I am often asked my advice concerning adoption actions in progress, and I am always taken aback at such requests and the burden they place on adoptees. They demand of us a stamp of approval that I, for one, refuse to give for reasons well-explained here at this blog. I am publishing my most recent reply in the hopes of spelling out the equivalent burden that adoptive parents need take on; a true “home test”, and a call to action.
It’s always hard for me to answer emails like yours, so excuse the delay. If you are familiar with my writing then you know that I don’t mince words, so please excuse my bluntness. First, the assumption that anything you’ve been told is the truth or that any information that you might have is valid should be discarded. Second, there is no such thing as “legal adoption” in Lebanon, so know that your “ordeal” mostly concerns local “officials” putting a “legal” veneer on what can only be described as child trafficking. I commend you for attempting to track down the hospital of birth and the mother of this child, but there is a bigger picture to examine and take into consideration.
To be quite forthright, it is going to take a lot more effort on your part to find out the truth behind the child’s story. But the “Catch-22” here is that this searching will likely jeopardize the adoption process itself. The practice in Lebanon is steeped in secrecy and lies for very particular cultural and political reasons. And so, for example, my own quest for the truth concerning my adoption called into question my ability to regain nationality. As an adoptee, I am not given acknowledgment of existing, so no power lies in my hands. Adoptive parents, on the other hand, have the luxury and privilege to push for this truth, but they often prefer to dismiss their position of power as concerns the adoption in order to let the adoption proceed without a hitch.
Personally, I do not support such illegal proceedings or child trafficking, and so I am loathe to give advice that might be taken as a “green light” or my consent to such practices. If every adoptive parent demanded truth and clarity of process, then adoptees such as myself would not face the burden of dealing with the aftermath of such transactions. I can, on the other hand, advise you to make of this adoption a case study of adoptive parent activism. You can, for one example, demand to know the names and contact information of everyone you come in contact with. You can, for another, confront the lies being told you and demand to know the real story of this child. I so beseech you to fight for this child not just to be put in your care, but to thus be ascribed a sense of humanity.
You can also align yourself with organizations such as Bada’el/Alternatives [link to site]. You can understand, as they advocate, that adoption should be a last resort, and that the right of a child to know his or her origins trumps any so-called right of adoptive parents to have, own, purchase, and/or traffic a child. You can align yourselves with other adoptive parents who don’t just mediate the triumph of their class position, but become advocates for the children in their care. (I would ask them to comment below with links to their blogs, articles online, etc.) You need understand that your actions have an impact on the local legal system, and create a disadvantageous climate for others in Lebanon and elsewhere who are equally displaced, dispossessed, and disinherited. You need understand that any idea of “saving” such a child is called into question by placing that child in a political and cultural climate of adoptive countries that grows increasingly hostile to his or her very existence.
It took me until my 53rd year on this Earth and 12 years of living in my place of origin to find out my own “truth”. Thousands of adoptees are not so lucky, and I would not wish my experience and what I’ve discovered about adoption on them or my worst enemy, as I am often fond of saying. I do commend the wish of adoptive parents to “prepare” for the future. But I have to ask: Is this for the child’s benefit? Or is it to make the transaction of adoption more palatable, more digestible? Because if adoptive parents do not take up their end of the bargain in terms of activism, then the information the child is provided with at a later time will still be the same bundle of lies that dogs all adoptees; that bars their path to the truth; that stokes their worst fears and imaginings. That greases the wheels in kind for future transactions.
We also need understand that knowing the “truth” is not the end of the matter. I was forced to leave Lebanon because the government refused to renew my “courtesy” visa without wasta, or political string-pulling. This visa is an ignoble document reserved usually for the children of Lebanese mothers married to foreigners. Whereas I was hoping to set a precedent for other adoptees, I now sadly concede defeat, and realize that each returning adoptee will need to rely on their own ability to make such connections, which took me 12 years. To understand is that Lebanon, in a recent effort to prevent Palestinians from marrying into the population, made it illegal for mothers to pass on their nationality to their children. Recent influxes of Syrian refugees have renewed fascist and nationalist discourses in the country. Syrian, Iraqi, and Palestinian professors, for example, are not being granted work visas. This is the local political climate today. So I’ve returned to the place I was acculturated in. And here I no longer have the “excuse” of adoption to protect me from an equally hateful political climate, nor from the ignominy of adoptive parents who ridiculously trumpet adoption as a fight against racism. Adoption remains an inherently racist and classist act.
Furthermore, these aspects of adoption are not negated by placing such a child in a de facto segregated school district. Adoption is not tempered by belief that one’s cosmopolitan existence is diverse, especially when this diversity does not take class difference into consideration. Adoption has never been a progressive act, and is only made worse by voting for so-called progressive candidates and officials who sponsor the economic and political wars that create the “orphans”, that cause the supposed need for adoption in the first place. Adoption can only advance disparaging stereotypes when adoptive parents present themselves as perfected caregivers, mediating their guides on “how to care for” children of different ethnicities. Adoptive parents must question every last aspect of their lives along these lines to suss out their contribution to a world that believes adoption to be an act of charity or beneficence. It is anything but.
So know that this child, the focus of your adoption transaction, is viewed now and forever will be regarded with scorn, disdain, and much worse no matter where he or she ends up; no matter what you say or do; as long as the economic and political systems that allowed you to adopt remain in place. To proceed with the adoption is to acknowledge the racism, classism, fascism, patriarchy, and misogyny of local and foreign authorities brought to power via these systems, and is a heinous dismissal of this child’s dignity, integrity, and right to be seen as a valid human being. This carries forward with the child, and is not changed or altered in any way for the infant having been adopted into a different social class, or stratum of society, or so-called First World country. Pursuing my own example, I recently found out I have 5 half-siblings. When contacted, they refused to acknowledge me, assuming I was after their money and property, which is the furthest thing from the truth. The cultural stigma of my conception and birth was only exacerbated and inscribed in stone by my adoption, and now prevents me from knowing my paternal family.
Such that the “truth” that I have found is a bitter pill to swallow; a bittersweet moment of realizing the immensity of what has been lost; an excruciating weight of grief, anger, sorrow, and pain. To admit is that the fulcrum of these emotions was my adoption. To realize is that the leveraging action precipitating my current reality and regretful harking back to a “ghost” past is my adoption. To understand is that my fulmination now concerning adoption is in no small way a function of my dismay and sorrow that a half century after my own trafficking, the practice still continues; that I now must act as a consultant for a practice that—in every single last aspect of its functioning—is based in, and culminates in, each and every tragic act of inhumanity that I find to be the height of abject misery and indeed, a loathsome dismissal of the existence of others.
If and only if adoptive parents understand what they unleash via their transactions should they then consider going through with an adoption. If and only if adoptive parents are willing to be at the forefront of the fight for the rights of the children temporarily in their care should they go through with an adoption. Because this is not just an argument concerning birth certificates; this is not just a concept of obtaining citizenship for children born overseas. This is a fight and a struggle that is intimately linked to everyone on the planet affected by the class differential that defines adoption in the first place as well as its “sister” practices: slavery, trafficking, gentrification, deportation, immigration, land occupation, apartheid, incarceration, enforced statelessness, etc. If and only if adoptive parents are willing to take this on—and head on at that—should they even contemplate adopting a child. Because the fact of the matter remains that if each and every adoptive parent were to take on this fight, then the likelihood of any child being put up for adoption would quickly approach zero. And thus the paradox of your choice; and thus my final advice to you: Choose your battles—and be prepared to accept the consequences of your actions.
Peace and blessings,