember, they have 46,000 rounds) will be at a premium, and they will be forced to use knives or otherwise "make do" to take game.
As a longtime hunter, I understand the taking of an animal's life for sustenance, but killing for necessity isn't what we're watching here.
We're watching an apprehensive 12-year-old Tommy slit an animal's throat so daddy can live out some sort of sick fantasy, as a visibly shaken 6-year-old Matthew looks away from the spurting blood. Tom then wipes blood on their faces as a "symbolic gesture" of their "passage" into "manhood."
It made me ill to watch.
After the goat-slaying, we're treated to the Vanasse family bugging out from Houston in full personal protective gear. Houston, TX, is not the place you want to be bugging out from wearing bulky protective suits and without your air conditioner running, but the Vanasse family did so, even thought it left them drenched in sweat. Once they arrived at the compound to a bit of staged drama, the two patriarchs take the National Geographic camera crew to test some "IEDs" they've concocted for their defense.
These devices are nothing more or less than tannerite targets with a couple of plastic bottles of flammable liquids and some shrapnel added, detonated by shooting them. It's the kind of amateurish defensive theater we've come to expect from the show, and the shot will be taken from an absurdly conspicuous lookout station, a hunting blind 20-feet above the south Texas scrub brush that is little but a target itself.
Unsurprisingly, there is a hitch.
While Tom Perez successfully manages to engage his target with his long-barreled AR-15 thrust through the window of the enclosed blind successfully, Steven Vanasse is armed with a Sig 551-A1, a Swiss rifle with a shorter barrel that is inside the enclosed space when he fires.
Tom goes down in pain, deafened and nauseous, and they are forced to call an ambulance.
The Preppers producers, with their expected ignorance of firearms, explain that the device on the end of Vanasse's rifle is a muzzle brake, which directs gasses (and sound) to the side of the weapon to reduce recoil and "increase accuracy." That is not correct. The Sig 551-A1 shown is configured with a flash-hider, which swirls the gasses to reduce visible muzzle flash, but does not direct the blast sideways. It wasn't remotely the fault of the gun but of the idiot firing in an enclosed space.
In the end, despite the millions of dollars spent, Tom Perez was laid low by an amateurish decision that almost cost him his hearing. It was a circus of an episode, and easily the most disturbing so far.
Check out Bob Owens' previous reviews of "Doomsday Preppers":
And see Chris Queen's write-up from season one: