Skip to comments.Message from Stephen Baskerville, President, American Coalition for Fathers and Children
Posted on 01/07/2004 12:22:25 PM PST by RogerFGay
Message from Stephen Baskerville,
President, American Coalition for Fathers and Children
January 7, 2004
by Stephen Baskerville, Ph.D.
It is a tremendous honor to be asked to serve as President of the American Coalition of Fathers and Children. We stand at a critical point. Families today are under attack as never before. But this attack does not come primarily from pornography, television, rock music, drugs, or even homosexuality. The attack comes from government, and it targets the family's weakest and most vulnerable point: the father. The wholesale separation of children from their fathers, the mass incarceration of fathers without due process of law, the seizure of children from both mothers and fathers, the abuse of children by the very officials who claim to be protecting them -- this is hidden behind a media blackout, hidden behind the silence of the politicians, but it is the terrifying reality for millions of Americans.
The crisis is especially acute now. Sharp increases in already-crushing "child support" burdens, new penalties ostensibly to combat "domestic violence" -- these will produce more broken homes and fatherless children, more parents in jail, and further erosion of constitutional rights.
But it is also a hopeful time. As Americans wake up to the crimes being committed against families by their own government, they shake their heads in disbelief but cannot deny the reality they witness in their own lives. The media and politicians too can no longer look the other way, as fathers speak out and organize to protect their families.
Family and marriage issues are on the front pages around the world, and ACFC intends to make fathers and parents generally a leading voice in that conversation.
In the coming months and years, I look forward to working with ACFC Founder and Board Chairman David Roberts, Executive Director Mike McCormick, Communications Director John Maguire, Treasurer Ileana Basil, Membership Director Susan Antomarchi, and other prominent activists and all of you to stop the systematic destruction of families. ACFC is a rapidly growing organization, with new members and new affiliates added daily. In partnership with groups formed by many of you, ACFC will publicize and challenge the government's offensive.
Parents are now resisting the government's intrusions with new determination. I hear parents asking how they can become active, pledging to sacrifice whatever is required, vowing never to relent, dedicating the remainder of their lives to rescue their children from the clutches of this cruel machine. And yes, I hear some parents (increasing numbers, it seems) threatening to use measures which we dare not condone. But I also hear them vowing sacrifices which we can only admire.
Even now, we witness courageous deeds and heroic sacrifices. In Britain, fathers have placed their demands on the front pages of the most prestigious news organizations in the world. In Australia, Prime Minister John Howard has put divorce and custody issues before the national legislature. In Canada, debates on custody law are also national news.
What Lies Ahead?
As fathers and parents, we are uniquely situated to lead families out of this bondage, as others have done before. But we must have no illusions. Before we reach the promised land of freedom, we must fight our way through a wilderness of despair.
We will be called vicious names: "deadbeat," "batterer," "pedophile," and more. We must withstand scorn from the media and politicians that offers us no platform to defend ourselves. We must be prepared to endure fabricated accusations of the most hideous crimes against our own children, with few constitutional protections for our rights. We must face summary incarceration from government bullies motivated by a toxic mix of self-righteousness and self-dealing. Indeed, some of us will find ourselves called upon to make (as some have already) the supreme sacrifice that fathers have never hesitated to make for the children.
We must dispense with the illusion that others will win this struggle for us. We must discard the vain hope that if only we inform them of the terrible injustices perpetrated against parents and children, then journalists, politicians, family advocates, or civil libertarians will wake up, and do their jobs, and end this injustice.
The bitter truth is that no one can "save the children" but their parents. We alone are responsible for our children, and we alone must protect them. No one will cry for us if we succumb. No one will respect us if we complain. No one will listen to our excuses if we fail. No one -- including our children themselves. The entire burden rests upon us and no one else. But when we succeed -- and we will succeed -- we will create a legacy of moral authority and family strength that will be passed to our children, and to theirs, and beyond.
Even the most vicious among our opponents have paid us this high tribute: They have made us responsible. "Father absence," we are told (and told correctly), accounts for virtually all today's social problems. And so we are blamed for being "absent" -- even when we have no right to be present. We are held responsible when a marriage ends, even when we did not end it. We alone are made responsible for providing for our children, even when they are forcibly removed from our care. We alone are held responsible for violence in the family, even when we have not committed it (and even when it is committed against us). We are held responsible for the abuse of our children, even when they are abused by others. We are held responsible for the wayward behavior of our children, even when we are not permitted to offer them guidance and correction. Even when it is beyond our control, we alone are responsible.
We must not shirk this responsibility, for it is the essence of fatherhood. We must embrace it, for it is the salvation of our children and the restoration of our families. It is time we took the fair-weather friends of fatherhood at their word by standing up and taking action. The time for talk is past. It is now time to act.
Who We Are
So let us take this opportunity to state clearly before the world who we are and what we stand for.
There are those who claim to advocate for an abstraction called "fatherhood." Others describe themselves as defenders of "the" family. Many are well-intentioned. But they tend to be political professionals, and they often claim to speak for "the children," not their own.
Some of these professionals chide us because (they say) we are looking out for our own interests, our own families. They seem to claim moral superiority because they concern themselves with other people's children.
It is true that we have a personal interest in preserving families. Because we (and we alone) are defending our families. For us, the family is not an abstraction or an object for our good deeds. We do not pretend to be motivated by concern for someone else's children. We concern ourselves only with our own. We are not crusaders or zealots. And we are not professionals. We are proud to be amateurs (literally, those "who love"). We are parents, and our aims are limited. But that is not our weakness; that is our strength.
It is our strength because we have the authority not of paid officials but of parents and citizens. Politicians always promise to return power to "the people." But we are the people. We have endured much from the politicians, but when they take our children, we draw a line.
The good intentions of fatherhood promoters, family defenders, and children's advocates cannot meet the test. They will not fight for our children. They will not sacrifice for our children. They will not risk their careers or livelihoods or lives for our children. They will not die for our children.
There is no such abstraction as "the" family. There are only families -- our families. We alone can and will defend them. If others wish to help -- journalists, politicians, defenders of the Constitution, critics of the judiciary, civil libertarians -- we welcome them, and they will have our gratitude. But we must make it clear to friend and foe alike that this is foremost our struggle. We -- and we alone -- can save families, because they are our families.
Likewise, we do not trumpet an abstraction called "fatherhood." We are concerned with our fatherhood, the fatherhood of each individual father. And we will establish it not with words that cost nothing but with deeds that may cost us dearly indeed.
If those who pose as the champions of fatherhood dislike our deeds, then it is time they examined what they mean by "fatherhood." For if it means anything less than defending one's children against those who would interfere with them or take them away, then theirs is a definition of fatherhood we find wanting. They are entitled to their opinion, of course, but we are entitled to our children. And our children are entitled to us.
Opinions are important (to a point), and "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind" is obligatory in a democracy. But few who have both would regard their opinions as being of equal importance as their children. While we respect the opinions of others about the best interest of children in the abstract, we expect others to respect our decisions about the best interest of our own children. And we expect them to understand something more: that no parent is answerable to government officials for how they raise their children or for exercising their right and duty to protect them.
Where We Stand Now
It is impossible to overestimate the burden that weighs upon our shoulders. We face a government that threatens our children, our lives, our Constitution, and quite possibly the very basis of civilization itself. Before our very eyes we see history's greatest experiment in human freedom being debased into a ruthless, depraved, diabolical tyranny.
It has fallen to us "to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime." But this tyranny does not come from abroad; it has arisen in our very midst. It is a tyranny of cowards, that hides in secret courtrooms and protected offices, that fears the citizens it ostensibly serves, while cynically using and abusing innocent children to increase the power of grown-ups.
Against this foe, we have no illusions that our struggle will be easy, that laws will be passed tomorrow to free our children. Even were this to happen, it would be to little avail. New laws are only as effective as the citizens who demand them. The means of freeing our children are already in our own hands. Our children will be free when their fathers stand up and speak out like men. Families will be safe and strong when parents everywhere know they must join us and build upon our work or face destruction, as we do now.
Defeat is not an option, because we fight for our very survival and for the survival of our children, and of their children. We will comport ourselves with dignified outrage. We will never cross the line into violence. But neither will we relent, withdraw, or surrender. And if we are struck down, others will rise up in our place.
How Far Do We Go?
How we speak out is a decision that each of us must make alone. We in the national offices of ACFC understand our task of providing leadership. But some initiative must come from you. Throughout the US and the world, parents are finding bold and creative ways of calling attention to this tyranny. Their courage is producing results.
ACFC is a broad political church. Each of us has our own views about the most fundamental questions before us: the goals we seek, the priorities we deem most urgent, the methods of achieving those aims. Inevitably, differences and disagreements must arise. As always, there will be the cautious and the impatient, the timid and the eager, the moderates and the militants. In our case, however, these difference represent more: Often, they reflect what the government has done (and can still do) to us in particular and to our children.
To the usual need for unity and forbearance of differences, therefore, we have a special need for charity toward one another. No man who sees his children has a right to brand as extreme one who does not. Likewise, no man has a right to label as timid one who, by acting rashly, could lose access to his children as a result. Were the circumstances reversed, the self-styled man of reason may be the one to find himself (as journalists say) "foaming at the mouth," and the coward may prove a hero.
However each decides to serve, each has a role, and all are needed. ACFC is here to offer support. The only line we draw is that ACFC does not condone violence in any form as a political method.
What You Can Do
The power of the divorce regime is formidable, but the power in our own hands is much greater. They are trading in lies, and as Dr. King said, "No lie can live forever."
Beyond the power of the truth, we have 15-20 million non-custodial parents, plus tens of millions more who love and support them. United in one voice and with our friends abroad, we have the power to check the global destruction of families.
But even short of that, your personal action now sends a message to your own children in particular, even children whom you may think have been irrevocably lost to you: Their father or mother loves them enough to sacrifice, to risk, and to act.
Many good parents' groups already operate across America and the world, and ACFC does not intend to duplicate or replace or preempt the work of any. Our aim is to unite and facilitate and support.
If you ask what you must do, this is my reply: I personally urge every parent in America -- single, married, or divorced -- to the following actions IMMEDIATELY:
- First, if you have no done so already, join ACFC. (Call 800-978-DADS, or www.acfc.org.)
- Second, join your local group. If it is not yet an ACFC affiliate, begin the steps to make it one. The paperwork is very simple. DON'T BE PUT OFF. ("Yea, I went to a fathers' group, but it was just a gripe session, everyone complaining about their ex-wives and the judge. So I never went back ") A group is what its members make it. If you don't like it, join and change it. YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH NOTHING ALONE.
- Third, contact your local media. Tell them your story. Tell them about your local group. Say they are affiliated to ACFC. Get others in the group to do the same. Then do it again. And again. Be respectful but persistent. Do not let them put you off. Investigating government wrongdoing is their job. Eventually they will respond.
- Stand up in your church, your civic group, union, or place of employment, at candidates' campaign rallies, PTA or school board meetings, or wherever issues of the family or children or public policy are being discussed. Tell them what has happened to you, to your children, and to countless others. Don't be afraid to change the subject. (Getting our issues on the public agenda by definition means changing the subject.) Is what they are discussing more important than your children? Try to have others present to second you. Do not be afraid of what people will think of you. Is the opinion of the world more important than your children? Do not be afraid to be called angry. You should be angry. "There are some things to which I am proud to be maladjusted," said Dr. King, "and to which I call upon you to be maladjusted." Be dignified but outraged. Show yourself to be a man of courage and a leader. You do not have to climb a scaffold 200 feet into their air, but is it too much to raise your hand or stand upright and relate the atrocious crimes the government has committed against your children? "Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members," wrote Emerson. "Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist." Show the world and your children that you are not afraid to be different, that you are a man.
- Finally, stay connected with ACFC through the email listserve or by the web site for information about developments, groups, and activities.
In times of crisis, people often ask, "Where are the heroes?" In this crisis, the heroes can come from only one place: the parents, and foremost fathers. You may not realize it yet, but eventually the eyes of the world and of history will be upon us. We will be weighed in the balance, and future generations will judge what we do.
Yours in solidarity,
Dr. Baskerville is President of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. He teaches political science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He earned his Ph.D. in political science from the London School of Economics. Visit his MND archive here. Visit his website here. Visit ACFC.org
This is an interesting and positive development. The ACFC has historically been about as effective for fathers as the Urban League was in advancing the rights of Black People... which is to say hardly at all. They were just too damned nice about it.
By comparison, Baskerville is a bit of a rhetorical bomb-thrower, which I think will prove to be a superior positioning. In the past I think there was too big of a gaping hole between the "respectable" fathers' rights organizations like ACFC, and the people like John Knight and Robert Sides, who were out playing the fanatic's role in history. I think to effect change, you need both. Martin Luther King works best when there are a few Black Panthers around shaking the trees.
In that sense I think that Knight, Sides, et. al. were too far ahead of their time. There was no one in the middle between them and the outfits that didn't want to offend anyone. People who wanted to move their way -- but wouldn't go as far -- really had nowhere to go.
What's interesting is that if you go back and look at some of John Knight's "bomb-throwing rhetoric" from the mid-nineties, a lot of it is mainstream stuff now. That is a huge cultural shift. If John is still out there, he should take credit for some of this, because he took a lot of Hell for what he was saying, back when it was considered "over the line" to suggest that fathers were actual parents, with natural, God-given rights to their children. This society still does not really accept that idea, but saying it out loud will no longer get you banished and censored.
Perhaps the next development will be the adoption of Sides' idea that men need to get rowdy. Not violent, but rowdy. We're starting to see some of that in the UK, and it appears to be effective.
I wish Baskerville well in his new role. He just might be the right guy in the right place at the right time. I hope so.
I've arrived at the same place. In fact, I was throwing a few bombs around in here last night. It's the only way to get the center to move.
John Knight and I used to talk about positioning advocates along a continuum. There are some old web sites still out there in which I am Mr. Reasonable. That was done on purpose, as a way of selling the same thing that Knight was selling, but in different packaging to different people. Ten years ago, what Baskerville wrote in that article on MND would only have been seen in one of those xeroxed newsletters that got mailed around to a membership of 36 angry white guys. I suppose in some sense there has been progress. Not enough, though. I think it's fair to say that things are still getting worse in the U.S.
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