Mutual Exclusivity

It's been another one of those uncomfortable weeks in adoptionland. For whatever reason, the nonsense caused this week by a couple of very loud shock jocks aggravated me - less for what either of them had to say, but more because of the speed with which the sides divided and the mud started flying.

But Mariča called today, and it all makes sense now - or I should say, it's crystal clear to me why this mess was so misguided.

Mariča is my mother's first cousin. Her father and my mother's were brothers; my grandfather was the elder of the two. My Mom is Slovenian, and her family's story is a circuitous one, with travel back and forth between the two countries and a little intrigue thrown in to boot.

My great-grandfather came to the U.S. in the late 1800's. He brought his wife over, and they had my Grandpa here. But the early years were tough, and before World War II they returned to Slovenia. Somehow they weathered the war, though, and had another child, Grandpa's younger brother. When it was over, my great-grandfather gave the U.S. another try, but fate wasn't with him this time. He was mugged upon arrival in New York City, and lost the money he needed to get back to Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where he was going back to work in the copper mines. In those days, recruiters would meet the immigrant ships at the docks, and under the circumstances Great Grandpa was forced to sign on with a company that ran copper mines in Arizona. Bad move. Within a year he was dead, electrocuted in a mining accident. He's buried out there somewhere, but we've never been able to find his grave.

Grandpa ultimately married in Slovenia, and he and Grandma had their first two children there. But by the time my Mom was born in 1923, Grandpa was determined to get back to the U.S. Since he was born in America, coming back was much easier than it would have been otherwise, so he returned to the Upper Peninsula to work in the mines, and brought Grandma, Mom and Uncle Johnny over within a couple of years.

Since Grandpa was the oldest, the family land had come to him, but when he left he deeded it over to his brother, Mariča's father. She and her family worked the land, but in the years between the wars and after WWII, things were very bad. Mariča married, and she and her husband Joe had their first two children, their sons. But they wanted to get out - no mean feat in Tito's Yugoslavia.

They hatched this plan. Joe and a couple of other men crossed the Alps to Austria, walking barefoot by night so they wouldn't be seen or heard, and hiding by day. Once in Austria, Joe used his connections to obtain papers to bring his family there. They then arranged to emigrate, to Canada, where Joe had an uncle who agreed to sponsor them. In the late 50s, Joe, Mariča, and their family made the move.

They weren't welcomed - Mariča told us how people spit on them when they arrived in Montreal, and how the uncle abandoned them once they made it to British Columbia. Once there, life was harder still. Joe worked for the railroad, and they started their lives in a shack on a hill near the Columbia River south of Golden, BC. Mariča laughed when she told us that the only shoes she had with her when they came were heels, and she had to teeter down the hill, cross the road and railroad tracks, and haul water back up in them. Let me tell you, this lady, who stands about 4' 10" is a powerhouse. From there, their story is one of pure success - hard, hard work, small steps year after year that today is a family with four children, many grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, too. It's the kind of story that would make anyone proud of their family.

But what if you had been adopted away from a family like this. What if, because of the legal obstacles and societal stigmas, you never found this story. Never knew it. Never knew these people. Never even knew that you didn't know them.

Some say you'd have another story to tell. You'd know different people, maybe even better ones. Even in families related by blood, members fall away and stories are lost. But to that I say, why not have it all? Why, if adoption is part of your life, not have both of your families, the whole story, the entire history, each and every precious connection?

Which brings me to my point.

In this week's nastiness, there was no dialog and no middle ground - just anger and name-calling. The side-taking was instantaneous, followed by labeling , and then some good old mud-slinging.

Aiding the children of the world and seeking adoption reform and working to make adoption unnecessary are not mutually exclusive. Acknowledging adoptee and first parent loss and loving your child are not mutually exclusive. Forcing people to take sides does nothing to further solutions to the myriad of problems that face adoption, from child welfare to adoption law reform. And it's the best way I know to stop dialog on adoption in its tracks. It made me sad this week to see how many people were willing to do just that.

Look for an Open Mike on adoption dialog soon.


Dawn said…
I haven't been back to the world in which you speak (left one comment and left it at that -- there was clearly no room for dialog). I'm sorry to hear that it got uglier than it started out. (sigh)

I'm glad you're a voice in the wilderness!!
Jenna said…
Great story and points. Thank you.
I know what you're talking about and it's making me sad, too.

Question for you--did your family work in Ironwood, Michigan? My family lives right across the way in Hurley, Wisconsin. We're going to be visitng there soon. You don't ever meet too many people from the UP. We're Finnish. There's a really big Finnish population in Hurley.

Anyway, I love your blog.

magicpointeshoe said…
I think there was a lot of middleground respectful comments and attempts at conversation that went censored and unread by anyone. Unfortunate how the delete key polarizes the conversation. =o(
Margie said…
Lauren, thanks for the comment. My family lived in Calumet, on the Keewenaw Peninsula. And my Mom had lots of Finnish friends, as there were many in Calumet, too. You're right about not meeting too many people from up there, but every once in awhile I bump into someone - like now. It's beautiful country, but pretty remote, especially on the Keewenaw.

Magic, it depresses me to acknowledge that you are right. I know that Dawn's comment there was seriously vetted, and I and another blogger tried to comment and were prevented. Definitely censoring - quite telling for a blog promoting free speech, don't you think?
Amyadoptee said…
I am now debating whether or not to delete my post. so I don't further direct traffic to that individual.
I stayed out of that particular storm; it didn't seem worth it.

I do love your post; great posts.

I especially like this:

Aiding the children of the world and seeking adoption reform and working to make adoption unnecessary are not mutually exclusive. Acknowledging adoptee and first parent loss and loving your child are not mutually exclusive.

There need not be guilt in parenting our adopted children if we are doing so in ways that respect our children and their first parents. There need not be any flogging ourselves for committing the "sin" of adopting (which, frankly, I don't think is a sin when there are children who still need families for whatever reason) when we do so with respect for our children and their parents, with pride in our children and their heritage.

I may be copying that for a post and building on it. Hmmmmm.
Paragraphein said…
Magicpointe said what I was going to.

Several of my comments weren't published. I think they made those of us who are pro-reform sound too rational. She wouldn't even publish my response to her "question" about our qualifications for talking about adoption, which simply stated I'm a first mom, a former adoption caseworker, a current mental health worker. I guess that gave me too much credibility? Don't know.

Honestly I try to reasonable, but I have to say that this time I cannot help but wish I DIDN'T freakin' hold myself to that standard. It would have felt awfully good to let loose on that blogger. I admit I've called her names in my head. And it's got nothing to do with her political stance on adoption, it's got to do with being the object of her blatant prejudice, stereotyping, and hatred. I am just so, so, so sick of of the prejudice against first parents.
Margie said…
I'm with you, N. And you are now the third person I know who as been censored - maybe the fourth if Magicpointeshoe is another. That is really inexcusable.

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