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 are as splinters, expelled from the body. The corpus surrounds us, englobes us, and 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 to you as an “American”? Had I done so, I know I would have been embraced with open arms, as the colonized always 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. But things have changed. Following my latest visit to what I understand now is a neighboring familial village, my story was revealed to me by my cousin Jamal. Two weeks ago we met with the father of my top DNA match, as well as a family friend who saw my BBC interview years ago. Like a frozen river come springtime, 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 says he trusts with such information, Jamal’s father. And with that the Sisyphean task, twelve long years later, is accomplished.
I was on my way to work in New York City on the morning of September 11, 2001. I am grateful to the web site “The Sonic Memorial Project” for its archives on Radio Row, and would be interested in hearing from those of this community. Special thanks as well to CounterPunch who published this prose poem on their web site at the tenth anniversary of that date.
Over at Transracial Eyes [link], I posted a question concerning the way in which the world looks at us as adoptees, and how this radically changes with time. The basic point was that when we are children, and we are seen with an adult who is not of the same ethnicity or of similar physical resemblance, the mental calculation is pretty straightforward: “Adopted”. When we are older, however, this same calculation does not maintain, and other answers to the equation come to the fore, varying depending on the family member: “partner”, “caregiver”, “adulterer”, “kidnapper”. Many of these terms reflect the same racist and stereotypical categories applied to the minority populations in the country that we are perceived as being of.
I am often asked my advice concerning adoption actions in progress, and I am always taken aback at such requests and the burden they place on adoptees. They demand of us a stamp of approval that I, for one, refuse to give for reasons well-explained here at this blog. I am publishing my most recent reply in the hopes of spelling out the equivalent burden that adoptive parents need take on; a true “home test”, and a call to action.
It’s always hard for me to answer emails like yours, so excuse the delay. If you are familiar with my writing then you know that I don’t mince words, so please excuse my bluntness. First, the assumption that anything you’ve been told is the truth or that any information that you might have is valid should be discarded. Second, there is no such thing as “legal adoption” in Lebanon, so know that your “ordeal” mostly concerns local “officials” putting a “legal” veneer on what can only be described as child trafficking. I commend you for attempting to track down the hospital of birth and the mother of this child, but there is a bigger picture to examine and take into consideration.
This was my first piece for Land of Gazillion Adoptees [link to article] originally published in September, 2014.
[These are the words of the mother of one of the disappeared during the Lebanese civil war. Source unknown; contributed by Zeina Allouche. Further coming full circle: Above the communal crypt of my mother’s final resting place was a mirror engraved with the hadith: “Paradise lies at the feet of mothers.”]
إذا رجع ابني خليه يزورني ويدق عقبري ٣ مرات
هيك بركي هونيك برتاح وصية… • أم مخطوف خلال الحرب اللبنانية
Should my son come back let him knock on my grave 3 times;
in this way maybe I will find peace.
“Daniel, Ibn Bahijeh”. Calligraphy by Salwa Faour.
Last night I had the pleasure and honor of hanging out with some former students of mine. Over the years, whenever someone would ask me why I did not have children, or else would compel me to have children, I would answer: “I have many children; hundreds of them.” I was, of course, referring to my students over the years working at AUB and AUST here in Beirut. Whereas the university structure here demands a certain hierarchy and distance between students and faculty, I have never seen pedagogy as working this way. My office was open to all, and many used it as a workspace, some as a drop-in therapy center, some to take refuge from the drastic “weeding out” process that was designed to make sure that not all succeeded in their studies.
Many thanks to Asma Uddin and @AltMuslimah for allowing me the space to reply to the previous article I cited a few days ago. An excerpt:
To conclude, in 1948 the United Nations defined an aspect of genocide to include “forcibly transferring children of [one] group to another group”. In current academic discourse, the concept of genocide has evolved to incorporate the idea of genocidal intent that might not be overtly homicidal, but which is designed to lead to the same end. Adoption practices both historically and in terms of the current day fit this notion rather disturbingly. Even if we firmly believe in adoption and its possible reform, these roots of the practice and their current manifestations must be brought to light and deliberated. Furthermore, overlaps in current practice with the historically targeted use of adoption against those seen as not politically embodied, as well as its profitable nature and its legal origins within slavery and indentured servitude, all must give us great pause. To believe that adoption has corrected itself, that it has been reformed or is reformable, is to deceive ourselves in a most solipsistic way.
 Card, C. Genocide and social death. Hypatia, 18(1):63–79, Winter 2003.
 Office of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide (OSAPG)