Sunday, October 26, 2008

On the privacy of pain

Mi dolor es mío (My Pain is Mine) is one of the classic boleros of the Puerto Rican composer Felipe Goyco, better known as Don Felo. Although it is not one of my favorite boleros (and bolero music is one my favorite musical genres), I want to quote its title for the terrible truth it expresses: Pain, due to its individual, private nature, is a condition impossible to share, impossible to express.

Our pain is our pain. Our pain is something that, no matter how many words we use or how many signals we give, no other human being will be able to understand. Nobody can imagine, much less comprehend the intensity and dimension of what we feel. Even those who have suffered the same pain, once they have survived it they forget it, and if they meet someone who is suffering the same situation that they already have lived, they tend to despise it as something that will pass or something to which we will get used to: “I remember when my father died.” “I had pneumonia once.” “My children grew without me, but they’re adults already.” etc. Even worst, many conversations between people in the same situation become wars to decide who is suffering the most: “You lost your dad, but I lost my mom and my dad.” “You have pneumonia but I have cancer.” “You see your children once a week, but I see mine once a month.” Human nature is, as other people wiser than me have said before me, selfish, miserable.

Only we care about our pain. And I say this to state, now from the viewpoint of the parents that believe in joint custody and suffer the sad consequences of the present state of our laws, that no one who is not a parent in this situation will be interested in solving the problem, and I suspect, and say this with deep sorrow, that no one who is not a parent in our situation will do nothing to solve it.

From these statements, I derive that the only ones who will fight to secure a right will be those directly affected by the lack of it. This is not unusual: With rare exceptions, the ones who fought for the rights of black people were black people, the ones who fought for the rights of women were women, and so did workers, gays, etc.

The only ones who will fight for the rights of non-custodial parents will be those non-custodial parents. Only us know and suffer what we know and suffer.

We need to get organized. We need to establish communication networks between those who fight for our children. We need to talk, not with our friends and relatives in private spaces and in low voice, but in public and making as much noise as possible. We need to fight, not as individuals who go to courts one by one, but as a pressure group that makes pressure system, politicians, judges, and government agencies.

Let’s start the fight. Our children are waiting.

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