When the State Breaks a Man

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“How much does the State weigh?” Josef Stalin asked an underling who had been ordered to extract a confession from an enemy of his regime. Stalin understood that, given enough time, agents of State-sanctioned cruelty can break any man.

Thomas J. Ball, who committed suicide by self-immolation on the steps of New Hampshire’s Cheshire County Courthouse on June 15, was a man who had been broken by the State. A lengthy suicide note/manifesto he sent to the Keene Sentinel, which was published the day after his death, described how his family had been destroyed, and his life ruined, through the intervention of a pitiless and infinitely cruel bureaucracy worthy of Stalin’s Soviet Union: The Granite State’s affiliate of the federal “domestic violence” Cheka.

Ball and his family were casualties in what he calls a federal “war on men.” He wasn’t exaggerating — and he has a lot of company.

The federally subsidized domestic violence industry operates a bit like the hypothetical Von Nuemann Machine: Placed into a material-rich environment, it will sustain and replicate itself by destroying and assimilating everything within its field of influence. One useful sci-fi example is the robotic Planet Killer from the Star Trek episode “The Doomsday Machine” — an immense, funnel-shaped engine of destruction propelled by the remnants of the worlds it destroys (according to one deutero-canonical source, the Planet Killer uses the same material to generate replicas of itself).

That monstrous device was “self-sustaining as long as there are bodies … for it to feed on.” The same is true, of course, of the State and all of its components — including what Dr. Baskerville calls “The Divorce Regime.”

As Baskerville points out in his horrifying study Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fatherhood, “it is no exaggeration to say that the existence of family courts, and virtually every issue they adjudicate — divorce, custody, child abuse, child-support enforcement, even adoption and juvenile crime — depend on one overriding principle: remove the father.” When a family is broken up, each child “becomes a walking bundle of cash” — not for the custodial parent, but for a huge and expanding population of tax-fattened functionaries who “adopt as their mission in life the practice of interfering with other people’s children.”

Thomas Ball, like millions of others, learned that the people who choose this profession have an unfailing ability to exploit even the tiniest opportunity to invade a home and destroy a family.

One evening in April 2001, Mr. Ball suffered a momentary lapse of patience with a disobedient four-year-old daughter and slapped her face. He left the house at his wife’s suggestion. When he called her a short time later, he learned that his wife — “the type that believes that people in authority actually know what they are talking about” — had called the police, who told her that her “abusive” husband wasn’t permitted to sleep in his own home that night. Ball was arrested at work the following day. Under the conditions of his bail, he wasn’t allowed to ask his wife what had possessed her to call the police.

Years later Ball would learn that if his wife hadn’t called the police and accused her husband of abuse, she would have been arrested as an accessory — leaving the children at the mercy of New Hampshire’s utterly despicable Division of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).

Dot Knightly, who tried vainly for years to win custody of three grandchildren seized on the basis of spurious abuse and neglect accusations, recounts how a DCYF commissar contemptuously batted away both her pleas and her abundant qualifications to serve as a custodial caretaker: “Nobody gets their kids back in New Hampshire. The government gives us the power to decide how these cases turn out. Everyone who fights us loses.”

Despairing over being wrested away from everyone he loved, Dot’s grade-school age grandson Austin — who had literally been dragged screaming from his grandparents’ home — tried to commit suicide. This led to confinement in a psychiatric hospital and involuntary “treatment” with mind-destroying psychotropic drugs. For New Hampshire’s child-snatchers, the phrase “nobody gets their kids back” translates into a willingness to destroy the captive children by degrees, rather than allow any successful challenge to their supposed authority.

The instant the police intervened in the domestic affairs of Thomas Ball’s household, his family’s destruction became inevitable. The officers were required — not by law, but by official policy that followed profit incentives created by Washington — to make an arrest. In a similar fashion, and for the same reason, prosecutors are forbidden to drop domestic abuse cases under any circumstances.

Ball recalled that he was eventually found not guilty, much to the visible disgust of the be-robed dispenser of official injustice who presided at the trial. But this made no material difference: His wife — who divorced him six months after his arrest — was now a consort of the State, his children were its property. His innocence notwithstanding, Ball was given an open-ended sentence of serfdom — and the prospect of being sent to debtor’s prison — through government-mandated “child support” system. Furthermore, he wasn’t permitted to see his children, despite the fact that a jury had found him innocent.

“I lost visitation with my two daughters when I got arrested. One was the victim-the other was the witness. After a not guilty, I expected to get visitation with my girls. But the divorce judge … decreed that counseling was in order and they would decide when we would reunite.”

The policy options that are rewarded by federal subsidies don’t include allowing an innocent man to reunite with his children. Consigning him to the State-aligned “domestic counseling” industry — which was apparently co-designed by August Mobius and Franz Kafka — is a much more profitable alternative.

“Judges routinely use our children as bargaining chips,” Ball explained. “Get the adult into counseling, continue the case for a year, and then drop it. This will open up the docket for the new arrests coming in next week. These judges that use our children are not honorable. Which is why I never use the term ‘Your Honor’ any more. I just call them judge.”

Ball’s experiences, once again, are all but identical to those endured by millions of others. Dr. Baskerville offers a potent and infuriating summary:

“A parent [generally a father] whose children are taken away by a family court is only at the beginning of his troubles. The next step comes as he is summoned to court and ordered to pay as much as two-thirds of even more of his income as `child support’ to whomever has been given custody. His wages will immediately be garnished and his name will be entered on a federal register of `delinquents.’ This is even before he has had a chance to become one, thought it is likely that the order will be backdated, so he will already be a delinquent as he steps out of the courtroom. If the ordered amount is high enough, and the backdating is far enough, he will be an instant felon and subject to immediate arrest.”

The sinews of this system are the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OSCE) and its state-level affiliates. Some idea of the scope of the Regime’s war on fathers is found in this comparison: In 2007, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the spearhead of the “war on drugs,” employed a total of 4,600 armed field agents; the OSCE at the time boasted more than 60,000 enforcement agents, all of whom are permitted to carry firearms under the “Deadbeat Parents Enforcement Act.”

When brought to bear against an isolated individual, the weight of this State apparatus will eventually destroy the victim. With each year, Ball’s financial condition deteriorated and he became deeply mired in intractable despair. By the time he ended his life on June 16, Ball was a 58-year-old Vietnam Era Army Veteran who had been unemployed for two years. Owing to the fact that he couldn’t pay the amount of child support extorted from him, Ball was quite likely going to be sent to jail on the following morning.

His only consolation, the company of his children, was sadistically withheld from him. The unfathomably arrogant and completely unaccountable functionaries who did so are people who have learned how to monetize the misery of the innocent.

Ball’s manifesto is a work of tortured eloquence. Although marred by occasional errors of diction, it is not the chaotic outpouring of a deranged personality. It is cogently organized and laden with impressive amounts of detailed research. The lucidity Ball displayed in explaining his decision to kill himself by the most painful method imaginable underscores not merely the depth of his despair but also of the entrenched corruption and viciousness of the people who had demolished his family.

The leitmotif in Ball’s letter is the phrase “Second Set of Books,” a phrase that refers to the “policies, procedures and protocols” actually followed by bureaucrats and their enforcers in defiance of the “First Set of Books” — that is, the federal and state constitutions.

“You never cover the Second Set of Books your junior year in high school,” Ball pointed out. That because we are not suppose to have a Second Set of Books.” The Second Set of Books contain writings that are too holy to be inspected by mere Mundanes. Those of us who don’t belong to the Sanctified Brotherhood of Official Coercion are required to behave as if there is some continuing relevance to the First Set of Books. Maintaining this official fiction is necessary in order to convince the credulous — well, those who pay attention to such matters — that it is possible to receive redress of grievances through the same system that has aggrieved them.

Like millions of other victims of the State’s “domestic violence” apparatus, Ball came to understand that the system cannot be reformed from within:

“On one hand we have the law. On the other hand we have what we are really going to do-the policies, procedures and protocols. The rule of law is dead. Now we have 50 states with legal systems as good as any third world banana republic. Men are demonized and the women and children end up as suffering as well. So boys, we need to start burning down police stations and courthouses. The Second Set of Books originated in Washington. But the dirty deeds are being carried out by our local police, prosecutors and judges.” Rather than voting them out, Ball insists that it is necessary to “Burn Them Out” through arson attacks on the appropriate bureaucratic facilities.

He hoped that his self-immolation would be the symbolic spark that would ignite that revolution — just as a similar desperate act by Tunisian street vendor Mohamad Bouazizi sparked a nation-wide rebellion against the fetid dictatorship ruling that country.

While I hope that God has granted rest to Ball’s tortured soul, and pray for the comfort of his family, it must be said that his proposed strategy is as tragically mistaken as his suicide.

Rather than attacking the architectural manifestations of the State, we should withdraw from contact with it. In other words, don’t call the police under any circumstances, and insulate your family, to the extent possible, from any contact with “welfare” bureaucracies of every kind. This will mean being prepared as parents to take appropriate evasive action when one of the State’s tentacles reaches out, with malign intent, in the direction of one’s children. It also means being prepared and able to employ purely defensive force where all other alternatives have failed.

Human beings have an instinctive, primordial fear of fire. Burning to death is a prolonged agony in which pain receptors operate at full capacity. The torment Thomas Ball experienced was sufficient, in his mind, to eclipse the horrors of death by fire.

On the same day that this tortured man poured gasoline on his body and struck a match, pundit Ann Coulter used her syndicated column to emit a thick stream of snotty abuse at Rep. Ron Paul and others who insist that the State must be removed entirely from any role in regulating or overseeing marriage and the family.

Hey, Ann — do you get the point now?

William Norman Grigg [send him mail] publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.

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