Adopting Discernment
January 23, 2007

I wrote the other day about our propensity toward fear and violence and how as often as not, our fear of that which is different causes us to react ... poorly. Then I was talking about the murder (or execution, really) of Hrant Dink. Today I'm talking of this fear we all have of discrimination.

We've learned our lessons sooooo well, it seems. If someone doesn't like us ... or worse, dares to disagree with us, we instantly cry out, DISCRIMINATION!

The fact of the matter is there is discrimination - an ugly choice made based on fear and surface level assumptions - and there is the discerning decision: a choice which is based on research and personal precedent and honest thoughtfulness.

A decision to choose not to hire someone because their skin is a different colour is discrimination. A decision that women should not be in combat positions because they will break a nail and want to go home is discrimination. (And I've heard that argument made on many occasions.) A decision to not hire a completely blind man for a job which requires sorting wires by their colour and their colour alone can be a discerning decision.

The problem, of course, is that we often don't know what went into someone else's decision making process.

And, of course, today most of us belong to multiple groups which we may feel face discrimination from others. Our religion, being part of a sorority or fraternity, having gone to a particular college, not having finished high school, being a certain colour of skin, a certain ethnicity, appearing male or female, being a freemason ... the lists go on and on.

It boils down to one simple thing: we fear what we don't know.

If we don't know what it is to be a mason, well, they're secretive ... if they're hiding something, they're bad, right?
If we are Armenians and don't know what it is to be a Turk and remember the early 1900s, then we fear further reprisals.
If we are a Turk who does not know what it is to be Armenian, we fear the accusations of genocide.
If we are good, conservative Catholics and don't know what it is to feel as though you've been born gay, then you fear that which is different and not understood.

Why do I revisit this today?

Because of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's threat to the English cabinet.

It seems that the U.K. has passed an Equality Act due to be enforced beginning in April of this year. That Act prohibits discrimination "in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of sexual orientation."

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor would rather see orphaned children turned over to foster care or orphanages than allow otherwise qualified folk who happen to also be gay, to adopt these children.

He has threatened to close seven agencies across the U.K. if they are not exempted from this law.

There's been a flurry of controversy over this, of course, with some screeching religious discrimination if an exception is not made for various faiths. However, the opinion of the ministers seems to be summed up quite neatly by Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer:

If we take the view as a society that we should not discriminate against people who are homosexual, you cannot give exclusions for people on the grounds that their religion or their race says we don't agree with that.

This is easily the crux of the matter. I know plenty of folks out there who would disagree, but let's look at a parallel case: polygamy and the early Mormon church in the U.S. Was not issuing an exemption to the early Mormons a discerning decision or discrimination? Probably some of both ... but what won the day was not necessarily the belief of one denomination or faith over another ... it was the general consensus of the public that polygamy was not "right" for their society.

If the U.K. has decided that discrimination of gays is not to be tolerated, why should one group or another be given a "get out of jail free" card?

There's a secondary, and to my mind, FAR more important issue going on than this base argument over gay rights.

And this issue is one that both sides scream in frustration at the other: "But what about the children?"

The Catholic Church's agencies are said to handle 4%, or about 200, of all adoptions a year. However they handle about a third of those children judged difficult to place.

While there are some WONDERFUL foster parents out there in the system in the U.K. and the U.S., the fact of the matter is that simply being in the foster care system is highly traumatic for the children. How can they help but think that they are unwanted? How can they help but think prospective parents are "shopping" for the perfect child? How can they help but think if they would do something differently, maybe their foster parents would turn into their adoptive parents?

How can they feel like anything more than some inconvenient luggage shifted around from place to place?

Not every child's situation is as grim as all that, and thank goodness that the Baudelaire children do not really have a commonly true story. But that does not negate the serious damage done to many of these children on a daily basis.

If the only prospective parents are perfectly suitable in every way except they happen to be black and the child white, should that adoption be blocked?

I say no.

There may be issues as the child grows up. It might not be "The Ideal Situation." The kid might be teased, bad things might happen.

But I will tell you now, a child with parents who love that kid, who care for that kid, and who will talk with that kid about all the issues that will arise ... that child is in a far, far better place than the child in the foster care system.

And I make the same claim about gay couples adopting children as well. I'm not going to argue "The Ideal Situation," I'm going to argue for reality. Get the kids out of the system and into loving homes. If the only thing keeping someone from adoption is sexual orientation, then we do the children a terrible disservice.

I know that I would have left my "comfortable" existence in the 'burbs in a heartbeat for a family who truly loved me, who knew me, who listened to me, who cared for me even had they lived in the middle of the worst tenement in the worst inner city. I wouldn't have cared what the colour of their skin was ... what religion they followed ... whether they were straight or gay. All I wanted was to be loved unconditionally.

Anything else can be worked out together, as a family.



A Note To Foster Parents: Most of you do an amazing and stunning job. I do not write this to shame you at all - being a foster parent is, as far as I'm concerned, a higher calling. It is the system which is in use and the fact that there are not enough caring parents to go around for each child which I believe causes the damage.

Posted by Red Monkey at January 23, 2007 11:17 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Red said:

Wonderful post my friend, well stated!

January 23, 2007 11:31 AM


Ma Titwonky said:

Very well said, and you've expressed my views on this subject as well as your own. People get so caught up in personal issues they lose sight of the central and most important point: taking care of children in need.

January 23, 2007 12:00 PM


MsDemmie said:

Thank you for higlighting this - brilliant post.

January 24, 2007 5:00 PM


Mistress Sky said:

Well you certainly know what you're talking about. I loved reading this post and TBH, had we not been such gadabouts, I believe the Raven & I would've made great foster-parents... it's a 'missed' calling - but maybe in the next life?!

January 25, 2007 7:36 AM


Smash said:

Good stuff endy. I found that extremely interesting reading. Smashxxx

January 25, 2007 2:03 PM
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