Bang the drum slowly

Dean Hughson contrasts the inner-world focus of the mythopoetic men's movement with the real world of many divorced men.

I don't know much about Robert Bly. I have seen a few of the documentaries on television showing men out in the forest having discussions and drumming to bring the right spirit to the festivity. While it isn't something I want to do at this age I have done similar things at an earlier time in my life. I once lived in the trees of S. Missouri for a week at a training session run by former Green Beret instructors. I see it as a positive thing though-there are some people who haven't found their way yet and it helps to have a tool to do it.

I got to thinking though. Those who follow the writings/poetry/thoughts of Robert Bly shouldn't waste the drum noise though. They could help other men if they would invoke some positive things to happen to some men I have met on the road of life so far. let me give you an example.

I met a man via the internet who lives in Sydney Australia. He had fallen in love with a German woman and married her. Shortly after they had a son, she decided she didn't want to be married anymore and went back to Germany and filed for divorce. The German divorce court awarded him normal visitation - one Saturday afternoon a month. So this poor bastard gets on a plane every other month and flies Sydney to Frankfurt Germany and spends 4 hours with his son - she refuses to give him anymore time. He spends it at the airport mostly with his son. They talk, play, kiss, and then the man flies home. Bang the drum slowly for this injustice and yet for the spirit this man is showing in keeping in his child's life.

I met another man who is a young physician who has 2 small children. His wife started making threats of divorce and he tried every way to make her happy. Whatever she complained about he agreed to work on. They went to counseling and she couldn't verbalize what was wrong with the relationship. Finally she just filed for divorce. The young man was desperate to stay involved in the lives of his 2 young children and she fought him completely through the divorce trying to minimize his time with his kids. The court has given him every other weekend, certain holidays and some time in the summer. What did this dedicated father do to deserve such treatment? Bang the drum slowly to honor his spirit in fighting to keep with his kids.

I met a grandfather who knew that his son and daughter-in-law were sort of deadheads and not too good of parents to his grandchildren. However, he did what he could to be supportive of his grandkids and helped get the parents out of trouble constantly. Finally the daughter-in-law filed for divorce and won custody of the kids. She now refuses to allow the grandfather to see the kids and in his state grandparents have no rights. He misses his grandchildren a lot. Bang the drum slowly to honor this honorable man who at an age he should be fishing and enjoying himself is instead fighting to keep in the life of his grandchildren.

Another man I met had 3 small children and a divorce. His ex-wife moved 550 miles away from him - in her state there is no law to prevent this. So every other weekend this guy drives 12 hours, sleeping for an hour or so in his car on the way, and picks up his kids. He takes them to the zoo, to church, to art museums, McDonalds, and then drives home 12 hours on Sunday afternoon, arriving home with 1 or 2 hours of sleep and goes back to work. He has to have a chaotic life but he does it knowing that his children need it. Bang the drum slowly and honor this guy who didn't allow a disaster in his kids lives.

A young man came home from the Gulf War with the announcement from his wife that she had decided she was gay and wanted a divorce. Their small child would live with her and her new lover and he would get to see the child every other weekend. There was only one problem - she had decided to move 3000 miles away. There was little money to pay for travel so he must now see his child only in the summer and fly out to California, pickup the child, and fly back to his home in Florida and then do the same at the end of the 4 week visitation. His child support payment takes most of his money so he lives on little money so that he can afford to see his child in the summer. His car is falling apart and he has no health insurance. But he doesn't grumble and does what is needed. Bang the drum slowly and say a positive poem for this guy who is going the extra mile in life to be sure his child knows what a father is.

I could go on for pages and pages to show the spirit that some divorced fathers have shown. Yet, the newspapers and even made-for-television documentaries only seem to show negatives of men - those very very few men who could pay child support but don't or men who have hit women. Where are the positive stories like those above? Instead of calling on ancient legends in the drumming ceremonies I think we should honor men who are doing what is needed to prevent fatherless children - even when the system is almost making it impossible for them to father.

Robert Bly hasn't written anything I know about concerning divorced men but he and other elders in the men's movement should publicize the positive contributions that these men and others make everyday to our society. Instead of theoretical models to emulate, men should emulate those who go the extra mile to help their families and our society. These men's lives are poems in spirit.

Dean Hughson,


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