Background: In the outrageous “Elian Gonzalez II” case in Miami, Rafael Izquierdo, a fit, loving father, has faced numerous obstacles to reunite with his 5-year-old daughter. From day one of this case, the Florida Department of Children & Families has done everything in its power to separate Rafael Izquierdo from his little girl.
This week I partnered with Dr. Ned Holstein and Fathers & Families in a campaign to protest this injustice. Thousands of you have answered our call to action, the campaign has been covered by the Associated Press and others, and Florida DCF has opened a dialogue with us. To learn more or to join our campaign, click here. Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, who is published in over 300 newspapers every week, is concerned about the decline of fatherhood, and was one of the most articulate defenders of Juan Miguel Gonzalez during the original Elian Gonzalez case in 1999/2000. She has covered our campaigns in the past, including our Campaign Against PBS’s Father-Bashing Breaking the Silence in this column, and has expressed interest in our Elian Gonzalez II campaign.
Below I reprint excerpts from one of Parker’s best columns–When did fathers become fair game? (12/12/99)–written during Elian Gonzalez I. Parker wrote:
“The persistent negative messages about fathers as abandoners, ‘deadbeats,’ or batterers is so pervasive – and has been so successful – that we readily condemn men guilty of nothing.
“Just as readily, apparently, many Americans have been willing to essentially kidnap a child from his only living parent on the basis that, well, he’s only a father.
“My mail the past few days following a column in which I insisted the boy be returned to his father – Juan Miguel Gonzalez – underscores the strength of this bias against fathers. Though the majority agreed, a disturbing many questioned the father’s ‘motives’ in trying to get back his son. Love isn’t enough, apparently; there must be an ulterior motive.
“Readers suggested variously that the father might be an abuser. After all, he and his wife were divorced, surely through no fault of the woman’s. Or, as one wrote, ‘He may have been boozing, whoring, gambling, etc, instead of loving. It may be that she (the mother) went to such desperate measures to escape his influence on her son.’
“Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Shouldn’t we presume that fathers are as good as mothers absent evidence to the contrary. Why do fathers have to prove they’re fit, while mothers enjoy our instant support? The gender bias implicit in such questions – and the inherent prejudice against fathers – has rarely been so clear…
“Critics of Elian’s return to Cuba have justified their position by saying we know nothing of the father. We don’t know his birth sign or his suit size, that’s true, but we do know that the father loves his child and had an ongoing relationship with him, according to Elian’s own U.S. relatives.
“That’s good enough for me, but there’s more. Juan Miguel Gonzalez was a custodial parent, caring for Elian during the day while his mother worked. Elian’s mother cared for him at night while his father worked as a doorman at a resort hotel. Theirs sounds like the kind of cooperative post-divorce relationship most Americans couldn’t manage if world peace depended on it.
“Now, imagine that your own child, whom you love and care for every day, suddenly disappears and is found days later floating on the open sea. Suppose he is rescued by citizens of a foreign nation, which refuses to return him to you on the basis of your country’s political system.
“Let’s just say that if I were Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the people detaining my child should consider me armed and dangerous. Juan Miguel Gonzalez deserves not only his son, but an apology and, perhaps, a congressional medal for self-restraint.”
I 100% agree with that last sentence.