After a few days of debate and a few hours of arguing, I have been given the go ahead to post this article, or letter, or whatever you would like to call it. This is the first and most likely the last time I will do this. I never wanted to be a part of all this insanity and this post does not represent a change of heart on that subject.
I have been watching my life partner, Paul Elam, doing what I know he has done for most of his life: working to give a voice to the voiceless. Far too often I have seen him rewarded for that work with a knife in his back. Not just by those who want those voices to remain silent but by people who claimed to be his allies – even people who claimed to be his “family.” I am more than sick of it.
For the sake of getting everything on the table, I am not an MRA. I do not want to be an MRA. I sympathize with most of the issues I have read on A Voice for Men but for whatever you care to make of it, I have never felt compelled to turn that sympathy into activism. That said, I support my partner in what he chooses to do with his life, whether I agree with it or not.
As someone who has spent the last 13+ years living under the same roof with Paul, I hope I can bring some perspective on him as a man (he would get huffy and insist I say “human being” but this is not his writing).
I am going to upset some people with what I have to say. Not being like Paul, that actually bothers me a lot. I don’t take pleasure in offending people, even the really scummy ones. I also admit to the obvious bias in my point of view. I love Paul, and that is why after six years of watching him build and run AVFM, I feel the need to speak my mind.
I want to tell you about the Paul that I know, knowing (and not caring) that those who hate him will rationalize their way into dismissing what I have to say. I also know that the people who care for him will not need to hear this but hopefully may enjoy hearing about a more personal side of the man from someone who actually knows him better than anyone else.
I have no intention of letting the following string of anecdotes define him. He has more faults than most of you will ever know. I am going to tell you what I have witnessed in him and I am also going to tell you about what I have witnessed from others.
First, here’s one anecdote that exemplifies more about Paul in real life then what you might believe if you made the mistake of taking his critics seriously.
I learned something valuable about Paul’s instincts and his nature on a whale watching tour we took not long after meeting. The boat we were on suddenly rocked and an older woman was thrown to the floor. While everyone else in our group grabbed poles and rails to hold themselves steady, Paul was up and moving. He maneuvered quickly between several people while the boat was sill rocking to reach the woman and helped her back to her seat, making sure she was not injured and calming her in the process. Make of it what you will, while everyone on that boat was understandably taking care of themselves, Paul saw someone in distress and moved to render aid without hesitation.
This, of course, proves little to nothing about who Paul is as a human being except that I see his tendency to act in similar fashion with anyone he encounters in distress. He does not care whether the person he is trying to help is a man or woman, black or white or part of any other group. In fact, you would be surprised to know what a kind and compassionate person he is. It breaks my heart to read so many cruel words describing him when in reality, they couldn’t be further from the truth.
Perhaps part of it is understandable. The persona Paul puts on to provoke people is not consistent with the Paul I see interact with the real world every day. I also suppose that when you rattle the cages of evil fools you should expect evil, foolish responses.
I understand where all this comes from, at least from his opponents. What I do not understand is how some people he has befriended and protected have acted so slimy. I don’t say this because I assume the best in Paul at all times, I say this because I have been an eyewitness to all of it.
I sit within a few feet of Paul every day as he works tirelessly, constantly putting the movement ahead of his own financial security and physical health. I have stayed up very late hours myself worrying about his lack of sleep because he never seems to find time to get enough rest. I live with the fear every day that the burden he chooses to carry is going to kill him.
In a strange way, the worst has already happened. Despite the fact that we are not legally married, I already feel like a men’s rights widow.
I have read some of the more inglorious coverage of Paul in the press, all of it coming from people of the lowest moral character imaginable. One example of that was the dragging of Paul’s alleged daughter into a story in Buzzfeed. I was honestly a bit frustrated by Paul’s lack of defending himself against Adam Serwer’s lies. I was there the whole time Paul tried to have a relationship with “Bonnie” so I know what lies she told or that were told by Adam Serwer on her behalf.
There were a thousand things about “Bonnie” that Paul could have said and refused to, including her longstanding troubles with Children’s Protective Services, who took a very dim view of her parenting. I knew about the constant drug screens they required of her and everyone in her home. When I read the allegations from her that he had physically abused her children, I was livid. It was never Paul who posed a threat to those two beautiful boys. It was their mother and she knows it. So does CPS.
She and her brother made a game of getting on the Ricki Lake show, fabricating a false story for the TV program in exchange for free first class air fare to the show and the food and perks that came with it. So you see, “Bonnie” already had a history of lying to the media to collect a few coins and Paul did not bring it up. That was his choice, and I know why he made it but I do not want to leave it unsaid.
For six years, I watched Paul work hard to try to develop a relationship with “Bonnie.” He often did this at the expense of his normal home time as a long distance truck driver. Once, when “Bonnie” had her artwork featured at a grand opening at the Dallas Area Transit Center, Paul was there with her, spending all night sitting with her in her car talking as they awaited the opening. He treated her this way regularly, often in the face of her indifference. All the while, she was taking his money to pay her bills. Paul didn’t publish any of this because he had no desire to hurt her, even when she was hurting him in any way she could.
I have seen Paul in a number of other situations that he does not talk about with others, like the time he got a letter in the mail from a man containing three one dollar bills and a note apologizing for not giving more due to being strapped by child support and living in his car. He may have mentioned that on the site at some point. I am not sure. Still, no one but me saw the tears streaming down his face while he read the note.
I have seen similar tears from him over the loss of our dog, Rocky, who passed away in April 2013 and from which Paul has never fully recovered. No one would believe what a sensitive, fragile man he can be. All the more reason why I am so troubled by the hateful things I read about him regularly. If people only realized just how wrong they are. Paul certainly has a hard edge but it is just to get attention for his cause. If there was another way, I’m sure he would prefer it because the negative attention he receives is not something he enjoys.
He can be hurt as much as anyone.
There has been much said about the money Paul has allegedly made capitalizing on the men’s movement. None of the critics have a clue how broke he is. And they have no clue as to the wonder, and yes, sometimes frustration I feel when I see his determination and work ethic go literally unfazed by his constant financial woes.
I see how hard the AVFM staff works and I see the moral support of many who comment on this website. I am thankful Paul has those people behind him because what I mainly see is him working himself to death in large part for a population of men who treat themselves more like lemmings than human beings.
No offense, but I don’t so much see a men’s movement as I see a small group of men and women beating their heads against the wall for people who won’t be bothered to lift a finger in their own defense. I don’t say that to imply that it is not doing any good. It is doing a lot of good but in spite of the people who are being helped, not because of them.
In the end, it does not matter what I think. I get it. Paul will be an MRA until we have to put him in a box. Perhaps, if you have any compassion at all, you will take my anger about all this in stride. The years that this movement is surely taking off his life will not only rob him of time on this earth, it will take away time that I would like to spend with him.
Being an MRA is who he is and mostly all he thinks about. I have seen more than my share of trashy people (with a few exceptions) exit AVFM. I have even seen them steal on their way out. What is sadly ironic is that I cannot think of a single exception where Paul did not work as hard as he could to salvage the reputations of those people and make the parting amicable. For this and for many other reasons, I just don’t see how he does it.
I don’t expect anything I say to change a single mind so I guess I am lucky that it is my only objective to just put my thoughts on the record. Paul Elam is not Superman or super human. He is not a saint by any means but he is also not anything like his worst critics love to imagine.
He is honest and principled and anyone who claims otherwise is lying. I have directly witnessed his side of the story throughout every attack on his character. His role in all of them may have been less than perfect but not sleazy or unprincipled. I’m shocked to see how much of this he has had to deal with in others who claim to be a part of this movement.
There now, I have had my say.