part of history being made


Writing a blog about my experiences as a pseudo repatriating returnee adoptee has always just seemed di rigueur.  I’d read a couple KAD blogs before coming here and they always shared (although in a very guarded way) their experience of coming here and searching.  So I thought it was my responsibility to do likewise, and also because I’m terrible at putting a letter in an envelope and even worse with my phone inhibitions and fiscal phone bill conservation drummed into my head by my depression-era parents, I thought it would be a good and cheap way to let those who care know what’s up with me.  I thought it would be interesting to document this process, as I knew it was going to be treacherous, messy, and a growing experience, and maybe it might benefit others like the blog reading of others had benefited me.

I didn’t really think about how my blogging or my experience would in any way be unique or different from any other KAD, though I realize now  it’s quite different in that most of these  bloggers that search don’t stay in Korea an extended length of time, and those that have didn’t document that process.  (except Jane, who writes books instead of blogging in the true blog-as-journal sense)  I also had entertained, prior to coming here, helping out with TRACK, (another atypical aspect as few adoptees wear the activist hat for long) who had captured my imagination from the first time I saw this video:

Knowing myself, I knew it wouldn’t be wise to join up right away, since I wanted to dive into Korean lessons and had to adjust to teaching and Korea first. But three months later, I showed up at Bosingak bellfry anyway and after attending a few meetings realized they really needed more than warm bodies and that maybe my needs weren’t so pressing when looked at with relativity.

With all the adoptee blogs, etc., and all the home-land tours and the culture camps and the reunion shows, I thought adoptee organizations were pretty established and so I figured I was joining an organization that had existed for a long time, tackling larger issues (like the video above) for a long time.  But actually, it’s pretty new and I didn’t realize until recently that I’m in the thick of a huge shift in consciousness in adoptee thought and action, and that that video I stumbled across was almost at the beginning of a more pro-active alliance with our equal partners in trauma, the moms.

Reading Eleana Kim’s book is really REALLY enlightening and informative.  An anthropologist, she’s actively observed the emergence of adoptee group dynamics and sensibilities for over twenty years now: almost from its inception, she’s been there. And because she’s put in the time and so thoroughly, exhaustively examined each and every possible thought process in adoptee positioning of themselves and exerting their own voices relative to the institutions, nations, and people who have put them in such an ambiguous position, she has managed to outline the myriad issues in a far more eloquent and all-encompassing way than most of the adoptee writing I’ve read.  Because it isn’t the individual voice which has the greatest power, it is when voices act together, and so her study of the “politics of belonging” is really most cogent.

Reading her book was infinitely relatable, because the awkward politics of identity reclamation that outspoken adoptee pioneers had to go through to get to the point where they are today, in all their iterations and polarizations, directly parallels the process this adoptee went through internally in the past three years.  It’s fascinating for me to get a history of some of the convoluted, complex relationships and internal politics that have occurred between and betwixt the adoption agencies, governmental agencies, adoptees, and organizations.  And it’s most bizarre to see the names of people I meet and get a sense of their activist resumes and read quotations and see how this whole thing was born!  How really bizarre to be part of this on-going thing, the subject of books, a movement!  And I read about these people who I brush elbows with, and I can no longer take them for granted.  Mammoth people who blazed the trail.

Where I left off was at the point where adoptee activists who sought credibility felt it necessary to censor themselves and keep their personal stories private.  And here I am doing the exact opposite.  And I guess my writing style/personality which has been informed by my poor adoption outcome is somewhat unique in that it does not censor that reality in order to keep my politics stain-free/pity-free and above reproach.  I guess because I don’t see that history as dis-empowering at all, nor do I see that its reality in any way negates logic and reasonable analysis of what is a flawed system.  I actually see it as a seat of strength, because it humanizes me.

When pastor Kim gave me flowers for being the sacrificial lamb for my public disclosure with the media, I didn’t really agree.  Revealing all was no sacrifice on my part, though being edited did not sit well, as I didn’t want to reveal just part, but all.  But maybe, if I re-frame his appreciation to mean, “thank you for going all the way.”  Then, then those flowers have great significance to me.  There are times when Jane or others tell me I’m inspiring or brave, but I don’t really agree with that either.  I prefer to think of it as  just being real.  Maybe that’s not so common, but hopefully it can be.

When I occasionally go to other adoptee blogs and find posts blocked for privacy or adoptees who have burnt out and shut down, I get a little sad, though I’ve totally been in that place.   Because I feel they are stopping short of going where they really need to go, which is to dispense with the comfort of privacy and avoidance of retreat.   Speaking to you is what heals me.  It is this messy unflattering act wherein I find the trans-formative process.  I feel like adoption politics is maturing and finally, so am I.

I’m feeling pretty blessed right now.

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3 thoughts on “part of history being made

  1. One thing you touched on above is something I noticed about you a while back.

    You carry the burden of your history quite well. And it doesn’t say to me that the history isn’t a burden. If that makes any sense.

    It’s a very good writing style. I’m no expert on these things but I know what I like.

  2. Thanks, Ed.

    From early on with nearly everyone I met as I tried to address the “burden of my history” I was shocked to discover the extent to which any disclosure I made to friends was taken as an unwelcome burden. It was and is a telling litmus test…

    And the predominant reaction above discomfort is the need to categorize the traumatized as damaged goods. That’s such an insult to the intelligence and efforts of a person seeking even a small portion of peace that the emotionally privileged take for granted.

    Apply that background to the abandonment, separation, and dislocation trauma of adoption, exacerbated by ethnic differences and cultural differences, and it quickly becomes evident that being deemed the “perfectly adjusted” adoptee has got to be informed in no small measure by the dominant non-adopted society pathologizing those adoptees who burden them with disturbing truths. Privacy and selective silence perpetuates this system which also regulates us into suppressing ourselves through a culture of fear of hostility and judgment. That can’t be healthy. Neither is the angry outburst followed by the slammed door. And how do we demand justice when we’ve got no claims to being victimized? Without going to that dark place, how can we have any credibility? In that light we do take on the mantel of “acting like victims” who play their victim card to seek exceptional consideration.

    We don’t seek exceptional treatment. We seek to make it so the next generation of children do not grow up carrying a burden of emotional chaos while trying to balance an outward composure to a society that both doesn’t accept them but demands they perfectly adjust. This is no game we play. The trauma was real. My feelings are real. Crimes were committed against me. I was helpless. And now I’m not.

    But like ying/yang, the justice we seek needs to see the injustice, our strength means nothing without showing when we were weak, and happiness is in opposition to our tears. I think the time for militant rhetoric is over and that it’s time to witness: witness fully. Not as an academic exercise, or as manic self-soothing, but in nakedness. It is exposed like this where we connect on some basic level as humans, and it is in this place where one finds the real adoption solution.

  3. There it is right there.

    Your writing on this has even helped me with totally unrelated aspects of my own life. It’s a beautiful thing and don’t ever doubt it.

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