The Parental Rights Movement: The problem is………………..
Call me jaded, call me opinionated, it really does not matter to me. I have been around this movement for 15 years and have watched as it has failed to produce the results that so many claim they want. I have seen the protests, I have heard all the theories about massive corruption within the courts, I have heard all the claims of bias, I have heard all the cries for change and the complaints when those cries go unanswered.
The problem is that the movement has failed to recognize that it needs to change its approach to this problem. The problem is the movement itself.
When I first became involved the constant cry was one that fathers needed rights. Father donned their shirts and took to the streets to protest that they were treated unfairly by the courts and decry the unjust treatment. Some organized and approached the protests in a very creative manner. I will use the early days of Fathers 4 Justice as an example. When Matt O’Conner and his crew started out they took it upon themselves to do some very creative protest that gained some serious attention to the problem. They were stealthy in their approach at times and at time they were very in your face. It worked until some got a bit too radical and lost focus and the goal. They became too engrossed with the protest and the self glory rather than focusing on the work needed to make the changes to the laws which had caused the problems.
I was fortunate enough to be talking with Matt thru emails at the time that he first started with his organizational concept. He would pass on tips about things that they were planning and successful protests that they pulled off. I recall one protest that I found to being extraordinary in the ballsiness of approach that left me shaking my head.
A couple of his guys took the time to put on painter’s garb and grab their paint and paint Courthouse doors in England their soon to be recognized purple. When approached they even had a fake work order stating that they were to paint the doors and finished in plain sight while the courthouse was open. That took guts. That was creative. That drew attention to the problem.
The down fall came when some decided that they would try protests that were of a higher profile. They scaled bridges, they scaled Buckingham Palace. They scaled the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorials in DC. Unfortunately as the protests increased, they also turned off the general public. They turned the people that would help to speak up on the problem against the idea by attacking the very memorials that many of us hold dear. They became viewed as radicals that were nothing but disgruntled parents in the eyes of the general public. They self-destructed the message that they hoped to bring forward. Instead of bringing those on the outside of the problem to their side they turned them off. They killed the messenger and F4J in the process, the became fodder for mockery. The smartest thing that Matt ever did when this became out of control was shut down for a time until he could regroup and refocus.
Some realizing that the fathers need rights message was failing because of the increasing number of mothers that had become trapped in this legal took the time to rethink and turn the focus towards Constitutional Rights. That is it; we will scream that our constitutionally protected rights have been violated under the 14th Amendment! We have been treated unequally by the law. The theory sounds solid but the major problem is that this message is so complex that it is lost on all but a few legal scholars that have taken the time to study the intricacies of this legal argument.
Many went into court and immediately starting trying to push this argument in the court system with a lack of preparation that only saw them fail. They were missing so many pieces of the puzzle that they killed the argument to where it became unusable as a legal argument. Repeatedly this lack of preparation caused this argument to fail when used in the courts to a point where it is no longer a viable legal argument to anyone. They beat the argument to death to a point where as soon as the attempt was made to use it the opposition was so well prepared that it became game, set, match, we are out of here and you are on the outside looking in again.
Even taking this approach to legislators became unusable as it is so complex that it goes over the heads of all but a minuscule number of legal scholars that have chosen to serve as legislators. It went right over the heads of those that are graced with the ability to change bad law. The argument had no “hook” to draw in the very people that were needed to make the change.
As some may know I have worked hard over the past years to change the laws in Ohio and eventually the nation as it pertains to the rights and involvement of both parents. I fully supported the thought that this was a constitutionally protected right that all deserve. I can, unlike all but a handful of people, explain this complex theory and discuss it with lawyers and judges on a level that is far beyond that of the common man. During the period while working to bring SB144 in Ohio to introduction during the last General Assembly I had the opportunity to present the constitutional argument to the senator that would end up introducing that legislation. That senator had taken the time to study this as a constitutional rights argument and was shocked at the depth of my knowledge on the legal argument. He fully agreed that I was right in the application of this as it applies to Ohio law. But he gave me the single best piece of advice that I have even been given on working with legislators to bring them in support of these changes – Do not use the constitutional argument with a legislator, it is too complex and you will talk right over their heads and turn them off.
Frankly this made more sense that any advice I had ever been given in my life. It did destroy a thought pattern that had become engrained in my argument for years though and it meant that an entirely new argument has to be developed. The problem now was how to take one of the moist complex issues that exists and reduce it to a 15 second sound bit that draws a legislator into a conversation. How do you present the problem without losing the help that you so desperately need to accomplish the intimate goal?
That is when the epiphany moment happened. That moment when you come to the realization that you have lost your message and a new approach has to happen if you are going to success in your mission. The questioned remain though as to what that hook would be to draw the legislator in, how to present the single most complex problem and do it in a sound bite that would be immediately understood. What did the current law do that was so bad that even the most lay of the lay person could grasp the depth of the problem.
The question and the hook hit was so simple that it was staring everyone in the face and was missed because no one took the time to break the complex down to a single short message. Why do we remove fit parents from the lives of their children?
When you take the time to think about that question you come to the base realization that it is the perfect opening question. It is the shocker that counters all arguments against equal custody between two fit parents. It using the arguments that have been screamed and the question that so many have asked about the base problems of society that the social workers and the public have had engrained into their heads about dead beat parents that don’t “support” or refuse to be involved. That simple statement takes all that we have heard preached and turns it back to the very root of the problem – the law. It does not simply open the door; it tears the door off the hinges with a batter ram that is so soft that those opposing these legal changes don’t even know that door has been knocked down.
It is the hook of all hooks . It that question that raises the eye brows on the problem without sounding disgruntled. It is easily understood and opens the conservation to present the flaws of a legal system and state laws which have failed so many parents and children that society has become over burdened with the cost of removing a fit parent that can provide support in more ways than financial. It turns the societal cries of why are fathers not involved to one of explaining the problem.
If you look at all that has been claimed and all that has been written over the years no single message explains that problem so completely in so few words.
The problem comes with the parental rights movement is it that is has failed to grow and evolve. It has remained stagnant in its use of failed messages. As new groups and new people have come into the movement, they have returned to the very message that has failed for years. This failure to evolve fit the perfect description of crazy – Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Success will only happen when the entire movement changes it approach and message. It is time to throw away the costumes, t-shirts and signs and put on the big boy and girl clothes. It is time to work the legislative system from within by becoming politically involved.
Over the course of the past couple years I have been bless with access to legislators that few have before. I have been able to talk to them away from the Statehouse and inside the Statehouse. I have had extremely open conservation on the problems that the current legal scheme holds for parents that are guilty of nothing more than ending a personal relationship with another adult. The end of the personal relationship does not end your relationship with your child; you will forever be a parent to that child. There is not reason why the Courts should dictate how and when you should be able to see and interest with your child. You have not given up a God given right simply by the dissolution of a marriage contract.
I pointed out to a young senator one day that this is the only system of law where you are punished for committing no crime. It is the only system where you do not know and are guaranteed no known out come when you enter it. Yet the current laws allow for the removal of a fit parent for no rhyme or reason other than it can.
But too many remain unable to present the problem and a comprehensive solution because they cannot explain the problem. They have allowed old thought patterns to cloud their thoughts. They ramble on about what the courts did to them rather than how the problem can be solved.
If we are going to correct the damage that has been done to our children and their future we must change to message now. We as a movement have to evolve to present the solution without decrying the personal connection to the problem.
It is time to take each of you to school.
To take this new approach one needs to understand the simple rules that I have followed over the past several years. It is a methodology that works and it is what I view as the proper method towards accomplishing the goal. I will be blunt and straight forward, if you cannot be mature enough to change yourself and you will continue to harm and hinder the progress that has been made. It is time to wake up or get out of the way of a course that is working with success.
Lose the T-shirts, costumes and signs ; they have done nothing more that make you look like an idiot that is unhappy with the results of your case. Judges do not care that you are standing in front of the courthouse and legislators don’t care that you are doing the same in front of the Statehouse. It has no effect on their thought process and is nothing but a sign of continued failure and that the court got it right when they reduced your influence on your child’s life. This is coat and tie territory.
Until this movement matures to a point where it can follow a new path it will continue to fail.
The problem is the movement itself and the attitude that has hindered it for too long.
Ohio Family Rights is a national free association of like minded people that work to comprehensively change the way that states and the courts view custody between divorced and never married people. We have dedicated ourselves to correcting what has long been a major problem of socially engineering fit parents from the lives of their child every day. This goal can only be accomplished by comprehensively correcting the flaws within the “Shared Parenting laws” that are currently in place so that all fit parents and their children can benefit from equal custody. Please join us in our efforts to protect the families of this nation and the future of our children.
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