(Me at the congress building in DC- June 10th, 2018)-
On June 8th, 2018, my 31st birthday was fast approaching on June 10th. I decided that I needed to do something of epic proportions to celebrate this new stage of life. About 10 months ago, I published a report given to the United Nations titled, “Global Human Trafficking in the Family Law Courts”. The UN didn’t give much attention to it, probably because it discussed issues uniquely affecting men instead of the plight of women, nevertheless, Amnesty International in New York City reached out to me via -email about a week ago, wanting to meet up.
I have a huge fear of traveling alone, so this proved to be the perfect motivator for me to conquer two birds with one stone. I took a bus to DC, then a train to NYC, then a train back to DC, then finally an airplane flight back to Nashville,TN. I learned alot about myself on this journey. Even though my main objective was to reach Amnesty International in New York, I spent most of my “getaway” in D.C., as I had a friend who lived there who offered to host me. During my time in D.C., I made my way to the House of Representatives. For two days, I lobbied to them about family law reform.
A few weeks ago, Kentucky was the first state to pass a default 50/50 custody bill. A presumptive bill that would automatically grant fathers joint custody with minimal child support, so long as he didn’t have a criminal background. This is huge considering that the average man will spend 5-30K in court begging for equal rights. While I recognize the plight of women’s rights activists, the male gender faces its own unique set of challenges.
For two days, I visited more than 30 congressmen/women and their staff to discuss family law reform. I handed out copies of my report, business cards, and even stopped by the offices of Kentucky Congressman, Andy Barr, to thank him and his state for being a leader in family law reform. I visited congressmen in Texas, California, Rhode Island, New York, Tennessee, Maryland, you name it!
Most of the reception I got was very “lukewarm”. Family law is simply something that isn’t discussed very much by federal politicians. Divorce, child support, alimony, custody,— these words bring falsely negative connotations associated with failure, infidelity, blackmail, and scandal. It is a topic that many politicians simply do not want to touch out of fear of backlash from feminist groups. While there are some women who are affected by the family law courts, men tend to bear the brunt of unfairness within these systems. To speak out against the family law courts will often garnish you a label of being a misogynist or an “MRA”. (Men’s Rights Activist). For some reason, society thinks its perfectly fine for a mother to have an abortion or give up her unwanted child for adoption, however, men who don’t want to be dads are called “deadbeats”, and the ones who do want to be dads have to spend a small fortune on legal fees to get basic custody rights while still paying child support on top of it.
As many of you know, I am a champion of foreign policy reform, tax reform, civil liberties, and plethora of other civil liberties issues. In fact, I submitted a report to the ACLU regarding civil asset forfeiture. Family law reform isn’t the only thing I care about, but it is very high on the list.
During my meetings with various congressmen, I was mainly left with statements such as, “I’ll look into this.”. However, I did get very good responses from congressmen in Maryland, Texas, and Georgia. Maryland is one of the few states who has tough laws against leaving your children in a car unattended. Maryland claims to be a very “children concentric state”, thus, I wasn’t too surprised that their offices actually gave me the time of day.
Tom Reed of New York wasn’t in his office, however, his staff associates were very nice to me and gladly took down my info and a copy of my report. I cannot say the same about some of the other offices that I visited who gave me such a cold welcome, almost as if they couldn’t physically see me standing in front of them.
I tried to visit my own congressman from TN for two days straight, congressman Jim Cooper, however, he was away both times. He and I have had several run-ins back in Nashville, so I’m not sure how happy he would be to see me again, as I have already spoken with him about this issue several times.
(Me outside of Rep.Cooper’s office in DC.)
While in D.C., I learned and recognized many things. The people in this city are highly educated on political matters, even the lowly beggars have a basic understanding of how bills are passed and the roles lobbyists play. Protesting and demonstration occurred at the Congress and white house daily. While attending a seminar at the Supreme court, I passed the congress building and noticed a group of ethnic Uyghurs, chanting and begging for the United States government to use their military might to save their people from the clutches of Chinese control.
Many libertarian and liberally minded people often shy away from interventionism as it causes much blow-back for our national security, however, this demonstration made me rethink the US’s role in foreign policy. Perhaps our presence isn’t always shunned but actually welcomed in some places. I suppose there are always two sides to every story.
As I left the congress building, I managed to get a peak at President Trump coming in from his trip at the Korean Peace Talk summit in Singapore. The Secret service was in full effect with their rifles, clearing the streets of any nearby pedestrians including myself.
“Stand back! Make way!” – Secret Service agents
Later that day, I visited the white house and came across an interesting man who went by the name, “Felipe”. He had an encampment set up across the street from the white-house. He had been in that camp protesting war, advocating for gun control, and attacks on civil liberties since 1982! That’s right! This man has not left his protest encampment since 1982! Talk about commitment! I engaged in an hour long debate with the man who sat disabled in his wheelchair. He had several degrees in political science, sociology, and psychology. While I didn’t agree with him on many points, I respected his diligence, and we both managed to agree that things like family law reform, and laws like the NDAA and the Patriot Act are bad for Americans in regards to personal liberty.
According to his testimony, there is a current law in place that says that no one is allowed to be encamped within so many yards of the white house, however, since the man had been in this place since 1982, (before such laws existed), he had essentially be “grandfathered” in, and is legally allowed to stay encamped in front of the white house so long as the camp remains occupied 24/7. Felipe is there most of the time, but has his father stand in his place when he needs to go away or take breaks. Felipe garnished much respect from fellow congressmen, as two actually approached him and gave him a “fist bump” of acknowledgment.
(Felipe camped out in front of the White House, no civilians is allowed to pass the police line or else they could face imprisonment– even Felipe isn’t exempt from this law)
My next stop was the Library of Congress. The world’s largest collection of books in the world. Photographs aren’t allowed to be taken of the actual books, however, when I say that the collection was impressive, it is an understatement! The library consists of three large buildings which contain entire departments dedicated to a single subject. Do you enjoy Chinese history? Well, there is an entire floor dedicated to just that single topic! Do you enjoy mechanical engineering? There is an entire room dedicated to just that subject. The amount of information in those buildings is completely awe-inspiring. I constantly found myself speaking in a silent whisper, “This is incredible!”. , “Wow!”.
I visited the copyright office in the Library of Congress and met with one of their consultants who guided me on the process of submitting my own publication, “Global Human Trafficking in the Family Law Courts”, into the library of congress. If my book is accepted, it would forever remain as my contribution to my country, my people, and to the world’s largest library.
After my adventures in the Congress, the Supreme Court building, the White House, and the Library of Congress, I accidentally came across an Amnesty International building. I thought to myself, “This could be a great networking opportunity, since I am scheduled to interview with them tomorrow in NYC.”
As I approached the building, there was a small security detail who was only letting badged members get in. I tried getting in, but I had no formal appointment with the D.C office. However, I was determined to get a copy of my report into as many people’s hands as I could. So, I did what any rational activist would do. I broke trespassing laws. I waited until the building’s employees returned from their lunch breaks. The wave of workers came hauling into the building using their badges to bypass security. I merely ducked my head-low and piggy backed into the building behind them. Without a badge I was only able to make it to the 3rd floor. Amnesty’s main office was on the 4th floor.
(At Amnesty International In Washington D.C.)
So, I had to get creative. I found a fire exit with a staircase and managed to get on the 4th floor. However, I ran into another problem. Amnesty had an empty lobby with a single door that only allowed badged members once again. There was no secretary in sight. I called the interviewing office in New York City and told them I was in D.C. instead. This prompted one of their policy research managers to come to the lobby. She speaks out, “Who are you? How can I help you?”
I say, “I am set to meet with Mr.Solis in NYC tomorrow about a management position. ” She laughs and says, “They tell everyone that. Mr. Solis only hires for intern positions that pay 15$ an hour.” I was a little annoyed to learn this. So I reply, “Wow! Seriously? Well, I traveled all the way from Nashville,Tn. This is a report I have written regarding Family Law reform. Regardless of any job opportunities, I think you guys should look at this! I am a supporter of women’s rights activism, however, this is an issue of gender equality where the male gender needs some serious support!”. The policy manager was hesitant to take my packet until I gave her my Nalini-Global business card.
At this point, she realized I was serious. She replies, “I will get this to our research department. This looks very fascinating. But, I’m sorry we can’t interview you here. You aren’t cut out for an internship anyways. Forget the NYC interview with Mr.Solis. I am going to take your report and see what we discuss further.”
I reply, “Thank you so much!”. She replies, ” I don’t know how you got up here. This is a restricted area. But, I admire your moxy! But, you have to go now!”. I reply, “Yes ma’am. And thank you!”.
After leaving Amnesty, I took a rest and headed up to NYC by train. The ride was three hours. On the train, I met many lobbyists and a woman from Italy who was here on vacation. We discussed music and politics for a good hour until the train staff told us to shut as other passengers were trying to sleep.
Upon arrived in NYC at Penn Station, I headed straight to Federal Hall. The birthplace of out government. It was a proud moment. Something that has been on my bucket list since the age of 20. After getting in NYC, I arrived about an hour late, thus I was shut out of my interview with Amnesty. But, I didn’t care, I wasn’t happy about being lied to about an internship/canvasser position anyways. I needed to make some real money! Regardless, I was still on a mission. After leaving Federal Hall, I visited “Wall Street”, the financial center of the USA. The power and corruption germinating inside the NYSE was overwhelming just as the city skyline was itself. NYC is not the place to go if you have anxiety or are prone to panic attacks.
(Me in New York City in front of Penn Station)
In NYC, everyone is looking to score something. Sex, drugs, money, a phone number, a free-ride, selling something. ect.. It is a very fast paced city that caters to the rich. My last action in NYC was to visit the UN building. To try and submit my report in person. I was blocked by security and wasn’t about to attempt to go further. This wasn’t amnesty international, this was a multinational governmental organization, I didn’t want to be arrested or killed. So, I took my loss and returned to Penn station the next morning. After all, as a state rep candidate myself back in Nashville, I still have a campaign to run myself! During the train ride back to D.C, , I saw the poverty in Baltimore and in parts of New Jersey. It was a sad site. Like a third world country in some respects. Upon arriving in D.C., I stayed at a friend’s house and took a flight back to Nashville the next morning.
While this narrative is a summarized version of my experiences during this birthday diplomatic mission, it sums up my passion quite well. If this blog post were to be used in a job interview, it would demonstrate my passion to a high level unparalleled to any college degree one may possess, as anyone can remember facts and details in order to obtain a degree, but few can put their very lives on the line for a cause they believe in.
I don’t know how effective my actions were in this trip. Perhaps I wasted my time and money. Perhaps I am a fool for thinking that such a man from a lowly background of lower-middle class parents can actually make a difference in such a powerful city like D.C. or NYC. But, then again, I thought that same thing two years ago when I successfully fought to get a corrupt politician fired, county clerk, John Arriola. in Nashville TN.
Regardless of the outcome, the trip changed my life. It made me proud to be an America. It gave me a connection to this land unlike I had before. For all of it’s ugliness, I saw a certain amount of beauty in the process of politics and government. I did see remedies and potential in solving certain problems in an ever changing world. It gave me a sense of strength and confidence I never knew I had.
I do not know where my journey will take me next, as I will be ending the lease on my apartment in two weeks, however, wherever I end up next, you can take your money to the casinos and safely bet that my next chapter will be anything but boring!
To life. To liberty. And to the pursuit of a meaningful life.
-Randell Daryl Stroud