Funerals are for the living, never for the dead. I learned this at a young age, but I’m not sure if I actually understood it until this past year. I went to the funeral yesterday because I needed space to mourn. I needed space to mourn the countless unnoticed adoptees, and I needed a space to mourn for myself. As someone who has gotten quite used to the idea of asking is my life worth living, and as someone who is still terrified of the stigma surrounding mental illness, I feel like this has to be said. If I were to ever act on my ideation of suicide, please never politicize my death. Please never have cameras or reporters at a funeral. Do not use my death to further an agenda one way or another. Suicide and the decision to take one’s life is tragic, heartbreaking, but ultimately something that is caused by a multitude of factors and cannot be blamed on one single thing.
The politicization of death has become very common in recent years, especially with the advent of social media. Whether they become hashtags or used as examples for people to take action, I question the purpose of using names as taglines. I understand the significance of remembering names and not being forgotten but do we truly want to remember individuals in a moment, rather than who they were? I feel like I’m at an impasse. On the one hand, I think it’s so important that people are made aware of these events and that policy does move forward and provide the necessary services. I believe that adoption agencies should be held accountable and not treat adult adoptees as a burden when they have used our bodies to make a profit. People think of adoptees as babies, sometimes children, but they never realize that we grow up. Holt and every adoption agency have a responsibility to ensure that they children they place are placed in good homes and fight for adoptee rights, like ensuring that adoptees adopted pre-2000 are guaranteed citizenship and fight for the undocumented adults that were sent back to their countries of birth to return. The list can go on and on and on and on. However, Holt is not the only institutions to blame. There are other instances of people and organizations and government agencies to intervene. To blame one organization ignores all of the others that should be held accountable as well.
It pains me to know that we have to use people’s stories to push for these changes to happen. We have to politicize a death of a man or the death of anyone in order for our words to be heard. Not even heard. They’re used in exploitative ways for spectators, validation, views, and so many other things. We are all responsible for how a story is produced and consumed. We are all responsible for how we remember.
I hesitate to send this out into the world. I hesitate because I’m afraid it can be polarizing. I hesitate because it’s generally what I do when it comes to my thoughts and opinions. The politicization of death is how we get people to care, I just wish it never needs to come that far. And even then, whose death actually matters? Does it matter how the life ended? Does it matter if that life was a productive force within our society for it to matter? How many bodies do we need to have for people to care? Do we even need to have people care about these things before we change systems that are inherently wrong and destructive?