The Fog

I’ve no idea how long the phrases ‘being fogged’ or ‘being in the fog’ have been around, as I’ve said before I’m not exactly the most up-to-date with the latest social media hate-fest shenanigans. Strava and Medium are about the closest I get to being on social media and even those I only check sporadically. Where on Earth do people get the time? Don’t you guys have work to do or families to look after?

Anyway, some of the delightful denizens of the Internet have invented a new term to bash adoptees and adoption in general. Apparently, if you are adopted and you are either a child or have made your peace with your adopted status then you are ‘fogged’. You can’t see clearly. You are a victim of the ambient morality. Brainwashed by the cruel ‘system’ which appears to be the imaginary creation of the tin-foil hat brigade, jumping to paranoid conclusions rather than bothering to discover the truth.

Apart from the rather unsavoury circumstance of picking on kids and adults who have been through extremely traumatic experiences this attitude is symptomatic of the conservative mindset that seems to pervade social media. The belief seems to be as follows: “the ‘state’ has intervened and decided that the birth parents are not good parents. But it is the state, therefore it is wrong. Nothing must ever violate the sanctity of family or the sovereignty of the individual. Not even the most horrific events. And why do you think that you are something you are not? Know your place. You can’t change yourself, you are as you were born, forever, and people who tell you otherwise and help you ‘know yourself’ and ‘grow’ are wrong.”

I recently read quite a recent novel by Robert Galbraith (The Cuckoo’s Calling), which although apparently reasonably well-researched initially, seems to degenerate into a battle between a nasty, jealous, ‘fogged’ and noble, wronged, ‘unfogged’ adoptee siblings, with sympathy clearly on the side of the latter and little attempt at context. I liked the novel by the way, just think the depiction of adoption and adoptees was a little dated.

That attitude occasionally leaps into the real world too. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, some schools actively turn away kids that have been adopted or in the care system because there is a belief that they can’t change and will be trouble. There’s an assumption that their current situation is causing their ‘issues’ rather than their previous experiences, cos y’know, kids are resilient aren’t they? Now that they are safe they should be fine. This view isn’t helped by the rather misguided ‘adoption is trauma’ trope that crops up every time anyone tries to discuss trauma in the context of adopted children, which just seems to be wheeled out to nullify any attempt at discussion as to why a child might be acting the way they are. The willfully misinterpreted ‘primal wound’ idea from the 90s, stemming from a very dated idea that only a biological mother can provide an emotional bond. That is quite a conservative interpretation of child development theory, to put it mildly. In any case, they aren’t babies when the state takes them into care. My son’s sister was 12. It is the birth parents who inflict the primal wound, not ‘adoption’. Adoption happens when it is clear that if there is a bond at all then it is toxic and based entirely on dependency rather than love. How many of these kids actually knew their mothers? I know of one circumstance where the child didn’t even recognise his birth mother even though she’d claimed that they’d been inhabiting the same house for 4 years. And why only a mother, not a father or sibling or grandparent? You do know that a baby doesn’t actually stop developing into a functional human being until they are about 4 years old right? Pregnancy and birth is just the beginning of parental bonding and the beginning of brain development, not the end.

This extends to the more modern concept of identity too, where the opinion is that you can only ever be born into a culture, you can never absorb it and you must never try to ape it as you clearly won’t be authentic. Authentication comes from being born and that’s the only way. Again, know your place. So when an adopted person ‘claims’ to be ‘something they are not’ they are looked at with distate. The class wars and apartheid of right-wing modern identity politics writ large. And adoptees can’t really do anything about this. Talk about unnecessary trauma, there you have it, right there.

I live in a pretty conservative area and my son obviously absorbs some of that. He currently loves listening to the news when we are in the car and finding out about current affairs. He asks some very good questions, but you can see how he takes in the flavor of the current Overton window of the culture wars. Here’s a paraphrased recent conversation about abortion and adoption in which I feel I probably lost out to a 12 year old:

Him: ‘Dad, what’s Roe vs Wade?’

Me: ‘I think the United States has recently outlawed abortion, by stopping the law that allowed it, which was called Roe vs. Wade.’

Him: ‘What’s abortion?’

Me: ‘It is when a pregnancy is stopped.’

Him: ‘How?’

Me (not really wanting to spell it out for him at this age, but…): ‘Um, they destroy the fetus and remove it’.

Him (horrified): ‘Why?’

Me: ‘Well maybe the baby would be severely disabled, or maybe it was conceived through rape, or maybe it is just that the mother wasn’t ready to have a child.’

Him: ‘Disabled people have rights, they shouldn’t be killed’.

Me (wincing slightly): ‘Well, yes I agree actually, I think that there are a range of things we allow abortion for, like Down’s Syndrome, that we shouldn’t. But if a child is not likely to survive very long, and would be in agony or not conscious while they were alive, then perhaps it would be a mercy’.

Him: ‘Hmm. What’s rape?’

Me (inwardly sighing): ‘When someone forces someone else to have sex against their will. A woman might get pregnant from it.’

Him: ‘But why would that matter?’

Me: ‘Well that child might forever remind them of the traumatic event, so they may never really want it. If someone doesn’t want to be a parent then they aren’t going to be a good one. Also, if they’ve not planned it they may not have the resources to look after it.’

Him: ‘But that’s murder!’

Me: ‘Well, some people agree with that.’

Him: ‘Do you?’

Me (with a slightly irritated feeling that against my will I’m being made to argue against abortion): ‘I’m of the opinion that if the fetus cannot survive by itself then it isn’t murder, that’s why in this country you can’t get an abortion if the pregnancy has been longer than 24 weeks’.

Him: ‘But if technology gets better and it can survive at 23 weeks then you’d have to say that 24 weeks was murder’.

Me (uncomfortably): ‘Um, I suppose so.’

Him (triumphant): ‘Ha! Murderer.’ He’s nothing if not subtle.

Me: ‘Ultimately, we give the woman the choice of whether she wants to have a child or not. One mistake or being the victim of a crime shouldn’t mean that you have to spend the next 18 years bringing up a child. That’s not a bad thing to do I think.’

Him (thinking): ‘But if they don’t want it then why don’t they give it away for adoption?’ Boom, I was wondering when this would come up.

Me: ‘I don’t think a child should enter the world knowing they were unwanted’.

Him: ‘But I wasn’t wanted’.

Me (adoption training kicking in): ‘Well your birth mum loved you, but…’

Him (interrupting and rolling his eyes): ‘Yeah, yeah, she didn’t know how to look after me’. I must find a more grown-up way to talk about that.

Me: ‘The point is the parent shouldn’t deliberately inflict that on a child’.

Him (angry): ‘The point being that a boy at school said I should have been aborted instead’.

I wasn’t quite sure where to go after that. I was shocked and we drove home in silence. He was voicing an experience that I think is becoming more common now among adopted children. Apparently it is common currency on social media, even among some adopted people too, across the pond at least. As an adopter where on Earth do you start to cope with the fact that adults are telling children that the adopted kids at their school would have been better off aborted? That they are ‘fogged’ if that makes them feel bad? Why tell someone who has been through horrific abuse that only if their birth-mum had aborted them then none of it would have happened? Basically that it was their fault they lived to birth and so were abused? My son needed me to say that abortion was wrong so that he could feel valued and justify being alive. The dark places of social media sicken me.

Apologies if I’ve not quite got the detail of Roe vs. Wade right by the way, I’m not really across American politics, but in a sense that’s not really the point here anyway.

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