Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Oct. 12, 1999 /2 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Suzanne Fields
Arianna Huffington
Tony Snow
Michael Barone
Michael Medved
Ch. Krauthammer
Betsy Hart
Lawrence Kudlow
Greg Crosby
Kathleen Parker
Dr. Laura
Debbie Schlussel
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Bob Greene
Michelle Malkin
Paul Greenberg
MUGGER
David Limbaugh
David Corn
Marianne Jennings
Sam Schulman
George Will
Mort Zuckerman
Chris Matthews
Nat Hentoff
Larry Elder
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Don Feder
Linda Chavez
Mona Charen
Thomas Sowell
Walter Williams
Ben Wattenberg
Bruce Williams
Dr. Peter Gott
Consumer Reports
Weekly Standard

Econophone

Divorced dads ready to wage a revolution

http://www.jewishworldreview.com --
WASHINGTON -- Dr. Ned Holstein, physician and president of the Massachusetts-based Fathers and Families, is projecting numbers, graphs and percentages on the screen. He uses words such as strategy, constituency and, yes, even revolution.

No longer a glossary word in history books, the R-word is being revived by divorced fathers who, impatient with lawyers, legislators and judges, are ready to bloody their white flags.

One cannot exaggerate the extent of anger, pain and frustration among the hundreds of thousands -- maybe millions -- of men who now constitute what is loosely known as the Fatherhood Movement. I've met many of them, talked to them, listened.

These doctors, lawyers, psychologists, lobbyists and laborers are not an insignificant body. Many are well-educated; more are getting organized; all are motivated by a degree of anger that is potentially volatile and should not be ignored. They'vereached the boiling point, they say, and they've exhausted the system.

Holstein's presentation was one of many at the recent Children's Rights Council's annual meeting in Alexandria, Va. The CRC is one of the oldest, better organized of the 500 or so "fathers" groups in the United States that deal with issues of divorce and family. I qualify "fathers" because, though most groups focus on men's issues, many of their members are women who also believe that children need, want and deserve fathers.

I attended the CRC meeting as an invited (unpaid) speaker and listened to Holstein's presentation with a mixture of concern and sadness but, more important, of apprehension. I believe in the sincerity of these men, in their desire to be a part of their children's lives, in their sense that they've been mistreated by courts that award children like chattel to mothers and treat fathers as mere financial providers.

Concern and sadness are reasonable responses to that understanding and to the fact that 82 percent of children from divorced families have little more than a visitation relationship with their fathers. According to the 1989 Census, 37.9 percent of divorced fathers have no access to their children.


Granted, not all these disenfranchised dads are model citizens. Some really are bad guys who don't care about their kids, beat up their wives or shirk duty and responsibility. But experience and the preponderance of research do not support the widespread belief that most men are deadbeat, abusive and neglectful, nor the public policies that treat all men accordingly.

Were mothers routinely robbed of their children, barred from their homes and jailed for failing to pay extortionate sums, we would see blood in the streets. And, curiously, sympathy from the grandstands.

Men get no such sympathy, and that's where the apprehension comes in. When people are pushed to their limit, when they feel mistreated, unheard and unseen; when they feel that they've been robbed of the only things that matter -- they tend to get ugly.

"You can only torture people for so long," said Stuart Miller, senior legislative analyst for the American Fathers Coalition. "You can't steal something as important as someone's children and money and property and think you can walk away without any repercussions."

Miller predicts that Holstein's theories of social change will seem like a dream compared with the nightmares simmering in someone's living room in every town or city, in every state, every night of the week. Violence is inevitable, he said, as evidenced by the American courthouse decor these days. Call it police-baroque. Only the Berlin Wall had more barricades, metal detectors and armed guards.

"Why would the government be so afraid of the people?" asked Miller. "Is it because the people are bad actors or because the government is acting bad?"

Good question. The answer is, we're all acting badly within a system that treats divorcing couples as enemies, courtrooms as war zones, judges as arbiters of issues more emotional and psychological than legal, and children as hostages to be traded for dollars.

The divorce system is counterintuitive and morally bankrupt, and needs reinventing before talk of revolution becomes action. What the organized fathers' groups want isn't wrong or mean-spirited but right and fair to children. Who among us can blame a man, wrongfully denied his own child, for shouting out that he was framed?


JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

Up

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