Archive for July, 2009

PhiladelphiaIn my last post I directed readers to my partner “Baby Love Child’s” blog, where there’s a rather lengthy, illustrated discussion of a so-called “adoptee rights demonstration” in Philadelphia last week. It’s hard to figure out where to start, since there is much I could comment on from the Sleeps with Bastard perspective. To clarify, I am Sabina’s/Baby Love Child’s partner and I provide some technical assistance with her blog. I’ll first start off with a suitably inflammatory title and these important notes:
  1. If you go out on a public street and participate in a political “march” – better yet, an event in a public place that was promoted online and to the media and that even received press coverage prior to the event – others may take your picture and write about your event. They can even write about your event in ways you don’t like. They don’t need your permission or a release from you first, and the legal precedent for this is vast.
  2. Traveling to such an event in a public place and watching it – and in fact, never at any point interacting with the event participants – doesn’t constitute “stalking.” Neither does taking pictures of the event and the people who were there and publishing them, particularly when the individuals in the photos are barely recognizable if at all, and in fact, aren’t even individually known to us.  So don’t write to us and demand that we remove our pictures of your demonstration from our blogs. We now even have a form letter with which we’ll reject each of these nonsensical requests.
  3. If you’re going to accuse people (us) of libel or slander (different legal terms meaning different things, though obviously those making those accusations can’t be bothered to know the differences), you’ll have to demonstrate that something that we wrote or said was actually false. Truth is generally an absolute defense against such claims. Just because statements made a year ago were deleted from various blogs and online forums doesn’t mean copies weren’t saved for later reference to establish what was written at the time. Those who are accusing us of libel and slander have yet to even express an understanding of what we have written, much less show any inaccuracies in our writing. We do, however, disagree strongly with the Adoptee Rights Demonstration (ARD) organizers and we maintain that the ARD in its present form may have the ultimate effect of actively undermining the cause of obtaining open records for adoptees regardless of its organizers’ and participants’ intentions.
  4. Having been completely vilified and attacked at the time for simply withdrawing our (Sabina/BLC and my) support for the ARD one year ago, and writing about that, we will not be considering any future participation in their event in any form. A number of commentators seem to think that some sort of positive engagement with ARD organizers by us is possible. It isn’t. For one example of why that was so, take a look at the comment thread on this July 2008 post from Bastardette’s blog. Commenter “joy” there and elsewhere, Joy Madsen, a current member of the ARD organizing coalition, wrote, “… there is no way we are touching them [Sabina, Marley Greiner, and Bastard Nation] with a 10 foot pole next year, we have learned our lesson. Next year… we are not letting them near us.”
  5. For current examples of invective being thrown about by members of the ARD organizing coalition, take a look at this blog post by current committee member Jimm Mandenberg that contains this: “Baby Love-child? BLC? Gimme a break. More like Bitchy Little C*nt.” There’s also, of course,  this lovely little blog post by coalition member and alleged “founder”  Kali Coultas, who did in fact not bother to show up this year to see her stillborn creation, repeating more falsehoods alleging that there was an organized Bastard Nation campaign against their event (“… BN mocks the very people who would fight hard for them. They… will turn on you in a heartbeat if needed.”) In fact, BN, organizationally, has been silent about the ARD since withdrawing from the coalition over one year ago. Coultas further alleges that by simply operating a blog, or showing up on a Philadelphia street corner to watch, Sabina/BLC “has tried to sabotage the protest from the moment she was asked to leave the committee.” Sabina and I voluntarily resigned, after a number of irregularities and the attempted involvement of an adoption agency in last year’s event came to light, and were never asked to leave, as I discuss below.
  6. ARD organizers and its “founder” falsely allege or imply that Sabina and Bastard Nation are conspiring together, by attributing commentary written by Sabina/BLC to Bastard Nation, or by claiming that Sabina was “sent” by BN, as in this by Joy Madsen: “… BN bailed, that was their choice. I mean obviously they are so busy with, with, with, well something I am sure. Not too busy to send nutter BabyCakes to stalk the protest. “ Our only relationship with Bastard Nation is as lifetime members. We do not set policy or otherwise direct the organization. Likewise, Sabina and I are independent and our writings reflect our opinions and not those of any other individuals or organizations.

That said, I’ll throw out a few more points that will perhaps clarify the rest of my comments. These come from a decade of being around activists who’ve worked on these matters in the field of restoring access to original birth certificates, with a track record of success and a great deal of knowledge of the history of these efforts.

  1. You might, in fact, want your original birth certificate. That’s great. But if the visuals and words you’re providing to the media and the public are  full of “I want my mommy” sorts of messages, when it’s time to deal with an actual bunch of legislators with the power to change the laws, don’t be surprised if they try, instead of the simple act of unsealing birth certificates, to “give you your mommy” by some other means. Namely, through the expansion of “mutual consent” registries with vetoes and the use of intermediaries, both of which insert other parties and institutions – in many cases, the same institutions that promote adoption and have an interest in keeping records sealed – between you and your birth certificate.
  2. Likewise, emphasis on finding “my mommy” brings up a whole set of complicating details, that often involve the gross misuse, misunderstanding and outright abuse of the word, “privacy.” So every public discussion that drags in the slightest whiff of the stench of “I want my mommy” gets answered with some intentionally-created-out-of-thin-air obstruction like “We must respect your mommy’s ‘privacy’.” See “mutual-consent” registries, above.

whose-my-mommaExhibit A  for the above two points is the Philadelphia Inquirer article that accompanied this outright assault on the cause of adoptee rights orchestrated in the form of the so-called “Adoptee Rights Demonstration.” With a photo of a “demonstrator” carrying a sign saying “WHOSE MY MOMMA” – let’s hear it for the organizers who certainly went out of their way to check demonstrators’ signs for horribly stupid, humiliating spelling errors – the article is yet another litany of the manufactured objections to open records  by the institutions who have the most to lose from open records, containing no articulation or response to those objections. It makes adoptees look like delusional children.

I understand that some ARD organizers are quite proud of that article. Perhaps they suffer from some problem with gross illiteracy or even simple understanding of what actually appeared in the newspaper; certainly the photo suggests that the ARD has some general difficulty dealing with the English language.

It’s not enough to see yourself reflected in a newspaper article. The rest of the article isn’t about you. It’s about maintaining the status quo of sealed birth certificates; today, much of the function of the press has become maintaining the status quo and ridiculing, mocking and making impotent those who advocate change. ARD, with its childish signs and messaging, fell right into their trap.

As I wrote above in # 4 of the first list, Sabina, Bastard Nation, Marley Greiner, and others along with I were attacked and vilified for merely withdrawing our support of the “Adoptee Rights Demonstration” one year ago and speaking about it. That withdrawal and its aftermath set the stage for what is happening now.

There’s a fundamental difference between those who continued with these demonstrations and us, and that is that we want to see, and work toward, concrete progress toward open records.

Despite many claims that the ARD organizers likewise are working toward open records, as far as I can tell, the ARD organizers are instead solely focused on a (poorly funded and ineffective) presence and awareness raising at this particular yearly conference, hopefully, from their perspective  in perpetuity, paid for by others in the community, and a(n attempt at a) street “demonstration”  nearby. Neither can be shown to stand a snowball’s chance in hell of producing such progress. Neither has generated any progress over the past year since the first event in New Orleans. (We’ve asked if there is any evidence of progress as a result of ARD 2008. None has been forthcoming. It seems these questions are sidestepped by wild accusations of “slander” and “stalking” directed at us, perhaps because we merely raised this question.)

When the pointlessness of the event became evident to us last year, along with all other irregularities, we pulled out. I’d written on my blog how among other reasons, the active involvement of an adoption agency, which was fundraising by using the demonstration as some kind of marketing opportunity, without our knowledge and consent, and the close relationship between one of the organizers (Amy Burt, aka “Amy Adoptee”) and that agency, fundamentally made this something that I could not be involved with.

But I think there’s a kind of perfect storm here, which starts with a group of people who basically knows nothing about how government works and doesn’t care to learn. (Here’s one such example.) As is true of a lot of noise we see elsewhere, government seems to serve as a kind of sink for complaints that government cannot rectify. “I want my mommy,” clearly front and center among the “demonstrators,” is one such complaint, which is another part of this perfect storm; it’s the personal component. But that won’t get you an open birth certificate because the government can’t get you your mommy for you, nor can it get you your medical records.

The third part is the basic militant ignorance of members of the ARD coalition who, when faced with people who see what they’re doing and choose not to participate (and worse yet, clearly articulate why they refuse to participate), cast them out as outsiders, and lash out at them should they dare comment on their continuing actions which are potentially damaging to, generally, all activists everywhere and the cause of open records. Going to watch, to confirm that the event actually took place, and so that we can knowledgeably and accurately discuss their action,  just gets us labeled as “stalkers,”  since to them we are clearly already the enemy for simply refusing to participate in what we’ve come to believe is a destructive effort.

There was to have been a  ”bastard boot camp,” an educational session that was to have been a core component of the New Orleans ARD event while Bastard Nation was involved with it. BN offered a preliminary educational effort, before people went out on the street or met with legislators, discussing the history of sealed records and open records activism, and what strategies, rhetoric and tactics have been effective in opening records in the states that BN has helped open.

Unfortunately, these plans were met with a clear, militant, outraged, contemptuous  response from a subset of ARD organizers, many of whom remain today. They believed that they  did not need, nor would they participate in, such an instructional session. It also became clear that we were dealing with a narcissistic bunch of uneducatable, incurious fools who would do whatever they were going to do without regard for how much damage they would do to the cause, both through their uncivil online behavior and their incapability of sticking to a rational focused message that would result in open records legislation instead of some alternative mess like the most recent round in California (to address “privacy”) or state mandated mediators or registries (as an alternate but ineffective method of finding one’s mommy while continuing to empower the adoption industry’s institutions.)

So as for the comments we’re seeing in various threads noting our non-participation and asking why we aren’t involved and actively engaging with the ARD organizers,we have done that, to no avail;  this is why we cannot do that, they won’t let us do that, they’ve demonstrated since last year that they will take zero constructive input from us. Unfortunately, their actions, without the involvement of BN or any group of experienced activists who’ve historically worked around this issue, is making  adoptee rights activism look ridiculous. That the ARD organizers don’t recognize that that’s what they’re doing, and call any criticism that points that out to them “slander,” makes clear that civil discussion with them is impossible.

The fact that ARD leaders completely avoid considering what messages they are sending becomes obvious when they complain that Sabina “attacked” a 13 year old for posting a YouTube video. In fact, if the 13 year olds among this group of adults are coming away from the event with a message, spread all over the net, that continues to infantilize adults as eternal children, incapable of self-defining as mature individuals and political actors – and that, if popularized, will undercut any future efforts to obtain open records – an objection must be raised. This is clearly the message that the next generation gets from ARD – and ARD organizers seem quite pleased with this result!

The creation of a video montage with pictures of adults, and labeling them “forgotten children,” only serves make all future political progress impossible. It plays into the widespread, pre-existing insistence that adoptees will be forever children, without the rights of adults, including the right to an unaltered birth certificate. That ARD organizers are incapable of seeing the problem of this message shows what the ARD has become: a group of narcissistic, blathering, clueless and ultimately ineffectual people, who cannot be bothered to understand that some messages that their participants (regardless of age) come away from the event with will completely undermine any progress toward their alleged goal of opening records. But of course, if the actual goal is completely inwardly focused on this group of individuals, their social interactions, their group’s self-perpetuation, and their issues that would better be handled in therapy rather than out on the street, then we’ll just be seeing more of this, and perhaps, no further progress toward open records for the next few lifetimes, were they to become the sole focus of adoptee activism.

Fortunately, there are viable and experienced alternatives.


The above is not a picture of Baby Love Child; it’s the author of a blog entry that she tagged “Baby Love Child Sucks.”

(A great example of a title gone wrong when inevitably displayed out of context.)

I’ll heartily agree with the “time to run” sentiment as it appears here!

I’ll probably blog more about this ongoing fiasco that “demonstrated” only that “activism” in the sense of going out on the street and doing… something… is dead… later.

In the meantime, for those of you with an attention span longer than that of a gnat, check out my partner Sabina/Baby Love Child’s in-depth analysis and commentary.