Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Complaints from the Adopted

In a recent obit, I included the fact that among the deceased's survivors were three adopted sons. I have gotten two complaints now from people who think I'm trying to stigmatize them.

It's punishment for good intentions. My intent was to show that the decedent, who ran a huge conservative philanthropy and was thereby much vilified, actually had a compassionate side. (Of course I don't know that for certain, I can't crawl around in his brain, and he could have adopted them for nefarious reasons. But by including the adoptions as a bare fact, the reader has the raw material to draw the conclusion for himself that the man was compassionate.)

Anybody else hear of this? I usually don't include the fact of adoption in a survivors list, though I have a few times at the family's request. Nobody ever complained before.


Alana Baranick said...

People who think of the deceased as their father, whether the man was their biological, step-, foster or adoptive father, can be particularly unreasonable about the way we obit writers define them. Accuracy doesn't seem to concern them.

I have not heard of this sort of thing bothering readers who are not part of the family. And it's so ridiculous for them to depict this as a bad thing. Saying that someone has been adopted is like saying that person is a chosen one. The adopted child is not an accident of birth but is sought after by the adoptive parent.

Show. Don't tell. I think you've done precisely that in this case, Steve. Let the readers come to their own conclusions. If they don't see what a wonderful thing this is, it's their problem. Not yours.

Anonymous said...

This is a question of fact. An adopted child (or a step-child) is not a natural child, & the distinction should be noted by the paper. Legitimacy can also be an issue - the journalist Anthony Haden-Guest (model for the reporter in Bonfire of the Vanities) is the eldest son of his parents, but his younger brother Christopher (the Spinal Tap guy) inherited the peerage because they weren't married when Anthony arrived. That's a salient point.
None of this has any reflection of any sort on how a parent felt about their children, or any of that rot.
On the whole, since I'm pro-adoption, I would tend, like Alana, to think it a complimentary thing to say about the deceased.
You look very smart in your white suit in Marilyn's book, by the way,

ps I seem not to be able to post under my own name. dunno why. new technology baffles drunk old hack.

steve miller said...

I got married in that suit