or, How We Argue When We Argue About Adoption.
There’s a bit of a dust-up going on at the Psychology Today website about That Line in The Avengers and adoption stigma. It’s interesting because a spiky urchin could predict some of the arguments being made in the *comments. The things being said are predictable not only because they have been said to adoptees over and over again, but also because they have been said to every disenfranchised group imaginable, over and over again.
For purposes of argument, let’s pretend society has decided that the best way to deal with, say, kittens nobody wants is to kill them by smacking them with a mallet. Let us further pretend that we have dealt with such kittens this way for several decades now, and that a noisy minority has of late become uncomfortable with this particular solution to The Kitten Problem. (Is that a fair way to characterize adoption? Of course not. It just works as an illustration.)
I think the conversation might go something like this:
Q: Don’t like mallets? Well, what do you propose we do with all those kittens?
A: I don’t know. It’s a complicated question. Maybe it has no one right answer. I, a single cat, am almost certainly not qualified to answer it for all kittens and all cats. It’s true there are an awful lot of kittens being born out there who aren’t being properly looked after. It is still cruel to smack kittens with mallets.
Q: But things are so much better for kittens now! We used to burn them alive! Why don’t you talk about that instead?
A: Because the subject is hitting kittens with mallets, which continues to happen and continues to be wrong.
Q: The fact that your kitten bit the children is no reason to stop other people from taking in a kitten and raising it with love, is it? (aka the “bad adoption experience” argument.)
A: I do not own a kitten. My imaginary kitten has bitten no one. OR: My kitten, regardless of whether or not it ever bit anyone, has/n’t grown into a fine young cat in part because no one ever smacked it with a mallet/despite the fact someone smacked it with a mallet. Whatever the case may be, the fact is I have no power to prevent you from taking in a kitten and treating it however you choose to treat it. Whatever the case may be, the subject of this argument is not cat bites, but mallets.
Q: If you really cared about kittens, you’d be giving half your income to the ASPCA and volunteering at your local shelter instead of complaining about mallets!
A: You have no way of knowing whether or not I am doing those things. My doing or not doing those things in no way affects my free speech rights. Nor does my doing or not doing those things change the fact that people are out there smacking kittens with mallets and thinking that’s OK because it is accepted practice. Indeed, if nobody complains, society will never stop smacking kittens with mallets, encouraging people to smack kittens with mallets because it’s considered an act of love, and claiming that it is in the best interest of kittens to be smacked with mallets.
Q: ZOMG I LOVE MY KITTEN! I have NEVER harmed it in any way. HOW DARE YOU suggest I would abuse my kitten? You are MEAN! (aka the “I’m one of the good ones!” argument)
A: I didn’t say you had. I said a lot of people seem to think it’s OK to smack kittens with mallets, which is (for purposes of this illustration) true and somewhat understandable. But if this post is not about you, it’s not about you, and the same goes for all of my posts.
Q: Look, I’m not a kitten, but I got hit with a mallet playing Whack-A-Mole once. Doesn’t that prove I know what I’m talking about?
A: I’m sorry that happened to you. It must have hurt. But surely you’re not saying you know how kittens feel? I don’t think you do, because unlike kittens, you walk upright, use language, have opposable thumbs, and lack a tail.
Q: My auntsistercousinBFFwhoever has a kitten and it just loves being hit with a mallet. The mallet is its favorite toy! Doesn’t that prove you wrong? (The “One happy adoptee trumps all unhappy/angry/loud/rude adoptees” argument.)
A: The kitten never asked to be smacked with a mallet. Perhaps it has adjusted to this state of being because it knows it cannot otherwise receive care from your auntsistercousinBFFwhoever. It is nevertheless cruel to smack kittens with mallets (even, assuming they exist, masochist kittens). There’s a chance that the kitten in question genuinely does enjoy this form of attention above all other forms; but, being a kitten, it cannot tell anyone so, meaning its “enjoyment” is very possibly mere projection on the part of the auntsistercousinBFFwhoever who enjoys smacking his/er kitten with a mallet because s/he has been taught this is a good and loving thing to do to one’s kitten.
Q: You are a bitter, angry old cat! It’s cats like you who turn good people away from rescuing kittens!
A: People who do not want to own a kitten if it might grow up to hiss at them now and then should not own kittens.
*Yes, I commented there under a different name. I do that because I doubt anyone would take my comments seriously if they knew they were coming from Little Miss Pricklypants, not because I intend to post here anything anyone posted to me there or elsewhere, all GOTCHA! on the sly-like. That is not how this spiky urchin rolls.