Monday, January 16, 2012

what are we voting for?

What they stand for         “It’s the Democrats,” stated my friend, Murray. Without belligerence, his tone was explanatory rather than accusatory. “They have a vested interest to protect,” he told me.

To say the least, I was surprised. As a lifelong democrat, I’d prided myself on being liberal and open-minded. At the time, that was especially important. I’d lost my children after an inexplicable and biased ruling in divorce court. Two things had been against me:

I was the father, and
the law failed to recognize that the very best interest of the children of divorce was that both parents remain meaningfully (equally, if possible) involved as parents.

Until that terrible loss, I had believed that kind of justice would prevail. It didn’t then, and it still doesn’t.

One of the faces I learned to identify with forces opposing my movement for “Equal Parents, Equal Time” was Rep. Dickie Cranwell. Although I never did, some referred to him as a slimeball. Perhaps I should have when he recognized me as I spoke before his sub committee at the General Assembly in Richmond. In his hand was a letter I’d written to him, a letter that pled for non-custodial parents like me to have equal time in their children’s lives.

After I’d addressed the legislators, and before I’d sat down, he mocked me for a word I’d used in my letter. That word, anathema, described how many non custodial parents felt about the disregard the legislators had for them. Dickie laughed at my usage of its four syllables, called me “Mr. Anathema” to the amusement of his democratic colleagues, then dismissed me as a father who couldn’t possibly understand how things were supposed to be.

Not long after that, in spite of Cranwell’s lame rebuke, I became a member of advisory panels on child support guidelines and custody legislation that had been set aside for study. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was surrounded by people who weren’t interested in resolving the crisis of fatherlessness caused by poorly constucted laws regarding custodial determination.

Dead set against me were Cranwell types, Democratic lawyers with vested interests in women having custody and judges who worked in conjunction with them. Not all of them were crooked, but few of them had our children’s best interests in mind (despite a preponderance of studies that proved how wrong-minded they were about the need for fathers to be able to be fathers to their children of divorce).

While working with the child support guidelines panel, I realized that Virginia (like so many other states with backwards and repressive custody laws) was more interested in making criminals of fathers who live at the subsistence level or below when it comes to child support enforcement than in creatively resolving the crises that result in their incarceration.

I proposed that studies be done to determine both the cost to our state of criminalizing (indigent) parents (mostly fathers, by a wide margin) as compared to the cost of paying their child support (in exchange for community work, time spent with their children, perhaps at facilities like the Boys and Girls clubs). By continuously imprisoning them, the state of Virginia was spending too much money and deriving little, if any, benefit.

Despite finding that one-third or more of county and city jail populations are (repeating) child support offenders, I was voted down when I offered a resolution that would have framed this as a cost-saving and parent-saving issue.

The judges and the Democratic lawyers and their supporters (on the panel) didn’t want to be bothered.

Since then, I have scuttled my party affiliation as a meaningless encumbrance. Instead, I have focused on who is running...and why. Especially if he or she comes close to reminding me of Dickie Cranwell.

B. Koplen 1/17/12

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