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MAX WALKER-SILVERMAN is a writer and filmmaker based in New York, Paris, and rural Colorado. He studied History and Theater at Stanford University.


What if no one raised their own child? What if, instead of fostering one’s own brood, each parent, each couple, was given a different baby, a random baby, a giggly little maternity-ward-roll-of-the-dice? More simply put: what if everyone was adopted? Would all of us walking the streets look each homeless person in the eye, seeking something familiar? Some recipe of blue and brown in the cornea; some glimmer of relation? Would we hope to find it?…or fear to? And if we found it, would that make us more likely to offer them a cigarette?…a meal and a shower? Or would it make us all the more inclined to look down, to stuff our hands in our pockets? More likely to walk away?

What would the world look like if it were threaded together in some great infant scramble? Would the powerful allow it to become a more equal place out of concern for their far-flung biological progeny? Or would the nurturing instinct transfer itself to the child at hand, the one presented to them at the hospital—genetics be damned, leaving the status quo untouched.

Would a senator be more inclined to support nutritional lunches in an inner-city public school might it be his genetic daughter’s one healthy meal per day? Would he sponsor anti-union legislation were it thinkable one of the frozen-breathed factory workers picketing the State Assembly was his son?

Or might he remain indifferent? Remain comfortable in the fact that the children he was given, the kids of his heart (if not his loins) were safe and sound — one in a school where something fresh from the school garden is served every day with not-too-much salt; the other with a plush job and an expensively decorated vacation pad?

And what about farther afield? Would the senator spend a moment wondering if amongst the fleeing figures on the predator-drone’s thermographic screen was one who shared with him a nose?…a chin?…an inability to properly digest spicy food? Would a president, a general, a remote operator in a Nevada mountain hesitate before hitting ‘launch?’ Would they?

Or would they not? Would nothing change? Would all too many of those who have it in their immediate power to alter, for the better, the trajectory of the world that their children and grandchildren will inhabit simply choose not to do so? Would the flooding their descendants are likely to face, be it in a Bangladeshi slum or a Tribeca Subway station, seem somehow distanced, unimportant? Would the vertiginous inability to trace a line from present choice to consequent future — an inability that so egregiously afflicts the power brokers of the world — persevere into the post-infant-shuffle world? Would we still be fucked? Maybe.

But maybe we wouldn’t.

What if the baby-shuffle really would go some distance towards achieving the much idealized and hardly attained ‘level playing field?’ What if it would minimize the tyrannically entrenched privileges and restrictions of birth?

What if muddying the lines of ethnic assumption would be enough of a victory in and of itself? What if a cold roll of the dice is a more just designator of privilege than a system that doles it out based on race, gender, sexuality, class? What if it would provide every kid with that most powerful mobilizer of all: hope?

What if?


M.W-S. 2016

Published: April 14th, 2016

Previous in this series:

A case for showering differently

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