This is the 28th question in the series: “Anti-adoption month: 30 answers to 30 questions on adoption” [link].
The following question originally appeared on Finding God’s Fingerprints blog, in a discussion about adoption:
What are you trying to accomplish by commenting on this blog? Are you trying to make adoptive parents feel that they’ve done something wrong, or are you trying to effect societal change by promoting your views? Do you think adoptive parents should take the children they’re raising back to where they found them?
Answer: My question for adoptive parents on blogs like this one is whether you stop to consider ever the opinion of those who have to deal with the results of your choice, a choice that is based in class privilege and luxury.
By this I mean to say that in any other aspect of life, a decision that is wholly centered on economic disparity, life inequality, and the taking advantage of the differences between human beings, etc. would be described using verbs such as “to prey on” or words such as “vulture” or metaphors such as “pyromaniac firefighter”.
The idea that Jesus (peace upon him) might have condoned the acceptance of societal inequality so that one class of people could use all of the means at their disposal including the medical, legal, and judicial systems as well as the media to basically leverage children out of the hands of those in most need of help from their neighbors is obscene on many levels.
Furthermore, the notion that we as adoptees, our mothers and fathers, our communities are required to remain silent so that the mythology of those who advocate for what was never intended to be about family creation—adoption comes out of the Anglo-Saxon institution of indentured servitude, lest we forget—speaks of a practice that in its coercion, trafficking, lies and fabrications, as well as sheer hypocrisy spits in the face of God.
Like slavery before it, this institution requires people of faith to rise above their own selfishness, narcissism, missionarism, and self-righteousness in order to truly Do the Right Thing. It might be said that adoption is a test of faith, to see how people view the world, their place in it, and their relation to others. In this regard, you have failed miserably. To further promote adoption then becomes an act of sheer audacity; a willful deceit; a shame of shames.
Two people meet in a crowded square; one of them is an evident stranger, the other is known to the crowd. The latter asks the first, “What are you doing here?” and he asks knowing that he has the support of his community, as well as the position of his place in the community to ask. To the stranger, it is an accusation, and a statement of confrontation made obvious by his inability to ask this question first. “Who are you to ask me what am I doing here?” is the response, an attempt to even the playing field, to come to a place of equality before an exchange takes place. “Why are you so insolent? Just answer the question put to you!” replies the known local, in feigned innocence, the crowd murmuring their support. “What are YOU doing here?” he instead replies, and he is bodily removed from the square, banished from the place, accused of being an outsider, his punishment due him.
A man comes upon a poor stranger struggling in the water; all but drowning. The stranger is known to the passerby; he is of lowly status, and must work on the banks of the river to feed his family. Yet he has a ring of value, something passed on from generation to generation. The passerby states to the man drowning: “You are suffering due to your condition in society; this is just the way things are. But think about your ring; I will relieve you of it, and take care of it, and it will be passed down just like you might wish for it.” The man drowning considers his fate and knows better than to ask for help from the passerby. He implicitly understands the impossibility of imploring for his life. He throws his ring away, cursing it. “I’ve always hated that ring; it weighs me down; it is a burden—take it!” The people of the class of the passerby watching this transpire on the banks of the river applaud him and congratulate him on his new-found gain. The family and people of the man drowning curse him for taking advantage of a situation instead of jumping in and saving the man. An argument breaks out, and as the people stand arguing back and forth on the bank of the river, the man’s head goes underwater.
I am trying to illustrate with these parables that there are two aspects of this discussion taking place, one obvious, one not so. One is the rhetoric of the “arguments” back and forth, and the other is the power play if you will of who assumes “right of way” and who wishes to have equality of right of way. In the first parable, no one considers the power differential at play, or the uneven aspect of the dialogue to begin with; the crowd justifies its actions with self-righteous aplomb. In the second parable, no one considers the separation that exists between the two groups except to say that this is a given, when in fact the group “of means” as it were not only has the luxury and privilege to step down from their position of power and dominance, but has the duty and imperative to do so.
No one arguing the need for equality in these scenarios, from Jesus and Imam Ali (put) to Emma Goldman and Malcolm X, would by any stretch of the imagination allow for the economic, political, social, and cultural differentiation between these groups to stand. No one who seriously wishes to argue about grace, or our role as caretakers of this planet, or our ability to help others can do so while simultaneously maintaining that we are capable of doing this while not stepping down from our class positions, from our status in society, from our places of luxury and privilege, no matter what they might be, and no matter how they might manifest themselves. This is where I start using words like “hubris” and “hypocrite”; this is where I attempt to reveal this true power differential which, were it to change, would go much farther in “saving orphans” than anything else I can imagine.
For had adoptive parents as a class and as a community protested any of the wars the United States had waged going back for decades, we would not have “orphans” coming to us from Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Nicaragua. Had adoptive parents as a class and as a community voted in representatives who did not adhere to the Chicago School of Economics’ idea of class warfare as de facto stance of foreign policy, we would not have “orphans” in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Korea, China. If adoptive parents as a class and as a community had not blindly swallowed the propaganda of Empire that allowed for the creation of bogus countries and the imposition of servile kings, we would not have “orphans” from Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt. If adoptive parents as a class and as a community stood up to more recent wars of Empire, we would not have thousands of children dead and orphaned in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan. Given what the dominant class is capable of in terms of power, to claim saving one child from a “horrible world” brings us back to our pyromaniac firefighter. No, we do not live in a perfect world. But in giving up the vision of such a world, we become de facto supporters of those who would maintain the horrors that much of the planet lives under as a factor of their day to day.
And so to disassociate adoption from its obvious economic and political links is therefore, to me, a criminal act of those in power. I can either assume that power and that position and defend it, at which point I am no different from plantation owners defending their property no matter where there heart might lie in the matter. Or I can step down from that power and see that what is described glibly as an “act of grace” has its own derivations, its own repercussions, its own manifestations that in and of themselves do nothing but support and perpetuate social injustice, class difference, and the imbalance between the Haves and Have-Nots. Any seeming act of beneficence that maintains a given inequality in this world is not an act of grace. Quite the opposite.
I honestly believe that it is time for people of true faith to stand up and declaim this as a fact; to disclaim adoption as being “of God”; and to decry any and all charitable action that in and of itself requires no change in one’s own status. Five percent of the world’s population using up 25% of its resources cannot stand. Those who suffer under this imbalance no longer are required to give up their land, their resources, their children so that others may maintain this imbalance and then call it “a given”. It is not a given. It is a willful act of exploitation, of usurpation, and it cannot, must not—indeed, will not—continue.
The Anti-Capitalism Reader, edited by Joel Shalit.
Obsolescent Capitalism: Contemporary Politics and Global Disorder , by Samir Amin.
Debate Tactic: The treatment of the Internet as the private playground of the Few is as insolent a mindset as that which lies behind adoption—it is not possible to “trespass” in a public arena. This is the first correction to be made. The second one is to always point out the fallacy of the “Savior” mentality as it applies to the world today. From here there is a possibility of having a valid discussion.