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hillaryThe results of the US presidential elections prompted writer Aaron Sorkin to write a letter to his daughters. Like Sorkin, and many other fathers, I am very troubled by the victory of a man who, among many qualities, is an overt misogynist. I have not seen my daughters for years and feel I have to reach out to them, for whatever it is worth. This post is addressed to them.

I know you two did vote in the past election, both for your first presidential election. Chloé for the first time.

I did not vote. Although I have been living in this country for 25 years, I am not a U.S. citizen. Laura did become one this year to cast her vote against Trump and what he stands for. I went with her to her citizenship ceremony. I was very moved by it and congratulated her. Yet I could not to do the same as I can not bring myself to swear “to bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law.” I refused to bear arms for France and do my military service there in 1984 when France still had the draft, so I became a conscientious objector instead. I will not swear to do the same for the US, even if it is very unlikely that the lunatic who is now President-elect reestablishes the draft and decides to send men of my age to countries he may fancy to take to war. I do not acknowledge the right of a State – democratic or  otherwise – to tell someone when it is just to kill.

To be honest with you, I would also have a hard time swearing to defend the constitution of the US with the second amendment in it. A constitution is however subject to change.

But back to the earthquake of election day. I accompanied Laura to vote on 152 street and Amsterdam. It felt there like Hillary had 100 percent of the vote as we exited the polling station at 8:00 am. In fact, I only started to smell a rat around 10:00 pm, as Virginia was failing to fall fast enough in Hillary’s column.

Five days after the elections I am still in a state of shock trying to figure out what the triumvirate of fat idiots (Trump, Giuliani and Christie) is going to mess up first. Climate change policy and the US pledge in the Paris agreement? Planned parenthood and the life of women seeking an abortion? The life of the undocumented migrants, who cannot afford to be depressed, have not seen their families for years, and are still here washing dishes, cutting flowers, cleaning tables for miserable wages and paying for Social Security they will never get a penny from?

The thing that strikes me the most is what was going on in the voting booth with the folks who voted for the man. Granted, the democratic party has for too long neglected the working class. Does that justify voting for somebody who has absolutely zero credential with labour, even less  with the poor, and furthermore, has never run an office and is at best a dilettante?  I dare to bet that these poor fellows from Pennsylvania are not about to see their State covered again with steel mills.

Last thing about an image that has been aired over and over again I keep thinking about. In one of Trump’s campaign meeting, a black protestor was expelled, and walked back to the door by security. A man in the crowd surreptitiously threw a punch at him from behind. He knew the protestor could not get back at him. He also knew the crowd was on his side. This was an unfettered, safe expression of hate; The act of a coward. Men like Trump, who lamented the “old times when protesters would go home on a stretcher” call for this type of acts from this type of men.

Be safe girls.

I cannot wait for this presidential campaign to end. The fool with a toupee is dragging people -immigrants, women, disabled – and any issue he dares to discuss in the mud. This is exacting.

The poor fellow is obviously proud in his own sick way of his  daughter, whom he shows off, and whom, miraculously, has not ended up in the beauty pageants he owns. He has absolutely nothing to say about love, fatherhood, education or family justice.

Even if I think the man is likely to take the beating he deserves, I have to grab signs that the world has not turned into a nauseous place he lives in. Sometimes, you find it in the NYC subway.

Photos Laura Martinez

Introductions

p1030170It has been more than 11 years since my last supervised visitation with you (September 10 2005 to be exact). Since then, our contact have been either inexistent, or imaginary -as when ex impersonated one of you in email exchanges, very recently.

During all this time, your cousins in France you met and may remember have become adults, and one you never met, Romane, is a teen. Let me introduce to you your little cousins, Louise and Théa, who live near Chambéry, in France. In December, Louise will turn 4 and Théa 1.

Justice is really not America’s stuff. Perhaps because politicians don’t care.  As decrepit, insufficiently founded and poorly functioning as the justice system is, there is little interest in reforming it. Fixing the justice system is never a priority amongst the topics of a presidential campaign. At least,not the campaigns I have attended since 1992.

Last night, out of curiosity, I googled the sentence “justice reforms in the campaign of Donald Trump” and in the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Not surprisingly, there is nothing of interest on Trump’s side. The poor fellow does not even understand the issue. For him, “justice” is about crime and punishment. Check it out.  The entries you get are “lethal injection is too comfortable”, “tough on crime”, “taking care of the bad dudes.” In other words, non- sense that have produced the poor outcomes the country is dealing with like massive incarceration rate,  and incarceration of the wrong guys, like Kalief Browder. Kalief Browder was innocent, refused to take a plea, spent three years in Rikers Island waiting for a trial, most of the time in solitary confinement and ended up committed suicide. That’s for the criminal justice system. With the family court system, divorced fathers have to go through marathon trial that last more than six years. And they loose access to their kids in the process.

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Kalief Browder (Photo ABC News)

With Clinton, we are in the realm of glittering marketing. One entry in Hillary for America site is “Racial Justice.” There, in a page with the  heading “America’s long struggle with race is far from finished,” you get a list of what President Clinton will do if elected. All of these goals are intrinsically worth pursuing. I see however two problems tough with this program that bear with credibility:  President Bill Clinton has implemented policies, like the 1996  welfare reforms- that have screwed the poor – blacks among others- left and right. That Hillary Clinton, who has not taken issue with the policies of her husband, may now stand as a champion of “racial justice” is a breathtaking legerdemain. Second, there does not seem to be much money involved in Hillary’s program, besides that for “doubling the funding for the US Department of Justice Collaborative Reform program” whose aims is to improve and train police practices. It is obviously necessary, but well short of the task.

What I ‘d like to see in a candidate’s program to reform justice is significant resources to fix the structural flaws of the system. Let me give you an example.  Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer who represented hundreds of people on death row pro bono. He has taken care of those who have been unfairly treated by the justice system for lack of means, lack of education, racial prejudice etc. He moved to Montgomery, Alabama. Stevenson also created an organization called Equal Justice Initiative, which now operates nationally and employs 17 full-time attorneys. The financial future is temporarily secured thanks to …grants from private foundations.

When the work of organizations such as Equal Justice Initiative will not rest on charitable donations but on taxpayers money, there will be some hope the justice system will be seriously reformed… and racial justice taken care of as a result.

 

SignBetter2

If you walk the streets of Skala, the main town of Patmos, the Holy Island of Greece where I was a few days ago, you will likely bump into these signs that feature a man  -yes, a man – holding the hand of a little girl. These signs are there to tell motorists to slow down.

I am no specialist of Greek culture but these signs tell an interesting story: Greek fathers have a role to play in the life of their children, protect them, and have to be protected as caretakers. I bet Greek family courts are smarter than New York State’s and, as they handle divorces, do not limit fathers’ obligations to their children to paying child support.Sign1Greece

I just came across a distressing CNN report about fathers trapped in debt for non-payment naplesnews.comof child support. At first, it sounds there is nothing new here that we have not covered in this blog. In New York State, if you can afford a divorce in Supreme Court, you buy your way into sharing the life of your children. If however you have the bad  fortune of being poor, you have to end up in family court. There, being a father entails one and only one duty: paying child support. Having a role in the life of your children is just an option , which depends on the good grace of the judge, your ex or both.

The  CNN Vega’s piece mentions a new aberration in New York State family justice. Some fathers, who for whatever reasons- unemployment or low wages (family court judges don’t seem to be aware of the stagnation of real median wages over the last two decades) cannot meet child support obligations, and end up behind bars. We are not talking about the relatively mild detention conditions of a county jail here. Fathers are graciously housed in Rikers Island. They obviously don’t make a dime while incarcerated and their child support debt keep mounting, which dramatically increases their chance to never being able to expunge it and to return to prison after they are set free. President Obama tried to stop this absurdity  in 2010 by passing a federal law that would reclassify incarceration as involuntary unemployment -instead of voluntary- and stop child support debt from accruing.

Hillary Clinton, who as a Senator of New York has never left a finger to reform the aberrant family laws of the State, is now attacking discrimination against men in child custody as unconstitutional. Dear Hillary, it took you a while. But fathers all over the country are waiting for some real meat,not just words.

I saw Gad Elmaleh’s show, “Oh My Gad” last night at Joe’s Pub. Elmaleh is  a very

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Gad Elmaleh (www.madamesioux.fr)

successful stand-up Moroccan French comedian who decided to make it in New York. Why New York? Gad knows. As I was thinking of the show, one of its main themes came to me.  America has mostly good people but bad institutions, like health care policy,  justice and gun laws. In France, or in Morocco, where Elmaleh spent part of his childhood, people are perhaps not so good, but institutions are much better.

Let’s leave Gad Elmaleh and let me take it from there. In New York for instance, we have the ethicist and his column in the Sunday Times. Each week, a bunch of good people are asking Kwame Anthony Appiah what is the right thing to do, because they care about it. Like this woman for instance, who asks the ethicist if she should tell her boy about his biological father (her ex). She cannot stand having his son learn about his biological father by anybody but her. That’s a woman thing: she wants to control the narrative, totally. The ethicist goes right to the point: tell your son. Now.

The surprising thing is that somehow, all these good intentions have come to be lost in the process of designing institutions, justice for instance. As this group of fathers demonstrating in front of Toledo family court on May 28 to ask for the basic right of having a role in the life of their children shows, there is little ethics in the working of family courts. It is a custodial- mother- take- all game.

Also let say it again. We need to seriously improve our narrative. No, “we are not -all- deadbeats- dads.” The deadbeats dads are those who have been bled by unreasonable child support payments. We want family courts not to mess up with us being dads.

 

 

 

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