“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”–Frederick Douglass
Dr. Ned Holstein and I spoke at Fathers & Families’ General Membership meeting on Tuesday March 10. About 160 Fathers & Families members and supporters braved the snow and ice to attend, and even though we rented out a large hotel conference room, 10 or 15 fathers still had to stand throughout the meeting.
It was nice getting a chance to meet some of the organization’s Massachusetts rank & file, many of whom I’ve communicated with for years by phone and email but have never met.
Both Ned and I emphasized the critical importance of our movement building a powerful, well-funded advocacy organization to advance its interests and drive its agenda. Until that organization is built and up and running, we will not see widespread changes in the family law system. Fathers & Families is part of the way there, and I’m confident that we will succeed.
Ned quoted the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass on the need for struggle:
The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”
This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North, and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages, and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.
I don’t compare noncustodial fatherhood to slavery, of course. However, while in Massachusetts–one of the worst states for family law–I spoke with and listened to father after father who has been pushed to the margins of his child’s life or completely out of it simply because he is a father, not a mother.
Fathers who were their children’s primary caregivers during the marriage but who somehow weren’t worthy to care for their children after it, as courts instead gave custody to mothers simply because they are mothers.
Fathers who were thrown out of their houses on 209A restraining orders without even the pretense of evidence that they had ever harmed or threaten to harm their exes.
Fathers who are the targets of the Parental Alienation our opponents tell us don’t exist–fathers with endless pain in their eyes.
Perhaps more than any other individual in the U.S., I’m sent family law horror story after horror story via email and my blog, and I’ve grown so accustomed to the horror that it’s rare for me to be taken aback. The sheer injustice of what has happened to these fathers did.
Fortunately, there was also a lot of very tangible commitment from members to making change. More on that in follow-up blog posts.