May 8th, 2001, Washington DC: A smaller-than-expected crowd of men from around the country gathered yesterday across the street from the Whitehouse in what organizers had dubbed the “Million Dead-beat Dad March”. Police estimated the crowd to be around 2,250 people, while Marlon Shirk, a spokesmen for the march, guessed that the crowd was closer to 2,600 strong.
“I’m still disappointed, though,” Shirk told a group of reporters and several indigents who make the Washington park their homes. “We really hoped to have a larger turnout than this.”
For most of the attendees, however, the event was a success. “Sure I’m glad I came,” Brock Martin Jr of Sacramento, California, said. “It was a great day to get together with other misunderstood men and bond and compare stories.” Martin added, “much of the time, I feel self- conscious and think people are looking at me in a bad way...you know, like when court officers come and garnish my wages. But today I was able to relax and just be myself with others like me.”
Jerry Falkirk, of Dubuque, Iowa, agreed. “This is the first time I’ve felt good about myself since I left my wife and three kids for a woman I met on the internet,” he said, taking a deep breath. “We’d been married for twelve years, and I left her on Valentine's day, so I had a lot of guilt about that. And our friends and family really held it against me, just refused to see it from my perspective at all.” Falkirk paused, appearing to become choked up, when another man put his arm around him and calmly reassured his fellow dead-beat dad.
“It’s okay, brother,” the man, who would only identify himself as “Bobby”, said gently as he patted Falkirk on the shoulder.
“See, this is what I’m talking about,” Falkirk said after recomposing himself. “Bobby doesn’t judge me, he doesn’t tell me it was wrong to throw away twelve years of marriage for a woman half my age...he understands that sometimes you’ve got to do things for yourself.” He stopped, and the two men hugged briefly, before Falkirk added, “this is exactly what I needed.”
“That kind of fellowship is exactly what we were aiming for when we organized the event,” Shirk said, beaming with pride. “These are decent men who’ve been ostracized and scorned for decisions they’ve made, and it’s just not fair. They’re not bad men.”
“Take me, for example,” Peter Kinderknecht, of Sherwood Ohio, said from beside Shirk. Kinderknecht, who clutched a sign that read “Child support is Robbery”, is the founder of a small group from Ohio that calls itself “Reclaiming Our Authentic Manhood”, or ROAM for short. “I am not a bad person, and I did not intend to violate my marriage vows,” Kinderknecht said earnestly. “I can admit that I’ve made mistakes, and I can see how my ex-wife is hurt by the fact that I left her, but it’s not fair to blame me exclusively. Yes, I promised to love her forever, but did I know she was going to get fat after she had two kids? No. Did she tell me that she would be completely unreasonable and unforgiving when I occasionally had to find sexual gratification outside our marriage? No.”
Pausing briefly to regain his composure, Kinderknecht continued in a softer voice. “I just don’t see why I should be expected to pay for kids I only get to see once a month. I mean, is it fair that I have to struggle to make payments on my sports car, house, and my girlfriend’s apartment, just so my wife can frivolously throw money at the kids? Of course not! That judge was obviously biased against men, probably a lesbian or something. That’s why we need to stand up as a unified voice, demand fair treatment, and declare to the nation ‘we will NOT be vilified any longer’”.
“Amen, brother,” Shirk said quietly. “If God has forgiven us, then our bitchy, money-grubbing ex-wives should be able to, too.”
The group, which chanted slogans at times, such as “We’re here, not at home, get used to it,” and “Not my wife, not the Court, can make me pay child support”, gradually broke up around dinner time. Other than the participants and small congregation of media the rally garnered, very few people seemed to notice.
“What the hell was that all about?” a homeless man who identified himself as “Captain Hook” asked, as the group moved away from his refrigerator box where he lives.