Sunday, February 6, 2011

Scott Simon Responds

Back in August, I posted in response to NPR's Scott Simon's in-house interview upon the release of his new book about adoption. Well, Simon posted a response in the comments.  Since the post was so long ago, I'm not sure anyone will see the comment there, so I publish it here so he can have his say:
I doubt that there’s much I can say to assuage the enmity expressed towards me in postings on this blog. Let me simply state that my wife and I understand that it’s important for our daughters to know and be proud of their culture, and will have our unstinting support to do so.

I find it incongruous, in this month in which we celebrate the Rev. Martin Luther King for hoping his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” that we are assailed for trying to do just that for our daughters. I am keenly aware of America’s racist history and bigoted tendencies. Not a week goes by that I don’t receive anti-Semitic or gay-bashing emails. But as I note in my book, “(I)n China, our daughters might have faced bigotry for being Hui, Miao, Manchu, Yi, Mongol, or any of the other of China's 55 other nationalities that they could be.” They have already been stung by prejudice toward women in the land of their birth, and if someone looks a little funny at our family, or makes some boorish remark, I do not assume that the Klan rides again. We receive about a thousand times more consideration.

I reject the idea that my wife and I should feel guilt for taking our daughters out of their native culture because we remember that our daughters had been relinquished and left to languish in orphanages. Those orphanages, not the China of the Qing dynasty, Chen Rong, or modern adventure capitalists, were their culture. Our daughters will stand a better chance of appreciating the majesty of Chinese culture by growing up and learning about it in our American and French family, than if they’d been left in those orphanages, and slotted into factory or farm work by their teens.

Our daughters are hardly the only Asian kids in their respective classes. I suspect, as they grow older, and kids being kids, someone will kid them about being Chinese. And they, delightful as they are, may kid other kids about being chubby, or red-haired, or big-nosed, Puerto Rican or Russian. Ordinary adolescent obnoxiousness need not be regarded as a trauma. Kids of all ethnicities worry about their identities, even Bushes and Kennedys. It’s a stage of development, for goodness sake, not a crisis.

We can’t predict how interested our daughters will be in their heritage at various times of their lives. They learn the language, songs, dance and food now, but as my wife and I say, “You can drag the girls to Mandarin class, but you can’t make them speak.” They also dance ballet, play with Thomas the Tank Engine, and learn music. If they get interested in African art, French cuisine, Tuva throat-singing, and South African literature, that’s fine, too. They are our daughters. We want to see into their hearts and minds, not just their blood and skin color.

Will they identify themselves as American (and French), as well as Chinese? Of course. We have become a nation of hyphenated identities, and scores of millions of Americans, myself included, have more than one ethnic, national, or religious identity. It’s one the great strengths of both our country and our family. I doubt that Chinese culture, or our daughters, will be diminished by that.

We cannot rewrite their lives, or the laws of China, that would restore them to their birth mothers and the culture into which they were born. But we can give them a loving family to grow strong in, and the background to make their own choices.

Scott Simon
Of course, Simon is entitled to his opinions, as am I.  But no one is entitled to have everyone agree with their opinions!  And disagreeing with someone's opinion is not expressing "enmity!"  I don't think he expressed "enmity" in his comment here.

So you can judge the "enmity" Simon sees in postings about him here, check them all out:

Scott Simon, "Meant to be," & Ethnicity

Scott Simon's New Book -- Excerpt

Scott Simon Talks Adoption With His Daughter

"How to say Thanksgiving in Mandarin"

Now if you want to see enmity, which is distinct from a difference of opinion, check out my opinion of the Super Bowl guy!


Amanda said...

I didn't read all of the comments but I am aware of some of them where bloggers attempting to clarify a lot of discrepancies in what he wrote about adoption and China. He clearly didn't understand the points a lot of people were trying to make. Not even close.

Anonymous said...

Actually, in going back and reading those posts, I can see where Mr. Simon is coming from in feeling "enmity." Perhaps that wasn't the intent, but there is a harshness toward him that comes across in those posts.
Also, in looking at our own son, who was born in Guatemala, there is no doubt anywhere that he was "meant to be" our child. Does that mean he and his first mother were "meant to" go through abandonment and loss? Yes, as awful as that is, as much as that stinks, it is part of their story. Sometimes bad things happen. We can work to make changes for other women and other children, but we cannot change that part of our son's story. We can respect and honor his tragedy even while celebrating the amazing family that came from it.

SustainableFamilies said...

Wow so your god purposefully puts people through that kind of suffering? People who went through the holocaust were "meant to" go through that? If you're down with a god who purposefully creates this kind of suffering, and further more you have no sense of responsability to alleviate it, then you're doing the greatest injustice in the name of "religion" that humans can do.

Use your god to prove you deserve privalidge and others do not.

It helps you sleep at night, sure.

Perhaps we could call this Narcissistic Religious Disorder.

Or we could just call a spade a space and say it's evil.

malinda said...

Enmity means "the extreme ill will or hatred that exists between enemies." Frankly, Scott Simon isn't important enough to me to feel those emotions! I have law students who will tell me that this and that professor hates them. I reply that that is their ego speaking -- the professor likely doesn't think of them at all, much less hate them!

Mei Ling said...

"Does that mean he and his first mother were "meant to" go through abandonment and loss? Yes, as awful as that is, as much as that stinks, it is part of their story."

Because you wanted to parent. Things went that way and you ended up being able to parent. So it's easy for you to believe it was a part of destiny.

As an adoptee who would have (or so I am told) physically died in my deathbed in my birth country if not for my adoptive parents, I take offense that living because of adoption (versus actually "rotting") is an unjust comparison to make.

That's just the way life is, I am also told. Sometimes shit happens.

Yeah, well, if the shit "happens" go in the way that creates joy for another, then it's all destiny, isn't it? We're supposed to celebrate it because it worked out *for us.* And it's easy to say everything worked out when it works out the way the recipient wanted it to.

Mei Ling said...

"I take offense that living because of adoption (versus actually "rotting") is an unjust comparison to make."

*is a just comparison to make

I type too fast, evidently.

sharon said...

Sustainable Families -- where did Anonymous mention God? Some people have a sense of "meant to be" that is more about generic fate or destiny. I personally am not saying that tragedies are "meant to be," but I do think that you seem to be reading intentions into what the anonymous poster wrote.

As for Scott Simon, I too can understand why he felt enmity directed at him. This word may feel too strong to some, but he's entitled to use it. I suspect that publishing this book has exposed him to a critical mass of people who disagree with him, which is probably not something he experiences that often. Also, when the criticism touches on a person's commitment as a parent, that can be especially tough. I don't see the enmity as being over the top from his perspective.

Sharon said...

Sorry to comment again, but I just realized that Scott Simon had responded here on Adoption Talk! In the comments to Malinda's original post, folks called him "insensitive," accused him of "using his daughters," and one said his perspective made her "want to throw up." Would some of the commenters have chosen to phrase things a little differently in conversation with him and yet still make the same points? I would hope so.

I read Simon's book, and didn't find it offensive but rather provocative. As someone who reads about and blogs about adoption issues all the time, Simon's perspective seemed thoughtful but definitely different from the point of view that prevails on this site and many others.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the civil responses. Yes indeed, I felt enmity from many of the initial postings. I think anyone would. Let me please also observe that it seems clear that no one making such accusations has actually read the book. They are inferring what they do from an interview, an article, or most ridiculously, the title. Isn't it obvious that Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other is a romantic expression people use when they're in love? Bogey said it to Bacall. I say it to my wife (even though of course I know that she was actually meant for Daniel Craig). A father in love says that to his daughters, even though we also tell our daughters that they were born to someone else who loved them, and that I know that they are no longer babies (except, I add, I will always feel like they are my babies). I hope people on this site feel that kind of love, too.

Scott Simon

malinda said...

Yes, "meant to be" is used by people in love -- but would you tell a remarrying widow that her first husband was meant to die so she could be with this new person? That would be highly offensive, wouldn't it? Can you see how an adoptee can find "meant to be" offensively dismissive of their beginnings, their first parents?

Context is everything, and the context of adoption matters. If a friend says on meeting a bio child, "She's a keeper!" that has a pretty harmless meaning. In light of the fact that an abandoned child wasn't, in fact, kept, that adopted children often have permanency fears, that there is, in fact, an epidemic of adoption disruptions, that harmless statement takes on a different meaning when made in reference to an adopted child.

Perhaps "meant to be" has a different meaning, too?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Simon,

In your obvious extreme feelings about adopting you chose to become the expert voice in adoption without the necessary qualifications to be that expert.

You chose to use your professional clout to throw any of the other aspects that come with adopting or being adopted under the bus. That, from a newbie to the world of adoption is one of the prime reasons for the reaction in my opinion.

It has taken literally decades for those who lived, have seen, and/or felt the not so nice side of adoption to get the mainstream adoption industry to even take notice.

It has been extremely hard for adoptees to even get to the point of voicing the deepest thoughts that we have lived with. We have reasons why we don't shout it to all and if not asked the right questions with the right attitude you will get the standard platitude answers. Adopting or being adopted is not always a win-win-win that some choose to believe.

If all is wonderful in adoption land then why are people speaking up about the harm that happens?

Why are thousands of adoptees lining up to get their original birth certificates in each state that reverses the sealed records laws?

Why are adoptees like me forced to go to court and prove good cause to open our records AFTER the fact when having that knowledge first hand could have prevented those same events that provided good cause to unseal our records.

You chose to be in the limelight of a world you had little to no experience in, you continue to chose to spread the good news that adoption is the best ever thing in the world.

I think it needs to be so much better in providing life-long protection for the adoptee and should only happen as a last resort and others feel the same way but you choose not to listen.

Amanda said...

I can imagine how the article wasn't offensive to some people. Not everyone has walked in the shoes of another person who might have been offended by it. There are any number of colloquialims that might be "fine" to one person, but not another. The "meant for each other" and "destiny" type cliches in adoption might be fine for the average person or when referring to a married couple. But they tend to be very offensive to the adoptees and first parents who experience loss in adoption.

There is no shortage of adoptee blogs out there that explain why certain things are offensive to Adult Adoptees. I think more people would understand what is upsetting to adoptees if they actually listened, but there is an absolute dearth of Adoptive Parents following Adult Adoptee blogs. People have convinced themselves that adoptees, the only ones who can tell anyone what being adopted is like, are not worth listening to.

Either way, there is a large dismissal of the adoptee experience, viewpoint, and opinion when understanding could improve if people would just stop for 5 minutes and learn how themes in adoption make adoptees feel.

Amanda said...

* colloquialisms, rather

Adoptee Rights Coalition said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SustainableFamilies said...

Okay "Use your god to prove you deserve privalidge and others do not"

Replace god with "sense of destiny".

Equally shitty.

In the event you read this Scott, I do everything I can to work to change the support services for women in crisis pregnancy here in the states. Because priviledged people believe that if a woman or girl gets herself pregnant they "deserve" her child... this whole "meant to be" business, women lose their children.

I am one such woman. And I am also an adoptee. It was my adoptive parents with their "meant to be" belief system that pushed me into placing my daughter after being sexually abused by an older guy.

Would you do that to your children? would you push them into giving up a child? I hope you will consider both that losing a child is horrifically painful, and also that adoptees sometimes care deeply about what theyr first parents went through.

When you say "meant to be" you are spitting on the grace of the firstparents parenthood.

I understand why you haven't thought about it and genuinely I hope you will hear this; I UNDERSTAND that when we have priviladge we don't notice how we walk on those beneath it. It's part of being human.

I can't tell you who made my jeans or whether their working conditions were ethical. I try to keep up with honrable purchases, but I am certain there are times that I have bought things that were made in exploitive conditions and I didn't know.

What i mean to say is, I understand why you don't understand how deep the first parents pain may be, or how much that connection DOES matter to a lot of us as adoptees.

But we are telling you. I beg you to listen. If you want to be an advocate for those of us who are adopted, please, to God if there is one, listen.

You have more power than any of us could dream. To god if I had the power to reach people and share with them what it means to be adopted, what it means to lose a child to adoption. what it means to see the pain my first mother has gone through in losing me.

I don't have the writing skills you do. I struggle to get through school, and it will take a great deal of work to gain any amount of capital to fund the support projects I want to create. If you want to be a positive voice in adoption--- Please, I beg you to listen to adoptees.

I promise you we are not filled with as much hate as you think. Mostly, we are filled with sorrow because all the work we do to change the exploitation that so often happens in adoption gets washed away by well meaning adoptive parents.

You came here to read, and I deeply respect that. I love my adoptive parents deeply, and the only reason I express these things to you is because you stand on a platform with the power to change the publics perception of adoption. If you're going to do that, then I deeply hope you will listen to harder aspects of adoption.

Take care Simon.

joy said...

I certainly felt it. I certainly felt angry, insulted and dismissed in a very real way.

I found it, incredibly self-serving and immature to be honest.

Comparing the loss of identity via adoption to having ancesters from other countries is quite frankly appalling.

His response isn't "Oh my word! I never meant to be so incredibly offensive to people who have actually had the experience I romantically muse about" It is "no really it is totally okay what I am saying, because well I like to say it and why is everyone being so mean to me?"


Anonymous said...

Simon does not understand the critique. No one is saying anything about Chinese culture, language, or, generally ethnic forms of bigotry. The problem is that the children of color (a RACIAL category) of white parents (A RACIAL category) will experience RACIALIZED American in a qualitatively different way from their parents.

Color-blind ideology (MLK "content of their character"? Please, not again!) will make it impossible to process this reality. Such "white normative" thinking is why there is often a huge disconnect between adopted children of color and their white parents.

Lorraine Dusky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lorraine Dusky said...

Well, it's all so interesting, isn't it? I cherish your attitude and that of other adoptive parents I've encountered since writing First Mother Forum.

Yes, I think Simon was quite taken aback by the backlash directed at his book, starting with the obnoxious title.

Can he imagine what the reaction of his kids would be if, once their mothers were found, they said: Yeah, I'm so glad you weren't meant for me? Isn't it romantic?

June 1, 2011 4:43 PM