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Archive for April, 2007

On Hiatus

I’ll be taking a bit of a blog break in order to take care of a few other projects.  Hopefully, I’ll be back sometime at the beginning of June.  Until then, take care everyone!

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In the face of stereotypes

Tripmaster Monkey has put up a potentially eyebrow-raising piece entitled, “Who’s Next, Hello Kitty?” I’m still not sure if I want to smack the author or pat him on the back. And no, it’s not because of the reasons one might think. *cough

Personally, I love the article. The delivery is fresh and hits dead center when it comes to my own feelings. But that’s a whole other blog post.

THIS WAS THE YEAR when Asian-American men shot the hell out of their own wimpy, well-behaved stereotype. We’re talking of course about the Krazy Korean Killer, Seung-Hui Cho, and Kenneth “Asian Supremacist” Eng. As with postal workers, drive-by shooters, road ragers and bullied goth kids, these things tend to come in waves. Always on the cutting edge, Tripmaster Monkey lays down the odds on who’s snapping next.

After the Virginia Tech shooting, a non-adoptee Korean friend of mine called and asked, “Why do people keep referring to him as Korean? He practically grew up in the US. That would make him American.” My friend grew up in Korea and is still a Korean citizen. I think she has a point.

Hello, Kitty: Sanrio’s depressed character, Badtz Maru is the one everyone assumes will be the one to go postal, but we disagree and nominate the do-no-wrong princess herself. Oh, Hello Kitty, sure, you’ve got lots of friends, but you’re always the quiet one in the bunch. No one sees the Hello Kitty that cries inside desperately for attention, do they? You’re always saying hello to everyone, even complete strangers. How soon before you snap? Faster, Pussycat, Kill, Kill! Odds: 4:1.

*runs to delete her WK account Oh please. Hello Kitty? Impossible.

Angry Asian Adoptees: Here’s a hint, within 10 years, rebel Maddox and Pax and the rest of Angelina’s Benetton bunch will be the least of our worries. China, Vietnam, Cambodia or Korea, take your pick, if you dare. Odds: 20:1.

Personally, I think the odds are a bit high, but that’s just me. Come on, Bryan. Don’t we have enough to worry about as TRAs? That is so stretching it.

*runs to delete all her blog posts that mention her love for guns and violent video games

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Forgive me, but this might become somewhat of a rant. Either I see this written as a presumption about myself and other outspoken adoptees or as a question fired directly at me. Why this annoys me so much is something I’ve yet to actually break down and attempt to convey.

First, let make that mandatory statement that my intention is not to come down on any religion or religious people in general. My belief is that religion and spiritual beliefs or lack of them are very personal matters. As long as people aren’t hurting other people, they can worship Eris or Bill Gates for all I care. To sum it up, I’ll throw in a quote from one of my favorite songs entitled Precious Declaration which says, “Yours is yours and mine you leave alone now.” Appropriately enough, the band’s name is Collective Soul. Of course, interpretations may vary. It’s become my anthem for the year.

As per the question, I’ve lived roughly half my life as a Christian and half as a Muslim. There has been no lack of “God” in my life, thank you very much. I’ve learned much from both religions and still identify as Muslim. However, I’ve been re-thinking my spiritual beliefs for some time now. As I move from blind obedience to attempts at understanding, my views and concepts of “God” are slowly changing. Where I’ll end up is anyone’s guess. Yes, I can hear some people out there thinking, “Probably Hell.” *bites down on snark

When I read references or receive emails referring to the lack of God in my life, I have to bite my tongue to keep the snark at bay. What most people don’t realize is that the re-evaluation of my beliefs coincided with a closer and more truthful look at my adoption experiences and how I felt about them. It wasn’t “lack of God” that set me upon this path but a more honest examination of everything I’d been told as a child. I don’t want to oversimplify the process, but a large part of what pushed me down this road was the discovery of a lack of honesty, both on the part of myself (denial) and others. Ironic. One might conclude that it was taking a closer look at my adoption story that set off my spiritual review rather than the other way around.

Aside from all that, often the context in which I receive this question relates to my being labeled as “the angry adoptee.” It’s assumed that I have a void in my life that only God can fill. I’m missing something alright, but it isn’t the Almighty. Even if I didn’t believe in the existence God, it would have little to do with my outspokenness. Belief in God does not necessarily a “happy adoptee” make. There are still the matters of corruption and abuse that feed to the market side of adoption, still a failure in many cases to fully recognize the needs of the adoptee, still myths and misconceptions about adoption and adoptees. It just goes on and on. There are just some wrongs that we ourselves must strive to recognize and correct.

For as long as I can remember, God was used to explain everything away and gag any complaints or questions I might have had surrounding my adoption. I don’t believe the people who did this were intentionally manipulative. Many times, they just had no answers and for whatever reason couldn’t bring themselves to simply say, “I don’t know.” Let’s just blame it on God, shall we?

When an adoptee asks, “Why was I adopted?” answering with, “Because God meant for you to be with us,” is such an incomplete answer. I was satisfied with this for most of my childhood, because it didn’t occur to me to think outside the framing. That began to change as my mental processes became more complex in the way I processed thoughts of my adoption and the world around me. Suddenly, the answer began to sound like a cop out. God became the stool pigeon.

On one hand, I was expected to accept absolutes like good and evil, black and white in regards to myself but the ones who had all the power were excused. They were allowed to use God to explain away their own choices or lack of forethought. For me, it’s not so much about assigning blame, but more about taking responsibility. My own circumstances put me on the fringe of most adoption experiences, but I still see God being used in a similar fashion across the sphere.

It’s not that I’m suggesting adoptive parents coldly tell their young children something akin to “shit happens, deal with it”. There are better ways. And again, no, I’m not knocking people who are religious. Religion can be helpful but if anything. I wish adoptive parents would be aware of the difference between teaching faith and catering to their own lack of willingness to deal with the challenges that come with being an adoptive parent.

It can become very confusing to a child when he/she asks, “Why did you adopt me?” and the parent answers, “Because God meant for you to be with us.” What that parent might be indirectly telling the child is that “God killed your parents or made your mother abandon you, etc because he’d rather you be with us.” Many of us grow up and begin to question the validity of such an answer.

I remember a teacher telling me something similar and the great conflict in faith that followed. How could God be so cruel? Now this was a question that left people speechless. I wanted answers but many of those around me had already painted themselves into a corner. All they could say was, “God has his reasons.” Again, God was to blame for everything. Looking back, I’m amazed that I didn’t grow up completely hating this mean “God” who did bad things for the heck of it.

Nothing made sense. I can remember going to Sunday school and singing “Jesus loves the little children…red, yellow, black and white…” Okay, then why is everyone but me in this church white? Anyone care to take that one on? No? Oh, I get it. Jesus loves them as long as they stay in their own church. When I’d play that hand thing where you’d clasp your hands together, pinkies up and say, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open it up and see all the people.” I’d picture them as all being white, except for me of course. Why was I so isolated and alone? Because God wants it that way.

I think now is a good time to point out that I’m speaking from a perspective that involves the idea of God from an Abrahamic tradition. My realm of experience is thus far limited to that perspective. I can’t speak of families where adoptive parents were Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, etc. It would be interesting to hear from adoptees and adoptive parents who can speak from those perspectives.

All that being said, yes, I’ve got God though my idea of what “God” is has changed over the years. If people find peace and resolution in their beliefs, more power to them. What I hope some people come to understand is that spiritual fulfillment or lack of it should not necessarily be associated with “the angry adoptee.” If I am to be called “angry” it’s as much or more because of what I see still happening today rather than from my own experiences.

From my point of view, the “God explanation” cannot excuse away things like the abuse and corruption that exploit adoption as a business or the active denial and/or dishonesty that some adoptive parents practice and pass on to their children. I can be at spiritual peace but still speak out as my conscious requires. It’s even quite possible that the more inner peace I achieve, the more outspoken and active I may become. After all, the less time I spend fighting my inner demons, the more energy I’ll have to fight the ones out there. Since when does inner serenity have to equal outward complacency?

Hmm…that became somewhat of a ramble, but I hope I at least got my point across.

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Received this in an email:

Hello everyone,

This summer at the Huntington Beach Art Center an exhibition with a Vietnamese, Cuban and dutch artists are creating a an installation in the gallery involving a large pool of water… a type of poetic memorial to those who died in the sea during the Vietnam War.

Here is what Minh Thanh is looking for:

And what I need first now is the Photo of Vietnamese
people who died on the sea. So could you please asking
for collecting them as soon as possible for me and
send me by e-mail. The Photos do not need high
resolution. I want the name and the date when they died
if it’s possible.

If you can and are willing, please email me the photos. If you have a digital camera, you can take images of photos and send them. I know this is a far away request, and our lives seem so busy sometimes for something not immediate, but the intention of this artist is to create something of great significance in all our lives.

Thank you for your time, and I hope this finds you well. Please forward this to any person you know who might be interested in participating.

Warmly,
Lien

thanhmiin [at] yahoo.com.au

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These two concepts are recurrent themes in my life. I’ve spent a considerable amount of effort trying to break down and analyze just what they mean and how they’ve manifested themselves. I have written many times about the win/lose nature of adoption. Deconstructing and conveying my thoughts on this was an important step in understanding my own sense of loss and my perpetual mourning of it. Paradox is a subject that I will more than likely revisit many times, because everywhere I turn, there it is staring me in the face.

The circumstances of my beginnings is something out of a weird novel, not yet written. How many people do you know who have been supposedly adopted by their own supposed father? For those of you who have no clue as to what I’m talking about, I posted a sort of explanation here. My point is that sometimes I feel like I have three or four sets of eyes, and I’m not always sure which ones I’m using. I’ve often described myself as having “two halves” but in reality, I could break it down even further.

Vietnamese? Amerasian? Adoptee? Bastard? TRA raised as white girl? It’s like having split personality disorder except one consciousness remains dominant though the lenses may change. My life experience is that of a Vietnamese orphan/TRA so that is what dominates my thinking. However there are areas in which the lines blur.

I could try to avoid the whole thing by proclaiming myself as ambiguously human, but that just doesn’t work. If I don’t struggle to define myself, others will do it for me. So when people ask me, “What are you?” I give them an answer. The thing is that deep down, there is still a big question mark, because I have yet to confirm and consolidate all my identities into one tangible entity.

Even after my father claimed to be my genetic forbearer, I was still unable to think of myself in any other way. Since his claim has yet to be verified, it only adds to my reluctance to revamp my identity. In the movies, similar scenarios mostly end with tears, repentance, resolution and a happy ending where everyone feels absolved and accepted. In my experience, it has been the exact opposite

When my fellow adoptees use to tell me how finding their genetic parents gave them no sense of closure, I could understand on some level. As they talked about the newly opened doors and accompanying volume of questions, it made perfect sense to me. The really odd thing is that I never actually related their experiences to mine. Sometimes, it takes the pieces a while to “click,” and I still have no idea why it took me so long. Maybe it just took my brain a while to adjust to the new lens. Perhaps it was simply some kind of denial.

Suddenly, I understood what they were saying on a deeper level. There were questions that I wanted so badly to ask but couldn’t. “Why?!” “WTF is wrong with you?!” “How could you be so selfish and thoughtless?” And the questions just kept coming. “Why was I the expendable one? Why was I the one who had to be condemned to be saved?”

I know there will be some out there who’ll say, “Are you insane? Do you know how many Amerasians born during the war would love to have their fathers claim them?” All I can say is that from my experience, it’s not exactly like it seems it would be. Even with the thought that it might be true, there are numerous new hurdles thrown up before me. Like I need more. That’s part of where the anger comes from, because most of it could have been avoided if he’d just told the truth.

I have long since come to understand his situation, but resolve doesn’t always come with understanding. Am I unforgiving? No, I can forgive also, but that doesn’t absolve him of his responsibility. It’s not as if I’m demanding he be punished. I only want to truth. Things are made even more complicated because after too many lies, too many secrets and too many deceptions, I have lost trust. Just because you are a parent doesn’t mean you get it by default. I don’t expect it from my kids either. Sure, I’m earned a certain amount by just being their mother, but even that only goes so far.

The funny thing is that I can again switch the lens and become the adoptee. I realized this when commenting on a fellow TRA’s blog. Again, I remembered the adoption paradox and came upon another. Often some adoptees struggle with a similar kind of paradox in terms of their value as human beings. I have experienced these feelings as well.

On one hand we are the precious, bundles of joy. We are chosen, yearned for and cherished. On the other, we are the expendable ones, given up because, in our minds, we weren’t worth the bother. As my fellow KAD blogger, on who’s blog I commented suggested, many times adoptees were the ones “sacrificed” to make the way easier for their genetic parents. We are touted as the “ultimate sacrifice” from a parental point of view. One must remember however, that being a “sacrifice” is not necessarily a good thing.

People also sacrifice sheep. Bahhhhh! I don’t think so.

Hugs and huge thanks to MHP for inspiring this post.

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Given that’s it’s National Poetry Month, this article seems very appropriate. I’m still digesting this but needless to say this reverberates with me. Check out the poem at the end of the article. I feel the need to send this guy an email. Excerpt:

Can’t sell a leaf to a tree
Nor the wind to the atmosphere
I know where I am meant to be
And I can’t be satisfied here

You can learn more about Lemn Sissay and read more of his work on his website.

Ethiopian poet, playwright and author Lemn Sissay, 39, was raised by a white family in the north of England. Here he tells how his life often felt like an experiment.

When somebody takes a child from their native culture, that is in itself an act of aggression.

People will often say, love is all you need.

But that is not true. Love without understanding is a dangerous thing.

My mother came to England in 1967, which was a really high point in Ethiopian culture – Ethiopia was a prosperous place. She came during what was a comfortable time for Ethiopians.

But as she found out, it was not a comfortable time for race relations in the UK.

My mother, finding herself in difficulties, sought to have me fostered for a short time.

However, the care worker, who named me Norman after himself, told my foster family that it was a proper adoption.

I was with them for 11 years.

My mother and father

Although they were white I believed they were my father and mother.

I had seen black people in the street or maybe even said hello but until I was 17 years old I never actually knew another black person.

continued

Shoutout to adk for getting this out!

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Blogging has been pretty low on my priority list lately. Guess I’ve been a little more *cough self absorbed lately than usual. This may be a bit rambly, because I’m just now getting my thoughts together after a nightmare of a month. There’s just a couple of things I would like to clear up.

Actually, a lot has been going on behind the scenes of Ethnically Incorrect Daughter. Much of it involves lengthy conversations about TRA psychology, racism, globalism, white privilege, colonization and of course, adoption.

One of the questions that always pops up is, “So considering all that, how do you really feel about adoption?”

*blank stares

Just about every TRA I’ve talked to about this has the same reaction. I do the same thing. You won’t ever see me jumping up to say, “Adoption good!” Likewise, you won’t ever see me saying the opposite. No absolutes, remember? If the subject of adoption were that simple, it would make my blogging a whole hell of a lot easier. I could just forget about all those complexities and tangents and just go right to the heart of the matter.

As it stands, even I struggle with breaking down exactly how I feel about adoption and how it’s affected my life. There is just too much to consider and to over-simplify it, would be lazy, dishonest and misleading. So for those of you who sit there and accuse me of being self absorbed, well… yeah in a way, that’s true.

I have had to live this life. It is my wish to understand it and how it’s shaped the person I am today. That means a lot of self-reflection, picking apart my own experiences and reactions, becoming an observer and recording my own responses.

If I don’t struggle to understand my own perspective, then what am I doing? I’m nothing more than a bird that doesn’t know why it flies. I take for granted my gift of flight and never stop to think about the wonder of it. There’s just no fun in that, now is it?

Like I said, rambly…

Yes, I am human. When I see people out there singing, “Adoption good! You are good!” and doing the happy adoption dance, I want to smack them. Adoption is not all good and not all bad, it is a paradox of both. In addition, to view adoption without considering its history, why it exists and how it affects our world is short-sighted and possibly sets the stage for things to go terribly wrong.

The thing is that I have to consider that person’s perspective. I may not agree with their opinion but it’s still a necessity to take into consideration how they came to their conclusions. To do otherwise, is to miss the point of dialogue.

All that said, I’m not perfect in applying the concept. I can only try backtracking once in a while to look for things I might have missed. As a TRA, that is something else I think we become experts at doing. It’s not that we necessarily do it consciously, but is just part of who we are as a result of our need to connect with the past. At least that’s the way it seems to work with me.

So to all those who spit at us that we, adoptees who blog our thoughts and experiences are self-absorbed, then judgmental is as judgmental does. If we are self-absorbed in that sense, then so are you because you are speaking from YOUR perspective.

Again, like I said, rambly…

I blog the way I do for several reasons. One of which is that I’m tired of having people speak for me, framing my experience in that win-win light that is so not true. It is both indirectly and directly because of that framing that I had to endure a lot of racism and alienation in silence. I just won’t do that anymore.

Behind me, there are so many young TRA’s who will walk in a similar path as mine. There are still adult TRAs out there who want to speak out but either can’t or won’t. It’s not that I want to speak for them, but it’s nice to know that you’re not alone.

It was through one, very brave KAD that my isolation was shattered. What else can I do but pass the kindness forward? And still, there is more to it than that.

But I will end it here as this has gotten very long…

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