kidsnav.gif (4714 bytes)

Contact Us

[AKidsRight.Org] The Discipline of Lent: Introspection and Family Law Reform

Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

From: John Murtari (
Date: Fri Feb 25 2005 - 11:05:59 EST

Good People & People of Faith:

Wow, sorry for the imposing subject line.  But this is a message for
the season.  We've talked about efforts for reform, and building a
'Field of Dreams', and protecting our GREAT right to be parents to
our own children.  As Shrek would say, "Like that's ever going to
happen!"  You wonder why parents give up?  What it takes to keep
going?  I'm going back to the Syracuse Federal Building next Tuesday,
March 1st, with more chalk in hand - why?

This is a long message.  Hopefully you can read it when you have
time.  I welcome your thoughts and hope to share those in an upcoming

Why Give Up on Reform?
Don't you know -- the system is strong, you are weak, and the effort
is divided. The time you've missed with your kids growing up is GONE.
There is no 'make up' time. Oh, and forget what the neighbors say
-- when your kids grow up, they still may want no part of you.

You're not getting any younger and guess what? Even though you have
never won anything in your life -- on an upcoming Doctor visit, they
are going to find a strange 'lump' and bingo -- a winning ticket in
the Cancer Lottery! It may be time for you to pay a visit to -- they have some wonderful 'anti'
motivational posters. One of my favorites is "In every race there is
only ONE winner and many, many losers -- you are probably one of

Please, the above is not for 'shock' appeal.  Those statements are
pretty true.  If we want to participate in the reform effort and make
personal sacrifice for reform -- can we find the motivation it takes
to make it through all that?

How do we ignite a 'grass roots' effort among parents that can change
the heart of the Nation?  How can just a few parents, or even one
acting alone -- be willing to take such action?  What does it take --
will NonViolent Action work?

A Cold, Rainy, Lonely Day in Syracuse
On Valentine's Day I was outside the Syracuse Federal Building. It
was cold, snow on the ground, gusty winds, and rain.  I was the only
one there. Looking up at a dull, gray sky.  I stood there for a
while, holding our petition of pictures.  Then I took out some blue
chalk and wrote 'I LOVE YOU DOM -- Sen. Clinton Help Us'.  Did I say
it was cold?  That no one else bothered to show?

The ground was wet.  I went back to standing.  I watched the words as
they began to fade in the water -- great, just great!  Did I tell you
how cold it was?  Nobody else showed.  Was anybody even paying

Sometimes it just feels good to sink into a little despair.  I
couldn't even do that.  One of the building security guys came out (I
know them all pretty well).  He was in a great mood and stopped to
chat for a bit.  He told me, "John, I may not agree with you -- but I
have to admire your conviction."  Yeah, I thought, that and a buck
will get me a cup of coffee.

As I starting to write this I'm sitting on a plane heading out West
to see Domenic.  Crossing the country for a weekend.  It is
"President's Day" weekend, and Dom is off on Friday and Monday.  I
had hoped for a couple of extra days together -- but the answer was
'No'.  Don't blame her, I'm thousands of dollars of behind in
support.  Tit for tat -- sounds fair?  I just booked our tickets for
Spring Break, got a little shorted on that vacation time to -- but
heah, I take what I can get.

What does the System do?  It runs parents together like locomotives
on the same track -- with the kids riding in the back. It doesn't
matter what train you are on, you still lose.

Did I tell you I'm broke, actually broke probably says zero money,
I've been operating in negative numbers for years.  A couple of
credit cards charged up to the max and over $50,000 in judgments
they would love to enforce -- but they have already picked me clean.
Driving an 88 Dodge Caravan with 250,000 miles on it (and it looks
like it's been to the moon too!).  When 'investment planners' call me
at the office -- I just start laughing.  Planning for retirement?
Get real!

See what happens when you buck the system?  What a minute, take that
back...  See what happens when your stupid?  Now, does that sound a
little better to you?

The 'trap' of being RESULTS oriented
Now, NOT being results oriented doesn't sound like one of the 'Seven
Habits of Highly Effective People.'  But it is very true when we talk
about the personal sacrifice involved in NonViolent Action.
[BIG NOTE - NonViolent Action is NOT writing letters, lobbying, talking,
or getting a permit for a march -- check link below].

Here is a good quote on being 'results oriented' -- sound like you
at times?

  "He who is brooding over result often loses nerve in the
  performance of duty. He becomes impatient and then gives vent to
  anger . . . he jumps from action to action, never remaining
  faithful to any. He who broods over results . . . is every
  distracted, he says good-bye to all scruples, everything is right
  in his estimation and he therefore resorts to means fair & foul to
  attain his end.

  Not focusing on "results" gives one the inner peace to achieve
  final goals, this is renunciation."

Who said this, Mahatma Gandhi, http://www.AKidsRight.Org/civil_back.htm

Why did he say it?  Because it is true.  We need to remember that all
we can control is our behavior and actions (and some of us have a
hard time with that).  Take action because you feel it is the right
thing to do -- but not waiting for a result.  It is hard to do. Isn't
that why people like to 'yell' at 'protests' and do a little 'name
calling'!  Let's make those $astards feel it!

How about the murder/suicide bombers in the Middle East.  Let's show
people we are willing to die for our cause, but, in case that is not
enough -- let's take a few people with us!

I'll talk about Faith in this message.  I hope folks don't tune out
immediately!  I have to make one observation.  Especially among those
of us who are more 'educated', I find people fascinated by Native
American 'spirit quests' or in rapture of an Inuit Shaman's story of
creation or the struggle between good & evil.  But talk to these
folks about David & Goliath, they laugh!  Imagine that!  Have we
missed the richness of our own traditions?

We have members of the group of many Faiths.  We have people of no
Faith. They are all welcome and we are not trying to 'convert'
anyone.  That is NOT what this group is about.  But as we talk about
NonViolent Action as practiced by Gandhi and King, those were
movements primarily by people of Faith.  In my messages I use
examples drawn from Christian Traditions, that is what I am most
familiar with and also many of you -- and hopefully others can
translate into their traditions.

What about Lent and Ramadan
Many of us know about the Christian Season of 'Lent', but what about
the Islamic observation of Ramadan? From Seaton College:

  "Ramadan, is the holy month of fasting according to Islamic
  tradition. Ramadan fasting is considered one of the five main
  religious pillars of Islam prescribed in the Koran, the sacred
  scripture of Islam.

  Physically unimpaired adult Muslims abstain from drinking and
  eating, sexual relations, inhaling of fragrance and smoking during
  the day throughout Ramadan. [Do you get it?  No food or water at
  all from sunrise to sunset -- every day!]

  According to the Koran, God requires the fast of Ramadan so that
  believers may cultivate piety."

What do you make of that?  Makes 'Lent' seem like a cake walk!  How
about this little salutation from an Muslim Mother who is a member of
the group, from Anisah <>

> Bismillah irRahman irRaheem
> In the Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Most Kind
> May God forgive us for our shortcomings and grant us all success in
> this life and the hereafter.

Shortcomings -- do you have any of those?

The Power to win the battle.  The Power of voluntary sacrifice.
For those people of Faith.  We must know a few things.  God may not
like some of the things we do (as his children), but he loves us (as
his children). He loves you, me, the judges, the social workers,
psychologists, and yes -- even the lawyers!  Do you think the Divine
'wants' our children to suffer through the present System? No. Can
the Divine act in response to our 'prayers' and touch our lives? Of

What do you think of a 'protest' effort based on humiliating people
we disagree with?  Attacking the human dignity and value of our
former spouse, the other parent of our children?  Feel good? Maybe. A
Divine cause?  No.  A waste of time.  Certainly.

"It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves
honored by humiliation of their fellow human beings." - Gandhi

For ALL of us.  I think we all agree that if you commit a crime,
there is punishment.  If you fail in your obligation to your
community, there is a price to pay.  But what about when we fail
in other higher 'duties'?

Penance - An act of self-mortification or devotion performed
voluntarily to show sorrow for a sin or other wrongdoing.
( Is that old fashioned?  People who really
participate in Lent or Ramadan don't think so.

Have you ever been on a long drive with someone (maybe another
activist), and all they do is complain about their former spouse, or
the system, or whatever.  Everybody blows off a little steam like
that, but these folks are perfect victims -- they never even hint at
what they might have done to cause the pain their children are going
through.  Oh -- they do have resume faults -- too trusting, too
innocent, too forgiving, etc...

I really get a 'laugh' when people tell me how the other parent
abuses drugs, alcohol, etc....  I have to wonder, "and did they
just start doing this after your child was born?  Or is it just
bothering you now?"

How about you?

How Many of Us - Penance?
When all these crazy laws were being passed by our legislatures --
just weren't interested in politics.  We were into our life.  Didn't
have time to get involved.  Didn't have motivation to get involved -
it hadn't happened to us yet?

Before we were busy getting out 'groin tickled'.  Had we stopped to
consider do I know this person?  There is a possibility we could have
a child.  Is this the person I really love?  Do I love myself?

Two wrongs make a right?  The 'other' side is accusing me of all this
made up stuff -- I was 'forced' to do the same thing.  They were
trying to 'turn' the kids against me.  I had to set the record

The voluntary sacrifice that is part of NonViolent Action.  Is it
meaningful?  Is it effective?  Yes.  It helps us recognize our own
failings and the pain WE have caused.  And, I don't know how many
times I have said this, and it still surprises me -- when I
recognized my own failings, I became a lot more tolerant of others.

Those of YOU who don't need Penance
NonViolent Action also operates at another level of conversion, both
internal and external.  This is an old term you may not be familiar
with "vicarious suffering" -- this is the power of voluntary
sacrifice offered by someone who was in no need of Penance.

For Christians, this is the example of Jesus of Nazareth, willing to
let himself be nailed to a cross.  A person with no need for
Penance. But whose voluntary suffering would empower generations.

Here is a brief quote from Buddhist tradition:

   The notion of "vicarious suffering" is central within Mahayana
   Buddhism.... The most cherished example of "vicarious suffering"
   is the Buddhist tradition is the jatakamala tale of how the
   Buddha, in a former existence, was a tigress who gave her own
   body as meat for her cubs to feed upon to save them from
   starvation. Vietnamese monks and nuns publicly burning themselves
   to death as an act of witness to the suffering inflicted on the
   people during the war instanced the tradition of "voluntary
   sacrifice" as a feature of Mahayana Buddhism in recent times.

PLEASE, do not give way to 'faulty dilemma' here.  Our effort for
Family Law reform doesn't require anyone to die and it is NOT a call
to suicide.  I remember the anti-war protests from Vietnam, and
seeing a photo of a Buddhist monk pouring gasoline over his body and
lighting himself.  No anger, no emotion.  An offering of self.

PLEASE, do not confuse this with what must be called pitiable parents
who kill themselves and/or others. They are NOT martyrs for a cause,
but people drowned in self-pity.  Who have lost all Faith and who
just want the pain to STOP.  It is ALL about them.  They are still
deserving of our love and compassion, but the acts are senseless.

An Offering of Self
To see real Civil Rights/Family Rights reform happen.  We need to
convert the heart of the Nation.  Talk is cheap - SHOW me what you
really believe in.  You say your kids are the MOST important thing in
your life - SHOW me.  Are you willing to give up the other stuff?

A lot of smart people give up on serious reform because they start to
see all those obstacles.  But please keep things in historical
perspective. It can happen. It has happened in the past.

Just 50 years a Black man had to drink out of a different water
fountain. Had to pee in a different bathroom.  The very idea of a
Black boy dating a White girl in Alabama would have got your killed
(and quickly).  How could a great Nation had missed the right that
all men are created equal?

But Black's participated in NonViolent Action, and through a lot of
voluntary sacrifice, they opened peoples hearts and things changed.
Society became better.

In 20 more years, people may look back at today and wonder how did we
ever miss the need to protect the rights of Family?  That families
should be secure from government interference. That both parents
should obviously have an EQUAL relationship with their kids -- it
has brought so many other good changes to society.

Next Tuesday
So...... next Tuesday and the days after that. I will be there
again. Come rain, snow, or wind.  I'll probably settle on going there
a couple of times/week.  At times I want to 'press it hard' and force
them to arrest me (but that is acting without Faith), and MOST times
I want to take it easier (and that is acting without Faith).  

Again, it was so nice when Cathy Hughes (chughes@AKidsRight.Org)
joined me with the same resolve.  I feel an urgency to act, but also
understand it takes time to get folks involved.  You have to 'pace'
yourself and take it day-by-day.  Contact me if you are interested.

Will what I be doing be Vicarious suffering, or the suffering that
serves as Penance.  I really don't know -- but I know what I do will
'serve.'  What I do will have meaning and effect.  It will SHOW
people how awful I feel the System is.

Best regards!
                                       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/
Newsletter mailing list  subscribe/unsubscribe info below:

Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Thu Jan 12 2006 - 03:12:02 EST