The problem with “days” and “months” such as National Adoption Awareness Month within American culture is that they are not, in fact, meant to focus attention on those in the minority; they are instead meant to further marginalize those who are outside of the dominant American cultural framework. Black History Month is thus not a focus, but a marginalization, a sign that “Black history” is somehow still not assimilated into so-called American history. Unfortunately, ethnic studies and the focus on narratives from those who are marginalized do not in fact expand on or create this enlarged history; they instead point up the failed “melting pot” or “beautiful mosaic” or “rainbow coalition” of American society. They simply further the dispossession of the Other that is the ultimate goal of Anglo-Saxon culture.
Giorgio Agamben, in his book Homo Sacer (Sacred Man), summarizes the philosophical debate on this subject as to how people are viewed in terms of who is given validity by the State (the polis) and who isn’t (those who simply maintain zoë, or “bare life”). To note is that this is premised on the work of Aristotle, and reveals in this way the patriarchal notions of existence that underpin liberal democracy as we know it today. Hamid Dabashi, in his book Islamic Liberation Theology, takes this one step further, moving beyond Agamben’s inability to come up with a valid praxis:
The entire function of Orientalism, and by extension Islamic Studies, or Chinese Studies, Indian Studies, Iranian Studies, etc., is nothing but “to explain” the foreignness of these languages and cultures to their “Western” readers. To explain something is ipso facto to constitute its foreignness, and thus by definition point to the quintessential inexplicability of the phenomenon in its own terms–and thus to constitute the foreign as the enemy and the enemy as the foreigner, as he who does not speak one’s language (literally, “the barbarian”), the enemy who speaks a foreign, estrange, and thus dangerous language, and thus acts in a strange and inexplicable manner, and is thus in need of a native informer (Fouad Ajami) or an Orientalist (Bernard Lewis) to explain him/her, and is thus outside the form of the political [polis] squarely in the realm of zoë or bare life. The singular function of Orientalism over the last 200 years has been nothing but to constitute the “Orient” as the enemy of “the West” by trying to understand and explain it–the same holds true for all Area Studies fields. They make strange and thus constitute as the enemy that which they seek to explain and make understood.
Here the point is that this alienation within a dominant culture fits into a functional aspect of that culture that seeks not to focus on or bring forward such studies and their represented minorities, but to eradicate their agents—the “constituted enemy”; not to bring attention to minority groups, but to co-opt and, ultimately and ideally, destroy them. In order to understand the scope of such destruction (literally or via incorporation), it will be necessary to refocus attention on dominant and dominated populations, in economic and political terms both inside and outside of the dominant culture, as well as the methods used for such destruction.
Adoptees, whether domestic or international, have been displaced; dispossessed; disinherited. They share with others in this realm of the zoë the nether-class citizen designation that is exacerbated and not denied by their adoption into the dominant bourgeois class. Such that when they speak up and out about their condition, they are told to “get over it”, or “be thankful instead”, or that they should “be happy” with their lives. No doubt this rings true to descendants of slaves, to those living in the shadow of the decimation of Indigenous populations in the Americas and elsewhere, as well as slave-labor immigrants.
The problem for adoptees arguing about their position in society is similar to what has been experienced previously by other marginalized groups looking to make a space within the hegemonic culture. Namely, how to expand out from what is considered simply a personal issue; an individual hang-up; a “selfish” focus on one’s condition; a psychological “illness”. The individualistic and solipsistic dominant culture ironically turns around and tells its absconded-with children to not be so “selfish” as to complain. Similar terms were used against other minority groups as well—”don’t be ‘uppity'”; “know your role”. We should literally be seen and not heard. Those days are over.
What follows is a reversal of roles. 30 answers to 30 questions that have come up in discussion boards and various “answer” web sites that pretend to be objective but more often than not stifle debate, delete contrarian posts, and disallow membership to those with a minority point of view. The web site Canada Adopts! is probably the most fascistic in this regard, but sadly many adoptee-driven web sites do the same thing. This is understandable, however, when we consider that the answers to the questions, when removed from a personal or individual emotional plane, and instead focusing on the economic and political realm, are harder to justify by those in power—or those seeking such power. This results in the retaliation, the backlash, and the twisted framing of the dominant culture of adopters as being somehow minority, victimized, and on the defensive.
Armed with this positioning of the argument, the anti-adoption movement is poised to join its brothers and sisters in other liberation movements of dispossessed and marginalized peoples the world over in the struggle for equality, true equality; the status of polis for all, and the end of the false positioning of the dominant mode of thinking as anything other than what it is: the political and economic destruction of those who don’t fit in to its view of the world. Nothing more and nothing less.
For starters, the follow question appeared on Yahoo!Answers:
Do people who have been adopted blame others all their lives for their adoption? I see it a lot on this section where a person will put the blame on others who choose to adopt, for themselves being adopted and having a bad experience. I also see a lot of I was treated like this, or THEY did me like that. And most of it is coming from adults. Why can’t they learn to forgive the people who hurt them and move on with their lives? When someone has done something bad to you, its not them who goes around letting it be a chip on their shoulder, its you. And that is not healthy regardless of rather you are adopted or not. To always play the victim card gets you no where in life, regardless of who you are. So why do it?
Reply: The trouble with this question is what is implied by it, and therefore what it requests of someone who answers—namely, that they defend themselves against this implication whether it is true or not.
It is like the question: “When did you stop beating your wife?” and therefore is not valid as a question for debate. Meaning, the implication that someone cannot get on with their lives because they are blaming someone for their misfortune is a loaded question, and is patently illogical from the outset.
Furthermore, it reveals the mindset of the person asking the question, and how they view adoptees. For I don’t think we’d be having this conversation if the people airing their grievances were, say, war veterans, or cancer survivors.
The true question here is why should anyone who goes up against systemic abuses of human rights by those of the dominant discourse—meaning, those who control and maintain power within a given society—are met with abuse, or told to “get over it”, or asked to “stifle it”, which is exactly what this question is attempting to do. It is no different than calling a Black American “boy”, or telling Native Americans to “get over” the genocide that occurred to their peoples, etc.
Anyone who goes up against the dominant discourse as defined by such people is set up for abuse of this kind. This is unfair, unjust, and unbecoming of anyone who in any way believes in the validity of human rights, and the right to one’s person, which, I would argue, includes the right to not be abducted from one’s family and community, as well as the right to not be forced to lose one’s language, culture, identity, and sense of self.
If the “complaining” by adoptees seems personal, it is because there is nothing more personal than one’s identity, one’s place in his or her family, community, society. This, however, does not deny the greater injustice, crime, and violence of adoption, nor does it give those who see adoption as a wondrous thing the right or the ability to shut down the debate, or to tell adoptees that they should get over it.
Debate Tactic: Before debating anyone on adoption, the first tactic should be to reframe the question and find what is being insinuated; effectively turning the question around. This works toward evening out the playing field. Removing the personal aspect of the question reveals the bigger picture that needs to be focused on instead.