Friday, July 25, 2008

DMITRY YAKOLEV'S/CHASE HARRISON'S DEATH AND THE LINQUISTIC OBJECTIFICATION OF ADOPTEES

Blogger Baby Love Child, using the tragic death of Dmitry Yakolev/Chase Harrison as a focus, has written an excellent piece on the objectification and com modification of adoptees. The essay begins with a review of what I have posted about the case here and on The Daily Bastardette. She then moves into her analysis of linguistic objectification, depersonalization and co-option of adoptees, and finally the silencing of adoptees' voice within the American adoption system.

With her permission I am reposting it here.

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I've been neck deep in Vietnam and Guatemala adoption related research, and thus have gotten behind on much of the coverage I'd been working on. This past week has quite possibly been one of the worst weeks I've tracked. Hopefully over the next week I'll begin to catch up, with luck,
I hope to be getting some of the details from over the past week up in various posts.

That being said, Bastardette has been picking up some of the slack. She's been tracking many of the details relating to Dmity Yakolev, and the aftermath of his death.

Allow me to point out three of her recent posts:

SPUNNING INTO CONTROL: MILES HARRISON HIRES HIGH PROFILE DEFENSE ATTORNEY PETER D. GREENSPUN

From this past Monday, July 21rst, '08. In which she writes about the defense attorney hired to take on the Harrison case.

MILES HARRISON INDICTED IN DEATH OF SON CHASE HARRISON/DMITRY YAKOLEV

From Wednesday the 23rd, In which she writes about the Monday indictment by a Fairfax Country (Virginia) grand jury on the manslaughter charge. Bastardette points her readers toward this Washington Post article, Father Indicted in Toddler’s Death in Hot SUV, also
from Wednesday which includes the following:
Harrison waited in the audience with his family until his
case was called. Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Ian M. Rodway
asked Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Marcus D. Williams to set a $10,000
bond for Harrison.

and
Williams set bond at $5,000, and Harrison was handcuffed
and taken out of the courtroom by sheriff's deputies. Harrison did not
speak during the brief arraignment. Greenspun declined to comment afterward.

Harrison posted the bond and was released yesterday afternoon, Fairfax
jail officials said.

Quoting Bastardette's posting:
One new piece of information was revealed in court
documents: Harrison arrived at Project Solutions Group at about 6:45 AM
which means that Chase/Dmitry was left in the hot sealed- up SUV for
approximately nine hours. Temperature inside the Yukon could have
reached as high as 180 degrees.

According to, Leesburg Today, Harrison's next court appearance is scheduled for August
27.

Finally, we come to Bastardette's Third posting,

CHASE HARRISON/DMITRY YAKOLEV BURIED–EAC PROFITS

From today, Thursday the 24th. In which Bastardette points readers towards this July 22nd Fairfax Times article, Purcellville toddler remembered

Note that paragraph three reads:
Born Oct. 1, 2006, in Russia, Chase was the son of Carol and
Miles Harrison.
It is not until paragraph seven that readers learn Chase/Dmitry was adopted (or in the process of being adopted? We're still unclear whether the adoption was finalized or not at the time of Dmitry's death.)

It remains unclear whether his biological mother and father have been notified of his death or not.

The article continues:
"It's not what we gave him but what he gave us," said a
family friend, who eulogized the smiley toddler with blond
hair.
Once again, we see that myth of 'adoption as purely an act of altruism' raising its proverbial skirts just a bit to give us a glance of what lies beneath, child desire, and what adopting a child can mean for those both family and friends affected by such.

Perhaps had more thought gone into what they could give Dmitry, instead of what he 'gave others', he might still be alive today.

It is not an adoptive toddler's responsibility to "give" to those surrounding their adoption. It is the responsibility of those adopting (and the community they welcome around them) to "give" to the adoptive child. That is what they legally signed on for when they entered the process of trying to become adoptive parents, they agreed to provide for a child. Be that a home, food, relationships free from abuse, or simply attention- attention enough to not be left to bake in car for almost nine hours.

But those who view children as 'there for the adults' are part of the problem in all this, not a part of the solution. It is precisely these attitudes that lie at the heart of some of the adoption paradigm, that we as one time children were supposed to 'be there for' the adults, or that our presence was supposed to somehow 'complete' them, etc. This becomes adoption as something no longer focused on the needs of a child, but instead on the needs, psychological or otherwise of the adults.

And all too often, that's the dirty little secret that hides beneath the 'adoption as altruism' paradigm's skirts.

I am not speaking specifically of the Harrisons in this, but rather the broader underlying cultural assumptions that many seem to walk around with, that treat adopted children as accessories, as the latest 'in' thing, or even as a way of 'completing' their adopters.

Or as Miles Harrison's letter read at the service described Dmitry:
Chase would "always be our perfect gift."
Children are not gifts. Not things. Not objects, be that a "gift" from a family of origin in Russia, nor "gift of god". Adoptees are people. And depersonalizing and depersonifying language such as "gift" is part of the underlying attitude that leads to things such as children being left in cars. After all, if you forget to drop off the dry cleaning (an inanimate object) on the way to work, it's no biggee. You leave a "gift" in the backseat, even in the summer heat, and it's no biggee.

But you leave Dmitry, a child in the backseat, in the summer heat, and suddenly everthing's different. Because now we're talking about Dmitry, a dead child. and that's larger than I have words for. It's massive. (Oh, and an international incident.)

Dmitry was a person, and in his memory, the very least that could be done to honour his memory would be a careful reevaluation of the linguistic mess that makes such mistakes(?) easier to commit.

Those modes of thinking about adoptees are disasters waiting to happen. Adoption needs to be about the adoptees themselves, and their lifelong needs.

Which is why I find the final element to Bastardette's blog entry so chilling. The Harrisons want contributions to go to 'project sunshine c/o European Adoption Consultants', (EAC) which is to say, the agency that placed Dmitry with the Harrisons.

From an adoptive couple's perspective, I suppose it makes some degree of sense, 'give donations to the agency we got our (now deceased) child from'.

But from an adoptee perspective, Dmitry would likely still be alive in Russia had it not been for EAC and the adoption and Mr Harrison being given Dmitry that morning. 'Give donations to the very agency that was part of the chain of events that led to his death'?

Seriously?

But where is that adoptee perspective ever expressed? Where would anyone ever even see it?

I'm not claiming to be a voice OF Dmitry in these matters, I'm just an advocate FOR Dmitry and kids like him. I'm an adoptee, and I find the prospect revolting. Genuinely sickening.

If the Harrisons went through an EAC screening process as part of the adoptive process, then EAC is the agency that deemed them 'fit' to have Dmitry. No matter what happened the day Dmitry died, mistake or otherwise, that particular day Miles Harrison did not have Dmitry's best interests at heart, or on his mind. Call it an almost nine hour long 'momentary lapse' if you must, but Dmitry was simply not foremost on Miles Harrison's mind that day, and Dmitry was his responsibility.

EAC placed Dmitry with the Harrisons. They are to some degree part of that process that led us here.

EAC should not be monetarily rewarded for placing a child who died as a result of his (potential?) adopter's actions.

Doubly so when this is the second child EAC has placed that has died as a result of the actions of those that adopted them. (See Logan Higginbotham.)

2 comments:

Baby Love Child said...

Thank you Marley. I was really honoured you asked to use this.

I can only hope it will bring people to carefully evaluate the language they choose, perhaps even try to see things through Adoptee eyes from time to time.

Anonymous said...

It seems hysterical to assume that the child would still be alive had he not been given up for adoption and then adopted. There's no way of knowing what would or would not have happened.