Letters to the editor

July 10, 2011

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The master piece

Charles P. Pierce’s piece on the wushu master (“The Way of the Ribbon and the Sword,” June 19) was itself an embodiment of the art. Silken.

Bob Baker / Marblehead

Pierce’s article made me forget for a moment that I was reading online and not while holding a vintage issue of The New Yorker in my grubby mitt while riding one of the Tokyo-area train lines I am obliged to use. Nice job.

Huntley Nicholas / Tokyo

What a nice surprise to see your article about Bow Sim Mark. And what a coincidence as well. A character inspired by Grandmaster Mark is featured in my new Rizzoli & Isles mystery novel, The Silent Girl. I’ve spoken to several of Mark’s students, who refer to her with utter awe and reverence. Female martial arts masters are too often assumed to be fictitious Hollywood creations. Not so!

Tess Gerritsen / Camden, Maine

Contesting divorce

In his interview with the Globe Magazine, Ned Holstein of Fathers and Families advocates for a change in child custody law (First Person, June 19). He claims that judges use “default” or “cookie-cutter” solutions and show “old-fashioned gender bias.” As a family law attorney, I can say these claims are inaccurate and misleading. Moreover, Holstein’s proposed changes unnecessarily complicate and cloud the court’s job, which is to determine the custody arrangement that will best serve the happiness and welfare of the children. The current law is clear and comprehensive: (1) Parents have equal rights; (2) there is no presumption in favor of, or against, shared custody; and (3) custody decisions are based on the best interests of the children. There is no default outcome. Bias is explicitly prohibited.

The majority of custody cases settle before trial. In cases that go to trial, the level of acrimony is often too great for shared custody to work. This acrimony creates a barrier to shared custody; the current law and its application do not.

Laura W. Gal / Princeton

We are not sure which is more disturbing: the false claims that Holstein continues to peddle or the uncritical reporting on behalf of the Globe. We’re not fooled by the wholesale misogyny put forth by Holstein’s group as a simple solution to the complex issues of custody and child welfare. To do so would ignore the potentially dangerous consequences for children caught in the middle of high-conflict divorce cases, particularly where domestic violence is a factor. Let’s be clear. We believe strongly in co-parenting after divorce when parents can work together to raise their children. And we couldn’t agree more with the premise that fathers need to be strong, positive role models in the lives of their children. That’s the very basis of Jane Doe Inc.’s White Ribbon Day campaign. But the proposed legislation from Holstein and other fathers’ rights groups isn’t about creating good co-parenting relationships. Nor are they going to encourage batterers to be responsible parents. They blur the line between the best interests of parents and children and aim to circumvent the current “best interest of the child” standard while leaving the former spouse and the child vulnerable to continued abuse and harassment. The evidence that Holstein points to regarding adverse affects on children is both incomplete and misleading. He ignores the legitimate reasons a child may have negative feelings toward one of his or her parents, particularly when a parent is abusive. A review of case outcomes in Massachusetts reveals that in cases where the divorce is contested and abuse is reported, fathers are likely to receive either sole or joint custody. In addition, abusive husbands are more likely to contest custody as a means of controlling or emotionally attacking their victims. In divorces marked by ongoing disputes over the custody and care of children, both inside and outside the court, there is often a history of domestic violence on the part of one parent against the other. When there is an order for joint custody or visitation, that domestic violence often continues, with the batterer now armed with a virtual license to commit the abuse. Where courts take notice and recognize the perpetrator’s abuse and do not allow the court to become an unwitting party to it, there is hope for a future without violence for children and victims. As the statewide advocacy coalition against sexual and domestic violence, Jane Doe Inc. urges the public and our elected officials to stay focused on the best interests of the children.

Mary R. Lauby / executive director, Jane Doe Inc.

Pew research

I read Miss Conduct’s column before I go to church on Sundays. Her response to M.S. in Jamaica Plain regarding the incontinent pew neighbor (June 19) was so compassionate that it gave me a perfect understanding of why I go to church: I am imperfect and I need a faithful community to hold me up. I also need to learn to hold others up, and this is an ongoing process. It takes all those prayers and hymns and moments of quiet to begin to accomplish this, but that’s why I need to be in the pew on the Sabbath. I work in an assisted living facility and giving thanks for our “gross, leaking bodies” was, for me, an inspirational way of looking at something we spend a great deal of time trying to mask.

Alix White / Cohasset

The only disagreement I would have with Miss Conduct’s answer is that, in my view, she perpetuates a view that it is somehow shameful to have incontinence. She might have suggested that one of the clergy talk about this medical condition in general terms to the congregation. It could be a way to communicate that the sufferer of this problem has nothing to be ashamed about.

Ralph S. Tyler / Sudbury

COMMENTS Write to or The Boston Globe Magazine/Letters, PO Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819. Letters are subject to editing.

  • July 10, 2011 cover
  • July 10, 2011 cover
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