Jewish World Review Jan. 18, 2000/ 23 Teves 5761
Don't look for lesson in this tale
SOMETIMES a story is so bad it's hard to find a moral.
So it is with the tale of a 14-year-old Canadian boy who
is starving himself to protest his lousy lot at the hands
of his divorced parents and the court system.
Meet Clayton Giles, who began the new year with a
hunger strike, a Web site legalkids.com and an agenda
to make children's voices heard in family court.
That agenda, though complicated in its execution and
anything but simple in Clayton's case, may be the only
redeeming feature of what is otherwise a tragedy and a
bizarre extension of virtual reality. Forget millionaires,
survivors and couples foiled by temptation. In Clayton's
case, we all get to witness the slow starvation of a
child while his adult protectors stand back and keep
Even the most twisted voyeur among us must feel
shame at this exploitation of a child's willingness to
love his parents even unto death.
As I write, Clayton is on his 15th day of the strike. He decided to stop eating
because, according to his journal, he wants his father to have full parental
custody. Clayton has been living with his father for a year, after running away
from his mother's home for the third time. She had too many rules, he says; Dad
lets him be himself.
It's hard to keep up with the chronology of this dysfunctional family, but after
talking to all the players, I can confidently say no one is winning. Even so,
various advocates and agitators have managed to align themselves with their
favorite character. Divorced custodial mothers can sympathize with Clayton's
mother, Marnie Harrison, a schoolteacher who had to declare bankruptcy owing
to legal bills and whose ex-husband owes $45,000 in child support.
Fathers' rights groups have glommed onto Eric Giles and his brave little son for
manning the front lines in the cause of disenfranchised fathers and gender bias in
the courts. Although lots of fathers have been wrongly disenfranchised -- and too
many children cruelly deprived of access to both parents -- court records unfit for
reprinting suggest that Eric Giles falls short of the poster dad fatherhood
advocates might have hoped for.
As hunger strikes go, this one has been effective. Clayton has gotten plenty of
media attention; reporters and TV cameras can be found at his home and outside
the courthouse where the boy holds daily vigils. But at what point will Clayton
have starved enough? When will a responsible adult step into this picture? Who's
Even though child protective services investigators are following the case, and
Giles takes his son to a doctor every two days to monitor his health, clearly
Clayton is in charge.
Although the emotional toll of divorce on children can hardly be overestimated, we
seem confused about the meaning and intent of "children's rights" and the need
to hear children's voices in divorce. Children are not equal partners with adults at
the negotiating table. Regardless of their willingness to cooperate, they're not
equipped emotionally or intellectually to determine their own best interest.
There's a difference, meanwhile, between empowering a child to make adult
decisions and a child's right to be loved and protected by his parents. Which
explains the difficulty of finding a moral to this story. In granting Clayton adult
power over his well-being while depriving him of the protection he deserves, his
father helped script an immoral
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
01/15/01: It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it
01/08/01: Middle-school fanny slap or sexual assault? You decide
12/28/00: Doesn't take village to see through this
12/26/00: Guess who's whining about Bush's Cabinet of Diversity?
12/21/00: Kiss our coarse era goodbye
12/19/00: Ready to lay to rest the past and press onward
12/13/00: Court has Supreme authority
12/06/00: Legal relief: Attorneys in Florida court are welcome shift
12/04/00: When rules become flexible, children misbehave
11/29/00: Hard to forgive Dems' divisiveness
11/23/00: The answers aren't so complicated
11/21/00: The devil -- or is it really Nurse Ratchet? -- in Mr. Gore
11/16/00:In the end, the winner may be loser
11/13/00: Eliminate popular vote -- at least in Palm Beach County
11/07/00: Lesser of 2 evils? It's more like the lesser of 2 lies
11/02/00: Latest Jones' saga exposes a big irony
10/31/00: Hate-crime legislation and anti-Bush ad are flawed
10/26/00: Taking it to the streets
10/23/00: Headlines blur fiasco of family
10/13/00: Forget polls: Bush passes turtle test
10/06/00: Feminism: A cup that's half full?
10/04/00: Election-year reality check: Abortion is here to stay
09/29/00: For Gore and Hollywood, the mirror has two faces
09/26/00: Oprahfication of presidential political: It's all about feelings
09/19/00: It's not subliminal: Hypocrisy of moral outrage is obvious
09/15/00: So wear, oh wear, are we headed?
09/11/00: Do Steinem's wedding bells sound feminist death knells?
09/08/00: Grounded in her fears about flying
08/31/00: Dudettes that don't
08/29/00: AlGore wants to be his own man -- does he know who that is?
08/21/00: Dems manufacture emotions at convention
08/17/00: Hollywood divine? AlGore is miscast
08/08/00:Outreach: Good strategy and long-run policy
08/04/00: A sharp look back at the Vietnam War
08/01/00: Bush's choice of grown-up Cheney is a stroke of genius
07/24/00: Fired up and grossed out over stupid Canadians
07/20/00: Lack of judgment --- our critical flaw
07/18/00: 'Progress' for women often a step back
07/11/00: School essay watchdogs cannibalize our children
07/06/00: Youths fear marriage --- blame boomers
06/28/00: Eminem might just have a point
06/21/00: Bridging the day-care divide
06/15/00: N.Y. baby case ends up with multiracial scrambled eggs
05/31/00: The war only time wins
05/25/00: The opposite of sex
05/18/00: World War II gave us our true heroes
05/11/00: Boy Crazy! stacks deck against guys
05/09/00: Finding out where the boys are
05/05/00: A born Ms. Leader -- Barbie for prez
04/25/00: From here to paternity
04/14/00: Boys should be boys, not viewed as criminals in training
04/11/00: Oh, for a standard of what is socially, morally acceptable
04/06/00: Womyn's Contempt for Commitment --- and the bastards it creates
04/04/00: Sue-happy American society is out of control
03/30/00: Duct-taped baby serves as warning
03/28/00: Stay-home parents know that their kids need them
03/24/00: No 'Great Expectations' when schools shun the classics
03/21/00: It's common sense to restrict Internet usage in libraries
03/17/00: You want to be just a mom? For shame!
03/14/00: Colonoscopy: Important, but bad TV
03/10/00: I made a mistake about trigger-locks
03/08/00: After this school shooting, no easy target for our contempt
03/03/00: Car crash helps bridge our divide
02/28/00: Nasty politics? Americans like it down, dirty
02/14/00: College testing via
Lego-building -- yeah, right
02/02/00: Bubba should spare us phony love theatrics
01/26/00: What sets off Those Who Speak for Women
01/13/00: Fools in love: Premarital counseling could help school kids
01/11/00: Who funds these studies!?
12/29/99: Grandparents' rights impinge on family autonomy
12/13/99: When did fathers become fair game?
12/09/99: Don't be stupid about at-risk kids
12/07/99: Pokemon is no substitute for a father
12/02/99: Blaming the victim --- men
11/30/99: Baby-killer's story has less-than-Precious ending
11/23/99: Pendulum swings back toward discipline, responsibility
11/18/99: Put the babies first in this mighty mess
11/11/99: Skip the applause for this baby news
11/09/99: Gore could benefit from a secret in Wolf's clothing
11/03/99: Who needs 'birds and bees' when we have MTV?
11/01/99: Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say
10/26/99: Children's needs must take priority in divorce system
10/19/99: The deadbeat dad is less a scoundrel than an object of pity
10/15/99: Bullying boys ... and girls
10/12/99: Divorced dads ready to wage a revolution
10/04/99: A father's best gift? His presence
09/30/99: Sorry, guys, Faludi is no friend of yours
09/28/99: Science's new findings: Scary future for families
09/23/99: The great blurring of need and want
09/21/99:Focus on more than baby's first 3 years
09/16/99: Commentary from kids sheds no light on day-care debate
09/14/99: Fathers' group seeks to right inequities
09/09/99: Son now has a license to grow up
09/07/99: A slap in the face of domestic violence
09/01/99: No, ma'am: Legislation on manners misses the mark
08/26/99: For better boys, try a little tenderness
08/24/99:The ABC's of campaign questions
08/19/99: Male 'sluts'
08/11/99: Language doesn't excuse bad behavior
08/09/99: When justice delayed is still justice
08/03/99: Unemployment? Not in this profession
07/30/99: It's not about race -- it's about crack babies
07/22/99: Tragedy tells us what's important
07/19/99: Study denouncing fathers sends danger signals
07/15/99:'Happy marriage' belongs in the
Dictionary of Oxymorons next to 'deliciously low-fat.'
07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
07/08/99: Only parents can fix broken families
07/06/99: America is home, sweet home
07/01/99: Tales out of Yuppiedom
06/28/99: Men aren't the only abusers
06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me
06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology
©1999, Tribune Media Services