After we had settled into the routine of belonging to “the group”, as we called it, it was relatively easy to know what was expected of us, as children. I knew I needed to obey anything and everything my parents (or other adults) told me, with no questions. I knew I wasn’t allowed to complain about things I didn’t want to do, or argue with my parents about anything. As a child, I was inherently inferior to adults. I was not their equal. I learned this through watching Mr. LaQuiere, my parents, and the other adults routinely put down children. We were taught we were all full of “foolishness”. We “needed our wills broken”. We needed to be taught our place. We needed to learn absolute obedience and submission to authority.
I still remember the exact place I was when Mr. LaQuiere told my parents explicitly what “complete submission” meant. “If I told my 15-year-old daughter to take off all her clothes, and get down on her hands and knees and bark like a dog, she should obey me instantly,” he said. “That is the kind of obedience children must give their parents. Absolute obedience, without questioning.” This level of humiliation had never even occurred to me. To know that it was possible was a very distressing thought. Would my parents or Mr. LaQuiere ever order me to humiliate myself like this? I silently decided that if my dad ever told me to strip naked and bark like a dog, I wouldn’t, no matter how much I was punished.
I didn’t mind the idea of obeying, because I was naturally obedient. But I hated the “without question” part. I liked to ask questions. I liked to know the reasons behind things. I liked to know the ‘why’, not because I wanted to “challenge my parents’ authority”, as Mr. LaQuiere called it, but because I genuinely wanted to know. I had an active mind, and it was always probing to get to the bottom of things, to know why they worked the way they did. I was told this was disrespectful to my authorities, and that they should never be questioned. I didn’t need to know the reasons. I was only a child. I had no right to know.
This absolute, unquestioning obedience did not just apply to small children. It applied to all children (a label determined not by maturity, but by parentage), regardless of age. Mr. LaQuiere expected his adult sons and daughters to snap to attention and instantly obey with the same cheerful alacrity that he expected from a 5-year-old. This system was put in place by God himself, and it was God who said that any child who did not obey was rebellious, and should be stoned to death by his parents, his siblings, his friends, and everyone else as a lesson in how seriously He viewed disobedience.
Obedience was a universally-praised virtue, with the exception of men. Men didn’t need to obey anybody (except God, that is). But wives, children, and dogs were all expected to obey. Dogs and children were often trained with similar methods. We had a small, fluffy, Maltese puppy named Sasha. She was friendly and happy, and eager to please. But just as my parents were told they didn’t know how to train us the right way, Mr. LaQuiere told them they were failing in training our puppy as well. She needed to learn absolute obedience as well. She needed to instantly come every time she was called. She needed to be punished severely for every infraction, whether it was not coming right away, or making an accident on the rug during the process of house-training her. Any time we found a mess she made, Mr. LaQuiere said, we needed to drag her over to it, rub her nose in the excrement, and tell her “BAD DOG!” in stern, disappointed tones. He demonstrated this for us multiple times. I felt bad for her…she looked so forlorn and sad, being reprimanded for making a mistake. But Mr. LaQuiere said it was the only way to train a dog. If she didn’t come when she was called, he demonstrated the proper punishment technique – sometimes he would drag her by her collar or the scruff of her neck. Sometimes he would hit her, not with a rolled-up-newspaper, which he said was useless, but with his hand. One time when he was correcting her for something, and dangling her in the air by the scruff of her neck, she yipped at him. I imagine it hurt to be hung in the air by her skin like that. He responded by throwing her against the wall. Never allow a dog to challenge your authority like that, he told us. I still remember how she yelped, and what she looked like in a frightened heap on the floor, her sides heaving in and out. After Mr. LaQuiere “trained” her in obedience, she did learn to come when called…her tail between her legs, often slinking along the floor, looking guilty and anxious, never knowing if she was going to be smacked across the room, or welcomed. Poor little Sasha. She wanted so badly to please us. I honestly think she didn’t know what she was being punished for most of the time. My parents might have thought his techniques were more cruel, if it weren’t for the fact that there wasn’t a single one that he didn’t also use on children.
Children, dogs, and wives were taught absolute obedience. In wives, however, it was called “submission”. Wives were to submit absolutely to their husbands, who were the heads of the family, and their authorities. This was true not only if the husband was right in what he asked, or if was kind, but also if he was cruel or wrong. Mr. LaQuiere said God instructed wives to submit, and men to love their wives: and one way to love wives was to teach them to submit. One Wednesday night, he described how he taught his own wife absolute submission. He called it “The Story of 11 Mile”. He and Mrs. LaQuiere were driving somewhere one day, and it was a place they hadn’t been before, so Mrs. LaQuiere was trying to help him find the way there. They needed to turn on 11 Mile, so as they were driving, she saw it, too late, and said, “Dear, we’ve passed 11 Mile!” He said she was wrong, he was sure they hadn’t passed it yet. She disagreed. He was displeased by her lack of submission. As they drove on, it quickly became clear to him that they had, in fact, passed 11 Mile. But this was not important compared to the fact that Mrs. LaQuiere had insisted on contradicting him, showing him disrespect, and refusing to submit to him and agree that he was right. So to teach her a lesson, he refused to turn around, until she showed submission by saying “You’re right, dear, we didn’t pass 11 Mile.” Apparently she didn’t want to do this for a while, and he kept right on driving. Finally she told him, “You’re right, dear. We haven’t passed 11 Mile.” Once she submitted to him by accepting that he was right, no matter what, he turned the car around, and they drove on to their destination.
Today I think of this, and I HAVE. NO. WORDS. What the heck?! He was wrong, and she merely pointed out that he passed a street, but he couldn’t even allow her to think he might have made a mistake. His pride, his sense of absolute authority and need for submission was so great that he actually forced his wife to lie to him and tell him he was right, before he would make a simple U-turn. Poor Mrs. LaQuiere. I sometimes wonder how she stood it.
Mr. LaQuiere’s worldview was simple: wives, children and dogs were all divinely ordained to be submissive and obedient to him. He wasn’t being revolutionary – he was just following God’s plan. It wasn’t his fault that God had made him male, human, and given him offspring. He knew his place in God’s design, and no one was going to shove him out of his rightful position of superiority.