One of my fellow adoptees has used this expression to describe how it is for many adoptees who have begun their lives in the absence of the truth and have had to continue them in the same vein. When others in our lives don’t respect the truth, see the need for the truth or understand that we need the truth, that it is vital for our sense of self, our identity and the way we place ourselves in the world, there is often a sad outcome, conflict, disagreement and condemnation.
Some years ago my family was friendly with a man who was a professional counsellor and also an aparent. He was estranged from his former wife and from his adopted daughter. His story was an interesting one, full of truth triggers. You know what I mean? Someone tells you about their life and some things do not ring true, you accept them for who they appear to be now and keep your ears open. The truth had been bent because of a past which was full of abuse, first from a step-father and then in a much more public setting in an African country in turmoil where he was the abuser. The real truth is always stranger than fiction. What was undoubtedly true was his belief that adoptees did not need to know where they came from and in this he was unshakeable. I made my views known and soon after the friendship ended, none of the family were able to happily live with such a fundamental difference in belief and the feeling that we would never know the real truth about such a complicated and conflicted man. No-one looks to know everyone’s secrets or the tough, painful places it’s hard to go even with ourselves, but friendship involves trust, a degree of common ground and an acceptance of the other’s beliefs and values. Over my life I have been friends with many people with conflict, abuse and pain in their lives; real people who get up and give it a go. All of them respect the struggles of others, the rights of others and the truth of others. Such an ‘inyaface’ denial of the need for truth was much, much more than this adoptee could take in a friendship.
It had to end, as friendships and relationships sometimes do. They reach a natural conclusion; we may grieve or feel relief, or both. Sometimes the search for the truth, the kernel of what it was all about, can take years, decades even. We may need to forgive, to be forgiven, but first to make sense of it, to learn the lessons, because they are always there. We may ask ourselves “What was that all about?”, “What did I learn from this relationship?” Once we have been through the stage of judgement of ourself or the other, as we usually do, we can reach a place of understanding, where blame disappears and truth emerges. It is then that we find peace, calm and a beautiful sense of quiet, serenity and loving acceptance. It is always worth working for, waiting for and rejoicing in.
“A ferocity for the truth” so beautifully describes what many adoptees have at their core. For many of us it is central to our beliefs, our values and principles. Truth underlies everything we do and are and we can accept nothing less. We feel the lack of truth deeply, hate lies and deceptions, falsehoods and deceit. So called ‘white lies’ make us queasy and a friendship can be ruined on the strength or weakness of one. I never apologise for my ‘ferocity for the truth’ and I hope no other adoptee does either! If it sets us apart, so be it, so do many other things, it is a worthy attribute to have, one to be proud of and which can serve us well.
What keeps me writing and blogging is what seems a never-ending quest for the truth of adoption. It is a rich field in which lies and untruths abound from the individual stories of adoptees right through to the actions and agreements of Governments and those who work for them and those who are their allies. I came across a story a while back about ‘dirty diamonds’ in which some rather well-known people got together for dinner at the invitation of Nelson Mandela. It involved a president, later to be tried for war crimes and some other surprising players. You may remember the story.
I had a very strong feeling that this story held more than dirty diamonds, but knew it would be so well covered up that it would take a highly specialised team of investigative journalists to uncover it. Maybe even they would not get results. Where there is war, conflict and corruption, there is always adoption and the truth is hard to find. Adoptees experience the worst of traumas and subsequent abuse from adoption, disruption and repatriation, often ending up back where they came from, but with much more damage from the well-meaning actions of do-gooders and without support other than food, clothing and a roof over their heads. Compassionate? What do you think?
Part of the difficulty in finding or maintaining truth is that we live in a world which is collapsing, old values have departed, greed is uppermost and the truth no longer seems important to those who run our countries or live in our countries. We have few good role models, few examples of greatness, not enough good people who will stand up and tell the truth. So many have lost their way that it seems they no longer know what the truth is or value it if it comes their way. People and societies are struggling, fighting for air, sometimes literally in countries so polluted it’s a wonder life survives – in some places it doesn’t.
In venues where collapse and collapse issues are discussed, a palpable cloud of grief permeates the atmosphere, and try as they may, people cannot remain in their heads indefinitely in their attempt to evade it. Eventually, a diet of pure information becomes overload which becomes revulsion which then leads to avoidance. Why else do the masses refuse to recognize collapse for what it is? Most inhabitants of industrial civilization have erected massive walls of denial precisely because of the seething sea of emotion and meaninglessness that lie just beneath the surface and that are eerily stirred by any consideration of losing their preferred set of living arrangements. This is why, as my friend Mark Rabinowitz says, “Denial is an infinitely renewable resource.”
A functioning culture also needs coherent stories. The struggle for civil rights, for example, gained new heart and substance when the black power movement began telling more stories and demanding that they be heard. But American culture, as Studs Terkel says, has become one of “forgotten stories.” We have developed what he calls “national Alzheimer’s disease.”
In the world of adoption we need more stories; we adoptees have stories to tell, truth to impart, unavoidable, inarguable facts to lay down. We too can demand that our stories be heard. Our stories are not forgotten stories, they are ‘as yet to be told’ stories which are powerful because they contain the truth, the reality of what adoption is and does. We too are struggling for our rights, the forgotten ones who were conveniently shut up, shut down and shut off. Whenever someone tells us we are ‘bitter’ and they are sad for us because we’ve had such a bad life, we are the object of pity and it’s disempowerment. When they tell us we should be grateful, forget the past and that they ‘know an adoptee who’, we need to tell our stories, coherently, with pride because we are survivors. ‘Titanic’ adoption has gone down, we are the survivors and the only ones who can tell the tale because we have had the experience.