Friday, August 17, 2007

Movies: Australia: Rabbit Proof Fence

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much more can a movie speak volumes to help us understand worlds we don't know....stories that are not our own...and injustices that we have not suffered.

IMO, if we are to cut through the thick myths surrounding adoption and third world cultures enough to understand that the injustices committed against third world, racially-different, and culturally-different people cut just as humanly deep as the injustices committed against white, middle class Westerners, then we must try to "walk in those shoes" for a mile or two.

This walking in "someone else's shoes" or figuratively "living in their skin" is sometimes most effectively done by watching a good movie about what life is like in those shoes or skin.

Rabbit Proof Fence is a movie that allows us to live in the shoes and skin of two young Aborigine girls who were part of the "stolen generations" of Australia.

The Stolen Generation (or Stolen Generations) is a term used to describe the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, usually of mixed descent, who were taken from their families by Australian government agencies and church missions, under various state acts of parliament, denying the rights of parents and making all Aboriginal children wards of the state, between approximately 1869 and (officially) 1969. The policy typically involved the removal of children into internment camps, orphanages and other institutions.

"...between one in three and one in ten Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities in the period from approximately 1910 until 1970...

...Most families have been affected, in one or more generations, by the forcible removal of one or more children."

--Wikipedia article: Stolen Generations
Rabbit Proof Fence is an excellent award-winning movie about two young mixed race Aboriginal girls who are torn from their Aboriginal mother's arms and placed into an orphanage where they can unlearn their aboriginal ways and be brought up according to the dictates of white Australian culture.

The girls suffer exactly what you'd expect any children torn from their family, their culture, their way of life, their home, and their identities to suffer. They are homesick. They miss their mother, their family, their friends, and their community. They miss their life. They do not want lose their culture, and they don't want to be made into different people.

Upset and homesick, the two girls determinedly and illegally set out to return to their mother and their home, following the "rabbit proof fence" for 1,500 miles. They are trailed by those who want to catch them and return them to the orphanage and their unwanted new life.

The movie brought back to me the emotions and attitudes that we saw in my daughters as they struggled as older international adoptees to adjust emotionally and culturally to the injustices of being torn away from their first family and the difficulty of enduring involuntary placement in a new culture, country, and a family.

Adoption myths notwithstanding, it should be a no-brainer, but older children can not be torn from their families, their cultures, and their countries without having opinions about what is happening to them.

The parallels between the situation of these Aborigine children of the Stolen Generations who were orphanized by white Australians against the will of their original families, and many international adoptees, many of whom, due to lack of concern about adoption corruption are sometimes obtained by force or fraud for intercountry adoption, are striking.

Do the ends of what is judged a "better life" and better ways of life justify the means?

Do the same kinds of racial, cultural, and ethnic prejudices allow us to similarly maintain a lack of concern for human rights violations?

Do we not feel the pain of people with whom we have trouble identifying?

Does same zealous "white way" rescue mode allow us to perpetrate horrors on others in the name of "good"?

It is easy to recognize and condemn the injustices of another time and place. It is always hard to perceive and have the courage to stand against the injustices taking place in our own time.


Wikipedia Article: The Rabbit Proof Fence

1 comment:

  1. Hands down, one of the best 'true life' movies ever made. Absolutely heartbreaking, even more so when you realize how long it took for North Americans to stop doing the same thing. I was quite ashamed to learn that my homestate, which I adore, was party to this 'reeducation' through the 1930s. Horrible.

    Birch and Maple