Wednesday, January 12, 2011

John Seabrook Still Doesn't Get It

Remember the rather naive and new-parent-y piece by John Seabrook in the New  Yorker about six months ago, where he wrote of the adoption of his child from Haiti?  And remember the generous outpouring of insight from adult adoptees at the Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus which Seabrook obviously didn't appreciate from his defensive responses to the comments?  Perhaps not surprisingly, he didn't learn anything from it -- here's his latest on the anniversary of the Haiti earthquake and the adoption of his daughter:
The anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti will probably find me gnawing again on the central moral dilemma of our adoption of a Haitian child, which is to some extent the dilemma in almost every international adoption: that terrible misfortune for some can bring extraordinary joy to others.

* * *

Had the Léogâne fault, having rested quietly for many centuries, slipped eight months earlier, we wouldn’t have been matched with a child yet, and we would have had to start the process over. Had it never slipped, we would have waited years to get our daughter; perhaps her mother would have changed her mind and taken her back.

* * *

The truth is, I don’t want to associate the earthquake with Rose. And in some ways her arrival seems divorced from the earthquake or even from Haiti. She is our child now, not a refugee or a victim, not an orphan any longer. The small everyday responsibilities of being a parent . . . this is the stuff that’s real, and next to it the cosmic coincidence of her getting here seems like an grim abstraction.
I'm the first to admit there's a learning curve about adoption issues for adoptive parents.  But  Seabrook is climbing the hill awfully slowly. 

He talks about the dilemma of loss-joy in adoption, but he can't really come to grips with the real loss, his daughter's loss of her birth mother.  He sees the earthquake as the great loss, when there was no causal link at all between the earthquake and his daughter's initial loss.  In fact, he seems appreciative of the "cosmic coincidence" of the earthquake -- it prevented something even more horrible, "perhaps her mother would have changed her mind and taken her back."

And what about the loss of culture?  of Haiti?  That's easy to ignore:  "her arrival seems divorced from the earthquake or even from Haiti."  After all, "she is our child now." Divorce. Wow, isn't that some choice of words.  Divorce. Separate. Sever. Cut off.  Cut away.  It's that "blank slate" thinking -- that nothing happened in the child's life before she arrived in her adoptive home thinking.

If the Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus  decides to school Seabrook again, I'll add a link here!


Linda said...

Reading things like that makes my heart hurt. It also makes me wonder how people like that are permitted to adopt. Oh

Mei Ling said...

"He sees the earthquake as the great loss, when there was no causal link at all between the earthquake and his daughter's initial loss."

Maybe it's the way you worded it, or maybe I'm just exhausted tonight, but I don't get this part.

And I don't see it in the excerpt you pasted, either.

malinda said...

Mei Ling -- let me try again! Seabrook writes that the anniversary of the quake is what turns his mind to the loss-joy dichotomy in adoption, that his joy came out of the tragedy of the quake.

But his daughter was not available for adoption because of the quake! She had been placed in an orphanage by her mother long before the quake. I know this from his previous piece about his Haiti adoption.

So the quake is not his daughter's tragedy -- her tragedy is the loss of her first family.

But Seabrook doesn't see that as a loss -- he talks about how awful it would have been if the adoption had been delayed and her mother had come back for her.

His meme is that out of the tragedy of the quake, he got all the joy his daughter brought. Yes, the quake was an awful tragedy for so many; but when we in the adoption community gnaw on what he calls the "central moral dilemma of our adoption, . . . that terrible misfortune for some can bring extraordinary joy to others," we're usually recognizing that the terrible misfortune is to the birth parents who must relinquinsh and the pain and loss of the child. Seabrook doesn't seem to get that.

Anonymous said...


You should really get off your high horse and quit nitpicking.

Nothing is good enough in your universe.

I guarantee your kids will be in therapy since you're pretty much demand some sort of perfection.

Good luck.

Mei Ling said...

"...that terrible misfortune for some can bring extraordinary joy to others."

I suppose, then, in the minds of some people, the misfortune can be remedied by knowing adoption was the only solution.

Mei Ling said...

"Nothing is good enough in your universe."

It's not about being "good enough."

Btw, hiding behind Anonymous doesn't make you look any better.

Anonymous said...

Her expectations are so high, they might as well demand perfection.

Ger unrealistic perfect expectations somehow gives her the right to put down other people also.

And given that I'm one of her potential students, it might not be prudent for me to identify myself.

Reena said...

First off-- enough with the Anon drama-- I've gone through plenty of years in college getting an advanced degree-- nose to nose with plenty of professors--get over the anon! If you are that scared of the heat that you can't ID yourself-- save the time and money, you'll never make it in college--much less in any real work environment.

It is very scary to read about an adoptive parent who so clearly and publicly doesn't understand the fundamental losses of our children. All the love, understanding-- all of it isn't going to change the fact of the loss. Since Seabrook writes so publicly and the majority of adoption agencies do a bad job of educating aparents-- Seabrook's essays can lead other aparents to make simliar mistakes such as beliving achildren come into their new families as a blank slate.

I don't really see a "perfection" bar being set by any comments on this topic.

Anonymous said...

To Annoymous:

Melinda is only writing what needs to be said ... to the masses of adoptive parents out there who truly don't have a clue .. about race, about loss, about unknown first families, about unknown medical histories, about corruption, about adoptive parents' feeling of entitlement, about white privilege ... about about about about about about about about ....

Melinda's expectations are high ... of herself and of other adoptive parents ... for the sake of the children who absolutely deserve perfection ... perfection in how adoptive parents are able to handle the complexities and losses of adoption ... so that they are better equipped to help their children grow into adulthood.

Bernice W
(posting as Annon here only because I don't have an accepted identity here with which to sign in)