November 23, 2010
Most of what I put on my wordpress blog sits at the intersection of faith, sexuality, and welcome, with occasional forays into other theological or justice issues.
However, for the next month I will be writing from the intersection of fatherhood, justice … and hunger. These will be among the most personal and painful essays I’ve ever written. I hope that those of you who subscribed for the “welcome,” will bear with me during these next few weeks.
Some of you know the painful struggles I’ve had over the past decade regarding placement time with my daughter, Susanna (now 14). For others of you this will be news. Over the past four years, the judge that I have in Wisconsin has made things more difficult than ever. I am beyond wits’ end. I’ve exhausted every legal option I have.
Beginning on the evening of Sunday, November 28, the first day of Advent, I am going on a hunger strike. I am beginning on the 28th because it allows me to wrap my own hunger for justice within the season of Advent. And I am beginning that evening because Susanna is with me from the 26th-28th and gets picked up at 2 p.m. that day, and I do not want her to be caught up in this at all.
After the 28th, for 21 days (until Sunday, Dec. 19) I will not eat. That’s one day of hunger for each day of placement time that Susanna and I have lost since the judge’s current error-ridden Order went into effect in November 2006. (And that’s actually a minimum; I could make a strong case for having lost up to 27 lost days.) You can read my official press release here. You can find my “home page” for the Hunger strike here. It includes a “frequently asked questions” link.
During my fast I will use this blog, as well as the interest of newspaper and other media hopefully, to call attention to the damage that is done all too often by “Family Court” to families like mine. I will tell my own story to anyone who will listen. But I will also be clear that my story is not unique. It happens to parents (mostly dads) left and right.
I want to be very clear: I am not fasting to exert a demand on anyone. I do not expect my fast to change anything about my placement time. It is done as an act of public mourning and protest. It is a powerfully symbolic way of inviting my body to manifest both my anguish and my conviction. So I do hope that it gets enough attention so that people actually listen and hear how unjust family courts can be.
It is, of course, possible that someone will try to claim that my fast is a sign of mental or emotional instability. I have retained a lawyer who has specifically pledged to “protect” me in that event and to do whatever else can be done to protect what little time I do get with Susanna.
You may have a variety of questions, and I am happy to address any of them as best I can. I can tell you that besides some discomfort and weakness, the health risk to me will be very minimal. I have sought and received personal advice others who have done extended fasts. I am not going into this naïvely.
Of course, I could choose to fast for fewer days, but I haven’t had any choice at all in the 21 days of placement time I’ve lost. And the point of the fast is to call awareness to that painful loss. I will be taking steps to maintain my health as best I can (plenty of fluids and vitamins), but I expect to fast all 21 days and to tell my story as clearly, as loudly, and as effectively as possible.
I ask three things of you. First, please do not contact Susanna about this. I am trying my best to keep her entirely insulated from this (she will not be with me during any of the days I am fasting and I will block her from seeing the occasional FaceBook postings I make about it). Second, please do support me however feels right to you. Third, please support my wife, Margaret, during these days, too. She is the best friend-companion-partner that I could have asked for, and I do not put her through this lightly. I know she will treasure whatever support she receives.
Again, by all means, if you have questions for me, ask. While I’m not “happy” to be in this position, I am at a place of peaceful resolve. I am not scared to be hungry. And I know the power of my words. If my hunger helps insure that my words are heard it may be the first real power I have held in this long struggle. That would be well worth it.
I am, each and every day, grateful to count you as readers … and as friends.