Wednesday, December 24, 2008
FATHERLESS CHRISTMAS Published in the Sun, 19 Dec 2003 By Sir BOB GELDOF NOW again it's Christmas. We're all busy spending on our loved ones, our families and, most especially, our children. In particular this is the children's festival. The time when a kind old man will slip down a chimney or slide down a roof and bring joy to your child - FATHER Christmas. It is the special child's time because 2,000 years ago, the story tells us, a woman and a man had a baby together and though the man knew perfectly well he was not the child's father he nonetheless loved him and his wife and raised him to be strong, independent, brave and loving. Lucky kid, to have Joseph for a dad. Indeed, were Jesus alive today, to have any dad at all to raise him to be a good man. For those divorced men with children, Christmas is a travesty, a repulsive contradiction of a family holiday, of a loving celebration, of a special children's time. These are the men who will be forced to be alone without their babies, who will commit suicide most frequently at this time of year in an age when male suicides are already 300 per cent greater than women's. These are men who, in the eyes of what is sickeningly called Family Law, committed the greatest crime - of being divorced. Men who are guilty of the worst sin - of being fathers - because dads, to the great dismay of the secret elite who sit in secret judgment in these secret courts are, shockingly, ALL men! And men, as everyone knows, are monsters, feckless, abusive, aggressive, thuggish, incapable of such a hugely complex task of giving love and patience, cooking baked beans or giving a bath, doing homework or combing hair and reading stories. It's a miracle any of us got here at all, us all having had dads and everything. This Christmas Eve we will say goodnight in our homes to our over-excited children, tell them to go to sleep quickly or HE won't come, prepare for the morning and have a quiet drink of pleasure before bed. Yet there will be many fathers forbidden by the savagery of our laws to be with their children, standing broken, as I have, outside their old homes, the keys still in their pockets, weeping and whispering goodnight as they watch each child's bedroom light switch off before turning away, maddened with grief, to the pointlessness of a lonely Christmas Day. What have we become? In whose name is this brutality done? Who are they who do this and why do they not account to us, the people? What unthinking fools perpetrated these unlawful laws? How is it in a child's interest to remove him from his dad and why? Two people fall from love and one, though having done no wrong, is semi-criminalised and punished by having his children removed from him for ever (for childhood is never recoverable). The extremity of Family Law is bewildering, for having your children taken away from you is only one slight degree better than them taking away your freedom. And yet you are not a criminal, nor have you done any wrong. These same people assume that women make better parents - that a mother's love is better, more important than a father's. That somehow it's bearable for a man to be parted from his children but not a woman. Why? These assumptions and prejudices are not simply outdated but plain wrong, dangerous and damaging. You only have to listen to the language that the law uses when it gets involved in our private lives. It's meant to be neutral but it is cold, deadening and hopeless. In fact it becomes heartbreaking, hurtful, rage-inducing. I cannot even say the words. A huge emptiness would well in my stomach, a deep loathing for those who would deign to tell me they would ALLOW me ACCESS to my children - those I loved above all, those I created, those who gave meaning to everything I did, those who were the very best of us two and the absolute physical manifestation of our once blinding love. Who the fuck are they that they should use the language of the prison visit to ALLOW anything between me and that which is mine? REASONABLE CONTACT when the situation under this law is, by definition, UNreasonable!!! CONTACT? Is this what we had before in our home or am I now some visiting alien? An ABSENT parent - labelled by those who have forced me to be absent. A RESIDENT/NON-RESIDENT parent - words that reduce the meaning of that which was once Mum, Dad and home to the sterile language of the state institution. I cannot begin to describe the pain of being handed a note, sanctioned by your (still) wife with whom you had made these little things, with whom you had been present at their birth and previously had felt grow and kick and tumble and turn and watched the scans and felt intense manly pride. Wrestled and played with them, walked them to school, picked them up, made tea with, bathed and dressed, put them to bed, cuddled and lay with in your arms and sang to sleep. Felt them and smelt them around you at all times, alert even in sleep to the slightest shift in their breathing ... a note that will ALLOW you ACCESS to these things who are the best of you. What have you done? Why are you being punished (for that is what it seems)? How can she be allowed to dictate what I can or can't do with regard to MY children? What we must have is a new law. Not one remnant of this, quite literally, hopeless Children Act should remain. It is barbaric and will be looked upon with dismay and laughter by lawyers of future generations as we do now on old, outdated, medieval laws. We need a human law. A law that fits the way we live now. A way that reflects the differing versions of family that we have but that still generates love and kindness and compassion. A law that does not take away the happiness of the remaining years of our grandparents' lives and allows them to continue to contribute to our society by helping to raise our children. A law that lets mums be mothers and dads be fathers. Both nurturing, both loving their children, perhaps outwardly differently but inside with the same intensity and passion. Different but the same - an equality of difference. This new law must reflect exactly that. I am asking that this new law will say at sentence one, paragraph one: "In the interests of children, upon separation they WILL be with both parents an equal amount of the time." They will be with their father 50 per cent of the time and their mother 50 per cent of the time." This is already being implemented in some countries and states and there doesn't seem to be any extraordinary or unusual problems with it. Of course, this arrangement will not suit some people but it does mean that the already overheated emotions of divorce are cooled slightly and, through discussion, a mutually acceptable arrangement can be arrived at without anger, bitterness or hatred. It may also help to stem our uniquely epidemic divorce rates. If both parents going into divorce know that they will only see their children half the time, that financial and housing arrangements are now less cut and dried, then maybe it will give them pause for thought. That such a powerful newspaper as The Sun, motivated by its millions of readers and their letters of outrage (which I have seen) is now supporting this call for a new law for their readers' children and grandparents means that the country, its mothers, fathers, grandparents and most importantly its children, are ready. Before more men are driven to suicide or desperate brave acts to draw attention to their plight, before more children are taken from their dads, before another empty Christmas passes, let the Government stop their endless tinkering and discussions and begin its reform. On this, the most perfect of family holidays, let us hold in our hearts those small boys and girls who have wished and wished to Santa for only one thing this Christmas ... their dad.
Posted by Michael J. Murphy at Wednesday, December 24, 2008