Iím sitting on my couch digesting all of the comments generated from my post and feel pretty confident to once again stick my neck out like I have done so often over the past 2 Ĺ months. I respect all those who have been kind enough to add their opinions to my view, and needless to say, itís been very insightful and enlightening.
While writing my original letter I knew very well the response and reactions I would receive. I knew that I had to generalize in order to understand where people really stood and I had to prod hard in order to get honest replies. I didnít want my letter to get tossed to the side like so many other posts, and clearly that objective was met. I believe there are some very deep issues and steep divides between the generations. A divide that neither you or I will ever be able to mend in our lifetimes, but one that I believe is well worth the effort to try to heal. I apologize if I may have caused undue pain to any of you in my posting, please let me explain my intentions, and you can take it or leave it.
Like many others, my personal family has been extremely traumatized by the affects that The Family had on us. As a child of 7, I was taken to the "mission field" away from my "secular" mother and have been dealing with the consequences of my fatherís decisions ever since. By the time I was reunited with my mother I couldnít even remember what she looked like because it had been 10 years since I had seen a single photo of her. My mother was the "bridge to my past that needed to be burned," according to my shepherds. During those 10 years apart, I, too, was subjected to the sexual and psychological abuse that many SGAís and FGAís alike went through. I donít think itís very fair that a kid had to go thru that, but I count my lucky stars that at least I wasnít a pretty little teenage girl like my wife and my sisters. My wife doesnít even recall all the abuse she suffered as a very young child because her mind has blocked it out. Thatís how prolific and evil it was.
Still, even after all the abuse, pain, tearing apart of my nuclear family my father has been fortunate to receive mine and my sistersí forgiveness and acceptance. My father was a lot like most of you. He didnít have a big ministry and he was never a leader for too long. He was your typical FGA: joined The Family as a hippy for a brief period with what I believe were pure intentions, left for a couple years and then rejoined with me and my 4 sisters in Ď85. He was your average Joe who carried out his work in his neck of the woods with his head in the sand not even realizing the pain that was being reeked on his children. Why? Because thatís just the way it happened. And even after all this I love my father and would take a bullet for him any day of the week. It hurts me to see the pain my old man is going through, the guilt, the remorse, the consequences of his choices. He was never an abuser, just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Itís taken us nearly a decade to understand what each other went through, itís taken us nearly a decade to make amends, and at last the healing has begun with him finally taking full, unequivocal responsibility for what we went through and the pain my family has suffered.
I know that we were all victims of sorts. I believe that the majority of the FGAís joined The Family with pure and idealistic intentions. My uncle, Jim La Mattery, has helped me understand that in the beginning you were all brothers. Being a hippy was hip, being an activist was hipper. I understand the system that The Family has in place by recruiting new members, breaking them in slowly, giving them the milk for the babes before feeding them the meat. I can see clearly the way people get hooked by predators like that, the old bait and switch program. After reading your posts Iím seeing how many FGAís got tricked into the group and were like the olí frog that got boiled alive. You didnít see it coming and thankfully we all were able to get out before the pot boiled. I can understand the pain that was inflicted upon you by The Familyís doctrines: the marriages that were thrown together and torn apart, your kids getting placed in combos and schools, and you feeling pressured to abide by The Familyís rules of absolute obedience. If I had it my way, Iíd try to re-write history; unfortunately thatís not an option.
And now after all this weíre left with the broken pieces and shattered lives that remain. I wish I could take away the pain, remorse, guilt and consequences that people are suffering. I wish I could go back and take away the pain my wife went through. I canít. I have to deal with the cards destiny has dealt me and determine to fight on. Many of you probably think Iím an FGA hater, and I donít blame you. My initial post was extremely explosive. The reality is that Iím not, and I donít believe many of your kids are either. To me this issue can be resolved very simply, the same way my family has come together to resolve ours: by a genuine apology and genuine forgiveness.
I donít speak for all the SGAs, and itís no oneís place to even assume they have all the answers. I simply have an opinion that I want to offer, an opinion that I believe in my gut is worth fighting for. For me, the past is the past; however, that past is also my present and my future. No matter how successful I am in my career or in my life, my past will always define me, as will yours. I have to accept that for some reason unknown to me, destiny determined that I be brought into The Family, destiny determined that I suffered abuse in The Family, destiny determined that I will never, ever be just another dude. And Iím just learning now how to embrace destinyís call on my life.
Iím passionate in this quest. Iím passionate in my own pursuit for justice. Why? Because the day Abe died I made him a promise in my heart that I would not allow his death to be swept under a rug and forgotten. Rickís death solidified my decision.
Speaking of Rick, I never met him. We were not personal friends. Until about a month ago I never had the pleasure of meeting his widow, Elixcia. Still, I understood right away that Rickís memorial is significant and Rickís video needed to be distributed. I also understood the cost of venturing out into the "enemyís territoryĒ: the backlash of The Familyís very personal attacks against the people speaking out. The fact that for generations to come anyone, including my future grandkids, will google my name and know all that I stood for. I understood the gamble of having my name in public for my professional life. I understood it will take years for me to reestablish any sort of relationship with my in-laws who are still in the group. And after all this you ask me why I did it? Because itís right.
Why do I feel so passionate about Rickís memorial when the reality is that Iím a ďsystemiteĒ and donít really need to be bothered by such an event? Because I, like most of you, am sick and tired of The Familyís BS. Iím sick and tired of having both SGA and FGA alike commit suicide over The Familyís nonsense. Iím livid about how theyíve demonized Rick. Rickís memorial is a statement by all those who attend or send support that Zerbyís days are numbered and sheís been found wanting. Rick was a kid that just wanted to be left on his own, but felt he had a duty to his generation to stop the cycle of abuse. Thatís Rickís message, thatís what Zerby needs to hear every waking day of her sorrowful life. I threw my full support behind Elixcia and stepped up to the plate knowing full well the ramifications of my decision. Itís been the best decision Iíve ever made.
As for the memorial, we could just write Elixcia a check and not have the finances be an issue. I could send her the full fee to cover her costs in order to simplify things. Or, we could just expect Elixcia to go back to her part time job (sheís also a college student) and pay for the whole shebang. But thatís not right. It would be a disservice to Rick and everyone for one person to handle the tab. Rickís family was The Family. The people who killed Rick was his family. He was a part in all our lives, we are a part of him in his death. Itís common sense that Elixcia would want nothing to do with the people who killed her husband. I support her legal given right to bury Rick in whatever fashion she deems appropriate, and if The Family doesnít agree . . . sue me. I believe that sending a contribution is a small gesture with a strong message. The memorial is open to any generation willing to attend for this very purpose.
When the day is done, my personal objective is in knowing that I did all I could to help bring a spotlight to the issues I believe are important. This is my lifeís calling and Iím determined to see through that which destiny has placed on my shoulders. I will not stop until I believe that the parents and the kids have healed. I will not stop until I know in my heart that Iíve done all I could to stop the proliferation of suicides.
John La Mattery Jr.