Friday, November 6, 2009

The Rhetoric of Marginalization

There are a number of commercials on television now whose first line of dialogue begins with the word "Fact!" Indeed, I just saw an Advil commercial that begins that way.

Of course, many times, what follows the exclamation "Fact!" in such commercials is almost never an actual fact. This is a corollary of something I often tell my students: Whenever someone uses the word "clearly" or "obviously," what follows is almost never clear or obvious.

I thought of this as I was doing a little bit of research for today's post. I was looking through various materials trying to recall where I had read that, according to the NCFA, few adoptees search for their biological families. Sure enough, it was in their "Adoption Factbook IV." In several articles, they claim that few adoptees search. Those who do are in the minority. And yet, curiously, they don't cite evidence for this "fact." They simply assert it over and over again. (This is the same method George W. Bush used to "prove" that Iraq had WMD.)

Of course, the NCFA has a vested interest in maintaining the perception that few adoptees search. There are political and economic motivations. Further, in perpetuating the perception that few adoptees search, they help discourage more adoptees from searching. If adoptees who are considering searching are told that it is abnormal to search, they are less likely to do it.

The reasons why are clear enough. There is, as I pointed out yesterday, a great deal of ambivalence for many adoptees regarding searching. There are emotional obstacles to doing so. Putting out the message that they would be in the minority of they searched simply reinforces those inherent obstacles.

I think that's part of why that passage I quoted yesterday from Being Adopted seems so important to me. Every adoptee searches. Every adoptee goes through these questions. How they resolve them varies. And I won't sit here and say that there is only one right way to resolve them. For me, I needed to hear the story from her. If someone else doesn't, that's okay. But that doesn't mean the person hasn't thought about the story, hasn't asked him or herself the questions.

Every adoptee needs to know that it is not unusual to ask these questions, to want to find some answers. They should be allowed to grapple with them in their own way, at their own pace, to be sure. But this repeated message that "most adoptees don't search" is harmful. Adoptees who hear it learn to stuff their curiosity and their emotions regarding their origins. However they decide to resolve these issues, they should be allowed the freedom to do so in their own way. They shouldn't have to hear, over and over again, how one way of doing so is strange and something most (normal?) adoptees never do.

1 comment:

Angelle said...

This is a subject close to home right now and I can see has far reaching impact on a person's self awareness.

My son is being "guilted" by his afamily for not only finding me but wanting to have a real relationship with me.

There are 4 others in the afamily that were adopted or abducted (no lie, including his adad) from their mothers and since they had no interest in looking he is being made to suffer.

It is a cruel punishment he does not deserve and sadly the myth is still perpetuated by the adoption industry.