Be Not……

“Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
This week we will hear the Australian Government’s Apology for forced adoption which has been long awaited and long prepared for. Many have contributed in whatever way they can, not something to denigrate, as some have, but something to be thankful for and to hope will open the way for new services for adoptees, new understanding and a move forward for those adoptees who are able to accept the apology and for whom it will mean something sigificant. Those non-adoptees who refer to it as ‘the fucking apology’ and want to get it over and done with so that they can get on with what they consider important – compensation – will no doubt find it lacking and find plenty to criticise, complain about and will attempt to silence those who do not agree, maybe with insults and slanderous remarks as is so often the case. Others no doubt will find it lacking, incomplete, insufficient or disagreeable in some way and will not allow it to touch them other than as an activator for anger, aggression or as a blocker against moving on, diving deep and swimming far. There will be some, like this adoptee, who will accept it for what it is – an acknowledgement of the wrong done to adoptees, an admission of the cruelty of adoption and a validation of our stories and the lives of adoptees. I am far from naive about the motivation and working of Governments but am nevertheless still prepared to accept what I know to be true.
I have the satisfaction of knowing I did my bit, played a small part in the process and aided progress where I could and was able. Sometimes that was against a campaign to discredit me, a sustained attack on my credibility, my principles, my honesty and my motivation. The hackers, wackers, smackers and crackers had a field day, as they often do with uncomfortable honesty and straight purpose. A few names stand out, well known to Aussie adoptees and well known for the damage they do in twisting facts, rewriting history and viewing the motivation of others through a distorted lens. They cannot be completely discounted, because occasionally they influence others in their relentless attempts and their hatred and they add a twist to the story of the process of this apology.
I was lucky enough at a very early age to learn a few pertinent and lasting lessons about the motivations of others, about the determination of self-interest and the way in which justice can be perverted. I learned as an adult how easily we can be taken in, how vulnerable we can be to the damaged, the dangerous and the over-dramatic. I still today, feel the ripples from the damage done by a sociopath, who pervaded every nook and cranny of my life. As is always the case with sociopaths, they are the victim, whatever they do to others and they often manage to convince others of their victimhood, to the detriment of the actual victims. It was a good and useful lesson and one from which I am still learning. The effrontery of it still surprises me at times, the bold destruction of facts, the wanton damage and the disregard for others are breath-taking. What is often deeply distressing is the willingness of others to believe in the sociopath, to sympathise with their ‘plight’ and to side against the actual victims. Of course the sociopath or perpetrator is as deserving of understanding and compassion as anyone else, but their lack of insight makes it unlikely they will benefit significantly.
It has at times during this last two years been shocking to witness the lengths some will go to get their own way, to achieve their goals, to subvert process and to pursue their own purposes. Others have been interested only in furthering understanding, achieving services and ensuring future changes and their dedication has been inspiring, the development of their skills and confidence awesome. Inevitably it seems, some groups have come out with egg on their faces or worse, have damaged their credibility, their reputation and their standing, made themselves look very foolish, ridiculous and untruthful.
One of those groups is the media, which has occasionally treated adoptees with respect and told our stories well enough, but mostly it has been shoddy work, without care or adequate research and has managed to misrepresent adoptees, not represent them at all or perpetuate the myths. Only this week the ABC’s 7.30 Report referred to adoptees as ‘babies’, still presenting us as if we have not grown up, are locked in time as infants and do not have voices of our own to tell our own stories. Once the penny drops they’ll begin to see what great copy we make, with full lives, in which there is everything a journalist could hope for – synchronicity, intrigue, mystery, disaster, crisis, abuse, trauma, love, loss, success, failure and so on.
The media has become notorious for the exploitation of subjects and for adoptees the harsh realities of that still shock and wound. Journalists, unless they are top-notch, are still not good at handling the vulnerable, the delicate and the easily taken advantage of. We are in a cleft stick. We want our stories to be known, for understanding of adoption and adoptees to be wide-spread and for ideas about adoption to change. We can ony do that by telling our stories, making ourselves vulnerable and putting our lives on the line. It is a hard place to be, many of us are not yet able to go there, those who are, still retain a vulnerability and need to be careful in who they allow to hear their stories, trust with their thoughts, hopes and challenges. By telling our stories, we leave ourselves open to misinterpretation, misunderstanding, misrepresentation, selection of certain portions of our stories and to being exploited, used and abused. There are those, usually mothers, sometimes fathers or fellow adoptees who treat commenting on projects such as the ABC’s Separated ( as a blood sport, laying into some adoptees relentlessly. You won’t find the comments if you look, they were deemed by the editors as being too offensive to publish.
All those interviews we do which get dropped, through lack of space, a ‘better’ story, a bigger story or lack of interest on the part of the Editor, when we may have really put ourselves out, do not serve as an incentive to go there again. However, if we do not, nothing will change, myths remain the same and we will continue to be called ‘Johhny-come-latelies’ to the cause of adoption change and progress. Yet again for adoptees, we find ourselves in what could be seen as a loose/loose situation.
Perhaps those who can, need to push on, until others are ready to stand up too and find the strength to keep going, keep pushing forward, keep challenging the media for their sloppy work, their lack of homework and insufficient research. It takes time. We need to find spokespeople, go-to adoptees who are avaiLable for comment, can put a cogent case together, can represent the majority positively and without making us look like a bunch of snivelling losers. It is not appropriate for us to allow others to speak on our behalf, to ignore our stories or to interpret our lives and experiences. Mothers have so often been the only ones asked about adoption, as if they are the authorities on all adoption experience. In my State, the go-to interviewee did not even experience adoption within the State or the Country or even the same Hemisphere!! It is noticeable how often she manages to use an interview as an advert for her books, titles appearing in close-up. There’s a name for that! Not one that can be stated here on a family friendly blog for general consumption! I’m sick of it, sick of not hearing the adoptee side of adoption placed fairly and squarely in the equation. I’m sick of seeing the same old names presented, as if they are the only ones who have ever done anything towards making this Apology happen and the contribution of so many hundreds of others ignored and disregarded. It takes time, it takes work and it takes effort to schmooze, cultivate the media and a certain mindset that not all can stomach. Perhaps this Apology will change that or at least open some eyes and open the way to a new era!

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