Well, I don’t know how many of these are frequently asked, but this is my attempt to anticipate some of the questions that might come up …
It’s bound to be an evolving page. I’ll add questions as I think of them — or hear them from others. And I’ll refine my own answers as my thinking refines itself.
Is it really wise or even possible to keep the hunger strike hidden from Susanna?
This is very difficult to address. But several people have asked about this. Here’s the best I can say.
1. My silence cannot protect me or anyone else. Right now the family court system in my particular case—but also in many others—is actively working to undermine families. And like any destructive system, it counts on the silence of its victims to continue its destruction. That’s why my protest is both personal and political. I need to tell my story, and not just to my friends, but to as many people as will listen. Only by telling the story can we begin to challenge the system. In the three days since I posted my first message I’ve heard from four other persons—two of whom I don’t even know—urging me to speak loudly because they have stories that echo my own.
2. The moment that I use Facebook, my blog or the media to tell my story to a circle larger than just my immediate friends, I take the risk that Susanna will hear about my hunger strike. I will not name her myself in any of my writings on this and I will not notify any WI media of my strike. But to the extent that my strike succeeds in getting attention, the higher the risk that it will reach Susanna. Yet keeping the whole thing private (or limiting it to just my circle of friends) greatly diminishes its power. After four years of growing injustice, my silence protects the system more than it protects Susanna.
3. Under our current court order I can’t talk to Susanna about placement issues, so to tell her directly about my hunger strike would just give her mother a chance to go after me. The best I can do—and it is evidence of how much power the system has—is make sure that if Susanna finds out, she does so from someone other than me. This is a no-win situation. I can do nothing and let the system go unchallenged. I can do something very private and low key—that might vent my outrage, but it won’t help anyone else. I can do something public, tell Susanna about it, and know that I’ll face court charges for talking to her. Or I can do something public, not tell Susanna, and hope that if she finds out about it she remembers that I am not allowed to talk to her about such things and chooses to know as little as possible herself.
4. None of those are “good” options, and that’s precisely how systems of injustice work: they try to insure that by leaving no “good” options, we all just decide to grumble quietly and do nothing. I don’t think I have any viable options that promise much improvement in my time with Susanna. And every option involves the risk that I’ll just lose more time with her, because the system seems “gamed” to work for that no matter what I do. My choice does involve risks that I wish it didn’t. But I believe it is the choice with the best chance for sowing seeds of resistance to the system itself (in myself and in others). It makes an intentional effort to limit the impact on Susanna, but it recognizes that even doing nothing or doing something private, cannot protect Susanna from the court’s efforts to marginalize me in her life. Even doing nothing puts her at risk. And from experience, doing nothing puts her at great risk.
5. I have discussed the clear steps I am taking to shield Susanna from this, and she agrees that this will at least make it very difficult for her mother to use the hunger strike against me.
That’s the best I can say. I act in deep ambiguity. Wrapped in grace, lured by hope.
You live in a household—how will you deal with family meals?
I plan to be present for any meals eaten when I’m at home. Since I will allow myself to drink tea, I’ll sip tea and share in all the conviviality of the meal — just not the food. Since no one else is fasting, I won’t consider it at all disrespectful for others to eat around me. My conviction to do this fast has been brewing since August — and the anguish behind it for much longer. I might occasionally be “tempted” by food smells, but once I begin the fast, I expect my resolve and focus will be stronger than ever.
Are there circumstances under which you would cut the fast short?
If I developed serious health issues I would halt the fast. The purpose is NOT to “punish” my body, but to invite my body to find its own way to share the pain that haunts my soul. However, beyond health issues, there are not outside actions that will shorten the fast. I am NOT making any demands for anyone to meet. So while I would be delighted if the judge recused herself, if the GAL decided to actually acknowledge and honor the vale of Susanna’s relationships here in Minnesota, or if someone made a $1000 gift toward our legal expenses, I don’t expect any of those things to happen. And even if they did, the purpose of the fast is to lament in a meaningful the 21 days of placement time that Susanna and I have lost. “Success” will be completing the fast, not making anything happen because of the fast.
Are there circumstances under which you would lengthen the fast?
I don’t anticipate lengthening the fast beyond 21 days. If Wisconsin Family Court used the fast as a reason to further limit my placement time or to find me in contempt of court or to end my rights as a father altogether, well, that would prompt me to consider (in conversation with others) whether to lengthen the fast. But, again, my purpose in fasting is NOT to seek a confrontation. So I’ll cross that bridge only if and when someone else decides to burn it.