On Dec. 9, a stranger sent me a private message on Facebook.
“Why did you adopt from China?” she wanted to know.
What made this query notable was that just a month previous ― the day after the election to be precise ― I had gotten the same question from someone else, also a stranger.
Now before you say these readers were simply asking out of curiosity, let me assure you that “Why did you adopt from China” ― or Vietnam or Haiti or Nigeria or anyplace else in the world but the United States of ‘merica ― has always been code.
It’s code that implies I am not a patriot because the route I took to build my family was international adoption. A code that implies that I have failed some unspoken obligation I have to “take care of America’s kids first.”
America’s kids first. Gee, now who does that sound like? Yes, him.
To this adoptive mother, the question feels like less of a question and more of a judgement.
Sure, I could explain what the adoption landscape looked like at that particular time in 2001 when my husband and I began to pursue adoption from China, but why bother? These questioning readers can Google and learn all about China’s now-defunct one-child policy or the Hague Convention ― but that’s not really the conversation they want to have.
What they want to know is why I “rejected” perfectly good children born in the United States. Why I instead brought home two kids born someplace else.
Only thing is, adoption is about forming families, and patriotism ― if that’s what you want to call it ― has nothing to do with adoption. I fear that this question is Trump’s agenda invading my home ― making America great again is Trump-speak for taking care of “us” first. I’d like to slam the door on that right now.
The assumptions behind the question are so parochial that it’s hard to know where to begin. I suppose I could answer “Why did you adopt from China?” with “Why do you care?” or “How is what I do any of your business?” Maybe even a simple “How do I know you again?”
One adoptive mom friend likes to turn the question around on the questioner: “I’m glad you care so much about unwanted American kids. How many have you adopted?”
Some adoptive parents stake claim to the divine: “Because that’s where my children were,” they say, eyes looking heavenward. I’m not a fan of that answer because it suggests that some woman halfway around the world was created to serve as my womb ― and to hell with any emotional attachments she had to her baby. All in God’s plan, right? Let’s light a candle, shall we?
But what if this era of making America great again, which so far includes closing borders to immigrants Trump doesn’t like and imposing tariffs on foreign-made goods, further fuels the fires of this so-called “America-first patriotism?”
Aren’t you just a little scared about what will happen when Trump pokes China and China pokes back? I know I am. My children are U.S. citizens, just like the more than 127,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry who the United States rounded up and sent to detention camps in 1942. Why did the U.S. do that? Out of fear that they would be disloyal to their adopted country. Some of those citizens who lost their homes and businesses had never even been to Japan.
So while the “Why China?” question isn’t new and may not appear sinister on its surface, it is extra unsettling to hear it asked these days in a political climate where some seem to have forgotten that we all came from some place else.