Letters to the Editor

Cult Classic

Defending the indefensible: It is not a simple task to encapsulate in 6,500 words the twisted and disturbing history of The Family International ["Family Ties," November 17], yet Craig Malisow did so brilliantly in his well-researched article. I spent the first 24 years of my life in the Family, and the article imparted to me a sense of validation of my own experiences in the cult.

I found myself smiling in amusement at the defensive statements of current members, because there was a time when I, too, would have defended my abusers and their actions in precisely the same naive manner. Sadly, the second-generation Family members are now left to defend the indefensible, enabling the abusers being decried by their siblings and former friends to slink silently into the background.

Stephan Schmidt
Dallas

Best yet: I just wanted to say that your article "Family Ties" was right on the money, perhaps the best anybody's written about the Children of God/Family International yet. Many media sources make the Family out to be an ultra-sinister organization, which isn't really true -- it is an organization with a lot of skeletons in its closet and some pretty fucked-up leaders, but many of the average members are great people who are trying to do some useful things. The group's current leaders are responsible for the abuse of thousands of children in the 1980s, and if they would admit to their crimes and resign, it's possible that the group could become a legitimate part of society. Thanks again for the excellent article.

Peter Markoff
Geneva, Switzerland

Great service:Thank you for objectivity and for performing a journalist's role with honor -- you should be commended in some official capacity.

For more than 23 years, I was conned by this group's cult leadership. My children woke me up finally, and we left. We have had a long, difficult road out of cultic sycophancy and religious coercion. It takes years to recover from such abuses, if it happens at all. You have performed a service to society with your article.

In Shakespeare's Henry IV, when Hotspur is being bored by an unctuous guy who claims he can call spirits from the dead, Hotspur says, "Yes, but will they come? You should shame the devil and speak the truth, shame the devil and speak the truth."

Thank you for speaking the truth, even though some people can feel no shame.

Name withheld by request
Tokyo

Golden Nugget

Delicious cheese:Bravo for the spot-on review of Michael Golden's Project Row House art installation! You understand how tricky it is not only to review art-as-social-action experiment, but art installations that are site-specific ["Round Here," by Keith Plocek, November 17].

Fortunately, you are familiar with Rick Lowe and know that his vision was about more than development of a historical area; it's also about cultural dialogue among artists, residents and buildings to strengthen the developing community. You wisely say that with such art, a critic must "take into account the context of the work."

I could see the wall you described covered with "hundreds (maybe thousands) of keys" --"multicolored bits of metal" -- and other walls on which dangle more keys "placed there by visitors who have written their hopes and secrets on tags attached to them." You say that the "visual effect is appealing" and that the project works, "especially when you see how many people have participated." Bingo! You nailed it.

In the artist statement, which I found clear, concise and heartfelt, Golden states that he was drawn to the use of keys in his installation when he saw them "placed prominently in PRH events." He gives the example of keys "handed to new owners of housing created by the Row Houses Community Development Corp.," noting that "the key not only symbolizes a home, but the dreams…that a family has of safety, warmth and unity."

Golden's statement for you, however, "drips more cheese than a plate of soggy nachos." Well, in New Mexico, we like our nachos dripping -- yes, even soggy -- with hot cheese melting over corn chips, covered -- yes, even soggy -- with salsa and sour cream. Hmmm. Delicious. So this New Mexican takes your comment as a backhanded compliment.

You remain stuck on food when you venture into the hypothetical world of "museum" visitors who, you speculate, would get stomachaches if they saw the installation. Say what? We're not talkin' museum here, we're talkin' Project Row Houses and its many visitors, who showed much enthusiasm with nary a request for Pepto-Bismol.

Then you unearth a "wiseass" who "wishes people would be more honest about what they're wishing for." Huh? Is someone screening the folks' honesty as they voluntarily write down a dream or a secret?

Earth to Plocek: Please return to the Golden installation and finish your review.

Enter into "the context of the work." Experiment. Select a key and write on its tag a dream or a secret that's been locked up within you for years, then hang that key -- one more "multicolored bit of metal" -- on the wall. Read some of the other tags. Then, back at your desk, tell your readers about your participation, which is more than a description of the installation. Never mind the wiseasses and museum visitors; we want to hear from you -- our respected art critic.

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