The following is a selection of comments I made on Eric Zorn’s blog at the Chicago Tribune. He makes reference to a separate article on the “new” anti-adoption movement.
It is not a “new” movement by any stretch of the imagination. Poor women of the cities of the eastern seaboard would often pin specially sewn hearts and other adornments on their children’s clothes in the hopes of one day being reunited with them. This was in the days of the poorhouses, orphanages, and Orphan Trains.
Families of children in the French overseas territories would graffiti city streets warning others that the “metropolis” wanted to take their children away from them to work back in France.
Mothers in Guatemala are suing in federal courts to have their kidnapped children repatriated to their place of birth. All of these cases (and there are many more) show the resistance of those who are targeted for their children.
We need to remember that adoption started as a form of indentured servitude; family creation did not really start until World War II, when adoption became a propaganda bonanza for a newly-Imperial United States and its endless wars. This continues to this day.
50 years after my own trafficking to the United States, it still boggles my mind how powerful the adoption lobby remains. Both in terms of a complacent media realm that is loathe to present any kind of historical information that challenges the dominant mythology in any way, as well as with the complicit abetting of those who are themselves victims of such disinheritance—adoptees and mothers—unwilling to challenge their class status.
David the Adoptive Dad is giving us the argument of history without context; the Calvinist base upon which adoption is built and sustained. It blames the poor for their condition, and ascribes class-based value to those who already have. It is a horrifying picture of inhumanity.
It can also be referred to as the Pyromaniac Firefighter argument, in the sense that those of means, taking advantage of class inequality, set up and keep in place these inequalities that are to their benefit. The money spent on adoption would go very far in keeping many children with their families. And if we take one more small step back, if there were such a thing as public services for young mothers or those having familial problems—as is now being done in Scotland, among other countries—then we wouldn’t have the “problem” that leads to adopters taking advantage of their class position to take children from others.
Taking a step in another direction which affects me more personally, if it weren’t for the “First World’s” foreign policies of economic and political warfare, then the “orphans” that come from countries that in a book like Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine just happen to be those opened up for economic or physical destruction might also be with their families and communities.
For those of us who have returned in an effort to attempt to right some of the wrongs inflicted by the humanitarian imperialism, NGOization, and continuing racist and classist missionary “outreach” of adopting countries, it is too much to continue to hear these same tired arguments trotted out all the time. They convince no one. They do much damage. And adopters are the ones with the class position, clout, and political will to change things. But first they have to be honest with themselves.
The [other] argument stated here is the “happy slave” one, and it was used to fight abolition as well. Slaves were “better off” on the plantation, and look, some of them even say they wish to stay on the plantation. Michele Bachmann, in a New Yorker interview, espouses the views of a writer who claims that slavery was valid because it “saved” the “pagan” Africans from eternal damnation. How is this valid, much less voiceable? Frantz Fanon refers both to adoptees and to this mentality in The Wretched of the Earth; he calls it the “colonized mind”. It is shared by immigrants who likewise are expected to give up everything of their former cultures, their language, etc. in order to attempt to fit into some concept of being “American”. The person with the “broad brush stroke” is he who takes an exceptional case, or else a case that we have not heard the last of yet, and defines his argument based on this minor exception. What choice does an adoptee have except to try to fit in to his or her new environment? Can you not understand the trauma of rupture, of abandonment, of separation, of dispossession, of displacement?
Believe me, in all of my years back in Lebanon, in all of my research, I have hoped to find some redeeming quality to adoption. Can you understand this? For extremely personal and rather selfish reasons, I above anyone else wants to find something actually charitable and beneficent in this practice for my own mental well being. It is not there. For almost 10 years now (before that, I was quite quiescent and “happy”, like your Korean-born adoptee) I have attempted to suss out something valid if not validating of this institution. It is not there. To dismiss adoptees advocating for societal betterment is a doubled rejection. To note is that this is a personal dismissal, and not a proper response to an argument. We are used to this. It is a tactic of those in power.
The knee-jerk response that what we are asking for is more “welfare” sums up for me the Calvinist mindset that has always defined the entirety of Anglo-Saxon concepts of politics, economics, law, and human relations. Margaret Thatcher’s “nuclear family/no society”; the Wild West’s endless and unrivaled individualism; the libertarian concepts of no government—much of the world thinks communally, and these become the aberration, imposed on others against their will. And thus the basis for colonialism, missionarism, imperialism, as well as the warships once again off the coast from me, their missiles aimed at yet another target not willing to bend to such supremacist ideals.
I think it is a misnomer to say “anti-adoption”. We should say pro-justice. The justice of knowing one’s origins, and having a valid birth certificate that reveals such origins. The justice of understanding how a system conspires on all levels to leverage children out of the arms of their mothers and away from their families. The justice of reunion. The justice of repatriation. The justice of abolition of what is, for all intents and purposes, a formalized form of chattel trafficking.