FLINT - There was a story in the paper last week about a guy in Muskegon who fathered 23 children with 14 women.
A judge gave the man two to four years in prison because he owed more than $500,000 in child support, but the sentence was considered excessive because the sentencing guidelines say the guy should get no more than six months.
I heartily disagree. I say he deserved a much longer sentence. And if not a longer sentence, then at least a more creative punishment, one that fits the crime.
I don't know what exactly that punishment should be, but I'd like to suggest that a panel of women - perhaps including the women he impregnated and a squad of crack commandos from the National Organization for Women - be assigned the task of considering the matter.
I have a feeling such a panel might zero in on the source of the problem and suggest that he be given the sort of medical procedure administered to dogs that are a little too free with their love, which is harsh indeed.
But if it were to happen, he'd have no one to blame but himself.
If there was ever a case that screamed out for a gross over-reaction by the justice system in order to send a message to other would-be Lotharios, this is it.
The damage this guy has done is immeasurable.
First, you have the kids he created. They'll grow up without a father. I know many kids grow up straight and strong without a father in the picture, and I certainly hope that's what happens here.
But having a father certainly helps increase the odds.
Then there are the women he loved and left behind. What happens to them?
They have another mouth to feed, another life to take care of, courtesy of Johnny Appleseed. Yes, they bear as much responsibility as he does. It takes two to tango, after all.
But being a single mom is no picnic. Ask any single mom. Their lives have certainly gotten tougher.
Then there's society. Many of those kids - maybe all, God willing - will grow into successful, caring, contributing adults.
But, again, the odds are greater that at least a few of those poor kids will grow into the sort of teens and young adults who are destroying our cities. Welfare, crime, drugs, kids having kids. It's the same old cycle of despair.
I know what Muskegon's "Father of the Year" did wasn't a violent crime, but a mere four years in prison doesn't seem nearly enough for all that he's wrought.
Maybe he shouldn't be allowed to simply hide away from his problems in prison. Maybe he should have to live in a house with all 14 women and all 23 kids. Maybe he should be forced to be a dad. Make him get counseling, teach him how to be a father in the non-biological sense of the word. Make him support the kids he brought into the world.
And most of all make him change each and every one of their diapers.
Now that's a fitting punishment.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.