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[AKidsRight.Org] The Gerbil Cage: Faith, Rights, Sacrifice & Family Law Reform

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From: John Murtari (
Date: Wed Oct 20 2004 - 15:42:32 EDT

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Good People & People of Faith,

We have talked about NonViolent Action, as practiced by Gandhi and
Martin Luther King, as a critical method in our struggle for
protection of our GREAT Civil Right to be parents to our children. My
current jail sentence (as have the others) gives me time and
motivation to reflect on this.  For background and details, see:

I/We need another loving mother and father to join this effort to get
a meeting between parents and Senator Clinton.  This message is being
written to you -- the loving parent, abused by the system, but who
still believes and is at a point in their lives where they are ready
to make a leap of Faith for reform, for their children, and for

I'm in a new location this time, Cayuga County Jail located in Auburn,
New York.  When the U.S. Marshals said they would be moving me there I
thought it would be a good deal.  A facility located in a rural area
where there would be a civil relationship between prisoners and staff.
I was mistaken.

I write this on October 2nd, my birthday!  I turn 48 years old in
jail.  What an achievement!  I'm sitting on my steel bunk with my
Sealy extra-extra-extra firm mattress -- or is that extra thin?  I
call my new home the 'Gerbil Cage.'  There are 13 of us in here --
beds about 4 feet apart.

The Gerbil Cage
There is one TV and you can't escape the sound.  Our litter box is
right in front and you can watch TV from the seat (Homer Simpson would
love it!)  It only has about a 3' privacy wall -- do you get the idea?

The size of the Gerbil Cage, 24' wide and about 40' long.  That
includes our dining room, a couple of steel tables right next to the
TV and the litter box!  We get to stay here for our meals -- isn't
room service great?

Oh, I might smell a bit right now.  Even though I take a shower
everyday I'm still wearing the same jail clothes I had a week ago.  It
seems they don't have quite enough to go around.

I almost felt bad till I met a guy with no underwear and pants two
sizes too large.  It seems he came in with colored underwear.  They
took that away, but didn't give him a replacement -- for a week he
walked around with one hand wrapped around his pants -- imagine that!

After several days of pleading with the guards he was able to get a
pair of pants only one size too large, still no underwear -- but he
was a happier man!

I am happy to report the local sheriff is an Equal Opportunity
Employer.  They have a lot of female guards.  They walk through our
cage any time, even when we are using the litter box!  They are even
there when we are taking a shower (they try to keep their backs

Worth the Sacrifice
What do you think about that kind of treatment and environment?  A
person loses their freedom in jail -- but don't they still deserve
human dignity?

Are you upset by this?  Going to become an activist for jail reform --
the rights of prisoners?  I may write a few letters or make a phone
call, but would I go to jail over the issue -- no.  Would I violate an
order and walk outside the offices of Senator Clinton over this?  No.
Would you?

But I may find myself back here next year.  Why?  Because my right to
be a parent to my child has been violated.  Would I be willing to
sacrifice more time in a Gerbil Cage over that?  Yes.  What does it
take to do that?  Faith.

A lot of people tune out about now.  A lot of people don't want Faith
pushed on them.  I quite agree and we are not selling Faith.

A lot of people tell me talking about Faith detracts from the purpose
of our Group -- I'll believe that when I have one of those folks here
with me in the Gerbil Cage.  How about you?

The essence of NonViolent Action is the belief that voluntary personal
sacrifice can be a powerful force for social change -- and always
effective in personal change.

What did it take for a Black person in the Fifties to peacefully
attempt to sit in the front of the bus?  Knowing he would not only be
thrown off the bus and jailed -- but the local Klan might visit his
home and burn it down?

Is that fair?  Would you do something like that?  For those 'early
adoptors' it took a lot of Faith -- for it would seem no one cared.
Later on this type of action became 'trendy.'  There was more media
attention and people with little or no Faith (but still good,
concerned people) would participate in the actions.  The reward
justified the risk.

Is NonViolent Action and the Faith it requires really practical today?
The Blacks that participated in the Fifties had a strong, community
church based Faith -- do we have that among parents now?  Most of the
Blacks did not have much property -- what about us now?

What about me?
I'll tell you what troubles me most and it is not 6 weeks in a Gerbil
Cage.  I am an only child and my 88 year old mother is at home in
Lyons -- alone.

She immigrated to America from Italy after marrying my father.  Who
would have ever thought she would become a mother at 40, and him a new
father at 64!  She became a grandmother at 77 and my son Domenic means
the world to her.

We make at least four trips a year to the other side of the country to
spend a weekend with him -- she has made all but one.  She refuses the
wheelchair through the airport, "I'm not old yet!"  She lives on a
small social security check and it costs us everything we have to see
Dom.  I'm driving a 1988 Dodge Caravan with a quarter million miles on

I have some cousins in town that help her with groceries (many thanks
to Mary & Phil Paliotti) and I try to call her everyday from here, but
I worry.  Is the risk worth it?  Am I doing the right thing?  I worry
about the potential pain to myself and others.  But do I have any
doubt that my sacrifice is important?  No.  Do I have any regrets?

You really get time to think here.  Do you have any words you can use
to complete the following sentence?

I would voluntarily sacrifice months in a Gerbil Cage for the
following (with no certainty of achieving my goal):

* My freedom of speech.
* My freedom of religion.
* My freedom from slavery.
* My right to sit anywhere on a bus.
* My right to be a parent to my own child.
* To get revenge on a former spouse, judge, lawyer or social worker?

What about that last one?  Would you undergo certain suffering for a
chance at revenge?  Sound pretty sick?  Our motivation must be based
on the love we have for our children.

Did anyone else see that?
If you have been through the system I'm sure you have had moments with
your child or former spouse that you wish could have been recorded for
a Court.  But there was no tape -- how unfair!  How can I get someone
to notice and care?

As a person who struggles with Faith, I have to remind myself there is
a loving God who not only knows, and sees, and cares -- but also has
the power to act.

What about Faith?
I am a former Air Force Pilot and an engineer.  I'm used to reading
dials, numbers, and graphs -- sure measures of reality.  My struggle
with Faith is never ending.

How much of the Bible is actual fact?  I have no idea.  Much of what
we believe depends on our Faith.  But there may be one "fact" many of
us can agree on.

The Bible is people trying to describe their experiences and those of
others with the Divine.  The experiences as they thought it was or
should have been.  There are many recurring in its pages.  One of them
important to NonViolent Action is:

"Many times the power of the Divine becomes visible in human existence
only after an act of Faith."  Human acts of Faith (and sacrifice) are
followed by Divine action.  One of the greatest "sins" is a failure to
act with Faith and trust in the Divine.

For those parents of Faith, you must certainly know you are loved by
God.  Your children, true innocence, are certainly loved.  God weeps
with us in response to the terrible tragedies our families have

Why doesn't God make it better?  What loving sacrifice are we willing
to make first?  Do we have the confidence that Divine action will
surely follow?

NonViolent Action requires we be prepared for the worst case scenario.
If we get the meeting with Senator Clinton and associated publicity --
great!  But if that doesn't happen and no one seems to care?  I always
know it will matter to Domenic and me as a positive demonstration of
love.  And as a person of Faith I know that a loving God sees, knows
and cares about what is happening.  A God who can also act, but also
requires my action and sacrifice.

If you haven't visited our material on NonViolent Action, please check
the web site at: http://www.AKidsRight.Org/civil_back.htm

When will we see our GREAT right protected?
When I asked the question about motivation I listed some GREAT rights
we have as people.  I sure do believe being a parent to my own child
deserves to be on that list -- maybe even at the top?  How about you?

Maybe we have two big obstacles in our path.  
ONE - We need people ready to sacrifice to make this right a reality
-- as people sacrificed in the past for our other GREAT rights.

TWO - We need to formulate the words that describe our GREAT right to
be a parent.  This may sound simple, but we have a ways to go.

Think of "Freedom of Religion."  That sounds easy to understand and
obvious, but think of Ancient Egypt -- where your King was also your
God.  Many would have seen 'Freedom of Religion' as a call to anarchy!

One question we all need to ask when we look at wording -- is it GREAT
enough?  Would I/you be willing to sit in a Gerbil Cage for:

* A rebuttable presumption of joint custody?
* Procedural changes that require mediation first?
* More training and education for social workers?

What is our GREAT right?
BOTH parents of a child are EQUAL parents of that child in every sense
of the word.  They are the ones empowered to determine what is in
"their child's best interest."

If either parent chooses not to live with the other -- they are still
EQUAL parents.  They will alternate equal physical custody of their
child.  They will share legal custody of their child and also
alternate 'tie breaking' authority when decisions have to be made.

In ANY case where a party (whether it be the other spouse or social
services or child protective services) requests a Court Order to
intervene in one or both parents' relationship with their child --
there is a 'Protective Barrier' which must be overcome: The Government
must first prove in a Criminal Court that the parent(s) have been a
demonstrated malicious and serious threat to their children.  The
parent(s) have:

* A presumption of innocence protected by a jury.
* A right to counsel.
* A right to speedy trial.
What do you think about all this?  Your FEEDBACK to this message is
welcome and we are eager to share it with others.  You are also
welcome to write to me in jail.  My address is: John Murtari, P.O. Box
518, Auburn, NY 13021 (Please include your return address in the text
of your message.  The Jail often times rips off return address

If you are concerned about these issues and would like to help, please
take the time to fax a letter to the offices of Senator Clinton and
the other officials involved.  Their contact information is at the web
site and also follows at the end of this message.

P.S. I'm happy to say I was moved out of the Gerbil Cage to a regular
cell after two weeks.  I'm a much happier man!  I should be released
from jail on November 5th.

                                       John Murtari
Coordinator                            AKidsRight.Org
jmurtari@AKidsRight.Org                "A Kid's Right to BOTH parents"
Toll Free (877) 635-1968(x-211)        http://www.AKidsRight.Org/

Please send a fax or make a phone call to the Senator's offices both
in Washington and Syracuse.  They are paying attention to what is
going on here. The Senator is a member of the Senate Subcommittee on
Children and Families.

You don't have to be a resident of New York to call her offices.

Syracuse Local rep, Cathy Calhoun,
tel: 315-448-0470, fax: 315-448-0476

Washington Scheduling Office, Lona Valmoro (Senior Advisor to the Senator),
tel: 202-224-4451, fax: 202-228-0121 

Most of all, you don't have to express anger. Just let her staff know
that you care about Civil Rights protection for families and the
Senator should meet with parent's groups regarding the need for
National reform...  Let them know being a parent is one of our
GREATEST rights. It needs official recognition and protection.

If you take the time to send a fax, try to send copies to the Judge
and US Attorney (also email us a copy or tell us about your phone
conversation).  Let them know you care.

Honorable Gustav J. DiBianco 
US Magistrate Judge 
RE: United States v. Murtari 
P.O. Box 7396 
Syracuse, NY 13261-7396 

US Attorney Glenn T. Suddaby 
RE: United States v. Murtari 
Hanley Federal Building, Room 900
100 S. Clinton Street
Syracuse, NY  13261
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