Magazine article Tikkun

Fathers' Rights

Magazine article Tikkun

Fathers' Rights

Article excerpt

Fathers' Rights

Thane Rosenbaum

Thane Rosenbaum is the literary editor of TIKKUN.

A divorced father takes his young son, and without his former wife's consent, embarks on a treacherous journey, risking the child's life and all but assuring that the mother will never see her son again. Along the way, the father drowns, but the child miraculously survives and arrives safely on the shores of freedom. In this new land, the child has remote relatives who wish to become his new parents. Meanwhile, his grieving mother sits in his empty room for over four months and anxiously awaits his return.

Sound familiar? We all know that if you reverse the parental roles, this tragic story parallels the fate of six-year-old Elian Gonzalez. Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, spent four months waiting in Cuba, distraught and tearful about the son who was taken away from him and held as a Cold War hostage in a war that is no longer hot, except in Miami. Gonzalez' tears were ignored, as though fathers are incapable of generating that kind of emotion on account of a lost child. Does anyone doubt that had Elian's journey to Florida rendered him fatherless rather than motherless, Americans--and perhaps even the exiled Cuban community of Miami--would have had an altogether different sense of sympathy for the child and his surviving parent?

Indeed, had the situation been reversed, each passing day that Elian remained in Miami might have set off an international incident to reunite the mother with her child. Air Force One would have been enlisted to shuttle Elian home. Few would have had the temerity to question why Elizabet Brotons Rodriguez, Elian's mother, had not come to retrieve her son. And surely no one would have suggested that after four months of living in Florida, Elian's bond with his mother had been irrevocably severed and his emotional ties miraculously transferred to his Miami family.

Of course, this sad and hypocritical incident should once again remind us of the hardships that fathers face when it comes to matters of child custody. Regardless of what progressives, as well as jurists, say or wish to believe, parental rights are not equal. Fathers are routinely valued somewhere below mothers but above strangers--although shockingly, in Gonzalez' case he seemed to have ranked below even them. …

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