Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thinking about Haiti

With the Haitian earthquake tragedy the last few weeks, the adoption blogosphere has been on fire with commentaries, like at Adoption Talk or Family Preservation Advocacy. It seems everyone has an opinion.  Here's mine:

I was relieved to see that the U.S.-Haitian adoptions that were in progress before the earthquake were expedited and those children were able to be brought to the U.S. to be taken care of my their new family.  I can only imagine the distress that the "expecting" adoptive parents felt when they saw how these earthquakes have decimated Haiti. After all, those adoptive parents could have been waiting up to three years to be united with their new son or daughter.

I was also relieved to hear on NPR (listen here) that the United States is not rushing in to scoop up the "orphans" and bring them to the United States.  When a tragedy like this hits, it is important to act quickly for rescue, food and medical care. But when it comes to the children and surviving families, I believe that the United States should practice patience. The risk of child trafficking is too high.

We must be vigilant not to separate children from relatives in Haiti who are still alive but displaced, or to unknowingly assist criminals who traffic in children in such desperate times.
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler

This is where, as an adoptee, I have strong feelings.  Moving forward from today, I feel that every effort should be made to find a child's biological family - whether they will be placed with their aunt, uncle, grandparent or second cousin-once removed.  There are greater chances that a child's biological family will know medical histories of family members or anecdotal family stories, giving the child a sense of connection and belonging. I would hate to see history repeat itself after the 1970's adoptions of Vietnamese children (see above NPR link).

However, it doesn't mean that I am against adoption. I'm just against the all-mighty U.S. of A. using their superpower to swoop down from on high to "rescue the children."  If we place these children into American families (and, most likely, transracially adoptive families), will the children grow up with a sense of their Haitian culture?  It depends on where they live.  If it's southern Florida or New York City, I'm not so worried.  If it's in a location that does not have a well-established Haitian community, I'm more concerned. And it depends on their adoptive parents. Hopefully, they will be well-informed, learning parents who appreciate the child(ren)'s heritage culture and will be able to teach them how to live in a race-conscious United States.

And for the adopted Haitian, will they grow up understanding their privilege in the United States? Will they feel moved to use that privilege to better their homeland?  If they do feel moved to return to Haiti, can Haiti afford to wait for ten to twenty years before these children grow up and become doctors or teachers?

For those who are suddenly "moved to adopt" and take care of these needy children, I give this challenge: why not move to Haiti? That way you can raise the child in their native country and not strip Haiti of their future - the children. Doesn't Haiti have every right to keep their children? (I'm getting sarcastic, I know...)

At the very least, I think that Haiti should have a strong say in this decision.  Please, U.S. government, listen to the Haitian voices before you make decisions about their children. Haiti is an autonomous country. Please ask them what they need, and don't try to make decisions for them.

Readers, I would love to hear your thoughts on Haiti and her children.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Out with the with the New!

Once again, there has been "blog silence" here. But not for lack of content: I've just been going through a lot, and it's been a little overwhelming.

December is a rough month for me.  And (as my colleague said to me) even though I can see the train wreck coming down the tracks, I feel powerless to stop it.

Let me start by saying: The commercialism behind holiday shopping is getting more and more depressing for me each year.  Could it be because I've outgrown it?  I yearn for deeper spiritual focus during the year's end, and it can tend to get lost in the blaring commercials on TV or the event invitations which fill up calendars quicker than sand flowing through an hour glass.  Spending so many years in Japan didn't help either: we don't have years of family heirloom ornaments to put on our tree (not that I want them) and I haven't built many family traditions around the holidays either.  Also, being a more eco-friendly family, lots of the American ways to celebrate the holidays seem ecologically unjust: chopping down trees, increasing your electricity usage for lawn displays, purchasing wrapping paper that will end up in the trash (or, perhaps, the recycling bin). The list goes on and on. I'd like to be more festive and I love the "goodwill towards men" attitude around Christmas time.

However, December is also the month of my birthday.  About ten years ago, I realized that I get pretty emotional around my birthday because, as an adoptee, what does my birthday really celebrate?  While for some, it's an accomplishment of another year of life, my birthday is tainted because it marks for me the day of separation from a biological family that I've never known.  So many questions run through my mind: Will I ever be reunited with them?  Am I at peace if I never get to meet them?

I try not to be so negative and depressing around my birthday.  After all, I'm a grown woman and know the reasons why I might feel sad, so that's more than half of the psychological battle, right?

That's why I appreciate New Year's so much.  I think that I learned it when I lived in Japan.  The Japanese have a superficial sense of Christmas: you'll see signs of Christmas in the department stores and in the bakeries.  But the real holiday is New Year's.  The preparation before this holiday is cleaning and cooking to get rid of the old and start the New Year afresh. Then you have three days off to do nothing but relax with family, watch kooky New Year's TV shows and eat all of the cold food you prepared the week before.

So now that it's January, I say "Happy New Year" and let the new beginnings start! And to celebrate the New Year, I've chosen a new title and focus for my blog: Adoption Fusion - discovering where adoption, race and culture blend together.  Enjoy!