By Ron VandenBoom
I was watching a news broadcast concerning the 6-year-old Cuban boy, Elian Gonzales, the other day when once again I was bombarded by some politician telling me how Elian's mother so loved freedom and cared so much for her child's future that she was willing to risk everything to see him reach the United states.
How very presumptuous, I thought, to assume that this was her motive. How do we know what she was thinking or feeling when she endangered her life, and that of her son, on a risky 60-mile voyage to Florida.
Just as I was mulling over possible alternative motives for the trip, a lawyer on the program asked a very interesting question.
"If the father had died taking the child to Florida, would we hesitate to send the child back to his mother," he asked?
The question was not really meant to have an answer. It was asked not to seek out relevant information, but to raise the double-headed spector of reverse sexism and what might be considered an institutionalized double standard regarding parental rights and responsibilities.
Like it or not, the point is well taken. American courts and American attitudes still overwhelmingly favor women in child-custody cases, child support cases, and on issues concerning visitation rights.
Please don't bother sending letters telling me I'm a sexist pig for recognizing the truth. This is not personal and I'm well aware that deadbeat dads and other issues are very real concerns in many single-family households. But men, too, have a legitimate gripe and this column is directed toward them.
Like every other issue today, the Internet offers a place where fathers, too, can find help, guidance, and information on issues that concern them.
The American Coalition For Fathers and Children at www.acfc.org is one such meeting place for fathers who want to know who is speaking on their behalf.
This is not some half-baked hate site that vents against women. It is, instead, a site that appreciates the fact that children need their fathers to be an active and integral part of their lives. But it also recognizes that fathers deserve the same rights granted to women.
ACFC provides studies and reports, legal resource information, and current legislative updates. It also gives visitors a chance to take a survey and learn how to organize local branches of ACFC in their area.
To the ill informed, much of the information will be surprising. But to any father who has found himself denied visitation, heard his child say "I hate you," or been falsely accused of child abuse will find much that is familiar in this section.
The Dads Against Discrimination website at www.dadsusa.com is another site that strives to empower fathers to take charge of the families and exert their rights as a necessary aspect of raising healthy, well-balanced and responsible children.
Dad is a politically active information base and educationally-oriented site that like ACFC is not anti-mothers, but pledges to preserve, protect, and defend fatherhood.
It contains numerous articles concerning legislative action and helpful hints on how to be a better dad. It is a 501-C3 tax exempt organization.
You will find stories of injustice on this site, but one should always be mindful of the fact that injustice is a double-edged sword and is not gender specific. At the same time, it is good to know that someone is finally speaking out for the largest minority in the world -- fathers.
These sites do not tell fathers how to get out of paying child support. If your goal is to find some legal way to shirk your responsibility, don't waste your time on either of these sites. Both sites maintain the belief that responsible fathers are fathers who financially support their children.