Caught in the Middle

Children as pawns: Mark Donald's article "Access Denied" (May 10) is unforgivably one-sided, as if fathers are the only parents who are ever denied visitation rights with their children, and as if men are the only human beings whose lives are forever scarred by ugly custody battles. What about mothers who are denied visitation? What about the grandparents who suffer the loss of their grandchildren during these fights? What about the aunts, uncles, cousins and other relatives who are affected? Most important, what about the children who are deprived of one parent (and their family) or alienated from one parent by the other? The subhead "In the he-said, she-said world of child visitation disputes, dads like Doug Watkins say fathers have no rights" should have read, "In the he-said, she-said world of child visitation disputes, children are deprived of parents--and their childhood."

For four long years, my ex-husband denied me visitation with my daughter, who is now 16 and lives with me. While I endured almost intolerable pain over the loss of and estrangement from my daughter during the years that she was 9 through 13, it's nothing compared to the emotional devastation that she suffered or the issues she will have to face for the rest of her life. It's pathetic enough that either one or both of two adults who once said "I do" and brought a child into the world can't put aside their own needs after a divorce and respect their children's right to have two parents in their lives. But what's even more pathetic is to hear grown adults whining about their ex-spouses and their own "victimization," while selfishly using their children as pawns in what inevitably becomes a lose-lose situation.

Sure, it makes for chain-jerking, alliterative headlines about Fucked-Over Fathers, Deadbeat Dads and Meal Ticket Mamas. But to present the problems of custody, visitation and child support as a "women's rights" vs. "fathers' rights" issue only exacerbates the problem and polarizes parents even further.

There's no question the system fails. There's also no question that abusive spouses will continue to carry out an agenda of vengeance after divorce and do so through the courts or whatever other means available to them. But the issue isn't about gender rights. It's about children having two parents and a childhood free from an emotional tug-of-war fought by the two people who supposedly love them more than anyone else in the world--at their expense.

Unfortunately, Donald misses this point. As long as groups like Fathers for Equal Rights continue to fight along gender lines, the problems of custody and visitation will never be solved.

Angela Genusa

Targeting white male fathers: Doug Watkins doesn't realize he is just the target du jour. Every society needs some identifiable group on which to project their troubles. In the past we've targeted Jews, Chinese, Irish, Italians, blacks and even single women. Now it's the White Male Fathers' turn.

Whatever the target, the collective wisdom of the day responded with a torrent of editorial harrumphing about protecting "decent people" from those greedy Jews, drunk Irish or white-woman-raping Negroes. We nodded our heads knowingly.

Today the torrent is about men murdering their wives and kids, men leaving their families destitute, fathers being harmful to children. We're all nodding again.

We can tut-tut to our heart's content secure in the knowledge we're right-thinking. That is, until we move on to the next target.

Russell Fish

Boeing Lovefest

Belo's spin doctors: Eric Celeste's article "Jilted: The Morning News sells its, uh, soul for Boeing" (May 17) was refreshing, enlightening, audacious and right on the nose. Although you can't fault The Dallas Morning News and city leaders too much for putting on their Sunday best to lure an on-the-map company like Boeing, it doesn't excuse the lemmings at Belo for touting the party line with every exasperating Boeing article--we love Boeing, yes we do, we love Boeing, don't you, too? The Morning News should have focused more on insightful, objective stories--not on being spin doctors.

Hopefully, Belo has learned a lesson by taking the cues from the truthful columnists of the Chicago and Denver papers. As far as the culture and public transportation issues are concerned, Dallas is making a conscious effort; I wish I could say the same for the integrity of the Morning News. The Morning News is what it unfortunately is; it's no New York Times, but God love 'em for wanting to try.

Erika Kleinfeld

Propaganda: Kudos to Eric Celeste for his column. You really hit the nail on the head. I've been sending it around by e-mail to friends to explain why I (and, it seems, much of my young reporter cohort) left the paper and went back to grad school.

Keep up the good work. Eventually, the suits will realize why their readership is slipping. Who can believe the propaganda they're printing anymore? They will either have to let the journalists be journalists again, or they will lose their readership to some Internet outlet that does.

John McCoy
Princeton, New Jersey

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