51 years after his last visit, on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, Malcolm X returns to speak again in Beirut. Then he was denied speaking rights at the American University of Beirut. This time he is welcomed.
The first two stanzas here were jotted down eight years ago after being given two small pieces of paper by my orphanage attesting to a) being abandoned on the beach in Dbayeh and b) passing through a convent in Dakwaneh before arriving at the orphanage in Beirut. I have spent eight years examining them, trying to puzzle out the “truth” to my story; my narrative prior to being adopted. Now that I have an understanding of my origins due to DNA testing, and now that I am able to map the tactics of fascist Spain in the 1950s to similar practices here perpetrated by those who named themselves after Franco’s party, the truth comes out of the shadows. I admit I sometimes wish it would not have; that I might not know.
At the same time, I kick myself for not noticing (not wanting to notice) my adoptive name here marked down prior to my adoption. For either I was named previous to my arrival at the orphanage (simultaneous processes of procurement, trafficking, and exporting), or else these papers were created after the fact to obfuscate the crime. In either case, the fabricated construction of my story falls away like dusty cobwebs. And in a way, I might have preferred this mythology, a simple abandonment, with agency limited to one under pressure. Instead, we have a vast network of collaboration, a banal bureaucracy, a conspiracy to destroy a generation of children. This, I remind myself, is the very definition of adoption, so this revelation is true to form: It comes as no surprise.
It comes, all the same, with a psychological price tag. I likewise kick myself for seeking something of the “personal” and “individual” here; a focusing away from the bigger picture of displacement, dispossession, and disinheritance. I force myself to reject this wholesale, for this is a self-soothing falsehood, to be absolutely avoided. It reveals the increasing difficulty of facing the acculturated side of my “razor’s edge”, which still, a century after adoption started and fifty years after my own displacement and disinheritance, wishes that those of us who are anti-adoption (read: pro-justice) would be silent. Or, at the very least, that we might sing a more catchy tune. I dedicate this poem to them.
…who finds the need to email me and explain that I somehow don’t “understand” adoption and that adoption is somehow “different” in the UK:
The history of adoption in terms of Anglo-Saxon society reflects a targeting of the poor, the marginal, the “base classes”, the Indigenous, the colonized. That 120 years later this still takes place in the UK (not to mention that you still live in a “kingdom”) is beyond mind-boggling, and this horrifying state of affairs stands no matter how you package it, now matter how you market it, no matter how you promote it. I think it is fair to say at this point that adoption has done nothing to ease the class division in English society, or the disdain of the English for those they consider to be “sub-par”, including the parents of the children temporarily in your care. I’m not sure why you feel the need to expend extra energy to contact me; you need not break your arm patting yourself on the back on my account.
When I sent off my DNA kit to 23andMe, I had absolutely no idea that the results would be so telling. In part, this is explained by the fact that I am from the Druze community, itself extremely small and self-isolating. Beyond this, the family practices of kinship, marriage, and familial intersection in Lebanon follow particular patterns that are also self-limiting. For this reason, DNA can be “read” in a way that is much more conclusive than, say, for a domestic adoptee in the United States. All the same, the results provided me with answers along lines of ethnicity, location, community, as well as family. For many of us, this is more than we’ve ever had. I can state readily that this new-found knowledge was, by itself, quite life-changing for me. I am currently following up locally, and am hopeful for an eventual reunion.
I know many adoptees from Lebanon are now sending off their kits and awaiting their results, and I congratulate them on their decision. On many levels, this is our “empowering” end run around those who claim first, that there is no information for us, and second, that we shouldn’t be searching in the first place. But it does come, I believe, with certain responsibilities, and an awareness of what we get ourselves into by learning such information. There are, for Lebanese adoptees, things to understand not only about DNA testing as it concerns us, but also how the family and social structure works locally, much different from the places we grew up in. I think a discussion on this topic is overdue and quite healthy, and I welcome it here.
An adoptive parent in the United Kingdom recently described the potential reunion of the children temporarily in his care with their parents as his “worst nightmare”.
This was like a kick in the gut.
Because I feel that my own reunion is quite imminent.
And I can imagine someone in his position of power withholding valuable information in an effort to prevent such an eventuality.
Posted in Writing
Tagged 23andMe, Bada'el, Beirut, child trafficking, Chouf, colonialism, community, displacement, dispossession, DNA, Druze, Francisco Franco, George Clooney, Jebel, Lebanon, power differential, rights of children, Spain, Stars and Bars, trafficking
Today Bada’el/Alternatives presented a workshop on “The Right to Origins” co-hosted with Legal Agenda, in Badaro, Beirut [link to site]. There were six adoptees present from the Netherlands, others from France and Switzerland. We’ve been doing a lot of media these past few days, and I think it is safe to say that we’ve definitively put an end to both the usual “poor orphans” mentality of the media, as well as what ends up being a mushy kind of mealy-mouthed adoptee-speak that endlessly depresses me.
I presented on the topic: “Adoption activism: Lebanon in a global context”. I tried to show how adoption resistance is not new but has always existed; the political and economic underpinnings of the practice; the extent of adoption activism globally speaking; that we don’t need to re-invent the wheel, that there is precedent to follow, to just fine-tune to a Lebanese context.
The How Class Works Conference [link to conference web site] took place at SUNY/Stonybrook on June 5, 2014. I presented a paper entitled: “The Class-Based Roots of Adoption and Adoption Mythology”, on the session panel called “Class and Children”.
You are cordially invited to the launching of the NGO Badael-Alternatives, which addresses for the first time in Lebanon and in the Arab region the right to origins. For this very special occasion, we have prepared a workshop in partnership with the advocacy/monitoring group Legal Agenda [link]. There will also be an artistic performance [link] with live testimonies from those who were separated and placed for inter-country adoption and in local institutions.