Listen, I get why they’ve got Regular Folks at the State of the Union. There’s even a cute name for them – Skutniks – in honor of the first guest invited to the State of the Union by Ronald Reagan. Every president since has invited their own Skutniks to January’s Big Show, choosing guests that highlight issues of concern to the White House. As for Trump’s first State of the Union, he invited a whopping fifteen people for shout outs in his speech (in case you weren’t counting). They could have fielded a baseball team with players to spare.
At any rate.
There’s no denying a one hour straight up policy speech can be
boring as hell rough on a lot of us. Some studies note that many adults lose concentration after only seven minutes of television, and I’d assume that’s while watching something a wee bit more appealing than U.S. politics in action. So I see the point of those Regular Folks. They’re supposed to make abstract issues relatable, putting a face on the policy, so to speak.
Which is only one of the reasons I find using a 3-month-old infant deplorable.
An incredibly brief recap: Officer Ryan Holets encountered an eight months pregnant addict shooting up on the street with her baby’s father and offered to adopt their baby on the spot. The Holets named the child Hope when she was born in October 2017. “Officer Holets and his wife adopted a baby from parents who suffered from opioid addiction, breaking down walls between drug addicts and police officers to help save lives.” – Sarah Sanders, White House press briefing, 1/29/18.
The Holets (Ryan and Rebecca, holding baby Hope) stood in the United States Capitol “to highlight [the administration’s] efforts in fighting opioid abuse across the country.” (CNN politics, 1/30/18.)
Where to begin.
The visual of this young white couple being applauded as saviors.
Beaming shyly, holding a baby out way past her bedtime, as the applause rained down. Either this child’s life will be about being rescued from the clutches of addiction, in which case she’s become an after school special cautionary tale, or she’s simply the Holets’ youngest child and they’ve allowed her to be used to make a political point.
Splashing the birthmother’s pain all over the news.
Which of us wants our most agonizing struggle thrown into the spotlight, not just for our family but for the entire world to see? Please, sweet baby Jesus, let them have gotten permission from the birthparents before dropping this media circus into their lives. Although it’s my personal belief that no one, especially someone in the throes of heroin addiction, can reasonably be expected to grasp the extent of what was to come.
Paradoxically, the simultaneous dismissal of Crystal Champ and Tom Key in this narrative.
The birth parents are drug addicts, or were in the fall. True. They (or she) may or may not have entered rehab by now. However, the story begins and ends with Crystal was eight months pregnant and an addict, so the Holets adopted her baby. I struggle with the leap to how this highlights the administration’s fight against opioid abuse.
Stripping this child of any degree of privacy. At all. Forever.
From this point forward, this child’s story will pop up as part of the public record every time someone does a Google search for Hope Holets, Ryan Holets, police officer adopts, opioid addicted baby, or Trump’s first State of the Union. The entire fucking thing – from her birthparents’ addiction to her television debut to the “where are they now?” updates yet to come – splashed across the internet for friends, teachers, coworkers, and perfect strangers to discover. The fact that a drunken one night stand produced cousin Eddie can stay a family secret but this girl’s story will forever belong to the public should horrify every one of us.
If I sound pissed off it’s because I am. Not because there are Skutniks…the Skutniks of the world make politics accessible. Sometimes they even guide us toward empathy, something that brings everyone closer to our humanity.
I’m pissed because adults have coopted a child for their message. Make no mistake – this is more than an opioid addicted baby who was adopted into a stable family. Hope Holets is a child with an entire life ahead of her, and she deserves more than a standing ovation at the State of the Union. She deserves the respect and dignity inherent to every living being on this earth.
Hope deserved the right to her own privacy.