Welcome to my blog and the reference point in my fight against an archaic, unjust family court system in Marshall County, Alabama. I plan on posting my thoughts, items of interest, and resources I find helpful in hopes that it can be helpful to someone else. Now take a deep breath. Here I go...
Please visit http://www.alfra.org for the only organization in Alabama that promotes the concept that children need each of their fit parents.
Please visit http://www.alfra.org for the only organization in Alabama that promotes the concept that children need each of their fit parents.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Why we fight, and why you should too
We are the accused rabble-rousers. The trouble makers. The ones who will not stop. We are the stick in the craw of the Alabama legislator, and the bane of the existence of the Alabama judge. We are the parents accused of simply being "disgruntled" or "angry because we lost our divorce" - allegations lodged to encourage others to disregard our message, without ever actually hearing it.
We are the ones who refuse to go silently into the night. We recognize that silence equals consent, and because of our experiences we cannot remain silent any longer. We are not special nor do we believe we possess any great abilities that parents before us did not have. We are simply a part of the natural progression of humans when faced with injustice. As the great Declaration of Independence notes,
"All experience hath shewn (sic) that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."
- Thomas Jefferson, 1776
We are also not the first ones to suffer. Parents have been suffering under these "evils" for some time now. We are not even among the first to call for changing "the forms to which we are accustomed." The State's encroachment into the parent-child relationship started many years ago. As the State slowly injected itself and asserted their authority over our children's lives, the parents before us operated under the assumption that the "evils are sufferable." As time has gone by, and the Government continues its snowball of power, we must reassess that assumption now.
Our response is therefore not reactionary, it is the result of the failure of friendly negotiations. Because of the intently personal nature of our cause, those that fought before us within the system have largely gone unnoticed. Many were simply chewed up and spit out by the system, not having the ability to counter such aggressive measures in the face of such odds. Many wrongly assumed, like I did at the beginning, that they were alone the victim of singular incidents of mistakes compounded by other mistakes which produced such abhorrent results.
Our forebears did not realize that they were not, if fact, alone in their suffering. They did not realize that their suffering, and their children's suffering, rather than being a random set of circumstances, were actually the result of a systematic effort to make the children wards of the State, under the guise of protecting the child (from what? their parents?) and also reducing the State burden of welfare programs. Far from reducing the State burden, it has overwhelmingly been increased making their programs a colossal failure (of their stated purposes) which the politicians will not admit. Far from protecting our children, they have made it more likely for them to suffer from poverty, abuse, addiction, and teen pregnancy. In the process, they have hamstrung the parents and prevented their taking any meaningful action to protect their children. What's worse, the policies we labor under actually encourage some parents to abandon their child by failing to respect their necessity of survival.
Meanwhile, our children suffer and their parents suffer. But the State coffers continue to fill with federal tax dollars, funding intended to be a blessing but which has become a curse for the parents of Alabama. Some refuse to admit sinister motives have led to this travesty (meanwhile they ignore the travesty itself simply because they do not believe intent). I agree wholeheartedly. I do not think that most of the folks perpetrating these injustices are necessarily "evil" people. Many may believe they are doing the "right thing" failing to realize the true consequences of their actions. They cover themselves in the regal robe of State law, and claim righteousness when their actions are proven improper through the suffering of others.
Some of these judges, lawyers, and legislators would do well to remember that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." It is not their intent that matters, it is the results of their actions that cause the suffering. Most amazingly to me, when confronted by those that suffer under their actions, they refuse to accept any responsibility and deflect by denying the problem even exists. The regal robe of the State protects them from any consequences.
In order for the regal robe to be cast off of these State actors, to expose them to the consequences of their actions, the people must not remain silent. Remaining silent, however, much like using the regal robe of the State to deflect criticism, is the easiest path. The one of least resistance. There will always be those who at the greatest times of crisis, prefer the easy route out. Whatever they do, they refuse to rock the boat. Others may be cast into the abyss, still more may suffer among us. Just don't rock the boat, no matter what.
These are the people that are responsible for the greatest calamities that befall mankind. These are the kinds of people that allowed slavery to persist for so long, which resulted in our Civil War when hundreds of thousands perished because those that came before them did not have the spine to tackle the problem resolutely. A half century of half measures, designed to placate all while placating none, building animosity and distrust that at once exploded into contempt and hatred.
These are the people that allowed slavery to be replaced with Jim Crow, which again systematically oppressed people. Does this mean that all white people hated or disliked blacks? Absolutely not. There were those whites that did express such ignorant sentiments based on race, but it was those who were too coward to repudiate the extremists that allowed the practice to continue. They had good reason one might say. To stand against the Klan in the 20th century meant that you could be ridiculed by your neighbors, family, and friends. You could have your family terrorized or your house burnt to the ground. It was easy if you did not want these things to happen, simply remain silent and let others speak for you. Many white folks encouraged this behavior, "don't start any trouble" they would say.
That was surely the intent of my brother-in-law when he came to my work one day to encourage me to stand down. He was very truly looking out for my best interests. It would have been easier, but not necessarily better, for me to have simply ignored the new Jim Crow and continue to suffer the discrimination and oppression silently like so many of those before me. In speaking to another father about our efforts, he mentioned those famous words that have been asked of him numerous times which I too have heard many times myself, "why are you doing this?"
He did not have an answer then and I do not have an exact one now. When faced with such odds and difficulties, and without any chance of respite, why would we wage this seemingly never ending battle? We will never have our rights restored. They cannot return to us the time we have lost with our children. Kids are only young once, as time goes by they grow older and we forever lose the ability to influence their development once we are restrained from exercising that influence. We forever lose those moments that did not happen, because the State of Alabama decided to make us visitors in our child's life. We make the best of what little time we have left with our children, knowing very well the value of such time because we realize that it can be taken from us in a moment.
There are those of you that might say, "the government cannot take my kids from me!" "The government cannot keep me from seeing my kids!" To you I plead, do not remain any longer in your slumber! Idealistic dreams can sometimes lead us astray when we refuse to confront the harsh reality of the experiences of others. We as a species are masters of the false belief that a great tragedy will not befall us like it has our neighbor when only pure happenstance prevents us from suffering a similar fate!
Once you have fallen into the quicksand, lifting yourself out is next to impossible. Even with the help of another on firmer ground, reprieve flows like molasses. That is why we must stand firm together when those among us may falter alone. By allowing those among us to suffer, we increase the likelihood of our own suffering and prolong its duration unnecessarily.
Folks suffer through the quicksand of tyranny and oppression for as long as they do because those with firmer standing do little to help alleviate their burdens. That's why slavery lasted as long as it did. That is why it was allowed to be replaced with Jim Crow. Slavery and Jim Crow laws were designed with the express purpose of benefiting one group of people economically while suppressing another. Jim Crow simply did through the law and disenfranchisement what had previously been enforced through the whip and chains.
The new Jim Crow is no different, but instead of being determined by race the oppressed are now determined by family status. The economic beneficiaries are (not unlike then) the government and those that they manipulate for their own aims. The new Jim Crow oppresses parents generally, most specifically noncustodial parents. It does not oppress all parents equally, which is where the devil of its perpetuation lies. While there are ways to avoid the harshest of its effects, its potential devastating effect on EVERY parent remains universal. Just because it has not happened TO YOU, does not mean that it cannot or will not.
That is why, as parents, we cannot merely stick our heads in the sand and hope that we will be somehow spared. That very sand is the quicksand of our demise. The faster we all realize that this can happen to me too, the faster we lift every one of us out of the same oppression and prevent the further perpetuation of its injustices.
When I think of why it is that some of us have chosen the path of most resistance by trying to spread the message of our common affliction, I am reminded of a book given to me by my grandmother who lived as a white person during the tyranny of others which was the old Jim Crow laws. The book was published in 1909 in response to an earlier treatise written to justify the inhumane "separate but equal" doctrine set forth in Plessy v. Ferguson. The earlier treatise was written by a Professor Carroll and entitled, "Man, and the Negro." Professor Carroll through his title and supposed biblical and scientific "truths," tried to perpetuate the myth of the separation of blacks from the rest of mankind, alleging he was not man but a "beast of the fields" which is clear to any modern reader to be fallacy of the greatest kind.
This the State government continues to do by placing upon parents terms such as "noncustodial" or "absent parent" which is a self-fulfilling prophesy by virtue of the State action which alone made us noncustodial parents and forced us under law to become absent from the majority of our child's life. There is no difference, in fact, between a noncustodial parent and any other parent. The difference arises only in the government's designation and the resulting restriction of all rights associated with being a parent. Much like there was no difference, in fact, between a white man and a black man. The difference only resulted from how they were treated by the law, and then restricted in exercising their rights as a human.
The book written in response to Professor Carroll's assault upon reason was written by W.S. Armistead and entitled, "The Negro is a Man!" In a sea of darkness, this book stood as a shining beacon of reason and truth. It would have been easier for the publishers of this book to have suppressed it. It would have been easier to have ignored the issue, but as the publishers note inside the front cover:
"[We] do not pretend to ignorance. We have not brought out the book hurriedly, and without due thought and consideration, but on the other hand we have had the manuscript under advisement for considerable time, and we have read and re-read it, until the ponderous sledge-hammer blows of Professor Carroll rang in our ears-until the clang and din of his arguments convinced us that it would be a sin before God and man to withhold from the reading public such an array of Biblical, scientific, and common sense arguments."
Why did Professor Carroll's disgusting diatribe represent "ponderous sledge-hammer blows" when his beliefs were nothing new at the time? His book could have been published 100 years prior and it would not have caused any waves of discourse. What was it that convinced the publishers "that it would be a sin before God and man to withhold" the information they admitted to holding prior to the "din and clang of his arguments"? The answer is one and the same as the answer to the question posed to many of us parents, ourselves in our own struggle for the equality of others.
I think the only reasonable answer I have been able to determine, for why I have hazarded myself and well being for this cause is that God Almighty himself put it upon my heart to do so. There is no yardstick or plainly stated doctrine which defines clearly what constitutes "a sin before God and man." It is something we seemingly just "know" but there must be a better reason. For many sins are committed daily, under our very nose though we may not immediately recognize them as such.
Knowledge is power as they say. However, it can also be a burden (as Adam and Eve found of the tree of the same name). Once learned, you cannot unlearn something. Sometimes you can forget, sure. However, there are some things in this life we cannot forget, try as we might. All of us parental rights advocates were silent at one time. Sometimes the only way to recognize injustice, is to experience it for yourself.
Once our eyes were opened to the atrocities, our silence meant that we were accomplices to the sin, much like a person who has prior knowledge of a murder, but does nothing to prevent it is as guilty of the crime as the murderer himself. We could not stand for our own hands to be red with the blood of the oppressed. We ended our silence, and therefore explicitly removed our consent to the actions.
However, people continue to suffer. We take our concerns to you, hoping that the "array of Biblical, scientific, and common sense arguments" might open your eyes to the falsehoods our own eyes cannot escape. The noncustodial parent IS A FIT PARENT! This State defined idea that custodial and noncustodial parents are "separate but equal" is no more true now for parents than it was in 1896 when the idea was first coined to perpetuate the myth of the division of the races.
While there is clearly a distinction that can be drawn from what differentiates between "good people" and "bad people," it cannot be drawn from inherent conclusions based upon one's race. However, it can be drawn from a person's actions, which they alone decide. Likewise, there are "good parents" and "bad parents," but this distinction cannot be drawn from State ordered custodial status. Especially when it is considered that custodial status is often granted based upon false pretenses, such as the female being superior to a male in the ability to raise a child.
While I know there are few that would defend that line of thinking, I know judges make life altering decisions EVERY day based upon the same foregone (and false) conclusions. That very set of beliefs is written into the fabric of Alabama child custody law, even if it has been ruled "inoperable" by the federal courts. It is in fact still a part of the codified laws and practiced as a matter of custom in the family courts.
Our children are still suffering. Our neighbors are still suffering. Why we stand here idle? What is it that you would have? Is your own life and well-being so dear as to be purchased with the chains of the enslavement of others, and likely yourself? Forbid it Almighty God!
My own eyes are open. I have seen the terror caused by our prior inaction. I cannot simply stick my head back into the sand and hope it does not happen to me. In truth, it already has. I feel as if I am trying to pull the heads of others out of the sand, only to have them fight against me for dear life to maintain their ignorance of reality.
Invariably, the question "why are you doing this?" is tinged with a measure of disapproval, as if our actions are unnecessary or that we are "taking things too far." Neither have we brought out our concerns "hurriedly, and without due thought and consideration." Funny thing though, there were those that said MLK's actions were unnecessary and took things "too far" as well yet it was exactly what was necessary for the blacks to finally throw off the invisible chains of the old Jim Crow.
While we labor under the chains of the new Jim Crow, we patiently wait for the rest of you to stand with us in an act of solidarity to protect our children. I don't know why exactly I do the things I do in this cause, but I know my answer henceforth to that question.
Simply put, the Good Lord has put it on my heart to do these things, and I will pray that He does the same to your heart. We need your help.
To those who would unfairly criticize our actions without FIRST attempting an honest assessment of our concerns. Know that history will be your judge, well after your Creator has determined your fate based upon your actions or lack thereof. Much like you can look upon preceding generations with contempt for their shortsightedness concerning the government sanctioned and enforced separation of the races, so too will future generations look upon us with that equal contempt for our alleged consent to the separation of parents and children without any moral basis. More so than posterity's contempt, I fear that of my Creator which is much more immediate.
History can think of me what it will, but God has opened my eyes to this perversion of His creation and I will not suffer His wrath by remaining silent in the name of self-preservation in this world. I will not be judged by Him as equally guilty of these atrocities committed upon the family and perpetrated most immediately against our innocent children, under the guise of protecting them. Tell me, how can you protect a child by removing a fit parent from their life?
You cannot. It is a lie.
You are now a party to that lie, if you were not before. History is now watching you. God Almighty is now watching your actions. Will you express your consent by allowing the injustices to continue, or will you wash your hands of the blood by joining the animating contest of liberty for parents and children? I pray the God puts it upon your heart to join us. Will you hear Him when He does? Or will you, like Peter as he denied Jesus three times, deny Him now as you have heretofore denied us and our children?
Like I said before, "the Good Lord has put it on my heart to do these things, and I will pray that He does the same to your heart. We need your help."
SO WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?