What has reunion taught you about the institution of adoption? How humanitarian is it?

I’m fascinated by reunion stories. 

Primarily because adoptees in reunion are privy to the larger account of what creates orphans than the simple beneficient accounts we are told are the reasons.

Having had the privilege to edit many adoptee reunion stories and interview many adoptees about their reunions, I am struck by the truths that are revealed about culture, society, class, gender and state power differentials. But mostly I am struck by the dysfunction on the parts of ALL the actors on ALL sides.  For me, striving to be a humanitarian, I question whether so much loss and suffering for so many is/was necessary – because to me dysfunction is human and no one is immune to it.

Adoptees in reunion, transracial adoptees in reunion, transnational adoptees in reunion – in the interest of progress, can you share your opinions on what humanitarian is and adoption’s place in the best interests of…..people….?  And then offer suggestions? 


3 thoughts on “What has reunion taught you about the institution of adoption? How humanitarian is it?

  1. There is no training for reunion – no manual. I have heard from experienced friends if all parties in the triad are in counselling specific to adoption, then you come into reunion with a balanced approach with realistic expectations. My God, I wish someone could teach it and get it out there for all of us adoptees. Adoptees are the ones who have to navigate and protect everyone’s feelings, which makes it less about the adoptee and more about the others.
    My own reunion with my dad filled several pages in my memoir One Small Sacrifice. It was the best and hardest thing I ever did in meeting him.
    I’d say “Humanitarians” are sensitive humans with intense feelings.
    Adoption and the renaming of adoptees is inhumane from my own experience as an adoptee. I can only speak for me.

  2. Reunion has helped me become aware.
    The adoption institution is a sort of soporific-opiate: it puts a spell on smart people and sends them to dreamland where they disconnect from reality while raising children who are just as disconnected from the real world. My guess is that the institution itself is only a reflection of the people who create it, people whose fantasy life extends beyond their ability to create a working business. They sell the dream of family and design the business infrastructure.

    The human condition is mocked by adoption. Human beings are molded according to dreams. My past was unreal; history had no reality. The present was everything. Nothing came up in my life from the past. Genetics and science were allowed for: an objective past exists that was unknowable except by the revelations of the present – in height, weight, hair color, sexuality. Human nature is purely a matter of physicality. The transmission of information, names, stories, concreteness of detail (smell, touch, place) are treated as nothings.

    The odd twist in the humanitarian dream of creating a family is the nightmarish counter. The happy face family maker is countered by an angry face protector and preserver. They are usually one. Both prevent human relationships and the descent of reality into them.

  3. Mark: i want to chew again the contention that “human nature is purely a matter of physicality” though I understand what you mean as “human embodiment,” which necessarily includes the self-aware consciousness that notes one’s embodiment.

    The up-side to being embodied without a past is, precisely, one’s freedom from such determinants. However, I also don’t deny that just as a decrease of liberty can yield an increase in freedom, so then also an increase in liberty can entail a decrease of freedom. This may sound merely mysterious–if I’m at liberty to ignore all human obligations, then this makes me less free to engage in other human beings in time-bound, place-bound interactions that are, I suspect, more the stuff of life than drifting around “at liberty” till one dies.

    Another question in this is whether one really escapes determination by being embodied without a past. If one who lives by the sword dies by the sword, then the materiality of my existence gets hijacked when family (genetic) history manifests as a propensity for alcoholism, diabetes, cancer, etc.

    When I hear the phrase “human nature is purely a matter of physicality,” it makes me think of and, in a sense, long for my fantasy of being a robot–more precisely, a durable consciousness housed in a better housing than this fleshy machine marvelously contrived (by accident) by Nature. The possibilities of that seem very interesting to me, but how that comes with human sociability could be deemed problematic. Why, after all, if we can be wholly self-determined 9as robots) would we be anything but self-determined? My answer to that, from my readings of Stanislaw Lem, is that one simply chooses it. That choice is no more obligatory or determined than any other, so why wouldn’t I, at least, choose it?

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

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