The oppression of adoption.

I am currently working with a group locally that does research for returning adoptees to Lebanon, similar to such organizations in other source countries. We are going through my collected bogus paperwork, bogus passport, and bogus references and one by one crossing out the information contained in them as being useful or not (mostly not). We are making full connection inquiries, meaning, everyone within the process is being tracked down for any kind of information they might have (or not; mostly not). For the million times I’ve gone through this on my own, it is somehow exponentially more painful when it becomes official in some sense, and is thus the “last ditch effort” before calling it quits.

The bureaucracy of it is stunning. For example, I need to obtain a letter from a lawyer in order to look into the archives of a government ministry where police reports are kept. This is where the local police say the report made about my purported abandonment (as documented on the two scraps of paper furnished by the nuns of my orphanage) would be kept if indeed this is how events transpired. I say “if” because I have my doubts. A lot of doubts. It wouldn’t be so bad if anyone treated my doubts as valid, but this minimum is not forthcoming. Which is my main point here: Why will no one else admit that the emperor is indeed without clothes?

I’m amazed at the superficial charade of it. For example, I heard from the family of the priest who baptized me who were “touched” by my story. Yet they maintain that he “was not aware” that he was giving children false names. Why are we pretending that I was abandoned, and not, more likely, traded, trafficked, for a sum of money? Why this pretense? To save my feelings? I’ve been to the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of the abyss in terms of what I’ve learned about the depravity of child trafficking, brokering, and breeding for adoption; do my feelings really need to be spared at this point?

Then there are the lies that flow from the mouths of orphanage and hospital workers protecting the power structure: “Those archives were burned during the war”. No, in fact, they weren’t; a friend’s stoic resolve resulted in her obtaining her paperwork from a hospital basement after being told such a story. It’s like being forced to address the overwhelming fire-and-smoke wizard image that glares down when you know there’s a man behind the curtain next to you.

I don’t see any difference between this and domestic adoptees trying to unseal records, or obtain minimal information, or who attend the legislator’s convention, or in any other way continue to heed and heel and point and toe the line in order to get some semblance of justice, and what should be rightfully ours. How are we expected to handle the systemic nature of things at this, the end game of it, when we have absorbed the lies, the deceits, the hideous truth of child trafficking, that require of us that we still pretend that in any way the system will be forthcoming? That we still must give the System its due respect and honorific regard? That we still have to work within the paradigm of the adoption mythologies and infrastructure that we know are false to an unfathomable degree?

I showed a movie in a class I teach called Voice Manifest. The movie was Incident at Oglala: The Leonard Peltier Story. One of the readings that came out of research for the class is entitled: “Rhetorical Exclusion in the Trial of Leonard Peltier”; it maintains that the discourse of the courts, laws, media, etc. conspired not just against Leonard Peltier in his case, but against American Indian culture. At the end of his trial, Peltier made a statement in order to enter into the record the mistreatment of American Native peoples; these self-same were barred from the courtroom. The prosecution rebuts, and Peltier tries to regain his ground. The judge ignores his questions, and then interrupts to pass sentence. The article states:

The legal rules, regulations, and language superceded the only informal attempt Peltier or other American Indians made to attain power in the courtroom. Peltier’s cries appear to be a desperate effort to fight for legitimacy, but he is silenced by the very power structure he is trying to fight.

Why would we continue to think that working within the system is a possibility, here or anywhere in the world for that matter? How do we get past this systemic delegitimization, barring an overthrow of every wretched aspect of it that sustains adoption as an industry and a practice?

One thought on “The oppression of adoption.

  1. I think, Daniel, we are the sacrificial lambs and we can only try to expose the system so that those who may follow don’t meet the same frustration. For it is the case historically that with systems, for anything to improve, someone had to suffer first.

    In my own dealings with Holt Korea, (and I have heard this exact same quote relayed by other adoptees) I was told, “Why, we never imagined adoptees would RETURN.”

    So they never felt they had to be accountable to anyone except themselves and those wanting to adopt. Not being held accountable or being regulated meant that the ends always justified the means, so stories could be fabricated, identities changed, and ethics pushed aside in the interest of saving us. Or, more accurately, procuring children for western Christians, saving families from poverty by eliminating one extra mouth or saving families from being labeled defective by producing illegitimate or imperfect offspring. And no one would be the wiser because the documents and the bureaucracy were not designed for us, but were designed to fulfill the bare minimum required by the receiving country and parties.

    As for being goods for sale: I recall one time going to a private animal shelter to adopt a pet. This shelter had a high fee for adopting. They rationalized that the high fee was an indicator of the commitment of the adopting person. Similar reasoning lies in art pricing. When I asked an artist how they felt about the exorbitant price of their fees, which excluded most people, the artist replied that the high fee demonstrated the buyer’s commitment, and that due to the sacrifice the art would be appreciated more.

    I suspect that’s how we were regarded at first. That and it funded expansion of their operations. It’s a pity that money didn’t go into aid to help poor families or into social services. This is what happens when adoption is privatized.

    We also know that at Holt past leadership had extorted money and exchanged political favors so that they had to be fired. That person went on to become a high-ranking person in political office in Korea. I don’t know his name, but I heard that from Molly Holt herself. If I did know his name and mentioned it, I could be sued in Korea, as any aspersion to a person’s public reputation can be a civil case – even if an allegation is already a fact in public record.

    In Korea at least, I don’t think it’s a matter of asserting power over us. (though that’s how it feels because we ARE powerless, and it sucks) I think it’s a matter of refusing to admit culpability. Nobody wants to say they were wrong and they screwed up. Especially if it’s gone so far south that they can’t fix it.

    No, the system was not designed to serve us so working within it is rarely fruitful. And the system is practically irrelevant to our needs, as it was used to erase us. I, too, have exhausted all avenues except private advertising, which I can’t afford…

    We can only try to expose the problems with this system and work to implement better systems so this doesn’t happen to anyone else. But it’s too late for us.

    I know that sounds dismal and isn’t a comfort to you, but that sobering position has helped me deal with this as the reality. But our personal frustration – well, that’s a life-long irritation we have to manage somehow. For ourselves, for our own health, so we don’t implode.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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