Activism is defined as by Merriam-Webster as “a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action, especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue,” but Martin Luther King put it much more eloquently when he was confronted by a panel on Meet the Press in 1963 about his activism on behalf of civil rights. After invoking the Biblical tales of Meschach and Abednego’s refusal to bow down before a king and reminding his audience that one of our nation’s proudest legends is that of the Boston Tea Party, an act of civil disobedience that began a revolution, he goes on to say “…I think we are in good company when we break unjust laws and I think those who are willing to do it and to accept the penalty are those who are part of the saving of the nation.” Here is our video of Dr. Martin Luther King making exactly this speech: “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law” ― Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Activists have played a part in every big development that our society has faced since its founding and the tradition of using the freedom of speech that our Constitution guarantees continues to this day. Those who are willing to fight the laws and societal norms that they feel are morally unjust have shaped the world that we now live in and provided the protection of rights that many of us now take for granted. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine our world without the freedoms that have resulted from the fervent efforts of activists who committed their lives to the changes they believed in.
Well-known suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony and Margaret Mitchell share the victory of women’s rights with an untold number of women and men who also fought to end gender discrimination without great recognition. In the early days of the battle, women organized to demand their right to vote. Later activists have pursued the freedom to work in any field they choose, the right to receive equal pay for equal work and to have the same access to opportunities that are available to their male counterparts. The women’s rights campaign has been an ongoing effort for more than a hundred years and it shows no signs of slowing as long as there are committed activists who are dedicated to the cause.
Dr. King and his peaceful army of resistors famously led our nation from the ugly days of Jim Crow laws in an epic crusade that shook our society to its core, but the fight to eradicate the hate-filled laws of our early years began decades earlier with activists like W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington. The call to end lynchings was among the first demands of those who protested the unfair treatment of African-Americans and each victory since then, whether in the courts or in what our society regards as the norm, has provided the motivation to continue the fight for full equal rights and considerations.
Today, there are activists working together to make the world more equal for everyone, from aiming to provide internet access to all to eliminating barriers that hold back the physically disabled. Their work on these issues shows their passion for expanding and protecting the rights of those they see being victimized by the law and by societal bias at large.
In the midst of all of this, the fight for equal rights for both parents in divorce and custody disputes is becoming a subject of much debate as activists like those with Fathers4justice.org and https://newfathers4justice.co.uk/ have begun to question the traditional bias of the family courts systems towards women when it comes to the placement of children. Cases abound of tragic consequences when judges use prejudice to make their decisions rather than what is truly in the best interest of the children. As the roles of both parents have evolved over the last several decades, those who make up the system which often determines the future of families that are breaking up has not evolved with them, opting instead to remain bound to outdated and preconceived notions about what constitutes normal. It is imperative that those who experience or witness this kind of abuse of power act against it in a civil, organized and well-thought out manner. This is the kind of activism that makes people think and that is capable of opening and changing minds. It is as important today as it was at our nation’s founding and will inevitably be a critical determining factor in the future of our society. “No parent, who is fit and willing, should ever have to fight to share equally in the lives of their own children” – Donald Tenn 2006
If history has shown us anything about injustice, it must be that it will take the voices and actions of those who are truly passionate in order to change laws and attitudes that are unjust. Dr. King stated in the same interview,
“I think we all have a moral obligation to obey just laws. On the other hand, I think we have moral obligations to disobey unjust laws because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.”
His words are as relevant today as they were in 1963 and carry with them a resonance that many who are currently fighting for the rights of fathers can understand. While we are beginning to see glimmers of improvement in some family courts around the nation, the need for activists who are passionate and willing to pursue that which they know to be morally right can’t be stressed enough. The future of families all over the country will be influenced by the actions of those who will not allow injustice to go unnoticed and without a fight. And as in the civil rights campaigns of the past, each time the court is compelled to rule based on the right thing to do for the sake of the children involved and each time a judge determines that a competent and dedicated father is equal to the same in a mother, the fight for mutual rights for parents will take another step forward. It will be a struggle and it may well be an uphill battle at times, but for a parent who has been separated from their child unjustly, it will be another epic battle of good versus evil. With that said and understood, there is no doubt that now is the time, now is our time for all who care about our children and our future as a society to, “Get Up, Get Out, and Demand a Change, There is no greater calling than the calling to fight for our children and their rights” – Donald Tenn 2011