What about the children? Is it better for a child to live in hell or to be unloved or unsafe and stay with those that bear similar DNA? Then [sic] to be in an environment where they have safety and love? Is that just their cross to bear to see all these things and grow up to be abusive or incapable of love or responsibility?
Answer: In the panoply of lies that make up the adoption mythology, there is no Greater Lie than that which purports to care about children, and there are no greater liars than those who premise their adoption on the heinous and ultimately self-serving idea that somehow adoption saves children from a “hellish” fate.
We need only turn to the history of adoption to find previous references to “saving” children. In the days of poorhouses, the Orphan Trains, and Indigenous genocide, the “saving” involved removing such children from their (usually destitute or criminally ethnic) families, and treating them as indentured labor. This reflects a particular kind of Calvinist capitalism that remains at the root of such ventures when they are expanded out to the level of the world stage.
For the rest of the planet, this is referred to variously as colonialism and imperialism; The United States prefers nicer (or not) metaphors that speaks to a particular kind of nationalistic exceptionalism that would not be worthy of the most fascistic state. And so the “big stick” of Theodore Roosevelt; Manifest Destiny; the “New Alliance for Progress” of Kennedy; the “end of history”; the “clash of civilizations”; the recent “America is exceptional” speech of Obama. Again, those who pose as “liberal” or “progressive” are even worse than their more rapacious counterparts; Malcolm X referred to these as the “smiling foxes” (as compared to the seemingly more dangerous wolves), and recommended they be trusted even less.
Each war has seen its inverted press relations campaign that uses orphans to give credence to the war effort as well as shift sympathies away from places that might actually be capable of caring for their children if their governments were not consistently overthrown, and if their countries were not systematically destroyed economically and politically. And so the Hungarian orphan transfers of Truman; the outpouring of “care” for the children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the creation of a Korean diaspora of 250,000 children; Operation Babylift after the Viet Nam War; the summer camps for children from Colombia and Afghanistan, etc. Wherever American wars are being waged, there are children to be had via adoption. This is no coincidence.
Some might say that I am simply brandishing a grudge against the country that “saved” me, thus making me ungrateful in the worst way. America, love it or leave it! Well, I’ve left it. And every single day I can see the incursions made into the political realm here by the United States along with its lap-poodle lackeys in Great Britain and France. From the French and American education systems, to the so-called “aid” from the IMF and World Bank, to the 5,000 NGOs who act as a forward battalion in a war of humanitarian imperialism, the foreign thumbprint as well as jackboot-print is ever present.
Charles Loring Brace, speaking of foundling children in New York City, described them as “street Arabs” from the “dangerous classes”. Here he is actually using an anti-Semitic slur to describe the mostly Irish poor—Arabs were seen to be at the bottom of the world’s social class ladder then as now. Which on some level brings us full circle, to the current war being waged against the Arabo-Muslim world, in a “crusade” against terrorism, to borrow George Bush’s words.
During the July War of 2006, 1500+ civilians were killed as the infrastructure of Lebanon was devastated by Israeli bombs. One third of those killed were children. I remember Dianne Feinstein and Trent Lott on CNN discussing the fact that countries have the right to “defend themselves”. Sharing the screen with them was a shot of the civil defense buildings in Sour that had just been bombed—headquarters of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, among other charitable organizations.
These “wolves and foxes” had no awareness of this, nor of the second Qana Massacre, nor of any of the other crimes that were being committed in their name and with their funding. At the same time, the American media celebrated “Logan”, a Lebanese adoptee who was given a special humanitarian visa to leave the country. And so, what about the children? 500 to 1; 10,000 to 1; 1,000,000 to 1: What kinds of odds are those? And who is willing to wager them?
The half a million killed in Iraq from sanctions alone? Madeleine Albright referred to this wholesale slaughter as being “worth it”. The hundreds killed in Lebanon in 2006? Condoleezza Rice called the efforts of this war the “birth pangs of a new Middle East”, making a horrifying reference to birth amid the death of so many young ones. The hundreds killed in Gaza? Hillary Clinton at the time announced that anyone in the Arab region, if they wanted to know what democracy is, need just look to Israel. This hypocritical stance is made even more evident given the current counter-revolutions that have snuffed the revolutionary flame out (once again) in this region.
Given the fact that we are able to historically point to an endless list of democratic and socialist leaders, elected via the will of their people and with the popular commonweal in mind, with this desire foregrounded as opposed to the depredation and exploitation so desired by the “First World”, it truly begs the question: How blinded can “First-World” countries be by their own sense of supremacy? Given the political will and clout and economic weight of adoptive parents, the question still remains: At what point will they actually and in fact stand up for the children they pretend to be advocating for?
The greater hypocrisy here is that domestically speaking in the U.S., things are no better. Why is there no safety net? No health care? No help for anyone to parent? No discussion of the thousands of children kidnapped and trafficked over the years? All we hear instead is blame, guilt, and innuendos having to do with class and race and Calvinist notions of people getting what they deserve in their own lifetime. How many American children’s lives are snuffed out by the violence of that society? Whether it manifests itself in quick bursts of violent energy, as in school shootings, or slower, much more painfully lived but no less murderous violence, such as that of poverty, and hunger, and ghetto-ization, and racism?
Where are the voices to stand up for these children? Why do we only hear about children who fulfill some greater propaganda purpose, such as the children of Haiti, or the children of Reece’s Rainbow and its ongoing war against the former Soviet Union? Why do these parents not advocate for those closer to home? And finally, why do they see the need to attack those of us who are actually on the ground and activating to change things? The pathological need to see orphans as dusty-faced girls in Little Orphan Annie waiting for Daddy Warbucks to come and save them reveals perhaps the ultimate of metaphors that only proves this point. Worse even still than the smiling foxes are the delirious vultures and self-congratulatory hyenas.
In reviewing the economic, political, and cultural incentives that undergird adoption as a practice, and examining the needs of globalizing capitalism that these map onto, we fundamentally shift the debate concerning adoption away from the usual arguments that center on family building. Furthermore, we expand this notion of family from a strict binary to a spectrum of caregivers; from a nuclear family to a community.
The main obstacle to adoption reform remains adoptive parents who likewise believe in the mythologies ascribing them free will, ultimate agency, and supreme control of the family unit. Breaking through this mythology reveals them to be willing or unwilling pawns in an Imperial project—the world’s proud pyromaniac firefighters fighting fires with gasoline. This is challenged more and more by the countries and populations whence the children temporarily in their care originate.
The second obstacle to adoption reform is found in adoptees who have bought in to the class status afforded them by their adoption. Even among those who might preach a reformist viewpoint, the mere fact of holding on to such a class status remains an discrepancy without resolution; an unlivable “knife’s edge” between two worlds separated not only by geography and race (often) but also by class.
And so there is a choice to make here for those with the actual will and power to change things: Continue this masquerade, or join in with the truly progressive grassroots calling for justice from below. The arguments we make cannot assume that those with the ability and voice to make them are the only ones who matter in this equation. A huge percentage of those who make up the population of those “touched” by adoption have no access to this discussion, and no Voice allowed them.
All the same, their growing resistance to adoption can no longer be ignored. This call to arms requires us to join hands with them. Not just the class/race-similar, such as in the case of Baby Victoria, but with the Guatemalan mother fighting for her child in Missouri; the mothers in Central America suing to repatriate their kidnapped children; the Russian mothers devastated by the murder of their children Stateside; the Argentinian mothers demanding to know what happened to their disappeared children during the dark days of American-supported dictatorships; the women who make up the underclass of American society preyed upon by so-called charitable and evangelical organizations.
For we are not really just talking about adoption, but also about the various displacements and dispossessions of which adoption unfortunately forms just one category. Breaking with one’s class identity thus reveals the world of those who similarly, for economic and political reasons, have been removed from their place, dispossessed from their family, and left longing for Return. At long last, it is time to find Home, for one and for all.
The Lie We Love: Corruption in International Adoptions, by E.J. Graff.
Asia’s Unknown Uprisings: South Korean Social Movements in the 20th Century; Vol. I, by George Katsiaficas.
The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel Of Adoption, by Kathryn Joyce.
Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945–1961, by Christina Klein.
Shattered Bonds, by Dorothy Roberts.
Americanizing the American Indians, edited by Francis Paul Prucha.
Debate Tactic: The ignorance of culture’s not one’s own is as strong today as it has been historically speaking. This question reflects both such ignorance as well as a contempt for the “street Arabs” of the world who are seen as being sub-human at best. The language of adoption advocates has not changed in over a century, and there is no point arguing against such outdated and ignoble concepts before clearing out these tired and destructive clichés.