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With Rights Come Responsibilities… (or two wrongs don’t make a right – three lefts do)

January 9, 2012

aartwork - Brad Tuttle

dev·il’s advocate (dᵉv’ᵊlz) n. One who argues against a cause or position, not as a committed opponent but simply for the sake of argument or to determine the validity of the cause or position.

devilsaardvark   (a:d’va:k’) n. As devil’s advocate, only with a much larger nose.

Why is it that those who shout the loudest about ‘having rights’ seem to be the ones who are trying to inflict a spurious moral code on others? A friend of mine is having a few (understatement) problems with her abusive ex-husband regarding access arrangements for their son. But we’ll come to that later.

Ask any banker about the size of their salary and bonus and they’ll tell you that they have the right to earn each and every penny of it and more. Mr Banker will probably try and convince you that he’s actually worth far more than that to the company he works for. He’s also likely to go on to say that you also have the right to earn as much money as you can. It’s a difficult point to argue against because, despite any detrimental effect his super-size salary might have on the welfare and well-being of the rest of society, there is nothing illegal  about fatcat salaries. Morally, it is then up to the rest of us to decide where we stand. And Mr Banker’s morals are his own.

The recent “scandal” surrounding MPs expenses stirred up some feelings of deep resentment towards our politicians. Sure, there were those that had fabricated expense claims, but there were also those that had done nothing more than play the system. And if that system allowed them to legitimately claim for things like moat cleaning and broadband connection, why are we surprised when they do? Morality is not a crystal-clear consommé, but instead a dense, opaque broth, full of chewy lumps and moral codes vary from person to person. Some like a well-seasoned cock-a-leekie and there are those of us that prefer French onion, but generally we concur that soup is soup and people are entitled to their own preferences. For example, most atheists will recognise that the ten commandments are a reasonable code by which to live. “Thou shalt not kill.” Nope, can’t argue with that. “Thou shalt not steal.” Sounds reasonable to me Guv. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s ox.” OK, we’re stretching the point here and a bit of innocent coveting rarely does any harm and besides, my neighbour just happens to have a particularly fine ox, but you can see what I mean. And the central tenets of all the main religions are pretty much the same, so Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and all the rest ought to agree largely on the killing, stealing and coveting.

Anyway, back to my friend. As the parent of two beautiful, little aardvarks, my primary concern is for their welfare. The ex Mrs Aardvark and myself no longer share a burrow and I think we would both agree that, as difficult a process as separation was, it was negotiated with the best interests of our cubs. We remain committed to their upbringing and will put aside all personal differences when it comes to ensuring they are loved and provided for. I am proud of the fact (and I hope the ex Mrs Aardvark is as well) that we have managed to keep the business of our divorce out of the courts. Knowing what legal types charge per hour and per letter, we are also better off, not only in financial terms, but also in that our lines of communication didn’t go through third parties, thus maintaining a working relationship. My friend, on the other hand, doesn’t have it so easy.

Her ex-husband (I’ll refrain from referring to him a delusional cumsponge because I want to remain objective – oops, sorry, that just slipped out) has been both physically and verbally abusive, has wrestled with alcohol and cocaine addiction and referred to their 3 year old son as a c***. Classy! He has refused to let anyone know where he is living. He has publicly claimed to be suicidal. He has told the mother that he can’t see their son due to him wanting to concentrate on managing a singer, a task which he said would, “Have to take priority,” over everything else. Then, when after several weeks without communication, it suits him to rub his ex up the wrong way, he’ll send her a text saying he wants to take the boy out for the day with less than 24 hours notice. When, unsurprisingly, arrangements have already been made, up comes the cry of, “I’ve got rights!”

When someone is found guilty of murder, they relinquish their right to do anything else but spend the next 25 years or so behind bars taking care not to drop the soap. Ergo, when someone has a history of abuse and might reasonably considered a ‘risk’, they forego their access rights. Why? For the safety of the child, pure and simple. Surely we don’t need to read any more stories about unstable fathers running off and doing themselves and their children in?

Fair enough, this is a case where the father is the risk, but it might just as easily be the other way around. I don’t want to deny that the Fathers4Justice campaign isn’t without validity. Where is the justice in a father being forced to leave the marital home and denied access to his children because his wife began another relationship and filed for divorce? Still, this is where the responsibility comes in and, however aggrieved, parents have to put their own feelings aside for the sake of their offspring.

All too often it is the children who become bargaining chips in a petty power struggle between two adults who were once, on one occasion at least, on good enough terms to be able to conceive them in the first place. Not only is this wholly unacceptable in terms of the here and now, but also it is more than likely going to come back and bite the perpetrator on the bum when the child grows up and learns the truth. They deserve the lifelong love and support of both parents, but they also deserve to be protected from those that would abuse them.

So if you think you’ve got rights, but there’s a possibility you took a wrong turn somewhere back along the line, take a left, then another and one more and get yourself back to the beginning. Then reassess how the land lies and start again. Treading a little more responsibly this time.



From → Parenting

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