On April 15th and April 16th, 2011, the ABC news broadcasts we had been waiting for aired to a national and then international audience. Without doubt, this was and is a significant step in bringing our dilemma and our cause to much wider exposure and much greater public awareness. For those of us who were able to participate in it, it was gratifying to be able to place our circumstances and our children before the world’s eyes and offer a feeling plea and human face to our little-known but profoundly important story. To the numerous others who have worked so hard and suffered so much because of this brutal situation, I can only hope that what we contributed that day is felt first and foremost as an act of solidarity with you, and that it provides another tool with which to try to pry minds and legal systems open for change to happen.
I certainly hope that everyone sees the ABC stories as evidence that our story is not going to go away, and that Japan’s crude and cruel disregard for international standards brings shame and outrage upon their country. Finally, my biggest hope is that exposure increases the sense among Japanese that things don’t have to remain the same as they always have. Change is possible and inevitable. And there is no reason to continue to damage the lives of children by mythologizing one’s own legal tradition when it is clearly known far and wide to be based on an outmoded and harmful family paradigm.
The interviews we participated in as a group took place in Washington in mid-January, 2011. We were brought together in D.C. to attend a Department of State “Town Hall” meeting with Assistant Ambassador for East Asian and Pacific Affairs later that same day. ABC contacted us, and fifteen men from scattered cities came together on a frozen morning in a hotel conference room.
It was the first time I’d met any of them face to face, although I’d talked with Chris and his wife Amy several times on the telephone prior to the day. The morning started roughly – I arrived late and nearly missed the beginning of the taping altogether. But for a generous intervention by Abbie Boudreau who came to the door and instructed me to take a deep breath and come in, that would have been my hard luck. Now, a month later, I feel the whole course of my struggle to cope and my involvement with people who are fighting for change were deeply altered by that intervention. I hustled in, bowed a wordless apology, and took my seat among these grim-faced men who were at that moment preparing themselves to speak their hearts’ deepest desires into the cameras without breaking down or damaging their pride. The mood was somber and serious. Once the initial set up shots were taken, we had a minute more to breathe before the taping began. I turned to each person within arms reach and shook their hands if I could, introduced myself, apologized for my lateness, and tried to break through the tension. What I got in return buoyed me and is still buoying me to this day. The men each took my hand in turn, looked into my eyes and welcomed me. All new faces to me, I remember Nigel’s warm hand on my shoulder from above and behind me, his voice quietly saying, “it’s good that we’re all here together.” I felt my heart and eyes fill, seven lonely months of tightly -held turmoil and inner struggle about to surface.
The taping session took over 2 more hours. The scene was a little anxious; the men’s emotions were raw and had to be delved into in order to communicate through the cameras to the audience we imagined might be listening to us soon. Many questions started to find answers, and stories I’d only read about now began to take on flesh and heart while I watched the men describe the children they longed for, and the cruelty of the injustice and governmental indifference they’d suffered without their children. These were not anything but ordinary guys, men brought low, cut off at the knees by an extraordinary, peculiar reality of the new age. That day I joined their ranks, and now only a short time later I know more about how much that is worth.
That evening, after the DOS meeting with Campbell, over a calzone and a beer I had the opportunity to talk longer with my new friends. They were self-deprecating, funny, warm, and earnest. So wherever you are now, I want to dedicate this little blog post to you, and tell you how much I value your work, your support, and the ways you reached out to me. Not everyone I want to say this to was at the taping that day or around the table at the pizzeria; but I’m optimistic that you know who you are. Those phone calls you made, the emails you sent …. they saved my life. Now I can live another day to hope to be reunited with Rui, and to rage against his captivity along with you. I hope that one day my boy Rui will see what happened and recognize what it was for.
Here are links to each segment that ABC created:
The first, my personal favorite, was only made available online. We were each given an opportunity to speak to our children through the camera.
The first broadcast segment of Abbie Boudreau’s story on The ABC World News with Diane Sawyer is here.
The third and final segment aired on the World News broadcast the following night.
There is another online extra which focused on Paul Toland’s family’s story.
Gratitude forever to Abbie Boudreau, Sarah Netter and ABC News for telling our story.
What is the use of talking, and there is no end of talking,
There is no end of things in the heart.
I call in the boy,
Have him sit on his knees here
To seal this
And send it a thousand miles, thinking