Sunday, October 01, 2006

Silenced

I actually have a lot to say this evening on two subjects that, on the surface, appear completely unrelated. However, for me, they are very much intertwined. The topic is on being silenced.

The first situation involves a blog that I frequently read. She is an adoptive mother of two children from Korea. They are now teenagers. I can't say that I've read through all of her archives but what I have read shows a very insightful, intuitive, loving mother. She speaks often of her feelings regarding her part in the international adoption process. I don't always agree with everything she writes, but I appreciate her point of view. It's often given me 'food for thought.' It's nice to have your views and opinions challenged from time to time, especially in such a non-threatening way. She's never been 'in your face' about her ideas. She's always taken a motherly tone of "here's another perspective.... what do you think?" She's also been accepting of others' comments. She allows all sides of the adoption triad (and anyone else on the fringes) to share and comment. I find that very refreshing as, more and more, I've noticed that should you post on a blog and not agree with the blogger 100%, you will most likely be deleted or bashed by the blogger and his/her readers. I often find myself thinking 'then why ask for comments?' Or better yet – ‘just go password protected.’ That way only your minions will comment and you'll be sure that they all agree with you.

I explain the above situation because it seems that this sweet woman is now considering closing her blog down. Why, you ask? Well, as I see it (and since it's my blog I get to have my opinion on that), she now thinks she may nothing left to say because someone within the adoption world thinks adoption is a bad thing.... at all times..... at all costs. This other writer posed questions / statements that sound more like a dogma for a new religion than anything else. My sweet blogger friend has been left so conflicted by this anti-adoption writer that she's now starting to doubt her place in this world. (TOTALLY MY OPINION.)

Now - situation number two: I spent Friday evening with DH, a co-worker (M) and her husband. We'd planned to meet at a local bar for happy hour to have a TGIF beer. This is a regular happening in my office but DH and I rarely go. After the hellacious week I'd had, I decided this would be the Friday we would go. So, we arrive at the bar and are having a lovely time. Suddenly, M's daughter and SIL show up. It's a college town and they are recent college graduates. So we invite them to join us and they join in the various conversations at the table. I'll skip the various dramas and recap quickly: SIL spends most of the evening giving hand signals to his wife to be quiet and even, at several points, tells her to 'shut up' and 'quit interrupting.' SIL refers to M as being a drunk, being afraid of her own MIL and informs her that children don't have any obligation to their families just because they are related 'by an accident of genetics.' Now, DH and I are floored by the behavior and try not to look quite so shocked b/c we're thinking, ‘This must be their dynamic. Everyone here is an adult.’ I truly don't want to insult my friend b/c well, at heart I'm a Southerner and we just aren't raised that way. So we try to continue various conversations and pick topics not so controversial / confrontational. No dice. SIL continues making ugly hurtful remarks left and right. Somehow, the conversation turns to that of Katrina victims in Mississippi. If you haven't been keeping up, please refer to previous posts to understand why this topic might hold significance to me. Caught up? Good.

So while trying to explain how victims on the coast are feeling, I am informed by SIL, "none of those people deserve a dime." (Let me add that he is VERY much aware of my past / present situation.) I stop for a moment and look directly at him. I say, "You're serious. You really don't think they deserve any assistance." To which he says "No, not from the government, not from the insurance companies." For the first time in my more than thirty years, I was speechless. I then try to explain to him how many people were misled about their insurance policies. I am then schooled on the fact that NO insurance policies would EVER cover flood and / or damage like that of a hurricane and that "those people" should have "read their policies." Again, I continue to be floored. I, like an idiot, attempt to explain personal experiences of friends and family who are currently living through the aftermath. (Yes, I said CURRENTLY and it's been 13 months since landfall). Again, he's absolutely unmoved. If anything, he's exasperated that I don't understand how he's right about this. Everyone else at the table remains silent. No words of defense. No attempt to end the hurtful comments and condescension in his voice. I get nothing. DH happens to be at the bar paying the tab during this lovely bit of interchange. While I'm trying to recount these personal tales I realize that there are tears streaming down my face. I'm not drunk. (I'd had two beers and a full dinner over the course of 3 1/2 hours.) I'm not out of control. I realize I'm simply enraged and saddened. I'm thinking of the thousands of people whose lives are still ruined. I'm thinking of my own family members still waiting in FEMA trailers for assistance that was promised. These same family members who paid on insurance policies for more than 20 years and were promised by an agent "you’re covered for it all." Yeah, no check came. No help came. They're still waiting. And as I'm talking I realize this 22 year old boy will NEVER understand the pain and suffering I'm trying to explain to him. No matter how long I talk, it will do no good. He doesn’t care and he doesn’t want to. It means nothing to him. I'm saddened. And I'm silenced. Once DH returns to the table, I look at him with tears in my eyes and tell him it's time to go. I say nothing to M or the rest of the table. I simply walk out of the bar and head straight for our car. I cried for more than an hour after we got home. I cried for the more than 1800 dead, my friends, my family, my memories, my neighborhood. No words; just tears.

The connection between my two situations: Why is that the words of one casually known person can actually silence the voice of another person? Why do we do that to one another? Is it so hard to show compassion? What is the harm is standing back for a moment and allowing that someone else can have another point of view because they have their own unique experience of this world? That's not to say that you have to agree with or accept that view point. It would just be nice if more would be willing to believe we've all got a voice. Silencing someone else doesn’t make you right. It just makes them silenced.

My only regret is that I allowed myself to be silenced. I'm angry with myself for not challenging my tablemates to speak up and speak out, knowing they too shared my thoughts but they were too afraid to speak up. And to my blogger friend, I hope that she doesn't allow herself to be silenced. It serves no one to be silenced when we've all got so many beautiful things to say.

5 comments:

DD said...

It's a shame that many times it's the ignorant few that manage to get under our skin when there's so many enlightened and supportive that outnumber them. It's also easier for that person to be closed down and negative rather than try to learn something new or hear something that may change his way of thinking. I understand your anger, but just remember, ultimately it will be his loss...and it probably already is or he wouldn't already be on the defensive. He's a small man, with a small brain. Do not waste your time thinking about him.

As for your blogger friend: I only hope she makes the decision based on what her heart is telling her and not what someone is trying to tell her heart.

Erin said...

What an interesting post. I just had this happen last night on another adoption listserv. I might have to re-evaluate my choice to leave the group rather than speak out.

theoneliner said...

DD is right...there will always be a jack a$$ in the room.
People are so stupid sometimes.
I will say that for every jerk like him there are 10 people who care about katraina survivors. who know that there are way too many people in trailers...still.
Maybe it was good that you didn't say anything. that can very very powerful. silence is power oftentimes.
And that the conversation ended with him making such a stupid and ill-informed comment said A LOT.
I bet you $$ even his dumbness went home feeling guilty...and questioning what he said. Had you argued with him...that probably wouldn't have happened.

Guatamama said...

Wow ... how odd that I have had a similar situation, though in some ways a bit more aggressive and maybe even dangerous. To comment on your thoughts, I think it's like oneliner said, silence sometimes says so much. How can you argue with someone so dense? You can't really, just know that not everyone feels that way.

As for me, (and thanks for your comment again!) I have a neighbor who may or may not have read my blog, but either way knows too much about me. Here's my new address tiggysgirl.livejournal.com By the way, are you on the adoption.com forum??

Third Mom said...

Omigosh, is this me in the first part? If so, you are so sweet to have written this, and I am such a dolt not to have found it. I'm blog-challenged, and am always late keeping up. I just wish I had seen this earlier because I owe you a HUGE thank you!

As you see, I'm still online. Around the time I spent mulling over that post you reference above, I found myself in the situation described about the young UK adoptee. That is, I sincerely hope, resolving itself, but both of these indeed have taken the wind out of my sails.

However, I have also realized that the voice I need to listen to is MINE. And I think that's exactly what you are saying about YOUR voice, too.

So I say we both keep writing. I see in your post today that you are getting ready to travel - congratulations! I'm looking forward to hearing all about your trip and your little one!

Thank you again, so much. It really means a lot to me.