This is in response to my half-reply (the other half was in a tweet) at the “This Family’s Journey” blog, in a post entitled: The “Ohhhh, they’re adopted” Reason.
What I said in my tweet reply was that as an adoptee, I prefer this, the culture’s honesty concerning adoption. It’s not a matter of opinion, but a difference in how we view a mythology. It’s like the racism that I experienced while living in France which was direct and in my face (“I don’t rent rooms to Arabs”) which I greatly prefer to the inverted American version (“Where’re you from?”); I prefer Cultural Honesty.
For the paper I’m writing on the presentation I gave at the Adoption Initiative Conference last October in New York, I wrote the following:
More prevalent than the mediated “saviors” of children referenced within the culture are these more popular references to thievery of infants and stealers of children, those who abscond with or remove children from their place, in an evident archetype that is always negative: The Pied Piper, the witch of Hansel and Gretel, the Coachmaster of Pinocchio, the Child Catcher1 of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; and further afield but no less relevant, “Dzunukwa” of the Pacific Northwest’s First Nation and “Abou Kiis” (The Bag Man) of Lebanese folklore, just to name a few, and pointing toward a negative cultural understanding of this archetypal bogeyman.
Interestingly, this focus on the “stealer” prototype is starting to present itself in the sub-mediated films and theater dramas of targeted countries. This use of adoption as a storyline in which the adoptive “Westerner” becomes the stock antagonist continues in this tradition2. Adoption mythology can thus be seen as an aberration and an attempt to countervail archetypal tropes that run deep within various cultures. These are thus revealed to be normative references that always proclaim the necessity and taken-for-granted nature of children’s connection to family, with adoption relegated to serving purely economic purposes.
1 Interestingly the title of a new book: The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption.
2 Mercy Madonna of Malawi, staged in reaction to Madonna’s adoption of African children, for one example; the surprisingly welcomed shooting of Pauly Shore’s film Adopted in South Africa for another.
What I am saying here is that an adopter is offended by what is a cultural norm that has not yet succumbed to economic and political pressure; this is a popular reaction, and the adopter, of a given class and stratum in society, is offended that someone from “below” doesn’t “get it”. Given the attitude toward our original mothers, families, communities, and societies, this should not surprise us.
The fact remains that such popular views need be changed from the grassroots up. My adopted-name self recently received his three-year “courtesy” residence visa (my orphanage-name self has his nationality). Where the names for parents should be were two lines. My ID card will carry a word identifying me as “parentless” (implying bastardy in the colloquial language). Drones were recently referred to in the media as “bastard planes” as a play on this. I know that in the long term this will all be easier to change culturally speaking from the ground up than from an imposing dominant class and discourse from above. Imagine how quickly this terminology would disappear if these societies had no class disparity, true equality, and a valid system of caring for children.
As an adoptee (adopters dismiss us so readily!), I much prefer this honesty to the bogus mythology of adoption. This is a statement without emotion or malice. I’d much rather someone assume I’m a “bastard” than assume I’m “grateful”. The power differential of the first assumption is much more readily overcome than that of the second. I prefer knowing what the culture “thinks”, as opposed to the attitude that some classes within it “affect” and then attempt to impose on everyone else. There is a big difference. And the sooner that adoptive parents “come back to Earth” the better off we will all be.