Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Inside China, Inside Me

We're intently watching a PBS documentary called China From the Inside. It's fascinating to watch, especially because it was filmed during the same year that we were there with the Bambina. The scenes at the National People's Congress must have been filmed as we were standing across the street from Tiananmen Square at the Forbidden City gates. It's wonderful to watch and remember, to think about how we approached China and the Chinese people--and they us--with wide eyes and open hearts.

It deals pretty openly with political issues, corruption within The Party, the economic and social consequences of rapid development, and the one-child policy. What I really hope people will take from watching this show is the amazing diversity that is China and her people; that to "be Chinese" is as wide a statement of ethnic, racial and historical background as is to "be American."

When I think back to those three weeks in China, my thoughts are obviously influenced by the fact that my life as I know it began there. That my Bambina, who has made my life the meaningful, joyous and inexpressably wondrous thing that it is, was born there and officially became my daughter there.

I loved seeing and experiencing the tiny slice of China that I did. As I follow the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, I sometimes realize that the China we saw in 2005 will never be again. Partly that has to do with all of the internal changes going on there, economically, industrially, environmentally. Mostly, I think, it has a lot to do with the changes in me.

There are a lot of things to deplore about China; I know this. But I can't think about China without feeling grateful and blessed. Some other adoptive parents we met in China were borderline dismissive of China, its food, its customs and its history. They just couldn't wait to get home to "real food" and "people who speak English" and suchlike. At the time I found it to be an embarrassingly stereotypical "ugly American" way to look at the world: "I don't like it here, half way around the globe, because it's not just like my little life in America."

Now when I think about it I find it to be a profoundly sad and ignorant way to view the birthplace of one's children. It now strikes me as irresponsible and unhealthy. It's true that my daughter is as American as anyone, but to deny her pride in her birthplace is to deny her origins as a person. I don't have to like the politics or the economics, but I do have to value and show respect for the culture from which she came.

So I care about China. Not because I have to, but because it just feels natural to do so, as the place where I first held my daughter, where she first called me Mama, where I first felt my heart break open and almost explode with the inexplicably joyous feeling you get when a baby looks to you for comfort, receives it, and falls happily asleep in your arms.

No matter what, I don't think I'll ever stop caring about China as a country, as a diverse people, as a vast variety of cultures. Why? Because a branch of my family tree is nurtured and supported by roots that will always exist there. Because--just as our ancestors became Bambina's--her ancestors became ours.

1 comment:

ChinaLawBlog said...

I find that attitude to be a profoundly sad way to view just about any place.