The Angrier Adoptee: I have some feedback for you, Professor. Meaning no disrespect. But some of us think you haven’t gone far enough. I do appreciate the energy shown in your recent posts. But we thought we’d give you a chance to explain yourself further.
John: Um, okay? I always welcome feedback from other adoptees. Even the ones who might disagree with some of what I’m saying. And by the way, you can call me John. You don’t need to call me “Professor.”
The Angrier Adoptee: Okay, cool. Well, John. To start with, do you think all the people at that rally in Nebraska voted against Trump? I was looking at the voting patterns data in your state. And I’m pretty sure there must have been a ton of people at that rally who voted for him. It could be that they just decided that their president crossed a line when he told ICE to lock kids in cages. Even though they disagreed with him on that one decision, they could still vote for him again in 2020. Especially if they mostly like the other stuff he’s doing.
John: Yeah, I didn’t think about that. And that would explain the lack of real outrage expressed at the Lincoln rally. We also have this dynamic called “Nebraska Nice,” where we don’t like to treat our neighbors disrespectfully. There may be a gendered and class-based element to that. I mean, it seemed like there were more middle-class female protesters, and speakers, at the Lincoln rally. I know some immigrant friends who told me they couldn’t attend, because it would violate their visa status. Or maybe they are undocumented. So the diversity among the protesters wasn’t representative of the level of outrage and anxiety throughout the community. But you make an excellent point. I wanted to believe that I was among friends and allies. Which to me means committed anti-Trump folks. Now that you mention it, the publicity for the rally did say that it was open to people of all persuasions, not just people in one political party.
The Angrier Adoptee: Next, I wanted to talk to you about gender issues. To start with, why are most of your images on your blog boys and men? I don’t see a whole lot of women. Or girls, or non-binary people. But you write a lot about women, such as birth mothers and grieving moms, for instance. Or in your example of the traumatized adoptee keeled over in the fetal position, why did you make her female?
John: That’s a fair observation. The reason that my original artwork features guys is because the people I ask to pose for my photos are friends, or people I know personally. As a gay artist, I tend to make art about other males. That’s just my preference, where my interest lies. But yeah, I could do a better job including more images of women, girls, and gender non-conforming individuals. If that was your criticism.
The Angrier Adoptee: What about that traumatized adoptee? Why did she have to be female? You’re not female. As a male writer, isn’t it dangerous for you to talk about the experience of a female adoptee, as if you know what that feels like?
John: I guess I was thinking about the movie, Adopted. That movie, which everybody should see, by the way, was made by female adoptees,. You get to hear some powerful stories about adult adoptees. For me, the most poignant ones described the experience of adoptees who happened to be women. And let me add that I would hope that writers are allowed and even encouraged to write from various perspectives. We shouldn’t have to limit ourselves to writing from one particular gender, should we?
The Angrier Adoptee: If you’re a good enough writer, yeah. Then maybe you could pull it off. Moving on, why don’t you come right out and offer people some concrete solutions? Where’s your sense of urgency? Your writing is very cerebral. It’s like you’re living in your head. What are readers supposed to do? Are they supposed to just think their way into social justice? When are you going to come down from your academic ivory tower? Children and families are suffering, yet you just blog.
John: I think about that, every day. I ask myself if doing research, teaching courses, and offering a few workshops and keynotes, when I’m invited, is doing enough. And I’m not sure what the answer is. I know that blogging is one action I can take to resist. But I also know that blogging isn’t enough. One thing I can do is put more energy into healing myself and strengthening my family. So I’ve been working on that, for a while now.
I did notice, at the rally, people seemed to get really riled up when a few speakers encouraged them to “remember in November.” As if voting for a better candidate will make much of a difference. They seem to forget that President Obama was the one who intensified the round-up of families by ICE. Obama deported so many families, and caused family separation when he deported thousands of parents out of the country. The Democrats have as much blame as the current administration, which calls itself Republican.
The Angrier Adoptee: But why don’t you tell people to conduct civil disobedience? If the adoption business is so immoral, as you claim to believe, how can you tolerate its existence? How can even you go to their agencies and give trainings? We should be chaining ourselves to the gates, and disrupting business as usual.
John: It could eventually come to that. But first of all, I try not to tell people what to do. And I tend to think we need to educate a few more people, first. Without education, our neighbors aren’t going to understand, or care to understand, why direct action is being used as a tactic. They’ll just write off the adoption abolitionists as a bunch of loudmouth anarchists and malcontents. I want people who have been touched by adoption to look inside their hearts. I want them to reflect deeply on what would be just, and right, and fair, if they found themselves in dire circumstances. Facing the kinds of decisions many desperate women have faced, that too often leads to losing their children.
The Angrier Adoptee: Did you ever stop and think that maybe some women don’t want to be mothers? They have a right to choose what to do with their bodies and the babies they bring into the world. Sometimes you sound like it’s okay to deny women their reproductive freedom.
John: I do struggle with this, I admit. It’s complicated. Setting aside the issue of abortion, for a minute. I will say that, as a feminist, I support a woman’s right to control her own body and destiny. As a parent, I have also tried to imagine what I would do if I found myself unable to care for my child. Or if I could not guarantee the safety of my child. Then, too, I think about my enslaved ancestors. We know that many anguished parents literally threw their children overboard on the slave ships. They must have thought their children would be better off dead than trying to eke out an existence as slaves.
But I’m here today because my ancestors did not make that choice. I am descended from survivors, from strong individuals, who endured and persevered. Our ancestors chose not to end the lives of their offspring. Instead, they raised children as best they could, under exceedingly difficult circumstances. They taught them how to struggle, how to conspire, and how to survive. So the next generation would have a fighting chance. I think that’s worth remembering.
The Angrier Adoptee: If my birth mother had aborted me, I wouldn’t be here, either. But thanks to her, I had to grow up with all the crap that comes with adoption: the trauma, the pain, the questions and insults, and the not knowing. The second-class citizenship. The denial of rights to our personal information. Some days, adoption trauma feels so unbearable that I actually wish I had been aborted.
John: Wow, that’s intense, Angrier. I want you to know that I can relate.
The Angrier Adoptee: Last question for now. John Brown or Harriet Tubman? Since you’re so fond of equating anti-adoption abolition to the anti-slavery Abolitionists, pick one to follow.
John: Hm, interesting choice. I have always admired both of those committed Abolitionists. John Brown, as a dedicated person of faith, and as a man of conscience, decided to lay down his life for what he believed in. He armed and then fought alongside enslaved Africans. He did way more than just give rousing speeches against slavery. To me, John Brown epitomizes what it means to be a genuine ally in anti-racist struggle. But Harriet Tubman was another incredibly brave and daring activist who led countless runaways away from slavery and into freedom. She risked life and limb, time and time again, to take those who wanted to flee away from the plantations on the Underground Railroad. So, for me, she’s another heroic example of what it means to be an ally.
I’d rather use the power of persuasion than violence in the cause of abolition. I do believe that history is on our side–the side of justice, which is the side of abolition. The tide of public opinion will turn against child removal and family separation. People are waking up to the crime of human trafficking, and making the connection to adoption. People will come to reject the entire child removal /foster care /adoption industry as an evil, money-making institution. Especially younger Americans, the children of the Baby Boomers.
The Angrier Adoptee: Real talk. At least we can agree on that. The Boomers have had their day. It’s just a matter of time until you Baby Boomers die off and relinquish power. Meantime, young people are making other choices about the kind of society we want to live in.
John: Right on. You all are going to figure out another way.
The Angrier Adoptee: Word. Alright, John, thanks for your time. I’m off to meet up with my DA posse.
The Angrier Adoptee: Yeah, man, direct action. We got work to do. Later.