April 28, 2007
A Story of Tragedy, Loss, Faith, Hope
â€¦that is how the telling of her story began this morning. As part of the Still Present Pasts exhibit, Mrs. Lee, a Korean birthmother, told her story to us speaking through an interpreter. Before the Korean War, she worked in a shirt factory. She was 18 when the Korean War started, so she couldnâ€™t go for advanced schooling. (Girls couldnâ€™t go when people were starving, but boys could.) She was 22 when she married -- for love, rather than by family arrangement. Her husband was a construction manager; they had 4 children - 3 boys and 1 girl. They lost their resources and their livelihood when some of his workers sued him. They had to move in 1971, and her husband died in 1972 (because of shock and stress, she said).
With children ages 14, 9, 6, and 2, she was unable to work outside the home and had no extended family to help. They had disowned her after she married for love rather than by family arrangement. The pastor of her church suggested that she place the 2 year old for adoption so that she could work and support the other 3 children. She reluctantly went to Holt (an adoption agency); within 3 months, an adoptive family in the U.S. was chosen and sent her a letter. They noticed all 4 children in a picture and offered to adopt all 4 siblings.
Mrs. Lee couldnâ€™t think of her life without children. She postponed the babyâ€™s departure for 6 months. The oldest son asked to go to America - the land of promise, the â€śdream country.â€? A friend told her: if you send one baby, you will lose contact forever; but if you send all 4 children, perhaps you can have contact and they will come back to you some day. So she decided to send all 4 children.
After they were gone, she saw no hope for living any longer. She tried to commit suicide 4 times and failed. Friends suggested that she remarry, but she refused. If she remarried, her name would be changed to that of her new husband and removed from her familyâ€™s registry. Therefore, if her children tried to find her, they wouldnâ€™t be able to. She had no social life or close friends. People asked her how she could enjoy herself, when she had given up her children.
When her daughter was 19, she contacted her mother. â€śIt was the best day in my whole life!â€? She was persuaded to move to Minnesota in 1992, but it didnâ€™t work out and she moved back to Korea. â€śWhenever I received a letter, the whole world was mine.â€? She moved back to Minnesota in 1996. She had hoped to be with all her children, but her oldest son moved to California and started a business. She doesnâ€™t know where he lives now; he doesnâ€™t call her. The other 3 live here and have good relationships with her. She hopes that her oldest son will return some day.
She does know the family who adopted her children. She appreciates the love and support they have given her children. Even though they donâ€™t speak each othersâ€™ language, they show their affection through hugs, smiles, and demonstrations of appreciation and affection.
She was asked, â€śHow do your children feel now about your decision (to place them for adoption)?â€? She said the children tell her not to regret it - they try to comfort her; they say they have had a good life here.
She was asked whether she has become friends with other Korean women who placed babies for adoption. She said she is ashamed; she does not want to share this with other women. She said no Korean woman would place a child for adoption without being in terrible circumstances. It is unspeakable, indescribable. But she decided to tell her story today, in the context of this project about Korea and the Korean War, because she wanted to share the truth about her life.
Thank you, Mrs. Lee, for your courage in talking with us this morning. Every adoption involves compelling stories - stories that involve the strongest emotions that we humans experience. The stories of birth parents are not as frequently told as those of adoptees or adoptive parents. So it was a privilege to hear and learn from this story.
Posted by hgroteva at 8:30 PM
April 22, 2007
Earth Day - Learning from Tragedy
Earth Day is about humility, admitting there are lots of mysteries about our planet and each other that we don't understand, but resolving to strive to understand and to do more. (And there's a bit of incentive -- our survival -- at stake.) It's hard to believe that such a beautiful spring day in Minnesota comes on the heels of such tragedy in Virginia.
E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote the following about gun control for the Washington Post today.
"In almost all other spheres, we act reaonably when faced with new problems. When Richard Reid showed that nasty things could be done with shoes on airplanes, airport security started examining shoes. When liquids were seen as potentially dangerous, we regulated the quantity of liquids we could take on flights. Long ago, we barred people from carrying weapons onto airliners. If we can act pragmatically in the skies, why can't we be equally practical here on earth? ...
"Our country is a laughingstock on the rest of the planet because of our devotion to unlimited gun rights. On Thursday, an Austrailian newspaper carried the headline: "America, the gun club." "
Let's get it, people -- respect the earth and respect each other. Get the guns off the streets.
Posted by hgroteva at 11:14 AM
April 19, 2007
Common Denominators Suggest Ideas about Prevention
The Star Trib this morning published an op-ed piece by James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University, who wrote it for the L.A. Times. It starts off: "Mass murder certainly wasn't invented with the 1966 Texas Tower shootings." Well, that hit a nerve. The Whitman shootings occurred one month before I began my freshman year at UT Austin. A friend of mine from high school was shot and her unborn baby was killed. So yes, it hit a nerve.
But what intrigued me about this article was that Fox looked at the factors common to recent mass murders. He noted that "seven of the eight largest mass shootings in modern U.S. history have occurred in the last 25 years." The common denominators he mentioned included the following:
1) The perpetrators have a long history of frustration, failure, and inability to cope.
2) They externalize blame, complaining that others haven't given them a chance.
3) They lack emotional support from friends and family.
4) They experience an event that precipitates the rampage - perhaps a major disappointment in work, school, or relationships; a racial slur; taunting.
5) They gain access to a weapon powerful enough to satisfy their need for revenge.
And a number of changes in our society provide tinder that allows the factors above to ignite.
a) Weapons are more potent than ever - we've moved from pistols to semi-automatics.
b) The U.S. is more competitive than ever, with little compassion for those who fail.
c) The decline of community (of many kinds) intensifies the isolation of potential mass murderers.
I would add the following:
d) Society is increasingly polarized along lines of race, class, ethnicity, political persuasion, sexual orientation, religion, and other categories.
e) Our understanding of mental illness remains poor; mental health services are inadequate; those seeking mental health services are stigmatized; privacy laws intended to protect people's rights infringe on the rights of others.
A close examination of these points suggests many ideas about prevention of future tragedies. Of course, we can't prevent them all. But for every person who actualizes the killing, there are likely others on the verge, suffering. We as individuals and communities can do things that might actually help. If we each looked at the items above and picked one to work on, just imagine how powerful that could be.
Posted by hgroteva at 9:43 PM
OK - I admit it. I watch Grey's Anatomy. I never thought I'd write about it, but tonight it was revealed that Izzie is a birth mother - she placed her child for adoption 11 years ago. Of course her daughter needs a bone marrow transplant and her adoptive parents found her and begged and Izzie said yes but wanted to meet her daughter who said no but she looked at her anyway and thought her daughter looked just like her and George took care of her but Callie is mad and who will he choose???
Posted by hgroteva at 9:25 PM
April 15, 2007
Still Present Pasts
Last night was the opening of the exhibit, Still Present Pasts, a multimedia exhibit exploring the legacies of the Korean War. Congratulations to the many people and funders who made it possible, and especially to my university colleague Rich Lee, who chaired the steering committee. Rich has been building excitement about the exhibit for several weeks now on his blog - Here's a link to the posts.
There's a lot to take in - poignant displays and first-person accounts about people who lived through the war and their families who came after. I want to return when it's quieter in the gallery to soak it all in. One of the most moving speeches at last night's opening was delivered by Dr. Ji Yeon Yuh, Associate Professor of History and Director of Asian American Studies at Northwestern University. She placed the Korean War in nested, yet broadening circles of human conflict - extending to today's global hatred and bitterness. She gave a moving plea for global understanding and placed responsibility for it squarely on each of our shoulders.
The opening program also featured readings of poetry and prose, and performances by the Chang Mi Korean Dance and Drum and by Shinparam, A Korean traditional drumming troupe. I was delighted to see that two students in my research methods class participate in Shinparam.
The exhibit is particularly important for people involved in any facet of adoption because of the large number of children adopted from Korea into the U.S. following the Korean War and continuing for many years. Several adoption-related events in conjunction with the exhibit should be noted:
Birthmother Panel -- "Korean immigrant mothers share their story of giving up their children for adoption as a result of the Korean War."
April 28, 10 a.m. - noon
Korean Presbyterian Church
Made in Korea
a film by In-Soo Radstake
April 28, 7:15 pm, St. Anthony Main Theatre
April 29, 2:30 pm, St. Anthony Main Theatre
Evening with Deann Borshay Liem
Screening and discussion of her film, "First Person Plural" and discussion of her current work
May 5, 7 - 9 pm,
Nicholson Hall 155, U of Minnesota, East Bank
Here: A Visual Portrait of Korean Adoptees Living in Minnesota
Book preview and reception
June 3, 3 - 6 pm, Weisman Art Gallery
Kim Dalros and Holly Hee Won Coughlin, project curators
For further information about these and other events, visit the Still Present Pasts website.
Congratulations and thanks to everyone involved in making these events possible.
Posted by hgroteva at 10:20 AM
April 11, 2007
A spot on the NBC Nightly News last Friday talked about caringbridge.org, a website where the families of people who are ill can post about their progress, and friends can post their encouraging words. It basically creates a free website for the family. A woman whose 3-year-old daughter had leukemia noted that while her daughter was undergoing intensive chemotherapy, it was difficult to keep all their friends and family current on the news. The website allowed them to post progress once each day for them all to see, and allowed friends to post their prayers and words of encouragement back to them. A great idea.
When my mother was so ill in 2000, e-mail to my friends was my lifeline. But I do remember that after spending a day with my mom in intensive care, it was difficult to write multiple people and respond to them individually. Caringbridge seems to be a great solution. A side benefit is that the communication is not only between the person and respondents a pair at a time, but that a virtual community is formed, linking supporters who may have never met in person with each other.
I hope I don't have to use this new compassionate technology any time soon, but when I need it, I'll be glad that it's there.
Posted by hgroteva at 5:09 AM
April 9, 2007
Today's Star Tribune reported the following:
""HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L'ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play. It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by," wrote Gene Weingarten for the Washington Post. Almost all of them were on the way to work. "No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made."
Here's a link to the full Washington Post story, complete with some videos.
Although the story itself is quite a jolt, it says a lot to me about how un-aware we have gotten. I've mentioned earlier that the undergraduates in my class have their iPods plugged in until the minute class starts and plug them back in the minute that class ends. When people are walking on campus, they seem totally oblivious to their surroundings - the people, the birds singing, and yes - even Joshua Bell playing that amazing violin.
I predict that 10 years from now, there will be a great epiphany about "awareness" - people will be re-discovering how important it is to be in tune with their surroundings. In the meantime, I'll be paying close attention to those magical moments -- like the time I heard the invisible (to me) chorus rehearsing in the residence hall at King's College, or the time (while on the way to another concert) we stopped on the Washington Mall for a performance of Porgy and Bess being simulcast to the crowds outside, or to the time the Minnesota Women's Chorus was performing in the lobby of the Guthrie. Music is everywhere and needs to be performed and to be heard.
But this is about a lot more than music, isn't it? In what other ways are we oblivious to the amazing things around us??
Posted by hgroteva at 8:06 AM
April 6, 2007
Will "Rome" Have a Third Season??
I don't tend to be a big TV watcher, but "Six Feet Under" captured me, and now it's "Rome." Those HBO guys....
They have just aired the end of Season 2 of "Rome." When the season began, I read somewhere that it was the end. But I wonder ....
Of course, some of the main characters met their ends at the end of 2. Here, Lucius Vorenus talks with Cleopatra after she discovers the dead Mark Antony and just before she gets up close and personal with the asp.
I visited the Rome website and lo and behold, learned that fans are writing scripts for the 3rd season. Pretty cool! Let's see if HBO pays attention. A bunch of the bloggers on the HBO site say they'll cancel their HBO subscriptions if there's no Season 3! In the meantime, they're happy to write the scripts (and probably do the sets and costumes, too).
I will probably write more about "Rome," but wanted to get this much on record.
Posted by hgroteva at 5:27 PM