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