Alec Baldwin and Parens Patriae

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Actor Alec
Baldwin has been raked over the coals for a phone call he made to
his daughter. It was not a very nice phone call, but then most of
us can recall unpleasant conversations with family members. How
many of us are called on the carpet by the national media, forced
to explain our private behavior, subject to a public debate over
whether we should be permitted to keep our children, and then summoned
to court?

Actually
quite a few, or at least we might be better off if there were such
a debate. The government appropriation of children is now so out-of-control
that parents routinely lose their children for less than what Baldwin
did, and with neither public debate nor trial by jury. While it
may be true that Baldwin is being publicly pilloried because he
is a celebrity, the invasion of his privacy is far from unique.

Since when
did every parent in America become answerable to the media and the
government for what they say to their children? As several commentators
noted, if every parent were to lose their children every time they
lose their temper, all the children in America would be parentless.

Which is
more or less where we are headed. Whether through involuntary divorce,
trumped-up abuse accusations, or the myriad methods exercised by
the public education system, the government now has so many ways
to seize control of your children — without ever proving that you
have done anything wrong — that it is hardly an exaggeration to
say that we have already embarked on a system of communal child-rearing.

The circumstances
leading Baldwin to lose his composure were created entirely by the
fact that he was forcibly separated from his daughter by state officials
(in legal terminology, he lost "custody"). What he vented
was the frustration of a parent prevented from exercising normal
parental authority, whose child has been turned against him with
the backing of the state, and who was reduced to parenting through
an answering machine.

His intemperance
opened the gates for swarms of psychologists, prosecutors, and other
"experts" to opine on a private family matter of which
they know nothing. The fact that Fox News brought in a "former
sex crimes prosecutor" to offer her two-cents worth on Baldwin's
"abuse" is a fairly clear indication that the same prosecutorial
culture recently seen in the Duke "rape" case was licking
its chops here.

Some pronounced
on the "irrevocable damage" done to the child's psyche
by his outburst. Yet few mentioned the damage we know results to
millions of children like his daughter by keeping them forcibly
separated from their parents and systematically instructing them
to hate their parents. On the contrary, these "experts"
depend for their livelihood on such damaged children and on the
government that creates them.

Contrary
to the voyeuristic media, a custody battle today is seldom just
a dispute between two parents; it is a confrontation between the
state and private life. Most often, the state assumes the role of
surrogate father, the protector and provider for women and children.
And the state does not like rivals.

The problem
Baldwin says he will write a book about — "parental alienation"
— is a far nastier matter than has been brought out in this debate.
At its worst, it amounts to the active indoctrination of children
against their parents — a familiar enough practice of ideological
regimes in recent history. Though it is usually perpetrated by the
custodial parent, she only wields that power because the state stands
behind her.

Though
children of broken families may be placed in the "custody"
of the mother (a term suggesting incarceration), it is more accurate
to say that they become wards of the state, which establishes what
amounts to a puppet government within the family. It is even reasonable
to see the custodial parent as functionally a government official.
She is paid to care for her children with money that comes directly
from the state (often after being confiscated from the non-custodial
parent). The jargon now used by courts and feminists indicates that
what we once called a "mother" has been replaced by a
gender-neutral government-appointed and government-funded "primary
caretaker."

Pop psychologists
have speculated that Baldwin directed at his daughter anger that
he really felt toward her mother, Kim Basinger. But it is probably
more accurate to regard his explosion as frustration at seeing his
daughter adopt the state as her effective father. For the separated
child, whether actively "alienated" or not, inevitably
shifts her loyalty to the agent she perceives as effectively protecting
and providing for her, and that agent is the state. (Some compare
parental alienation to Stockholm Syndrome, the process by which
captives, especially children, form a bond with their captors.)
The father does not lose the child to the mother, after all; most
men have children fully intending to share them with their mothers.
The interloper is the state. Even children who are not actively
programmed against one parent are still effectively raised by the
principle that the state, not the parent, is head of the household.

Whatever
his imperfections as a parent, Baldwin showed his daughter he cares
enough about her to want to see her and to be concerned about her.
For children, such actions speak louder than words, even shouted
words. If that caused permanent psychological damage, it is damage
we all carry as part of the human condition, and we have tested
mechanisms for dealing with it. "When we screw up, we have
an opportunity to teach our children that humans make mistakes,"
writes Martha Brockenbrough, author of The Mommy Chronicles.
"We can ask for forgiveness. We can do better in the future
and hope that, when our children become parents themselves, they
will have learned that we don’t have to be perfect to be lovable
and that forgiveness is a gift that heals."

Forgiveness
is a principle that operates in the family, in religion, and in
other personal relationships. The state does not forgive. The state
only punishes. And the state is raising the next generation of citizens.

May
8, 2007

Stephen
Baskerville
[send him mail]
is president of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.
His book, Taken
Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family
,
will be published in July by Cumberland House Publishing.

Stephen
Baskerville Archives

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