Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Parents' rights 

Well, this is what we get when we start interfering with parents' rights. There are BAD parents. We all know that. But that is not the issue here.

As in the episode of grandparents' rights (a social myth), the attempt to screen children for mental health issues without parental consent is another dogooder expedition gone wrong. What does the program supporter find objectionable about asking for parents' permission before screening children?

We have to have a government that respects the rights of parents to make decisions for their children. Of course, we all know of parents who make decisions that we dislike. BUT THAT IS THEIR RIGHT AS A PARENT! Until the parents broach some legal precedent for abuse or neglect, we must respect their rights as parents.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Grandparents' rights and other myths 

I have read Wendy McElroy's column (ifeminists.com) for about 3 years. I think she speaks with courage in modern social discourse. However, I am finding her articles to be less coherent in the last year or so. Still, I read her work and take from it what I can.

Her recent column on grandparents' rights is nearly a fair treatment of the issue. She is willing to get to the point - But what rights do non-custodial grandparents have when a parent objects? With no pleasure, I conclude that such rights do not exist.

With no pleasure???? I realize that she may be attempting to be compassionate. She may even be acknowledging to the reader that the answer may offend their sensibilities. But why? A non-custodial grandparent has NO RIGHTS when a parent objects. Damn skippy. The cornerstone of our social contract is that parents bear the responsibility for the care and raising of their children. Period. Dot. The end. There are an infinite number of stories of grandparents who would have problems with such an iron-clad policy. BUT!!!!!!! Parents are THE PARENTS.

When parents quit being parents (incarcerated, deemed unfit, etc...), then obviously allowing grandparents to fill a void in the child's life is in the best interest of the child, the family, social services, and the government. But that is not a contestable point. No one is arguing for grandparents' rights when the child has unfit, unavailable parents. That argument is not even a legal gambit. Family court judges are not worried about intruding on the rights of parents in favor of grandparents when the parents are in anyway removed from parenting.

Do not get confused. The issue is not about bad parenting. The issue is intrusive meddling into the parenting decisions by grandparents. If the parents are legally responsible and meet even a base legal definition of "functioning parent", then they are the absolute authority on matters pertaining to the children. Grandparents, in the presence of attending parents, HAVE NO RIGHTS TO GRANDCHILDREN. To even contemplate the question is to slide off the edge of reason.

We all may not agree with the decisions of parents. We may wish to have families collectively manage child issues. But we cannot for a moment entertain the idea that anyone other than the custodial parent has a legal standing in child-rearing issues.

My National Guard unit deployed to Germany to support the initial Bosnia mission. We performed police and security duties. A 3-man team from my squad was asigned an escort security mission that involved guarding a train shipment one way and then riding back on civilian trains. One seargent in my squad and two enlisted men were assigned. Nothing happened on the delivery run. The cargo was safely and securely shipped and deposited. However, the return route required the team to switch trains. During the short layover, one of the enlisted men spotted a burger stand in the station and asked the seargent for permission to get something to eat. The seargent said "no". The enlisted man went anyway. The 3-man team safely returned. Upon return to the unit, the seargent initiated discplinary action against the enlisted man for "Failure to follow an order." I supported the action but asked for a less than full punishment. The enlisted man's action was wrong. Our unit 1SG (First Seargent is the senior enlisted man in a company) put it most succinctly, "We either support our leaders and expect the men to follow orders or we have no functioning unit." The seargent did not need to explain his motives (the men were armed and in the presence of host-nation civilians, the connecting train was due and time was not available, had the man become seperated from the team there was no radio or cell-phone contact, he gave an order and expected it to be followed). The enlisted man had his audience (he had not been able to eat due to the demands of the mission and timing of duties, he did not leave visual range of the team, he returned in time to make the connecting train). To be blunt, I did not like or respect the team leader. I had been asked to be the squad leader just before the deployment. I did not approve of the seargent's promotion and did not like his performance. However, HE WAS THE TEAM LEADER. All members of the military service swear an oath to follow all orders of the officers appointed over them. We did not swear an oath to follow the orders we approved of or to follow the orders of the officers we liked/respected/feared/approved of/tolerated. I had more than a few leaders I did not think were competent. But my oath was to follow their orders. That is the bedrock of military service. To tinker with that principle is to invite chaos.

I did not entertain the argument that no harm was done because the man returned in time to make the connecting train. What was wrong is that I charged the seargent with the mission and charged the enlisted men with following his orders. The seargent's only obligation was to ensure that he gave a lawful order (it was). The enlisted man may have been hungry, but he jeopardized the mission and failed the oath he had sworn. I asked for a reduced punishment for the enlisted man, not because I agreed that it was a judgement call, but because the seargent's conduct prior to the mission had not established his authority with the men. Had the seargent been more diligent in his conduct, the man may have followed his order. If the seargent had met my expectation of conduct as a team leader and the enlisted man still did not follow the seargent's order, I would have asked for the maximum punishment available.

What are the parallels? Simple. The military respects the role of leaders (parents) over the enlisted men (children). As long as the leaders are giving lawful orders (available parenting), then the Army does not ask for input from others into the matters of leader-enlisted issues. Bluntly, as long as parents meet the legal threshold of functioning parent, they are the parents with no interference from outside (grandparents, family members, teachers, etc...). To invite input from others is to violate the basic tenet of our society - parents are responsible for the care and rearing of the children. No one else has a legal standing in the matter. Grandparent rights are myths.

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