“When one man says ‘No’, all Rome begins to tremble.”–Spartacus, gladiator and leader of the largest slave rebellion in ancient history
For many of my readers, the Christmas holiday is not a joyous one, but instead a time of incomparable sadness. Many, many fathers have been driven out of their children’s lives, or to the edge of them. For them, the holidays are more a time to grieve than a time to celebrate.
These men are the victims of one of the worst tyrannies in our society’s history, and one largely unheard of before the modern era–the tyranny of being denied the right to play a meaningful role in the lives of one’s own children.
It is also during this time of year that I think of the heroism of so many modern fathers. In the era of the so-called “deadbeat dad,” hundreds of thousands of men have fought long, hard, costly battles to remain fathers to their children. This struggle, this heroism, goes almost completely unrecognized in our popular culture.
There is one man who above all others for me symbolizes this heroism–David Chick.
The mayor of London compared Chick to Osama bin Laden. He was dubbed a “menace” holding a city for “ransom,” as well as a lunatic and an extremist.
What did this middle-aged window washer do to arouse such anger? He loves his little daughter, from whom he was forcibly and unjustly separated, and he had the courage to do something about it.
Chick launched a world famous, traffic snarling, six day, one-man protest atop a 150 foot high crane near the Tower Bridge in London in November 2003. Dressed as Spiderman because that is his little daughter’s favorite comic book character, Chick had been to court 25 times and spent the equivalent of $30,000 in unsuccessful attempts to get English courts to enforce his visitation rights.
“[My daughter] is the most precious thing in my world. I was there for the scans when she was still in the womb. I was there for her birth. I fed her, bathed her, got up in the night with her, cuddled her when she cried.
“Now I’m just another statistic–another dad who has no part in his daughter’s life. For me, it is a living bereavement.”
Facing a prison sentence for his protest, Chick was acquitted by an English jury, some of whom were reportedly moved to tears by his testimony. In 2003, Chick came in second in the Evening Standard London Personality of the Year contest and was the runner-up Political Personality of the Year on a major English television station.
In September 2004, Spiderman struck again, climbing the London Eye (pictured), an enormous 450-foot-high Ferris wheel on the banks of the River Thames. Chick spent 18 hours there–one hour for every month that had passed since he had been able to see his little daughter. Nearly 20,000 people were prevented from visiting the attraction because the police closed it down during the protest.
Popular still, a London jury again acquitted Chick of causing a public nuisance. Moreover, Chick was able to successfully fight his way back into his little daughter’s life.
To learn more about Chick, go to http://spidermandad.com/.
[Note: the quote from Spartacus above is from the movie of the same name.]