The (highly delayed) importance of sorry

* Due to technical difficulties, all posting ceased from 21 March (the day I wrote this), but hopefully I am all go now*

Uncharacteristically, I spent most of my day in Parliament House.  I am no political animal at all.  In fact, I find the public behaviour of our elected members (which are the only bits I get to see through media) to be distressing and at times offensive.  So for me to spend a day in Parliament is a big deal.

Why was I there?

To hear the still Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, deliver an apology to people affected by forced adoption practices in the past.

But before I talk about that, I want to share some of the dream that I had this morning.  My dream director is amazing.  She delivers (quite regularly) dreams of stunning clarity and perception.  So in this dream, I wake up in bed, and I know that my home has been sold out from under me without my knowledge or consent.  In the bed is a baby, who speaks to me.  She tells me she is in pain.  I stroke her and massage her in an attempt to make her feel better.  I look to my left and see a funeral cortege passing by the house.  A woman comes in and speaks to a man who I now realise is in the room.  She talks about their ownership of the house.  I respond that she may own it legally, but certainly not morally. 

This dream captures so much of the drama that happened today in the Great Hall.  The distinction between adult and child, and between legal and moral positions.  A stream of people in mourning, and most importantly, a baby in pain.

If I had been able to speak all those years ago like the baby in my dream, here’s what I would have said.  I need my mother.  I am small, and frightened and helpless.  I know this one particular woman, I know the sound of her voice because I heard it while I was growing inside her.  I know her smell.  I recognise her voice.  Hers alone.  I want her.  And more importantly I need her.  Her alone.

But that’s not what happened. 

A lot of people managed to persuade themselves that children of mothers who were not married did not feel in the same way that other babies did.  They managed to convince themselves that in some way, we didn’t feel like normal human babies.  There was, apparently, something about the wearing of a white dress and a gold ring and the power of certain words uttered by certain people in certain places that granted children born to that woman the right or the ability to feel.

This is not new in history.  Discrimination has taken many forms in human civilisation., but usually around religion, skin colour, and gender.  And usually, being a member of that group meant that wider society, the ones with clout, managed to impose a view that denigrated their human-ness.  My mother was not married to my father, and that meant that we were all treated as something less than fully human.

At the other end of the spectrum, the parents who adopted me also had equivalently damning fictions foisted upon them.  They had lost two children.  One after a day of life.  The second was still born.  They got told that they wouldn’t notice the difference.  That they wouldn’t miss their babies.  And, that the baby they adopted wouldn’t know the difference.

 It was a colossal lie.  Governments and institutions around Australia participated in perpetuating that lie for decades.  Adoption is founded on loss.  Grief, pain and despair are at its core.  The apology today, building on the apologies given in various state legislatures, recognises that truth.  It is long overdue.

I love the fact that it was delivered on the equinox.  The equinox is a time of balance between light and dark.  As I wrote in the memory book today, I hope that this day will mark a moment in time when the everyone who was affected by forced adoption can find balance between the losses of the past and the hope of the future. 

 Because life, however gnarly, however bleak at times, has great promise.  I send my love out to everyone, with my deepest wishes that all of you, regardless of where you sit in the adoption triangle, experience kindness, peace and beauty in your life, now and for evermore.

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