Sunday, March 15, 2009

What's the Rush?

It's a rainy Sunday morning here in Portland, OR, in an off-year for elections, just months after the most exciting (and exhausting) political year of my life-time. I could sit around all day, drinking coffee, attempting the Times crossword, puttering around... Or I could go shmooze at a political function down in Albany, where the state party apparatchiks will be swarming around potential candidates in next year's governor's race. That election is about nineteen months away, but people are already lining up behind candidates, budgeting donations, strategizing... Because that's the way it works. If you want to win in politics, you plan well ahead and execute.

Not so with CARE. They're in a hurry. They were formed in January and already have a bill in play and it's only March... It is, admittedly, not much of a bill, but still, they have a well placed author... On the other hand, CARE reminds us that adoption law in California is as byzantine and twisted as the Gordian Knot... Which makes me wonder, what's the hurry?

CARE's latest published document, which can for the moment be found here, reiterates their theme that AB 372 was introduced the week of the deadline because to not do so would mean that they would have to wait two years. And again my question is, what's the hurry?

Imagine if Barack Obama entered the presidential race in June of last year with a platform that said "TBD" and the slogan "Hope... I Win!" Precipitous action in politics is a recipe for failure, even for the most seasoned of politicians. C.A.R.E. holds itself above such petty concerns, like planning, organizing and educating. C.A.R.E.'s motto, as it is in most of Adoption World, is "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing quick and dirty..."

Adoption World pays lip service to success, but there is no down side for failing. Folks in some states, like New Jersey, have banged their heads against the legislative wall for decades in futile attempts to lobby for records access, using the same tired tactics year after year after year. Instead of giving the leaders of these failed attempts a gold watch before they're bum-rushed off the retirement party dais, these folks are lionized. It's like a party where the DJ had only one record, the Song of the Volga Boatmen...

But I digress... Thing is, a legislative reform effort in a state the size of California will take at least two years of preparation, possibly more. There are a lot of stakeholders to line up, a lot of adoptees to organize and activate, a lot of research to concatenate and distill. How is C.A.R.E. doing, what's their score card so far? As far as stakeholders, not so good. I've spoken and emailed a bunch of them and they are scratching their heads wondering who C.A.R.E. is and why they're doing what they're doing. Some stakeholders who have been contacted wonder why, after responding by giving C.A.R.E the benefit of their extensive expertise in adoption politics and law, that they weren't notified when AB 372 dropped like a battered valise out of a clear blue sky. Adoption records reform impacts policies for groups as diverse as the A.C.L.U, Planned Parenthood, both the pro-life and pro-choice movements, the Family Law Section of the ABA, family court judges, the social services bureaucracy, not to mention implications for the Assisted Reproduction Technology practitoners, who have modeled their dubious ethical framework from US adoption's toxic legacy of secrecy... Has C.A.R.E done their due diligence and negotiated with any of these folks, gained allies, neutralized potential opposition? In their three months of titular existence? Considering how little they've organized in the relatively small sphere in which they operate, that is Adoption World, I don't think so, I think they got together and said, "C'mon kids, lets put on a show!"

And about organizing California adoptees... How has C.A.R.E done with that? Surprisingly well, considering they haven't mounted any sort of outreach (media campaign, public meetings beyond the invited few). The introduction of AB 372 has energized some California adoptees, but not in the way I imagine C.A.R.E had hoped. Groups like AAAFC are mobilizing their members in California to lobby their legislators and setting up meetings to press for full unconditional access. This puts C.A.R.E. in an unenviable position of trying to explain why the adoptees they purport to represent are organizing outside of their penumbra of compromise. It speaks directly to their legitimacy.

Perhaps C.A.R.E. hoped for a "stealth" campaign... Some of the premature congratulations last week for South Dakota's now moribund records access reform bill extolled the virtue of "stealth legislation", the notion that a legislative effort can fly under the radar and avoid conflict. This is appealing to folks who are fundamentally conflict-averse, but you have to wonder why personalities like this want to be involved in politics at all... Politics is conflict and its resolution. We can see how this worked out in South Dakota. It only takes one or two folks to lift the rock and expose the wriggling underneath, and the "stealth" evaporates like mist. Better get used to it, you can't whistle past the graveyard and expect good results...

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Blogger lava said...

It is actually even more complicated than that.

I must say that it is nothing less than *pathetic* that so few in this movement have the ability to communicate with people they may have some disagreement with.

Or to communicate openly and honestly. I mean I know people have issues but come on we are grown ups supposedly.

The result is that we have to be very careful not to look like a movement of fractured drama queens and stick to a very simple message inside a complicated framework.

I have not given up on AB372, I just think it is going to take a concentrated effort to hit a perfect pitch. That is what we have to aim for, we aren't going to be richer, we aren't going to be bigger, so we have to be smarter.

There is the benefit of the Philly protest, we are more organized outside a specfic bill educating in a friendly easy to access way. We can also lobby the organizations who may be against us, before it even comes to public argument.

Unfortunately, the spirit of cooperation forged by a common goal is not exactly flowing through the streets of Sacramento, or the splintered adoptee rights organizations that seem to have drawn circles around themselves and walls of secrecy.

Still I have a lot of faith in our talents and abilities to help the lawmakers of CA right this grevious wrong.


5:29 PM  
Blogger BB Church said...

I think that folks in the adoption community interested in social change should get their heads out of their asses and their "issues" and study social change.

Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky

Fundraising for Social Change, Kim Klein

If you don't have money power, you need people power. In reality you need some combination of the two. If you have neither, well, then you don't have power and you're at the mercy of whoever does. This is not rocket science and need not cause undue conceptual agony. It's like 2+2=4.

Those without power sometimes indulge themselves in the fantasy that their arguments are so compelling that they don't need power to actualize them. They become frustrated when they lose against inferior arguments backed by superior power. Some learn from this and work toward empowerment, some learn the wrong lessons and jigger their arguments until they are acceptable to those in power.

The urge to compromise basic rights has powerlessness at its root. Imagine a Civil Rights leader working for a bill that would grant voting rights to folks born before 1983 but "we might have to compromise for those born afterwards"... Imagine a GLBT leader countering Prop 8 by offering a compromise, those born before 1983, they can marry, but afterward, well, we'll see... Those leaders would be drummed out of the movement and marginalized, and rightfully so. They'd be a footnote in history demarcating failure.

6:35 PM  
Blogger joy said...

I know what you are saying, but this is no longer CARE's bill. This is Ma's bill.

I have never read Rules for Radicals, not being a radical would have no reason to. I will pick it up though.

Of course in other venues I have studied social change a lot.

All we can do is lobby against the compromise or idea of compromise at this point.

6:49 PM  
Blogger joy said...

I didn't have to pick it up, it was on the famous interwebz, but really this is all just stuff learned on the playground.

It is as natural to people as breathing.

6:53 PM  
Blogger Marley Greiner said...

When I looked at the list of CARE's "advisory" board or board of directors or whatever they want to call it, (surprise--their names do not appear on the CARE website), my first thought was a sort of "where's the meat?"

There are plenty of "big names" from the little pond of liberal adopta "experts" but only one of them has actually shepherded through a successful bill: Paula Benoit. Why aren't they busy in their own states? Why are they sticking their nose in California? I suppose it deflects from their own failures.

All of these people should, in their heart, know that this campaign is screwed up from Day One. It makes me wonder if many of them, in fact, even know what CARE is up to? Did they sign on to act as advisers, or are they nuts-and- bolts? I know from at least 2 reports, advisory members have not been clear on what's going on.

The lack of on-the-ground organizing is downright thrilling in its lack--except as you point out--it's managed to organize the opposition. CalOpen has come back and the AAAFC folks are working, too. There are probably independents, too, who aren't too happy. I know I hear from them.

NJ has spent 28 years, as you point out, beating its head into the legislature and the Catholic Church. That's not a model to emulate. Minnesota has come back with another convoluted, regressive pieceacrap. The premature "victory" is South Dakota makes me wonder if some of these people even understand how bills become law.

In my latest blog, I pointed people to Damsel's 1997 Self-Defeat piece. You'd think 12 years later these people would have gotten the idea. It's freaking depressing.

Politics is not about good works or good causes. It's about power and money. Both are a bitch to acquire, but once you have them you can win or at worse put up a big fight.

CARE and its ilk aren't about to take off their little white gloves. They have de-bastarized themselves (if in fact they ever were bastards) and have hitched their wagon to adoptacrats, dobees, and do-gooders. I's downright fun at this point to kick them around.

10:22 AM  
Blogger joy said...

and in re: the arguments, I don't think it is about having brilliant arguments, artfully expressed as much as simple easy to access arguments and who and when they are expressed to.

On thing the adoptee rights movement has never done successfully is come up with a soundbyte that sticks. For example ACT UPs, "We're Here, We're Queer, Get Used to It" You know nearly 20 years later is still very recognizable. When I was in WAC we used "WAC is watching" and WAC was very successful until they ate themselves.

My favorite so far is, "It is against the law for me to know who my mother is"

Because it is primal, horrifying, and real. It just doesn't have a rhyme or alliteration, :(

When we were on Bourbon street walking by a barker in front of a strip club one of the adoptees commented that she wasn't allowed to know what "pussy" she came out of.

It was interesting, because he heard it and was disturbed, he stopped his rap and looked at her dumbstruck, "you mean you don't know who your momma is?"

2:06 PM  
Blogger BB Church said...

I remember Michelle G. at the 1996 Academy Awards show waving a sign that said, "Honk if you're my daddy!"

3:41 PM  
Blogger Gaye Sherman Tannenbaum said...

Marley - I know there's a difference between Ca-CARE and Adoptee.CARE. Paula Benoit is with Adoptee.CARE but I don't think she's with Ca-Care.

4:51 AM  
Blogger Marley Greiner said...

Paula is on their advisory board. I have a copy of it. It was not published online, at least on the publicly accdessible CARE site. Maybe I should publish the complete list on Bastardette.

12:26 PM  

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