During my youth, Jim Palmer (pictured) was pretty much the best pitcher in baseball, with the possible exception of Tom Seaver. He was usually the first starting pitcher we'd draft whenever I played Strat-O-Matic table baseball with my friends. From 1970 to 1978, Palmer went 176-97, and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.
Soon after Palmer was born he had been adopted by Moe and Polly Wiesen. Moe died when he was nine, and the following year his mother married Max Palmer. Jim Palmer tells the following story about his dad in his autobiography, Palmer and Weaver
"My father loves to tell this story. It was the Little League banquet in California. When it came time to announce the awards that night, I was going to get three trophies, one for the championship we'd won, one for the batting title, and one for the homerun leader.
"But I wasn't Jim Palmer, I was still Jim Wiesen. My mom had married Max Palmer but I had kept my name. Until that night. I asked the coaches who handed out the awards to announce me by what I decided was my new name, 'James Alvin Palmer.'
"On his 87th birthday, Max said, 'Through all these years, that night was the highlight of my life.'
"[Eighteen years later] that was the name that went on my first Cy Young Award. Palmer. My dad Max loved it."
Background: The California Judicial Council's Domestic Violence Practice and Procedures Task Force recently invited comments on its Draft Guidelines and Recommended Practices for Improving the Administration of Justice in Domestic Violence Cases. There's a big problem with the Draft Guidelines--they don't deal with the false allegations issue. In late June I urged my readers to write to the Task Force and urge them to consider the massive problem false allegations represent in their report. Several hundred of you wrote letters.
"Another problem with VAWA is the way that it helps fund domestic violence advocacy groups" political agenda. Whenever we try to push forward legislation to help resolve some of the gross inequities of the family system and to protect the loving bonds children share with their fathers, these groups are out in force in the legislatures to stop us.
"That"s what happened with the California Shared Parenting Bill AB 1307 in California in 2005. The Assembly Judiciary Committee was largely sympathetic to our position--until the domestic violence groups showed up. Funded by your tax dollars, they plied the committee members with horror stories, deceptions, and half-truths, and the bill was soundly defeated."
Pajamas Media advice columnist Dr. Helen Smith interviewed me recently on the subject of the Violence Against Women Act, the way our legal system handles domestic violence, and related issues. The interview was released today. It is excerpted above and can be seen at Fighting for Men's Rights
Readers can comment on their experiences with domestic violence laws by clicking here
Dr. Helen Smith also co-hosts The Glenn and Helen Show
with blogger king Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.com
. Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues who often has interesting things to say about gender issues and divorce. She can be reached at [email protected]
"There is also substantial evidence that Izquierdo"s little girl is being alienated from him...
"According to Miguel Firpi, the girl"s psychologist, the girl 'does not want to go to Cuba…she grinds her teeth at night.' Firpi says the girl tore up a new toy her father had given her. When the girl was angry after a visit with her father, caseworker Maria Zamora said the girl explained that 'she only had one father, and it's [the foster caregiver].'
"Where would a normal four-year-old girl get such a strong aversion to her father, and to Cuba? How often does a four-year-old girl decide to destroy a new toy she"s been given? The girl is being taught to fear and dislike her dad."
My co-authored column, In Controversial ‘Elian Gonzalez II" Case, Cuban Father Should Be Allowed to Take His Daughter Back to Cuba
(The Buffalo News
, 8/16/07), defends the Cuban father in his battle to get his daughter back from the foster care system and return to Cuba. The article was written shortly after the case was first made public--for my more recent coverage, click here
In Controversial ‘Elian Gonzalez II" Case, Cuban Father Should Be Allowed to Take His Daughter Back to Cuba
By Mike McCormick and Glenn Sacks
Following an appeals court order, details of a year-long custody battle very reminiscent of the Elian Gonzalez case have now been made public. The battle over a 4-year-old Cuban immigrant girl pits her Cuban father, Rafael Izquierdo, against foster father Joe Cubas, a well-known Cuban-American sports agent, and his wife Maria. Just as Elian"s father Juan Gonzalez faced numerous unfair hurdles to get his son back, Izquierdo is being manhandled by the child welfare system, in part because of the system"s anti-father bias.
In 2005, the girl"s mother, with whom Izquierdo had a brief relationship, brought the girl to Miami from Cuba. The Florida Department of Children & Families removed the girl from her mother"s custody in 2006, after an investigation found that the woman's mental illness rendered her an unfit parent. She was placed with the Cubas family, and Izquierdo came to the US to bring his daughter home.
Izquierdo, a fisherman and farmer from Cabaiguan, Cuba, has spent the last two months performing the numerous tasks DCF has demanded in order to be reunited with his daughter. Several child welfare experts have asserted that these tasks may be designed to make Izquierdo fail, so DCF can follow through on its stated goal of permanently placing the girl with the foster family.
Much of what Izquierdo is going through reflects well-documented problems with the child welfare system. An Urban Institute study released last year found that when a mother and father are divorced or separated, and a child welfare agency removes the children from the mother"s home for abuse or neglect, the system generally refuses to allow the fathers to raise their own children, instead shuttling the kids off into the foster care system.
Child welfare proceedings, including this one, are usually determined by the child welfare agency"s opinion as to what"s best for the child. This represents a tremendous usurpation of parental authority. When an agency has taken a child from an abusive or neglectful mother or father, its only further role should be to determine whether the other parent is fit. If the other parent is not found to be unfit, the child should be given to that parent, and the case closed. Only if there has been a finding of parental unfitness should the child welfare agency permanently place the child with a foster family.
There is also substantial evidence that Izquierdo"s little girl is being alienated from him. Parental Alienation arises in custody disputes (usually after a divorce or separation) when one parent, usually the custodial parent, tries to turn the child(ren) against the other parent.
According to Miguel Firpi, the girl"s psychologist, the girl ''does not want to go to Cuba…she grinds her teeth at night.'' Firpi says the girl tore up a new toy her father had given her. When the girl was angry after a visit with her father, caseworker Maria Zamora said the girl explained that "she only had one father, and it's [the foster caregiver].'' Where would a normal four-year-old girl get such a strong aversion to her father, and to Cuba? How often does a four-year-old girl decide to destroy a new toy she"s been given? The girl is being taught to fear and dislike her dad.
Izquierdo is also caught in an endless string of Catch-22s. The US State Department denied him a visa for several months, but during the hearings the DCF accused him of ''abandoning'' his daughter because he didn"t come sooner. He is criticized for allegedly having "failed to bond' with his daughter sufficiently, but has been allowed only short, videotaped and supervised visits with her.
The judge in the case, Jeri B. Cohen, recently described DCF's attempts to paint Izquierdo negatively as being ''light'' on evidence, pointedly telling the DCF attorneys, ''You know it, and I know it.' Nobody has even suggested that Izquierdo has ever mistreated his daughter, and the girl's mother says she wants the girl to live with her father in Cuba instead of with the foster family. Izquierdo should not have to fight to raise his own child. He is a fit father--how and where to raise his daughter is his decision.
This column first appeared in
The Buffalo News, 8/16/07. To learn more about the case, click here.
Mike McCormick is the Executive Director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. Their website is www.acfc.org.
Glenn Sacks" columns on men's and fathers' issues have appeared in dozens of the largest newspapers in the United States. He invites readers to visit his website at www.GlennSacks.com.
Background: I've previously discussed an amazing series of domestic violence public service ads from HomeFront, a Canadian domestic violence agency, which demonstrate the way the domestic violence industry vilifies men. To learn more and to watch the ads, click here and here.
The following ad, produced by film students at the Madison Area Technical College Visual Communications Program in Madison, Wisconsin, was modeled on the HomeFront series. To watch the ad, click here
, or see below.
It's interesting that the ad portrays a man and only a man abusing a child, when the vast majority of child abuse is committed by mothers
, not fathers.
Shared parenting advocate Stuart Meltzer, Esq.
(pictured) is running for Nassau County Family Court Judge in the November 6 election. Meltzer says:
"The best interests of children are being forgotten in Family Court. Parents are being kept in court unnecessarily and decisions are oftentimes unfair to our children. I am the only truly independent candidate. If you want a judge who owes his allegiance to our families and children, not a particular party, you should vote for me.
"As a result of my over 18 years experience in the Family, Matrimonial and Criminal Courts in the New York area, I have witnessed a steady decline in Equal Protection and Due Process rights afforded to litigants. Most disturbing is the fact that those people who have the smallest voice and least amount of power in our society, our children, are losing most. Thus, I view as most important, based in law and forensic study, our children's right to liberal access to both a father and mother."
Meltzer is looking for volunteers in the greater New York City area, as well as donors. Contact his campaign at [email protected]
or by phone at 718-532-4300 or 917 698 8784. Donations can be sent to The Friends Of Stuart Meltzer Campaign, 32 Court St., Suite 1408, Brooklyn, NY 11201.
To learn more about Meltzer's campaign, click here
Background: Dads of Michigan, the American Coalition for Fathers and Children's Michigan affiliate, the Family Rights Coalition, and other Michigan shared parenting advocates are fighting to pass HB 4564, a shared parenting bill. They have the votes to pass the bill but are fighting to get it out of committee, where it is bottled up.
In May, the Michigan National Organization for Women put out an Action Alert opposing HB 4564. I discussed NOW's opposition to the bill and laid out the case for shared parenting in my column HB 5267 Will Help Michigan"s Children of Divorce (Lansing State Journal, 5/28/06), which I co-authored with ACFC Executive Director Mike McCormick. (HB 5267 was the 2006 bill which is identical to HB 4564).
The Editorial Board of the Oakland Press
, one of Michigan's larger newspapers, just came out with a well-reasoned editorial endorsing HB 4564.
Jay A. Fedewa, PE, Executive Director of the Family Rights Coalition
, is asking that the bill's supporters email Allan Adler, the editorial page editor of the Oakland Press
, to commend the paper and express support for the bill. His email address is [email protected]
. Please remember to be polite and positive.
The Oakland Press
editorial is below.
Equal parenting bill worth passing
House Bill 4564 seems to make a very reasonable request: It calls for equal parenting time for fit parents.
The bill was proposed by state Rep. Glenn Steil, R-Cascade and introduced with the support of Reps. Fran Amos, R-Waterford Township; Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy; John Stakoe, R-Highland Township; James Marleau, R-Lake Orion; and 18 other representatives. It is currently in the Families and Children"s Services Committee.
It"s a shame a bill like this is needed but historically, dads have been on the short end in court cases involving custody and visitation when the parents divorce.
The "best interest of the child' should always be the top priority but too often that "best interest' leaves dads out of the equation.
Judges have expressed concern that the bill may take away some of their "judicial discretion.' Well, we"re all for judicial discretion, but someone has to stand up for the rights of fathers, those who are "fit' and more than willing to share parenting duties.
Our courts say they are doing this now, but judges admit that in the past, the tendency has been to side with mothers, giving them more custodial and/or visitation rights.
If the courts are truly doing this now, then why do so many fathers and their supporters feel the need for this legislation?
We think anything that helps "good fathers' stay "good dads' is worth passing. If the law has to be tweaked so that some judges don"t feel so put upon, then make the necessary changes.
But it"s time dads had some rights, too.
What don"t family court judges know? An awful lot. For instance, a child"s heart.
I am always struck that judges, along with attorneys, are so often asked what is best for children. They have not the slightest training in child development. They have never counseled a distraught parent, or hugged an agonized child.
As a physician accustomed to rigorous scientific scrutiny of what works and what doesn"t, it is inconceivable to me that judges have been put in charge of our lives based on their seat-of-the-pants guesses about what is best for kids.
And here is the ultimate disqualifier: they have no means of learning what happened
. Without follow-up, they continue as blind as the day they put on the robe. In medicine, we study what happened, and we correct our mistakes of the past. That"s why we don"t still apply blood-sucking leeches to cure typhoid fever. But the judges are still trapped in the 18th
century, when there was little alternative but to give sole custody to one parent (in those days, it was the father).
A member of ours wrote movingly about what happened
after the decision of a Massachusetts family court judge to allow his daughter to move to Delaware. This is what the courts never see.
"Heather is almost 10 and has lived in Delaware since October of 2005. And what is ironic is that I am sure the courts would consider this move a success.
She is doing well in school, has adjusted and made friends, and, overall, is doing very well. The big problem? She never wanted to go and hates having her parents so far apart. We miss each other each and every day. She tells me, "Dad, when I am in Delaware I miss you and when I am in Massachusetts I miss Mommy."
"I just got back from my seventh or eighth trip down there. I don't think that it's fair for her to have to fly back and forth every month so I break it up by going down there every few months.'
"The courts would see our situation as a success story. The problem is, Heather and I both hate the way things are. And we are the only ones who ever have to make sacrifices. Her mother gets off easy. Justice served? Hardly.'
This man feelingly describes his child"s heartache – something the courts will never know. So they"ll make the same mistake the next time -- until we do something about it.
The myth of the "deadbeat dad" is pervasive in our society--in some circles, "divorced dad" or "noncustodial dad" are practically synonymous with "deadbeat dad." One malignant outgrowth of this can be seen when divorced fathers try to install financial responsibility in their children by linking school performance or behavior to money provided for cars or consumer items. The letter below in a column from Annie's Mailbox last year is a good example.
"Dear Annie: I have a 16-year-old son whom I love very much. I have been divorced from his mother for eight years, remarried for the last six. 'Brendan' lives with his mother in the same city, so I see him a lot.
"We had a good relationship until recently. I told Brendan I would give him a car and pay for the insurance if he kept his grades up. He agreed. His first report card, he got a D in one subject. The car stayed at my house. Four weeks later, he got another D on his mid-term.
"The day after he received his grades, Brendan gave my wife and me a very impressive presentation, with charts and everything. He promised to work hard, do extra credit and show us his test scores every week. We caved and let him have the car. Well, he had an excuse every week why he didn't have his test scores. When his grades came, he had two Ds.
"I told Brendan to bring back the car, and he said I needed to talk to his mom, my ex. Naturally, she took his side and wanted the car to stay at her house, and didn't care that Brendan and I had an agreement. The car is now back at my place, but Brendan is angry with me, and my ex is probably going to buy him a car.
"I want my son to learn that there are consequences for being irresponsible. Am I wrong? -- Worried Dad
"Dear Dad: You are not wrong. A car is a privilege, not a right, no matter what some kids think. You kept your end of the bargain, and if his mother buys him a Porsche, let it be HER problem. Your ex is teaching Brendan that he doesn't have to work for anything and that it's OK to renege on agreements. We hope you will keep trying to teach him otherwise, Dad."
One can almost hear 16 year-old Brendan fuming to his friends that his dad is a cheapskate. I wonder who helped teach him to think that way about his dad?
"Of course there were areas of safety; nothing could get at me if I curled up on my father's lap, holding onto his ear...All about him was safe."--Naomi Margaret Mitchison, Scottish Novelist and Poet
I think all of us hope our daughters will have the same type of memories of us...
Below are some recent articles and items of interest from Fathers & Families'
latest News Digest.
Fathers not short-changed by B.C. Adoption Act, minister says
(The Canadian Press, 10-2-07)
Parents to have money taken away from child support payments
Dancers lead fight for fathers' rights
(The Morning Sun
Televangelist's Husband Denies Abuse
(Associated Press, 10-3-7)
Waterford Police Pursuing Mother in Abduction Case
(CBS 6 Albany, 10-3-07)
Family judges campaign to take the bitterness and costs out of divorce
TV chef must sell seafront restaurant in £3.6m divorce
Home at last; Dad brings abducted tot home (The Record, 10-7-07)
A loan that helps couples go solo (Times Online, 10-8-07)
Rise of collaborative divorce is not for everyone (The Washington Times, 10-8-07)
Background: The Melinda Smith/Thomas Smith Los Angeles foster care outrage is one of the most egregious child welfare injustices I've ever seen. In my co-authored column, Choosing Foster Parents over Fathers (San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/11/07), I explained:
"In the heartbreaking Melinda Smith case, a father and daughter were needlessly separated by the foster care system for over a decade. Last week, Los Angeles County settled a lawsuit over the case for an undisclosed sum...
"Smith was born to an unwed couple in 1988. Her father, Thomas Marion Smith, a former Marine and a decorated Vietnam War veteran, saw Melinda often and paid child support. When the girl was four, her mother abruptly moved without leaving a forwarding address. Two years later, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services found that Melinda"s mother was abusing her. Though the social worker for the case noted in the file that Thomas was the father, he was never contacted, and his then 6-year-old daughter was placed in the foster care system.
"Thomas--whose fitness as a father was never impugned nor legally questioned--continued to receive and pay his child support bills. Authorities refused to disclose his daughter"s whereabouts, and didn"t even inform him that his daughter had been taken by the County. Smith employed private investigators and attorneys to try to find Melinda and secure visitation rights, but he eventually ran out of money.
"Rather than allowing Smith to raise his own daughter, the system shuttled Melinda through seven different foster care placements. An understandably angry child, her outbursts led authorities to house her in a residential treatment center alongside older children convicted of criminal activity--when she was only seven years old.
"Melinda says that during this period she was told that her father was a 'deadbeat dad' who had abandoned her. When Melinda was 16, she told an investigating social worker that the 'most important thing' for her was to find her dad. Moved by her story, the social worker began searching for Melinda"s father--and found him in one day. In 2005, Thomas and Melinda were finally reunited."
The terms of the settlement in this case are revealed in a recent Los Angeles Daily News
article, and apparently Smith is going to receive $225,000 from Los Angeles County. I don't know much about how these settlements are done, but I'm surprised--Smith should be paid millions
for what was done to his little daughter. I know it's comparing apples and oranges, but it seems particularly low in light of the millions that Los Angeles County had at one point agreed to pay former firefighter Tennie Pierce
over a questionable racial harassment complaint.
As part of their agreement with Smith, the County generously agreed to "forgive" Smith's fake child support debt, not one dime of which should he ever have been asked to pay. Moreover, much of the "debt" piled up after Smith and his daughter were already reunited, as the County still kept sending him child support bills.
The Daily News
article by Troy Anderson
, who has done a good job in his pieces on this case, is below.
Child-support case may be settled
Father would get $225,000 from county
By Troy Anderson
A decorated Vietnam War veteran who spent more than a decade searching for his daughter would be paid $225,000 by the county, which mistakenly allowed him to pay child support for the girl although she was in foster care, under a settlement recommended Monday.
The Los Angeles County Claims Board recommended the payment to settle a lawsuit filed by Thomas Marion Smith, who was never told that his young daughter had been taken away from his ex-wife and placed in foster care. The Board of Supervisors will vote on the settlement Oct. 16.
"This is a landmark case having a profound impact on the system," said Smith's attorney, Linda Wallace. "At the point of entry, county departments are now notified to make sure children are not lost in the system."
Lisa Garrett, chief deputy director of the Child Support Services Department, said her agency is working to improve communication with the Department of Children and Family Services to avoid a recurrence of the Smith case.
Smith's suit claims that county employees were negligent for failing to notify him that his daughter was in foster care. Had he known of the girl's whereabouts, he would have obtained custody of his daughter and eliminated the need for county intervention.
Read the full article here.
Background: The taxpayer-funded domestic violence industry vilifies men and promotes unfair and misleading stereotypes about domestic violence. One example is this amazing series of domestic violence public service ads from HomeFront, a Canadian domestic violence agency.
To learn more and to watch the ad "Restaurant," the other ad in the series, click here.
The ad "Boardroom" is another example of the way the domestic violence industry views and portrays men. To watch the ad, click here
, or see below.
The tagline to the ads is: "You wouldn't get away with it here--you shouldn't get away with it at home." The ads were produced in 2003 by HomeFront, a Canadian domestic violence agency.
Television reporter Tina Stein
(pictured) of WIFR in Rockford, Illinois did an excellent job on the child support piece below. The piece details the case of Ed Conley, an electrician who broke his leg, was out of work for three months, and who nearly went to jail for it. Conley's friends and relative came up with several thousand dollars to keep him out.
The case is typical of the way the child support system manufactures "deadbeat dads." Let's break it down:
1) Conley has a track record of 13 years of "mostly on-time payments." Then he breaks his leg and can't work.
2) He repeatedly tries to contact the child support agency to tell them and to get a downward modification, but can't get through to anybody. Reporter Stein tries this also, and confirms Conley's experience.
3) Ex-wife hires attorney to pursue Conley for the support she knows he shouldn't be asked to pay. Her attorney blames Conley, saying, "He could file motions to where they could have child support reduced because they don't have any income to pay for child support." Conley had tried to resolve the issue the best he could--his only other alternative would have been to hire an attorney, which he obviously could not afford to do.
4) State doesn't care, pursues him anyway, threatens him with jail, and only relents when his friends and relatives pay his child support for him.
This kind of outrage isn't unusual--I hear stories like this all day long. It's to Stein's credit that she pursued this story. I spoke with Tina this morning and commended her--I suggest that readers send her a quick note to thank her--click here
. Her story is below.
Child Support Concerns
Oct 1, 2007
Reporter: Tina Stein
A basketball injury didn't earn Ed Conley any sympathy from the state's Division of Child Support Enforcement, despite his 13-years of mostly on-time payments.
"There were breaks in my leg I have got 2 plates 19 screws in there. I didn't just sprain my ankle and want to stay off work," Conley says.
The electrician was off the job for three months and his ex-wife didn't get any of the 38-hundred dollars owed for those three months either.
"She hired an attorney and that attorney contacted me and basically said I had to pay in full what was owed right then, and sent papers wanting me to be sent to jail."
In Illinois, the Association for Children for Enforcement Support says nearly three billion dollars are owed in back child support. More than one in three cases are in collection, making us one of the worst states in the country. And while Conley promised to pay once he returned work, his ex-wife's attorney, Donald Ray says he should have come up with the money sooner.
"He could file motions to where they could have child support reduced because they don't have any income to pay for child support," says Attorney Ray.
Unfamiliar with what to do, Conley tried getting help through the child support hot line.
"Three different times I called that number and got put on hold for 20 minutes and then it says due to the high call volumes your call will now be dropped," Conley says.
I wanted to see if Conley was right. So I called and it took more than five minutes to speak to someone. And then I was transferred a half-dozen times before deciding to hang up.
Read the full article here
On numerous occasions I've discussed the ways the taxpayer-funded domestic violence industry vilifies men and promotes unfair and misleading stereotypes about domestic violence. "Restaurant," an amazing domestic violence public service ad from HomeFront, a Canadian domestic violence agency, captures perfectly the way the domestic violence industry views and portrays men. To watch the ad, click here
, or see below.
Apparently the ad was blocked from airing on TV by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
. HomeFront uses the ads in their trainings and has them on their website, and the ads are used in DV seminars. The ads in this series portray only men as batterers and women as victims. HomeFront's slogan is "Stop It Where It Starts."
Research clearly shows that women are just as likely as men to initiate violence in the home. Men suffer a third of all domestic violence-related injuries, and women use weapons and the element of surprise to help balance the scales. To learn more, see my co-authored column October"s Domestic Violence Awareness Month Ignores Many Victims
and others, 10/4/06). To learn more about problems with the way our legal system and the media handle domestic violence, click here
One common theme in Parental Alienation cases is the alienating parent punishing the children for having any positive interactions with the targeted parent. In Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties that Bind, several of the adults interviewed by Amy J.L. Baker report having this experience.
One of them is David,
whose parents divorced when he was six, and who was caught in his mother's long-term alienation campaign against his father. (To learn more about David's case, click here
David's mother drove his father out of his life, but even years later he would be made to pay a price for expressing interest in his father. David explains:
"I remember one time I mentioned about talking to Dad and she said, ‘I"ll take you out of my will." That sticks in my mind because at the time I was thinking about calling him.'
Baker writes, "It was not enough for his mother to have eliminated all visits, she also had to eliminate any discussion or mention of the father as well. She made it clear that to talk about him was a betrayal of her."
"Even when I was in high school and college if I talked about my dad that was like sticking a knife in her. It was just something you did not want to do. It was almost as if I knew if I mentioned that I wanted to go see my dad I would be brow beaten into submission. I was thinking this is crazy that it seems like every time I talk about my dad all hell breaks loose and it was almost easier… it was easier to not broach the subject. It became about survival…at that point in my life to survive you just don"t talk about him at all.'
The alienation and browbeating was so severe that David waited until three years after his mother was dead to contact his father, explaining, "Only then was I beginning to feel comfortable talking to my dad. It still felt like I was betraying her. It took three years for her to be dead.'
I've often criticized what one might call the "paternal abandonment script"--the standard assumption that if a father doesn't remain in his children's lives after a divorce or separation, it's because he "abandoned the family" and/or chose to remove himself from his children's lives.
This script is pushed heavily by both the left and the right, including: feminists; influential fatherhood expert David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values; presidential candidate Barack Obama; former Vice-President Dan Quayle (and his famous 1992 Murphy Brown speech decrying fatherlessness); and countless others.
I've detailed in numerous newspaper columns
the many barriers mothers and the family law system place between fathers and their children and won't reprise the argument here. But many times I see references to fathers who "abandoned" their kids when, upon closer inspection, it is very unclear that such "abandonment" occurred. This is particularly common when dealing with African-American fathers.
I noticed this again recently when reading the autobiography of Dick Allen (pictured), probably the best hitter in the major leagues during much of my childhood. There are numerous media references to Dick Allen (aka Richie Allen) being raised by a single mother. For example, in Dick Allen, the Phillies, and Racism
, William C. Kashatus writes, "Allen was the youngest of three boys raised by a single mother."
The Encyclopedia of Arkansas
reports that Dick Allen was the son of "Era Allen and her husband, a traveling truck driver who later divorced her. Era Allen raised her youngest son primarily on her own."
Allen doesn't focus on this issue in his autobiography, but in passing makes several assertions which contradict the paternal abandonment script written about his family life. According to Allen, his mother and father had a rocky, up and down relationship which finally ended when the couple divorced. That's not exactly "abandonment."
Allen's mother and father divorced when Allen was 15, meaning that the father had been with the mother as they raised all of the other children and up until Allen, the youngest, was almost grown. That's not exactly "abandonment," either.
In the book, Allen wonders what became of his father, but says that he would never discuss it in his family because any mention of his father greatly upset his mother. In other words, Allen thought that if he had a relationship with his father, it would have been a betrayal of his mother. Allen was fiercely loyal to his mother, often with good reason. But the "having a relationship with your dad is a betrayal of mom" is a central part of Parental Alienation
. Again, this isn't exactly "abandonment."
Dick Allen's father was a traveling truck driver, so he was probably gone a lot, even during the time his relationship with Allen's mother was good. Allen's dad probably wasn't a Father of the Year candidate, but there's not much evidence that he was a bad guy, either. All we know for sure is that he didn't get along with Allen's mother. And that doesn't mean he abandoned his kids or was a bad father.
Richard Allen Jr., Dick Allen's son, wrote to me about my piece above, and adds some new information. According to Richard Jr., Dick Allen, in contrast to the paternal abandonment script, "did have a relationship with his father, however it was separate from his mother." In other words, he continued his relationship with his father after the divorce, but probably refrained from mentioning his relationship with his father to his mother.
Sources I've read say that Dick Allen's father was a truck driver and Allen was the youngest child. According to Richard Jr., Dick Allen's father was a sanitation worker, not a truck driver, and he was not quite the youngest in the family--he had one younger brother, in addition to several older siblings.]
Recently my daughter and I were watching her second favorite movie, The Sandlot 3
. (Her favorite movie is The Sandlot 1
). The movie is the story of arrogant baseball star Tommy "Santa" Santorelli who (warning: plot spoiler ahead) travels back in time to 1976 and relives his boyhood days on the sandlot baseball team. This time he chooses friendship over individual accomplishments, and ends up turning his life around, becoming a beloved baseball star instead of a hated one.
When Santorelli goes back to his childhood he is reunited with his mother, who died when he was about 12. The boy's bond with his mom is touching and sad, no question. However....Santorelli's father is not mentioned.
I don't mean that he's not there--we're used to that. Normally when they want to depict an absent father they'll depict him as dead or, more commonly, as having run off. (Just once I'd like to see a kid in a mainstream movie casually say "Oh, my dad's not around--mom divorced him and used family court machinations to drive him out of my life when I was younger.") But here, unless my daughter, my wife and I all missed something, Santorelli's father is not referred to at all. A child not having a father has become so routine that the screenwriters don't even feel obligated to throw in a one sentence reference to dad and why he's not here.
This is an increasingly annoying feature of many modern movies--"John Tucker Must Die" and Toy Story" are a couple of other examples. It seems particularly offensive here because, dammit, this is a baseball movie.
Dads, boys and baseball go together. So in honor of the father-son-baseball bond which The Sandlot 3
has besmirched, I've put together some details about the loving bonds many current and former major league baseball players shared with their dads. Some examples include:
Former New York Mets relief pitcher John Franco, one of the better closers in baseball during the 1980s and 1990s, always wore an orange NYC sanitation T-shirt under his baseball uniform, in honor of his father, a New York City sanitation worker.
Former New York Yankee right fielder Paul O'Neill published the book Me and My Dad: A Baseball Memoir
after his playing career ended. O'Neill's father, Charles "Chick" O'Neill, was a paratrooper in World War II
and pitched in the minor leagues. He died after Game 3 of the 1999 World Series. Paul O'Neill went to his father's funeral, then played in Game 4, helping the Yankees complete their sweep of the Atlanta Braves.
Former Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett honored his father in his Hall of Fame induction speech
Current Houston Astros star first baseman Lance Berkman recently told a reporter, "My dad is my hero...I think so much of him. He's just got tremendous moral values, and he's just a wonderful person and somebody who's very comforting to be around...He's someone I've learned through by example more than anything else, particularly with his honesty...He's not a man of many words. He's not very charming. He's not necessarily a guy that will walk up and take the floor and talk a bunch. But the way he lives is an example to a lot of people. He's a true gentleman. He's got a lot of people that look up to him and the way he carries himself. A lot of times actions speak louder than words, and he's a guy that certainly lives that out."
A reader recently reminded me of a story I told on His Side with Glenn Sacks
a couple years ago, one of the saddest I've ever heard: "The secretary at another radio station where I used to do the show told me a story about her son. The father and the mother broke up when the boy was about four or five, and the father soon disappeared from the boy's life. "When the boy started school, he always worked very hard and did all his homework and got good grades, even though his mother never pushed him to do well in school or to do his homework.
This gettin' up early, pulling double shifts / Gonna make an old man of me long before I ever get rich / But I'm tryin' / It's been two years since we've finalized / I still ain't used to puttin' ex in front of wife / But I'm tryin' / Send more money right away / is pretty much all she has to say when she calls these days / and don't you be late
Another good divorced dad song is Trace Adkins' I'm Tryin'
--to watch the music video, click here
. The lyrics are below. In the picture, the father has just spent some nice time with his son, the ex-wife is coming to pick the son up, and she's ripping him away from his father and angrily criticizing her ex. We'll put it in our divorced dad song collection,