Until that moment, some part of me wanted the Feds to come, had craved the adventure. Now I felt real fear.
A persistent question that Tara and her siblings must contend with throughout their upbringing is whether to buy into Gene’s world or not. He promises them a scary world that comes with the blessings of navigating it under his command. When he tells them about Randy Weaver being shot by the government, Tara has an early brush with having to consider the worth of what he said or not. Here, Tara begins to reflect on the kind of world she wishes to experience.
Mother didn’t want to be a midwife. Midwifery had been Dad’s idea, one of his schemes for self-reliance. There was nothing he hated more than our being dependent on the Government.
"The Government" is one of Gene’s most frequent scapegoats, and he uses it here to force Faye into a career she doesn’t want—assigning her an identity she doesn’t want—because it aligns with his ideas about self-sufficiency. Faye spends much of her time as a midwife uncomfortable at best and terrified at worst, out of her depth.
He returned to his reading, and I left quietly. I did not need any explanation; I knew what the story meant. It meant that I was not the daughter he had raised, the daughter of faith. I had tried to sell my birthright for a mess of pottage.
After falling from the tractor and receiving a massive leg gash, Tara tells Gene that she wants to go to school. Gene, reading the Bible, rebukes her, and tells her that the members of his family obey the Lord’s commandments. He tells her of the story of Jacob and Esau, implying she can either fall in line with the family, or she can consider herself not part of it.
I had a single friend, named Jessica. A few years before, Dad had convinced her parents, Rob and Diane, that public schools were little more than Government propaganda programs, and since then they had kept her at home. Before her parents had pulled Jessica from school, she was one of them, and I never tried to talk to her; but after, she was one of us. The normal kids stopped including her, and she was left with me.
Tara here cites an incident in which her father uses an us vs. them mentality to further his own agenda. This serves the dual function of isolating her from her peers and welcoming additional converts into the fold. The incident demonstrates a strategy he employs most frequently, one in which he nullifies the possibility of further thought or reflection; the notion of joining is rooted in not just an opposition to the government, but in the need to belong to something.
I’d always known that my father believed in a different God. As a child, I’d been aware that although my family attended the same church as everyone in our town, our religion was not the same. They believed in modesty; we practiced it. They believed in God’s power to heal; we left our injuries in God’s hands. They believed in preparing for the Second coming; we were actually prepared.
Gene has done a troublingly efficient job of isolating his family. Paramount in doing so is his ability to instill the notion that everyone who isn’t fully on board with his views is the enemy—even other God-fearing families who, by most definitions, believe in all the same things.