An Indian Adoptee Reclaims His Voice in the Desi Diaspora
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Racism Undermines the Promise of Sports

August 31, 2019
action ball field 274506

Sports around the world potentially bring people together as nothing else can. Sports can unite countries, with myriad ethnic groups and language, or cities and states. The solidarity that perfect strangers can find through playing and watching sports cannot be overstated. Cheering for the same team, and embracing fandom can be a catharsis.

But racism threatens this vision, by sowing animosity, bigotry and in extreme cases hatred, between players and fans. Across the globe and throughout the sports world, racism and athletics have an unfortunate historical relationship.

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The Atlantic’s ‘Dear Therapist’ Surprising Response about Adoption

June 29, 2019
woman writing on a computer - representing an adoption therapis

The Atlantic Monthly magazine recently published a ‘Dear Therapist’ column about the adoptee experience.

A letter was written by a grandmother (Lynne) concerned that her daughter’s child whom she relinquished for adoption was not interested in knowing her biological mother.

The therapist’s response to Lynne was a reassuring piece valuing the adopted daughter’s experiences. I was shocked.

In the mainstream media and national publications, it is extremely rare for someone who is not an adoptee to articulate the adoptee experience as Ms. Gottlieb did. I commend her for writing an answer that centered the adoptee’s needs, and not the wants or needs of the biological mother or the grandmother.

Everyone should read this article

Her reply ‘legitimizes’ what so many adoptees have been saying and feeling for years. I use ‘legitimizes’ in quotes, because I think adoptees have their opinions disregarded as not professional enough or too experiential. Therefore, for a non-adopted therapist to say and use language that an adopted person would use, means we speak truth, not just personally, but objectively.

I double checked to ensure that Ms. Gottlieb is not an adoptee. I could scarcely believe that someone who is not adopted could write so eloquently about the feelings of adoptees and try to see things from their perspective.

One of my ‘adoption mantras,’ that I share consistently on this blog, and in person, is that ‘adoption is not about you, it is about the adoptee.’ People need to focus on them and their needs. This article reinforced that in a beautiful way.

In my experience the adoptee community quickly judges opinions and viewpoints which fail to recognize that adoption has two sides.

We (rightly) criticize writing and speech focusing only on the fairy tale adoption narrative but ignores the pain, loss, hurt, anger and other emotions that adoptees experience.

It follows we must also praise and support those writing about adoption.

Some clearly understand there are multiple angles to it. Like this therapist.

But, the adoptee community cannot just be one that tears down differing viewpoints, as wrong as those sentiments are. Everyone gains when adoptees are more engaged in the dialogue.

Can we really blame the non-adoptee community for being uninformed and ignorant about adoption realities – if until recently the entire narrative about adoption was written by adoptive parents and agencies?

I am glad this piece was written and was encouraged by its tone.  The admonishment that ‘right now, there doesn’t seem to be much regard for your daughter’s biological child’s wants or needs—your perspective seems to be all about your daughter’s desire for this relationship,” was a welcome change to typical adoption stories.

I hope that Lynne and her daughter open their eye and see the harm in placing their needs above their grand-daughter and child.

And I wish that all answers from non-adopted people were this thoughtful and considerate of the adoptee experience.

A Major Flaw in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

March 28, 2019
woman covering hand with face in show of fear

The element missing in trafficking in persons (TIP), is prevention.

Recently, I have done much research into TIP efforts globally. And I have reached a potentially unpopular conclusion: how the money is being spent will never stop the problem and the amount expended is nowhere near as much as the tragedy requires.

Furthermore, there is little work to prevent trafficking from initially occurring.

Before continuing, I must clarify: I have friends working in anti-trafficking fields, and there are literally thousands of people around the world in the TIP field doing important and wonderful work. This post is not a slam or a criticism on their current efforts or on anyone battling this evil scourge.

Rather, my thoughts are coming from the mindset of evaluation and improving their labors.

Let us unlock my statement. Most money spent on anti-trafficking exertions, from governments to NGOs to the private sector either raise awareness, go towards law enforcement (prosecution, training police or similar), or fund survivor rehabilitation. All of those elements are necessary and needed in this war. But we lack hard evidence of those interventions’ successes.

Little research exists on the effectiveness of TIP efforts.

If you think this could not be the case, take a few minutes here.

I could find only a few studies in my extensive research examining TIP’s efficacy. What I discovered, however, is many people working in the sub-sector saying that good data about human trafficking and interventions is difficult to find and hard to convey.

There are good reasons for lacking quality data. Survivors are reticent to speak about their trauma. They suffer many social stigmas when they are rescued. The perpetrators are shadowy figures and those involved in the trade in human beings are usually hidden. The whole enterprise is hush-hush and out of the spotlight.

Some recognize that data evaluation of the value of anti-trafficking efforts is wanting. Which raises the question: if seemingly no one knows whether the money being spent is making a difference, why do organizations and people fund the struggle?

I think the answer is comparable to the ‘War on Drugs.’

We feel like we have to do ‘something,’ and that not taking action would be morally or ethically wrong. But just as the ‘War on Drugs’ has failed, so too has the ‘war on trafficking’ at a meta level.

For all the money spent on TIP, the problem grows yearly and ensnares increasing amounts of people. It is estimated that the trade in human beings is nearly a $150 billion-dollar enterprise. And this is a conservative estimate.

This brings us to another problem.

This is a list of US government agencies and initiatives involved in the fight against human trafficking. What I had trouble finding was the total amount of money the USG spent on anti-trafficking efforts in a particular year. The budget numbers I have seen from individual agencies demonstrate that the total amount is not parallel to the problem.

The drug business is worth nearly $600 billion (again a conservative estimate) and the amount of money spent countering drugs is more than $1 billion per year.

Many Americans believe trafficking happens ‘over there,’ and not in their communities.

People do not realize the problem’s universality. Therefore, they think that for example, implementing, a $25 million-dollar project in South Asia raising awareness and helping identify victims of trafficking will make a tangible difference. Twenty-five million dollars is not a small amount of money. But it is a pinprick, barely a pebble in the vast ocean of trafficking.

Trafficking is less visible to the public compared to the drug trade, whose stories fill our newspapers. One rarely hears about trafficking except for a random survivor’s story or awareness-raising efforts. Recently the arrest of the New England Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft brought human trafficking to the headlines.

But if trafficking received similar press coverage as drugs, we would all view the problem differently.

Trafficking is a global problem and it happens everywhere.

Another common fallacy is that sex-trafficking is the dominant form of human trafficking. That is 100 percent false.

Many more people are trafficked for labor than for sex.

But the more salacious story is sex trafficking and it gets coverage. Again, this does not minimize sex trafficking and its devastating effects. What I am saying is that the misconception that all human trafficking is sex trafficking is not only wrong but harmful.

Focusing only on sex trafficking can easily blind one’s eyes to labor bondage, substantially more pervasive.

Anti-trafficking spending is not making the problem smaller. An element of the fight against human trafficking that is absent and rarely discussed is prevention. Is there a way to use big data to identify potential human trafficking victims?

Anti-trafficking efforts require a transformative solution, but the current actions barely impact the overall situation. Click To Tweet

Perhaps a strategy similar to the law enforcement “Broken Window Theory” could be utilized. This is where patterns of criminal behavior are correlated with specific vulnerabilities of people at high risk of being coerced into trafficking.

By far the most dominant and headline-catching work against trafficking is arresting those engaged in it. But here’s the problem: merely removing a predator from an environment without changing the underlying situation which allowed trafficking to flourish will not preclude another predator from taking the first one’s place.

No matter how many human traffickers are being imprisoned, unless society eradicates elements drawing the trafficker and changes the incentives for their presence, there will always be more.

Returning to the failed “War on Drugs,’ more than one-third of all people undergoing punishment in the U.S. criminal justice system are there for drug-related offenses.  However, the proliferation and usage of illegal drugs continue unabated, growing yearly.

Why then would we think that merely jailing traffickers would stop the problem? Global efforts at arresting those involved in human trafficking are minuscule. Yet, governments claim small victories, calling it progress when a country arrests and convicts handfuls of people for human trafficking yearly.

Global TIP efforts must focus more resources on identifying ways to eliminate the problem and the environment in which it thrives. If the current distribution of efforts and money remains unchanged, the problem will worsen, entangling more and more people and destroying their lives.

Trump’s Evangelical Supporters and Foreign Adoption

July 26, 2018
broken child's doll put together

I frequently come across white evangelical Christians who are ardent proponents of international adoption and also strong Trump supporters. And the data seems to back up this personal experience: nearly 80 percent of evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump for President and numbers show that large segments of the evangelical Christian population support foreign adoption.

Many of these individuals feel that they have a special calling for foreign adoption, believing they need to “rescue” babies across the globe.

They push this narrative, raising money for campaigns to create “forever families” with children from other nations through adoption. These endeavors tug at heartstrings with poignant stories of their infertility and their desire to make a difference. But, some continually, and wholeheartedly support or minimize the everyday vitriol this presidential administration spews about immigrants, legal or otherwise.

That is top-rate hypocrisy. And I am sick of it.

Trumpers tout their Bible bona fides, while also backing Trump’s caustic rhetoric about immigrants and the stranger. The two are incompatible. When Trump calls Mexicans racists and worse, your defense should not be “he got Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court…I do not like him personally, but that seat was crucial.” Nor is it an acceptable response to say “well I don’t agree with many of his stands morally, but he’s a true conservative and has our interests at heart.”

They talk a big game about all-encompassing love, yet at the same time, they will not welcome the outsider. While they believe it’s their God-given mandate to build a family through foreign adoption. That mindset makes no sense to me.

They must not see the disconnect between the words “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)” and Trump’s or Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ language used to describe poor, desperate asylum seekers from the Middle East or Central and Latin America. Yet for me, this contrast is glaring.

Those escaping Libya, Syria, Somalia, Honduras, Guatemala, and other areas mired in war, famine, natural disaster, and/or poverty are leaving some of the most dangerous environments on earth. They have already experienced nearly unimaginable suffering.

The Christian right waxes glowingly about love, yet has no problem with kids languishing in border detention facilities, ripped from their parents whose only crime was seeking a better future for themselves and their families.

This is all fine, as long as we “own the libs,” they say. What a twisted way to think.

Then they turn around and pen a blog-post about how thrilled they are to adopt a child from overseas and are fervently praying for God to smooth the paperwork process so he/she can be added to their family.

What happened to biblical compassion and empathy?

We can and should debate immigration policy, but there should be absolutely 100 percent revulsion and disgust, especially amongst “Christians” about how Trump talks about immigration.

I wonder if they realize that through adoption, they are bringing a legal immigrant into the US to be a citizen. Yet they vigorously defend Trump’s arbitrary ending of DACA and remain silent as he uses kids’ lives as bargaining tools, pushing false accounts about crime and immigration.

If they cannot love someone different from them – in language, dress, culture or other variations – they should not adopt a child internationally. 

The zealot’s absolute refusal to repudiate Trump means they tacitly agree with a racist President, and his Attorney General and closest advisors. Nevertheless, they plan to bring a non-white baby into their family. Newsflash: if you adopt internationally, then you are increasing your family through legal immigration.

They remain silent about racist and xenophobic policies deliberately targeting those who look different from them, yet desire a multi-racial family.

How will they teach their children about race and adoption? I do not believe it is fair to an adopted child to remove them from their birth culture and then further strip them of any chance to learn about their origins. Many evangelical adopters believe they need to “save” foreign babies not only physically, but spiritually and show them Christianity.

But how multi-cultural will that family be? It would be quite sanctimonious to celebrate their child’s non-American culture while holding opinions about “other” cultures and their inferiority. So, I am guessing that will not happen in their family. How does a fervent Trump supporter square their immigration policies and views about people who look different from them with having a family member who does not resemble them at all?

When someone says something offensive to them or to their child, how will they react?

Maybe the comments will be words they themselves said or supported others uttering. Being a part of a mixed race family brings specific challenges and yet it is an opportunity to build bridges and explore racial issues like white privilege.

If the adoptive family raises their family in a healthy way, adoption can assist families to embrace tangible multi-culturalism. In my own family, we have a beautiful blend of different cultures and a richer overall experience.

I believe in second chances and that we are all flawed humans. But if one consistently supports the vile anti-diversity talk arising from this administration’s policies, while also maintaining deeply held beliefs about the “justness” of foreign adoption, then you have not really changed.

The Apostle Paul said to obey the laws, but Jesus said to love the stranger because whatever you do “to the least of these, you do to me.”

The pro-Trump evangelical community supporting foreign adoption would do well to remember that.

Do Not Blame the State Department for Declining Adoptions

June 16, 2018
colorful globe

A host of recent news stories are about the decline in international adoptions. The decrease in adoptions is staggering: 24,000 plus foreign adoptions in 2004 and less than 5,000 as of 2017.

But the State Department is not actively looking to stop international adoption as many bloggers and pundits suggest.

This issue cuts across both liberal and conservative constituents with each side, convinced of a nefarious Department of State (DOS) conspiracy against them regarding declining international adoptions. They see the falling adoption rates as an attack against them by a biased government.

The reduction in foreign adoption is occurring for a host of reasons and has happened for years.  One of them is DOS’s increased emphasis on laws, rules, and procedures ensuring ethical adoptions.

Since ratifying The Hague Treaty on International Adoption in 2004, the State Department is the authority ensuring they follow The Hague treaty rules. The government contracted with the Council on Accreditation (COA) and the State of Colorado as their Accreditors, who reviewed adoption service providers (ASPs) to make sure they were following Hague mandates. The State of Colorado quit doing the work shortly afterward and the COA became solely responsible for agency reviews.

COA charged the agencies for their accreditation, but also did not follow all the rules and procedures that it should have and neither did the ASP’s.

There were issues under COA’s watch. For example, one group they accredited, was later disbarred by the State Department. The DOS realized it had to crack down. The government informed ASP’s in 2018 that they had four months to align their rules and regulations with the State Department’s rules or face repercussions via suspensions or even possible disbarment.

This incensed adoption agencies.

It’s crucial to mention, the State Department did NOT add a bunch of new rules; these were rules they should already have followed. Agencies were angry because they believed the DOS was interpreting the regulations more severely.

In October of 2017, faced with the mounting backlash from ASP’s, the COA informed the State Department they would discontinue as the State Department’s adoption accreditor. This caused a chain reaction from ASP’s, big and small with many closing down and others decrying the government’s lack of transparency.

A Florida-based non-profit called Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity, Inc. (IAAME) won the contract as the new accrediting body and will use professional reviewers and charge agencies for it. IAAME initiated a $500 dollar Monitoring & Oversight fee for each new application and most ASPs will charge it as a pass-through to families. Many believe because COA’s fees were less for peer reviewers, that IAMME’s increased fees are unfair and unnecessary. Because IAAME charges more, accreditation costs will rise.

If small adoption providers, cannot abide by the new interpretation of the rules, that’s unfortunate. The fee increase impacts both small and large agencies the same. Again, this fact refutes the notion the fee punishes smaller agencies. With families spending $30,000 plus on foreign adoptions, a $500 increase is statistically minimal.

Could the State Department have done a better job sharing these concerns with adoption agencies and being more transparent? Maybe.

But their mandate is not facilitating as many adoptions as possible, it is ensuring ethical and legal adoptions.

Plus, I have no issue with fewer adoption agencies. Foreign adoptions if required, need to be legal and transparent. If adhering to laws and ensuring they are followed to the best of the agency’s ability is too burdensome for APS’s, then it is time to shut down. Plus, with adoptions decreasing by 75%, there is no reason for so many agencies to exist.

As for the decline, there are more reasons than the State Department’s newfound adherence to rules. One is national pride. Countries are embarrassed they cannot care for their own kids and give them a safe and nurturing environment.

A further reason for declining adoptions is long waiting lists of potential parents wishing to adopt healthy infants from their own countries. If adoption occurs, then all should agree the first priority is keeping a child with an in-country family member. The second priority should be remaining in their birth country if a family member is not found or unwilling to adopt. While the last option should be a foreign adoption to another country. There is a further shift in adoption trends, as many internationally adopted children have special needs.

All of those are reasons why adoption is declining precipitously. Add to them that South Korea is sending fewer children, and Russia, Ethiopia, and Guatemala have either stopped facilitating or severely curtailed international adoptions. Even the main agency of the United Nations that deals with children’s issues, UNICEF, focuses more on family unification, preservation, and domestic adoption in the child’s birth country.

There are many reasons why international adoption numbers are decreasing, but it is misguided to blame the State Department and ignores the facts.

India’s Newest President is Dalit.

July 31, 2017

His name is Ram Nath Kovind and he’s Dalit (formerly known as untouchable). You may read that he’s Dalit, viewing his election as a great sign of progress against caste oppression. Here, you say, is an example of someone from the bottom of India’s development ladder. Now, he’s the President of the world’s largest democracy.

Flag of the President of India (Historical)

His election is important, but it’s definitely not a sign of less caste discrimination or violence.

Here are some quick thoughts about what this means for India and Dalits.

The Indian media made a big deal about him as a Dalit. It’s true he was raised in impoverished circumstances. He mentioned his humble beginnings during his acceptance speech, but he’s quite far from that life today. Prior to his election, he was in India’s Upper House of Parliament.

While he may rightly call himself a ‘Dalit,’ he’s not a suffering Dalit, as many are. Rather he’s an educated and savvy political operator. Don’t count on him to rebuke casteism and discrimination. He’s far removed from that world.

India’s ruling party, the ultra-nationalistic Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister shrewdly put forth Kovind as a presidential candidate. With him as President, Hindutva’s (hardline Hindu mindset) government influence, increasingly strong, won’t receive opposition from the President’s office.

The BJP party brilliantly choose this man to be the President because though he’s a Dalit, he’s well indoctrinated in Hindutva’s mindsets and approaches. He espouses them himself.

But, and this is important, the BJP needs the voting block of Indian Dalits.

Their votes are especially crucial in its poorest states, like Bihar (where Kovind hails from) to continue their onslaught against religious pluralism, while enshrining Hinduism as the state religion.

Since he’s a Dalit, Dalits are reticent to fight against one of their own, even if they aren’t always of the same mind ideologically. They’ll spar in private, but are historically too downtrodden to turn against one another, denigrating someone from their sub-caste in public.

The spokesman for the BJP, Amit Shah, and Modi know this. They can rely on Kovind’s tacit ‘blessing’ of their machinations, bringing Dalit votes for BJP candidates throughout India.

Modi essentially ‘bought’ himself a large new constituency of the electorate. Even if what Hindutva stands for (Brahmin elites, anti-Muslim, anti-beef, against caste integration, etc.), starkly contrasts with many Dalit tenets, they are loath to reject him or his platform as President.

The Dalit community does not speak with a unified voice. But, Modi’s preaching on financial improvement plays well to educated, middle-class Dalits. They overlook his nationalistic rhetoric because he’s selling economic improvement of their lives.

The dynamic is similar to the conservative right in the US.  They tolerated Donald Trump, despite his jingoistic drivel, leading to his presidency.

Unfortunately, Kovind’s election as President signals more rubber stamping of the BJP’s dangerous views about who is a real Indian, and what that means. Meanwhile, secularism’s death spiral continues.

A Few Welcome Changes to International Adoption Rules

November 30, 2016

In the fall of 2016, the US Department of State presented new rules regarding inter-country adoptions for those adopting foreign-born children into U.S. homes.

As an adoptee, I always advocate for greater transparency about fees and the months-long process for international adoption. Not surprisingly, adoption agencies and other stakeholders in the adoption industry decry the proposed changes because they say it will make it harder to adopt.

I think they are more concerned about the declining number of international adoptions and its affect on their bottom line.

This is not about caring for children’s welfare.

Fee Transparency

Adoption agencies have a new standard for pay scales of foreign employees involved in adoption. Previously, they were based on ‘normal pay,’ what the agencies knew about pay rates in specific countries. Now, salaries will be given based on the services the foreign adoption official actually performs.

Now, salaries will be given based on the services the foreign adoption official actually performs. I think it’s fair that salaries will not be paid arbitrarily, which was the case beforehand.

Furthermore, I think the overall costs for agencies to continue as adoption service providers (ASP) will fluctuate more. The bigger potential consequence is agencies must clearly demonstrate what work their foreign or contracted staff is doing.

Standardizing good faith information efforts

That’s my language. This means that ASP’s present further evidence and proof of effort related to discovering the child’s medical or social background.

Previously this was not standardized. The effort one agency said was ‘sufficient’ in learning as much about a child’s history as possible, was different from another agency’s.

Foreign vs Domestic Fees

Adoption agencies must clearly show which fees prospective adoptive parents are paying for domestic and foreign services. This would end a type of ‘blanket’ approval that adoptive parents sometimes are required to give below a certain threshold. It ensures every cost is known upfront.

Agencies can no longer charge any fees to prospective parents to care for a child before the finalized adoption. Agencies were previously charging adoptive parents more money ‘caring’ for a child in a specific foreign country than needed.

This eliminates the temptation for agencies to recruit children, drawing out the adoption process. Additionally, this safeguards families against spending money on children who will never be available for adoption.

Telling the real story and making the best placement  

Agencies must provide additional training on grief, loss, identity, and trauma and characteristics of successful intercountry adoptive placements. They must also have a track record of compliance with post-placement and post-adoption reporting requirements.

It will no longer be enough just to want to adopt, have the money and go through the home visits. Agencies will further explore a family’s circumstances determining their fit for intercountry adoption.

I’m not sure exactly what this entails, but I like the idea of increased due diligence about the adopting parents. Agencies may feel this is an extra burden. But I say that you must get an adoption right the first time.

Another aspect of this change will be agencies cannot make referrals or require fees for specific adoption services until and unless the parents have completed this new advanced training.

Moving forward, agencies must discuss adoption disruption and dissolution. Both issues are huge black marks on the adoption industry.  The adoption arena has long downplayed and tried ignoring them. I could write a whole post about both circumstances. Here’s a quick primer if you don’t know.

Adoption disruption is when the adoption ends before finalization, but after the child is already in the new home. This forces the child back into foster care or to another family.

Adoption dissolution occurs after finalization and means legal ties sever between the child and the parents, either voluntarily or not.  One result of this drastic step is ‘rehoming. When adoptive families put their child up for private sale in an unregulated forum. These take place on sites like Craigslist or in newspaper classifieds.

The new guidance requires adoption service providers to include information about disruption and dissolution in training and preparation programs for prospective adoptive parents. Adoption service providers will be required to give specific points of contact for support in the event an adoptive family faces difficult adjustment or other hardships, which places a permanent home for the children at risk.

In the future, agencies must inform adoptive parents about all avenues open to them if a crisis occurs, including local and state resources and educate them about legal options, as well as appropriate procedures in case a child needs placement back in the system or requires removal from their adoptive family.

We’ll see what the final updated guidance looks like after the State Department has reviewed all the public comments. In the meantime, these alterations further increase transparency in the international adoption process.

I hope some are formalized.

Who is a ‘Real’ Indian?

May 14, 2016

Since Narendra Modi became India’s Prime Minister in May 2015, the definition of a ‘true’ Indian is a hot topic.

However, for me, people have always questioned my India bona-fides. Let me explain.

As an adoptee, raised without Indian culture on a daily basis, cultural Indians in the United States were always unsure how I fit into their world. I don’t speak any Indian languages, I attend church, the vast majority of my friends are non-Indian and my parents are white.

By any measure of a culturally engaged Indian, I was not raised as one of them. I fit none of the ‘stereotypical’ Indian roles. I am not a doctor, scientist or lawyer. I am terrible with numbers and figures. I cannot fix your computer, and I don’t engage in the conspicuous consumption and materialism that Indians in America have a reputation for.

Those were the ‘issues’ regarding my Indian identity growing up, but now the narrative shifted. Modi’s political party, the Bharatiya Janata is closely aligned with elements pushing among other things, that all Indians must be Hindu, that true Indians must hate Pakistan and Muslims and the West is destroying both India and its culture.

As a result, many diaspora Indians, and domestic Indians are considered ‘anti-national.’ Additionally, anyone distrusting big government, works with NGOs or social work programs, those who advocate for India’s Dalits, tribals and other groups considered outcasts, people who question tenets of any faith, particularly in film, books or music, all are labeled as not true Indians.

The situation has deteriorated to the point, that anyone critical of India’s policies, politicians or the established Hindu order is considered ‘un-Indian’ or ‘anti-national.’

A recent news story illustrates this case perfectly.

read more …

It’s Time for All Adoptees to have US Citizenship

January 24, 2016

There are thousands of adults, adopted as children by US citizen parents lacking US citizenship.

Thanks to adoptees, advocates, and Congressional support, that will change in 2016.

The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2015, provides retroactive citizenship for certain intercountry adoptees no matter when they were adopted. It also provides a legal pathway for all deported adoptees to return to the United States.

This is the first US bill written with substantial adult adoptee input for adoptees.

I was involved in this process in 2012, when myself and a group of adoptees met with the  Congressional Coalition on Adoption Initiative (CCAI) and legislative staff in Washington, D.C

It’s wonderful to have a bill before the Senate.

You might be reading this and wonder what the issue is. Let me give you a brief background.

When international adoptions by US citizens began, many adoptees never received citizenship papers. This happened because adoptive parents misunderstood the process, agencies assumed the parents were filling paperwork themselves or a combination of apathy and misinformation.

Thousands of adoptees meeting criteria to become legal US citizens, never become one.

As a result, scores could not receive driver’s licenses, work promotions, and a handful was deported for small misdemeanors. Others ran afoul of immigration laws when receiving a traffic ticket.

Imagine, growing up in an American family, with your whole life linked to the United States. One day you apply for a passport and discover though you lived in the US for 18 years, you are not a US citizen.

Vocal adoptees recognized this problem, wrote a bill and created the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. But this only gave citizenship to adoptees 18 and under when the bill was signed. It did not give retroactive US citizenship.

In other words, the bill did not go far enough.

I recognize the huge controversy about letting immigrants and criteria for citizenship.

But for me this is not only personal, it’s obvious. If a family has adopted a child from their birth country into their US family, they should be a US citizen. There is no question that is the ‘fair’ thing to do.

If a family adopted a child from their birth country into their US family, they should be a US citizen. There is no question that is the ‘fair’ thing to do.

There is no question that is the ‘fair’ thing to do.

Let me be clear, for me and for all supporters and advocates of this bill; this is not an immigration issue. This is ‘righting a wrong.’

It is not something ‘new,’ but rather something that should have been given but for various reasons was not (US citizenship).

The new bill was introduced in the Senate in mid-November 2015, by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and co-signed by Senators Dan Coates (R-IN) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).  It has bipartisan support.

Thousands of hours, hundreds of phone calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings happened to get this bill ready. I tip my hat to all involved, some of whom are good friends.

But we’re not done, it needs YOUR support as well.

Visit this website 18 Million Rising and call your Congressional legislators to support the bill.

Thousands of adoptees lack citizenship, yet they have American lives, including friends, family, and connections.  For all of them, the US is their ‘home,’ because they have been here for years.

Help them receive citizenship they are entitled to.

‘My Brother’s Bomber’ and the Reminder of a Tragic Adoption Story

October 31, 2015

Last week I finished the exemplary PBS/Frontline three-part series ‘My Brother’s Bomber. The story is about Ken Dornstein, whose brother was killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

A suitcase with one-pound of Semtex plastic explosives, blew the 747 out of the sky, nearly 30,000 feet over the Scottish countryside, scattering debris over an 845 square mile area. More than 270 people died that evening, including 11 on the ground due to the fuel induced fireball and wings from the disintegrating aircraft.

Though young, I distinctly remember watching the news that night with my Dad in our family room. It was a fascinating story and crime that intrigued me since.

At first, no one knew it was a bomb and the explosion’s cause was mysterious. Within days, however, investigators discovered the crash was foul play, beginning a three-year investigation.

The Lockerbie tragedy was a deliberate terrorist act.

Ken’s brother, David, was on Pan Am Flight 103, coming home from a study abroad program for Christmas. The documentary follows Ken, learning who bore ultimate responsibility for the bombing.

Only one person was ever tried and convicted for the heinous act, a Libyan named Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. He was sentenced in 2001 to life in prison.

However, the Scottish government released him on ‘compassionate grounds,’ after being diagnosed in 2009 with prostate cancer and given only a few months to live. Adding injustice to injury for the victim’s families, al-Megrahi arrived in Libya to a heroes welcome and eventually died in 2012.

Ken and both Scottish and US investigators remained convinced that al-Megrahi did not act alone. There were others involved they insist, contending that former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi never told the truth to the world about the bombing.

Investigators certainly had other names, but never gathered enough evidence to convict them in court.

‘My Brother’s Bomber’ is the story of Ken’s search for truth as he traverses bombed ruins of Libyan cities seeking answers to his brother’s killers.

Watching the documentary reminded me of an adoptive mother’s story searching for answers, and finding them in a heartbreaking way through the Lockerbie tragedy.

Two years ago, on the 25th anniversary of the bombing, I read this piece, about a woman named Carol King-Eckersley who spent years trying to find the son she relinquished for adoption when she was 19.

While conducting a Web search for him in April of 2013, she found his name on a memorial page for passengers of Pan Am flight 103. She learned her son Kenneth, was one of the 270 passengers on that ill-fated journey.

I cannot imagine how painful that must have been for her.

She specifically did not try to find him for many years because she did not want to interfere in his life.

To dream of reunion and maybe even plan one eventually, only to discover that her child died in a terror attack had to be devastating. I wonder if she regrets knowing his fate? If she had not tried locating him, maybe she could have spent her life questioning where he was and living in blissful ignorance of his demise.

I think it would be very difficult to learn one’s child was dead, and after always wondering what happened to a child you relinquished for adoption. If you have no idea where they might be, there is always a remote possibility of being re-united again, maybe build a life together.

But knowing your child is definitely dead, well, Ms. King-Eckersley tragically summed it up, ‘it became a kind of double tragedy. I found him and I lost him on the same day.”

Should India seek British Reparations for Colonialism?

September 19, 2015

Perhaps, but they should look internally as well, realizing they bear plenty of responsibility for their underdevelopment.

In mid-July 2015, MP Shashi Tharoor gave an impassioned plea for Indian reparations after more than 200 years of British colonialism. You can watch the 15-minute clip below.

Many Indians, both in the country and abroad lauded his words.

Prime Minister Modi, even endorsed Tharoor’s sentiments saying ‘Tharoor’s speech reflected the feelings of patriotic Indians on the issue and showed what impression one can leave with effective arguments by saying the right things at the right place.

I agree with most he said.

I disagree with his point about India and the railways. Yes, Britain originally built them to bring Indian goods to the British market. Thereby bypassing the Indian market.  But when the British ‘quit’ India in 1947, they didn’t pack up the trains and millions of miles of track and take that them with them.

The railroads played a prominent role in India’s development. It connects India in ways few other countries can match.

Beyond that one issue, I think his other points were valid.

Without doing hours of additional research, they probably were correct. However, after listening to his speech at Oxford I had the following thoughts:  read more …

The Privilege of Leaving Kabul

August 28, 2015

In the early weeks of August this year, Kabul was hit by a series of attacks, which killed more than 100 and wounded scores. Three weekends ago, I spent hours in the Baron safe-room and each subsequent blast, instead of being easier to process, became more difficult. The fact that they became familiar was more terrifying, not less.

I read an article recently about the moral complications of disaster rescue, in terms of socio-economic ability. Basically, if you have money, you are evacuated. It is a harsh reality. As I arranged to leave Kabul, I thought of my privilege as an American to board the plane, leaving the country and its unique troubles miles away.  read more …

Stories Catching My Eye

February 10, 2015

It’s been a while since I posted what I’ve read lately, so I’ll share a longer list this time.

The Tragedy of the American Military

An insightful piece about the disconnect between ordinary US citizens and the military and the many consequences of such distance and misunderstanding.

 The Rapist Next Door

This story is about Alaska’s rape problem, but it’s also about a totally different way of punishing rapists.

The Green Monster

A story about the US border control and how it became the most renegade US law enforcement agency.

The Unbreakable Laura Hillenbrand

A profile of the author of Seabiscuit, and most recently Unbroken. She suffers from severe vertigo and hardly ever leaves her house, yet she’s sold more 10 million copies of both combined.

The Dark Side of the Moon

Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. The world won’t let him forget it, and his role in history. He just wants to move on.

Teenage Wasteland

A possible explanation about why so many efforts to stop young people from joining extremist groups fail.

An Indian-American Speaks on the State of Police in America

January 27, 2015

In October, the famous New York whistle-blower cop Frank Serpico, gave a long interview to Politico Magazine. As a Serpico fan and certainly of the movie (Al Pacino is fantastic), I read it. Part of the interview is about police accountability and the lack of it when he was in the force and its continuance today.

As the events of Ferguson, Cleveland and New York and the names, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and others echo through this nation and reverberate beyond, I thought back to Serpico’s interview and will quote some here, it’s directly applicable to all the afore-mentioned cases and the many which have not received media attention.

Before I go further, I want to say, I respect the majority of the US police force. I cannot imagine going to work every day and depending ones real duties, having the real possibility that I would not come home. I commend those men and women. Likewise, I cannot fathom the lives of people married to police officers or their children and living with chances, they will be dead or injured at days’ end.

Police officers see the worst parts of humanity and depravity regularly; the awful things we have the ‘privilege’ of hearing about through the news, they see daily: child abuse, sexual abuse, horrific murders and sense-less acts of violence are their ‘normal.”

I used to live on what I jokingly called the ‘safest street in America,’ because in the space of a few blocks there were two active FBI special agents, a regular town police officer, a retired state patrolman, a former member of the Italian police, the carabinieri and a retired sheriff. That is a lot of law in the immediate neighborhood. I am semi-serious of course, but all police I have ever known personally are good people. I truly believe that.

Ok, back to Serpico. As the article continues, he discussed the main problems with police as an institution in America. As I have read the news and watched television about myriad cases of cops shooting unarmed citizens, particularly minority ones, I agree with his sentiments.

“The gulf between the police and the communities they serve has grown wider…” Further, on he says “But when you are dealing every day with civilians walking the streets, and you bring in armored vehicles and automatic weapons, it’s all out of proportion. It makes you feel like you’re dealing with some kind of subversive enemy. The automatic weapons and bulletproof vest may protect the officer, but they also insulate him from the very society he’s sworn to protect. All that firepower and armor puts an even greater wall between the police and society, and solidifies that “us-versus-them” feeling.”

I read that and began thinking: “us versus them,’ when was the last time I saw a police officer engaging in regular conversation with people in the street? Sometimes, I see police officers speaking with folks through the windows of their vehicles, but that is the point. I hardly ever see police NOT in their vehicles. In addition, when they are in their cars they are usually parked on the side of the street, windows closed, laptop opened and either staring intently at the screen or viewing their surroundings suspiciously.

When I see police on the pavement, they are usually engaged in police activity, making an arrest, interrogating someone, their stance is both aggressive and intimidating. No one ever looks like they are enjoying the interaction. I can count only a few times I saw police in Washington, D.C. conversing with people or business proprietors in a friendly, informal way. I have lived here for almost a decade.

This is not an isolated phenomenon. Ask yourself when was the last time you had a conversation with a police officer that did not involve explaining a law or procedure? If they are not talking and getting to know the people in white or upper-class neighborhoods, then do we really imagine they would be doing so in high poverty and crime areas which tend to have greater minority populations?

I get it. They have to be vigilant and they must bring cynicism of humanity to their jobs. However, perhaps much of what is transpiring in cities and towns across America, as the police fortify themselves behind the ‘wall’, could be mitigated by walking and talking in public.

Start conversations and engage in banter with people. Sure, they are likely to be off-put at first, but only because it is such a strange phenomenon for them to talk with a police officer in a non-confrontational way. In time, those awkward feelings for both sides might change, but it will never get better if police continue to view everyone with suspicion or at least look like it.

Why can’t police get to know the neighborhood they work in, walk around the streets, and be a friendly presence instead of an intimidating one? Do I feel secure when I know police are around? Sometimes.

Nevertheless, frankly I would feel more secure if I knew any of them by name, had spoken directly to ones I saw in my neighborhood regularly. I live in one of the safest parts of Washington, D.C.; surely, the police could develop at least acquaintances with people around me.

I understand, I live in a city with pockets of high crime and violence, but police are public servants and must be everywhere, when they are in the less crime ridden places, could not they at least talk to me?

Let us now get to the racial aspects of this problem. Here again, Serpico…

“But they (he’s talking about white folks who watch cop movies and are raised believing all cops are heroic) often don’t understand that these minority communities, in many cases, view the police as the enemy. We want to believe that cops are good guys, but let’s face it, any kid in the ghetto knows different. The poor and the disenfranchised in society don’t believe those movies; they see themselves as the victims, and they often are.”

I am a man of non-white skin, but where I differ from most minority men, is that I only ever feel stereotyped for having that brown skin by the TSA and folks who work at airports. Never in my life have I felt uncomfortably scrutinized by regular law enforcement, as guys like Michael Brown and thousands of other black and minority men and women in this country are daily.

To be a black man, watched constantly as so many of these men are, merely walking on streets is foreign to me. I cannot imagine the impact psychologically that must have on people of color in the United States.

In my experience, Indian men do not suffer from the blanket stereotypes that other non-white males endure from law enforcement officials here. There are of course isolated incidents; violence against Sikhs wearing turbans and post 9/11 anti-Muslim sentiments, but my experience is wholly unlike what black or Latino communities experience daily.

Honestly, while I feel like I should be able to identify more closely with minorities in this police brutality and violence issue, I am not sure that is the case. If someone with white skin looked at me, I think they would assume I could relate better to the black community than they could. I may feel more at ease because my skin color is closer to theirs, but I do not identity with the race and police problems that many minorities face here.

I support all who speak out, but I do not feel like I can, on the racial aspects. I cannot march in the streets and decry police brutality because of my skin color, because I have never felt it.

As a basic justice issue, I am appalled by certain police actions and policies that take place. However, as an Indian-American guy, the minority experience with law enforcement, and especially for black men in America is far from my everyday understanding.

Stories Catching My Eye

December 23, 2014

The Chinese Government Is Getting Rich Selling Cigarettes

A story about China National Tobacco Corporation, the world’s largest.

Why No One Remembers the Peacemakers

Why do we remember those in War, but not those advocating Peace?

 Stop Trying to Save the World

A view of the international development machine.