Sunday, November 07, 2010

Where Is True Brilliance and Charity?

Both qualities seem to have left us and we are forced to deal with the popular and the politically expedient. I am thinking, especially, of two very opposite personalities, today. While the name of the Florence Crittenton Homes can conjure some pretty lousy memories for many a natural mother, the original mission of this service was not as a clearing house for adoptable infants in utero. Kate Waller Barrett, who, with businessman Charles Nelson Crittenton, created this service, was trying to help the young mother with child care instruction, medical care, good nutrition and all the thing that would give any young mom a good start. It never entered her mind to do anything but help these young women keep and raise their children and give them the consideration and caring they could not find in society at large. It was only after WWII that the punitive and avaricious practice of using maternity homes to produce infants for adoption began in earnest.

I did a little research at the behest of a friend and wrote a short essay on Ms. Barrett for publication. This was a woman who was filled with the right kind of compassion, who saw a wrong and wanted to right it. I wonder what she would think if she viewed the adoption industry as it is today. I wonder how it would make her feel to see the organization that she and Charles Crittenton formed and named after Crittenton's late daughter turned into an arm of that industry. Some of the Crittenton services are trying to get back, a bit, to the original purpose, but the Industry looms large.

Kate Waller Barrett didn't qualify her charity by judging the worth of the mothers she helped according to their marital status. She knew that it took two to create a child and she knew that men often left a woman to deal with whatever happened once he took what he wanted. She recognized her good fortune and wanted other women to experience it. She didn't charge these young women if they didn't surrender their children. She didn't try to sell babies to the well-heeled. She didn't do any of the things that many who styled themselves as "charitable" have done. That kind of honest charity takes courage and determination, not a desire to make a fortune off the pain of others.

Any kind of honesty takes courage. I have long admired the comedian and philosopher (yes, I consider him one of the most brilliant social minds of our time), George Carlin. His one-liners usually made more sense than all the most learned tomes of Kierkegaard, Adams, Sartre or a host of others. I love his jaundiced view of authority, such as, "The real reason that we can’t have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse: You cannot post “Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and “Thou shalt not lie” in a building full of lawyers, judges, and politicians. It creates a hostile work environment." It's funny that he mentions the people who are the arbiters, supporters and technicians of adoption. It's hard to find one of that crowd on the side of the single mother.

I consider George Carlin to have been brilliant and another who was ahead of his time. He didn't back down to the networks and he showed us that personal integrity could be hilarious.

I am going to take a page from Carlin's book and be honest about something. I have watched the fight between the Vaughns and the natural father of the little boy, Grayson, they wanted to adopt. I watched as the self-entitled adopter wannabes defied one court order after another. People were lauding the judges who ruled in favor of the rights of the father. I applaud the outcome, but have one question. When are these judges going to favor the rights of the mother who is conned out of her baby?  Benjamin Wyrembek fought the good fight, but so did Stephanie Bennett and her family and they were just SOL. I saw no one making a move to honor the original order to return baby Evelyn to the Bennett home. It's still a man's world. Grayson's mother was required, by her husband, not Wyrembek, to surrender her son. I pray she will have an opportunity to play a positive part in his life.

I'm also glad to see eye to eye on many of George Carlin's observations about organized religion. He once said that he was happy for people who had a relationship with a deity that would tell them what to do. What he didn't like was these same people using what they got from their deity to tell others what to do. The church and its influence on our society has made us one of the most judgmental, prudish national cultures on earth. And the concern is not on hate, disease, poverty, famine or any of those ills. No. It's all about who got a BJ while in office and who is qualified to keep their children based on their marital status. The nose of the pious is stuck in the private bedroom of us all. Sex is the great Satan but sending our young people to some dessert thousands of miles away from home to be killed is righteous?

So, what would I say if I were able to speak to both these people, today? I would tell them that they and their efforts and ideas are sorely missed. I have yet to see anyone with the heart and the backbone to take their place. Meanwhile, the tears of untold numbers of mothers and their children still flow, inequities are still unchallenged and the beat goes on.

Hmmm, what would Kate do and what would George say? It's something to consider.


Sandy Young said...

I agree, Robin. I am delighted for the dad, but wonder what besides his deeper pockets made him better for his son than Stephanie Bennett was for her daughter. It saddens me beyond measure.

I hate November!

Chris said...

It wasn't about Ben being a better person....simply was Ben never relinquished his parental rights, Grayson's mother did sign on the dotted line. So he could fight with the $$$$$$ he had that afforded him to be able to fight for his son. Fault our justice system...people with a bit more money, on most cases tried....they win, empty pockets lose. That in and of itself, is a grave injustice for all people who have less money to spend on lawyers.
Personally I don't have a whole lot of empathy for Grayson's surrendering mother. She was no kid..she was already raising a 15 yr old son. She was in debt up to her eyeballs (see her bankruptcy docs available for public viewing online). Who knows?? maybe the Vaughns slipped her some $$$$$$$ under the table...and by no stretch of the imagination would that have been an impossibility.
The bigger problem here in America, is how "The Haves" and "The Have Nots" are meted out justice. No $$$$$$, No justice for you!!
If any one of us....had had a million dollars in our pockets years ago...our kids would never have been lost to adoption. It's the ole money thing...always has been in Westernized countries, especially America. JMO!!

Robin said...

Oh, I agree that it was also about the money, Chris...something that men have more of than single mothers. But I will have to continue to advocate for the idealist, like me, who has to mourne the dearth of true charity, intellectual and human integrity and the idea of equality. I think there still have to be some of us around who hold out for what is right in the face of the bottom line.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Barrett was an amazing woman. Thanks for reminding all of us of her selfless service to others. Once I am done with school, I plan on doing similar work, "God willin' and the crick don't rise" as my grandmother used to say.