“Schroder-a novel by Amity Gaige”
“Then tell her this,please:ich liebe Dich und werde Dich immer lieben.And tell her,also:Danke.Es was meine schönste zeit.ok?please tell her that.”
(Translation:”I love you and i will always love you.Thank you.This was the most beautiful time”)
“In the year of our parting,Meadow’s fifth year on earth,we joined one million other couples in legal separation or divorce,thereby conscripting our daughter into the ranks of the ten million children living with separated or divorced parents,undoubtedly the largest subset she’ll ever belong ro.They say that one out of every seven of those divorces involves a custody battle.This means that in the same year,about two hundred thousand disgruntled parents took their petitions through courts of family law,paying tens of thousands of dollars to end up more frustrated than they were when they began.They became damaged people,really.Deranged people.Because,of course there is one thing that really deranges us,and that is the disappearance of love.”
Have you ever asked yourself who you are?
Ask a person’s name and you will most likely know who they are according to nationality and then know their history,specifically their family history and that in addition to the life choices they had made is who they are.
Erik schroder was born in East Germany,a country divided too in a sort of divorce with two parents;the Berlin wall was a divorce.
One day Erik is taken by his father to west Germany,separated from his mother and he is then taken to a suburb of Boston,Dorchester,where he grows up amongst sterotypes:
Irish-mick,German-kraut or Nazi etc.
After a summer camp Erik schroder ,a child of separated parents decides to become Eric kennedy,named after a hero
“Do you know much about the kennedy family,your sort of namesake?They had a compound in Hyannis port.A very important family.John F. Kennedy was the thirty-fifth president of the united states .Germans love Kennedy.when there were bad men ruling Germany,he went to Germany’s great city ,and he said,I am from here!Everyone is from here!we are all slaves until we are all free!President Kennedy was a real German hero.”
The great American dream is something we also examine during these pathetic elections with one candidates failing more than another to present the American dream of being able to be whoever you wish to be,taking on a new identity,the melting pot.
In Europe you were a polish Jew then you became Bernie sanders and lived in Vermont.
In Ireland your forefathers were Irish catholic then you became mrs. Bernie sanders.
In Scotland your forefathers were scots of the clan then you became Donald Trump supported by the KKK.married slavic women .
In Slovenia you were born as one identity then you come to America and become someone else,mrs. Donald Trump.
The accents,the names disclose the “true”identity but who are you really?who you were born or the life choices you made of who to become?
The court of law takes two people who have a common child and decides to give one parent more rights than the other and the law makes a child the property of the state with declared good intentions for the interests of a child but then it becomes the interests of the state.
So this is how Erik Schroder becomes a runaway criminal fleeing from “justice”when he decides in one moment of madness to kidnap his own child and take his six year old child on a six day road trip almost crossing the border to canada then not.
Watching happy American families ,Eric wonders,why did the American dream never happen to me?
I remember asking myself similar questions;
One Saturday morning when i was taking a shower on a saturday my ex husband walked into our apartment ,we had been officially separted by law and he took my sons after having attacked me in the shower, “Psycho” style, He bit me hit me and walked out with my sons,then aged 5 and 7.
He drove off without a clue to where he was. My daughter and i went to the Swiss police to file charges against my ex husband for kidnapping and i spent hours reinacting the act of attack with a female police detective , later , much later when the case came to the court of law, my ex husband’s shark lawyer claimed a different version that my ex husband had bitten me in self defence!
The swiss police spoke to him and allowed him to keep the boys till he returned them sunday night in time for school.
He was never prosecuted.
SO why did the Swiss police and school system look the other way while my ex husband was allowed to go on a rampage, break into my apartment , actually walk through the door and take my sons contrary to my wishes ? The court of law had decided there were visitation times and my ex husband did not respect that, he just walked into my apartment, attacked me AGAIN, for the last time after nine years of consistent violent abusive behaviour where he underminded my position as a parent working towards a situation where the children got the idea that mother is not an authority figure and father can do whatever he wants , he is above the law, and the system had approved this , so why does a system approve of a violent man with a history of domestic violence and does not punish him and allows him to walk off with children and later awards him custody and takes away the rights of a mother ?
Why does a swiss Judge tell me NOT to publish a blog telling of the ordeal so that other mothers and fathers out there may learn of this experience ?
If there is any meaning in having undergone what i see as an unfair, unjust situation is being able to help others never to be in such a situation by
- Carefully selecting the parent of your future child
- If you are a foreigner in a foreign country make sure you have a good lawyer in case the local law will turn against you and if you don’t , leave.
- If you are in a difficult custody battle, realise that the court will not decide what is just, what is ethical nor what is in the best interest of a child but what is in the best interest of society so if the other parent is part of the system and you are not, you should not expect to have the same rights.
- The court of law is NOT a fair place, it is up to a judge, and if the judge has biased opinions or right wing political tendencies you should not expect as a foreigner to have the same rights.
- Do not expect justice from the system so just try to stay out by not marrying, nor not risking your children’s well being by marrying with a person who is part of the system before your verify if this person respects women and children and is nonviolent and before examining his or her family background with a fine comb.
As a European of the “right”country and the “right”profession,a teacher in the swiss school system,my ex husband did as he pleased ,the law was made for some other people ,but not for him.
He attacked our son for wearing a t shirt with an Israeli university symbolizing all that my ex husband was NOT;academia and Israel.
The Dutch identity was expressed in orange flags during soccer matches.
It is interesting how people define their identity and choose to identify with a nation during sport matches and song competitions and how nationality is always mentioned in the swiss media whenever there is an incident of any kind ;a murder,a car accident,a crime..
But while busy with national identities people forget the individual who should be treated as a human being beyond borders and definitions and accountable to the law equally regardless of his position.
The Swiss court of justice allowed a Dutch man with a history of violence to have custody of two children who were also my children.
The swiss court of law ignored the domestic violence and blamed the foreigner who had recently arrived rather than prosecute the foreigner who came to switzerland at the age of one year old and had fully taken on the traits of a swiss person talking and thinking like a swiss German having been educated in the swiss school system.
When i came to the USA as a nine year old child i also struggled with my identity;who was i ?
My mother was born in czechoslovakia and was slovakian according to her national identity,she lived in Bratislava till the age of 10 then told by the German occupying force she was a jew.
My maternal grandmother was Hungarian
My maternal grandfather was from the German side and was arrested by the British authorities in Britiah mandate Palestine as a suspected German till it was cleared he was a jew.
My father was a Palestinian jew ,so was his father,my great grandfather was born in Crimea,it was Ukraine now it is Russia,his mother came from Lithuania.
You see how complicated it gets?
So why do we need a national identity anyway?
Israel symoblized for many jews a safe haven from European persecuation whether WW2 or before or after and yet one often is asked where do you parents come from?
My brother married a woman whose family came from Brazil and before that Morroco.
What identity do his children have?
My sister married an Irish canadian,had children with him,divorced then married a canadian of Polish and German origin ,had children with him,divorced …etc.
I had dated Morrocian israeli,Polish Israeli,Swedish ,German,and married a Dutch man.
My children were born in Switzerland.
What is their identity?
They speak swiss German ,English and some Hebrew.No Dutch.
They were born and raised in a country where citizenship is not automatic so even at 18 and older they can not vote in switzerland even though we all must pay taxes and comply with the laws.
What is your identity is one question raised in this profoundly poetic novel and another is what happens when your bubbles of dreams burst?
The great American dream of children,a car,a dog..and love.
Love,we are told goes together with marriage like a horse and carriage and then why does it go wrong and why then can a court of law rule over your right as a parent and take control over the one person you thought belonged to you through a bond of genetics and heritage and love?
Nothing belongs to you,and no one belongs to you would be acceptable answers if only they did not then suddenly through a human decision belong to the court of law.
F.kafka comes in and tells us how the court of law is there to torture and play with one’s emotions and sense of illusionary security and well being but at any given moment your entire world ,your reality can change dramatically and all you assumed to have is gone..
Bob kaufman was a poet who wrote on napkins and newspapers things that blow away.
“I want to be anonymous”,he once declared,”my ambition is to be completely forgotten”
It occured to me as i read this novel why so many jews are artists,writers,poets,singers,it is because jews have been forced to wander amongst the nations of the world.taking on identities yet never fully accepting of the assumptions other nations make of a particular identity,flexible enough to ask questions about what makes a human being ?
Who defines one’s identity?
It is not a flag or traditions
It is perhaps what is beyond all surfaces and beyond anything decided by a court of law on earth.
A human being is a soul
And therefore do not mistake any temporary clothing such as nationality,gender or other external quality.
Deep down is the soul naked and it is not the property of anyone.it is free floating like the wind.