Looking out from my balcony; Ras En-Nebaa. (Photo by Mayda Freije Makdessi)
Seest thou one who denies the Reckoning? Then such is he who harshly repulses the orphan…. —The Small Kindnesses, 107:1–3
We remain the repulsed, splinters, expelled from the body; the corpus surrounds us, englobes us, drives us out; it then returns to a state of “as if” we had never existed. Should we attempt return, we do not notice that the immune response starts yet again, only at this point we are incapable of understanding its reasonings and explanations. Ô Lebanon! Shall I be sorry that I wished not to return as an “American”? Had I done so, I know I would have been embraced with open arms, as the colonized greet their oppressors. There is no comfort here. No, I sought something more from you: an origin, a sense of source, an acknowledgement of belonging, a claim to place—a wish shared by many also discounted as not being “of” this place, none of which you deemed worthy of offering. In this regard, I was naive to an extreme, no doubt. Things have changed as they are wont, though it took much of a lifetime: After a decade of search, a DNA test, and reunion with extended family, a great unblocking took place as word got round, as the who and the what and the why made the rounds; and an elderly man plagued by his memories of a child absconded with half a century ago came forward, and revealed a secret to the only man he trusts with such information, my cousin Jamal’s father. And with that the Sisyphean task, twelve long years later, is accomplished.
The problem for adoptees arguing about their position in society is similar to what has been experienced previously by other marginalized groups looking to make a space within the hegemonic culture. Namely, how to expand out from what is considered simply a personal issue; an individual hang-up; a “selfish” focus on one’s condition. The individualistic and solipsistic dominant culture ironically turns around and tells its absconded-with children to not be so “selfish” as to complain. In other terms, this was used against other groups as well—”don’t be ‘uppity'”; “know your role”. We should literally be seen and not heard. Those days are over.
I will be in NYC next week for CAA’s 2019 conference. I’ll be presenting on decolonizing the classroom (in the original liberation sense, not the current vapid buzzword sense). There is a pay-as-you-wish day pass, so if you are around on Saturday do drop by!
This draft was sitting in my email Drafts folder. I have no recollection to whom I was addressing this. As I get ready to attend ASAC/AI in Oakland this coming week [note: October, 2017], I’m dreading the resurgent feeling that running the hamster wheel doesn’t change anything; that the debate is a sidetracking of what should be protests and activist stances, the physical shutting down of adoption agencies, the clearing out of traffickers from hospital emergency rooms, the blocking of state legislature entranceways….
God willing the day will come when adoptive parents will be willing to stand up and state out loud: “No, these are not our children; they are entrusted to our care, and we are giving to the greater community by caring for them. We pray for the day when they might find their way back to their parents. We pray for the day when their families and communities might be able to care for them again, and we patiently await that day and strive to see it come. We understand that the various systems of this nation-state define our class status based on procreation, and we deem this invalid. We vow to equalize the societal inequality and the injustice that led to their adoption in the first place. We vow this, instead of the leveraging of class warfare to make claims that are—we admit readily and at long last—patently false. “
Badael-Alternatives (@badael_alternat) is pleased to invite you to its conference:
“Intercountry Adoption: A Narrative of War”.
The Conference will be held:
10:30 a.m. on Friday, June 21st, 2019
at the Padova Hotel, Sin el Fil, Beirut.
The conference’s aim is to highlight the processes and practices of intercountry adoption via Lebanon and their implications concerning the right to origins and access to information. The findings of the documentation process of some thousands of adoption encounters will be shared. Foregrounded here are the narratives of the individuals who were adopted as well as the unheard voices of original mothers and families.
For more information and to confirm attendance, please contact:
This paper served as the basis for a translated article that appeared in the Legal Agenda newsletter [link: http://www.legal-agenda.com/article.php?id=1274&folder=articles&lang=ar], and was presented at a conference that was set up to discuss the ongoing crisis of child trafficking in Greater Syria. Below is a link to download the PDF file.
This paper started as a conference presentation at the Adoption Initiative Conference in 2012 with the theme “‘Best Interests of the Child?’: Race, Religion, and Rescue in Adoption”. The basis for it was sparked by an article that appeared in The Daily Beast by Asra Nomani. Many thanks to Loonwatch and Dissident Voice for publishing its early incarnations, to friend and former colleague Stephen Sheehi for his inspiring book Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign Against Muslims, and especially to Dr. Raphael Javier and everyone at St. John’s University, AIC, and Maney Publishing who helped see it through to publication.
This paper posits adoption as a function of failed political, economic, and social policies. These policies derive historically from injurious views of populations not ascribed political embodiment. As a tool of dispossession, displacement, and disinheritance, adoption joins other extirpating practices. Given this history, the current focus on Muslim-majority countries as sources for adoptable infants is neither charitable nor coincidental. In this regard, Islamophobia is defined as an additional prejudicial justification for adoption. Islamophobia promulgates this justification based in part on faulty readings of the Quran. This maps readily onto similar use of the Bible. This paper offers a contingent, expansive, and corrective reading of these Books. It advances a countervailing argument for child welfare that questions and resists adoption’s negation of family, community, and place.
The document can be found at the following link:
You can use a Facebook or Google ID to download it.
I have uploaded my expanded presentation from the CAA Conference in New York City last month. I presented on decolonization in the classroom (in the original liberation sense of the term, not the current vapid buzzword sense). The buzzword aspect of it was everywhere at the conference. I had high hopes and attended all the panels that referred to it. I walked out of each and every one of those presentations. Quoting from my presentation a few days after one such panel:
As always, in the face of such resistance, a backlash awaits. For example: During this conference, an art historian criticized protests against markers of colonialism and imperialism. These were defined, without irony, as “public art” and “statuary”. The protesters—marginalized populations raising their voices on a subject they are excluded from as both definers as well as audience—were qualified as “presentist” in mindset. The accusation of historical ignorance contradicts their hyper-awareness of the ravages of—as well as their exclusion from—dominant histories and canons.
Add Tania Bruguera to the mix, and you realize how much CAA needs to be decolonized in and of itself.
The document, with slides, can be found at the following link:
You can use a Facebook or Google ID to download it.
Letterpress memorial card
It was two years ago at my sister’s house, and my mom came down the stairs with a junky old tape recorder and a cassette. “I got to hankering for Brother John’s voice”, she explained matter-of-factly, speaking of my Uncle John who had passed away a few years back. He taught choir at the local schools, and would sing in church and for recitals. Mom’s life revolved around choir as well, and hymns were always at her lips. We listened in silence, but at the same time, I was trying to figure out what was behind all of this. Mom grew wistful at one particular song, and I asked her what was playing. She piped up: “Now, this hymn is called, ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’*; it was played at the memorial service for both your Nonnie and Papaw; also your Aunt Barbie and Uncle John….” She trailed off, and I knew the rest of the sentence. And this time, I knew better than to jokingly chastise her concerning not wanting to talk about such things.
This interview was conducted in 2012 for American Indian Adoptees [link to web site] via email exchange with Trace Hentz [link to blog]. I’ve been going back to this web site a lot this past year, now that I’m living and working on unceded territories of the Musqueam, Skxwú7mesh, Tsleil-Waututh, and Kwantlen bands. “Unceded” means that the land was never surrendered, it was usurped. I add to this land acknowledgment my vow to actively work toward restitution and repossession, not reconciliation nor any other deception from within the structures and systems of occupation and oppression that dominate in North America.