We the people are (can be) the United States

I am so grateful to live in the United States. It’s taken me an extra day (past July 4) to post because I’ve wanted to write something meaningful about Independence Day as I’ve read and pondered on the experiences and feelings of those in marginalized groups. 

From Alaska

For me, I have always reveled in the amazing diversity of this country: the land itself features stark deserts, craggy mountains, rolling green hills and flat plains with marvels you have to see in person to really appreciate, and I have been able to do that all over the U.S. 

to Pennsylvania

More importantly, the people in this country are wonderfully diverse! I love to meet people from all over the world, and it’s so fun to be able to do that just living here in my own country (though I do love to travel outside of it too). Everyone looks different, speaks different languages, and brings rich cultures with them. My own family happens to be very American in that way: pretty diverse. White European, Filipino, mixed, black. I have a Mexican aunt and mixed cousins. 

I know racism exists, and it makes me sad. It can make me angry. I just don’t understand it. I think some people will never change: they will hold on to their prejudices no matter what. On the other hand, I think education, sharing experiences, and working with others one on one can change many people’s minds and actions (and re-actions). But it takes time and work. 

I am aware that in our country’s history, there have been atrocities. There continue to be horrible events resulting from individuals’ prejudices. Systems in our society do have some outdated practices baked in to them that continue to create gaps in equality. And on both of those counts, we all need to step up and speak out to create change. I think it’s also important to recognize that not all blacks or Asians or whites (etc.) think alike. Blacks have many varied opinions and experiences, as do Asians (etc.). People’s experiences inform their opinions and the conclusions they draw about action that needs to take place, and I’ve observed plenty of diversity in those conclusions. 

I respect the feelings of some blacks, for instance, whose experiences have led them for the time being to feel bitter about this country. That saddens me, but that’s where they are. Others have mixed feelings about the United States but ultimately love it and work for change to make it even better because they love it. That’s where they are. I won’t disparage anyone’s feelings but state simply that I see you and hear you and join with you in making things better that need to be better. I can say that it’s important to respect people’s feelings, and to listen to others’ opinions and experiences regularly. 

However, all of us, based on our individual diverse lives and experiences, will come to very different conclusions on the actions/changes we think need to take place in society, government and other institutions. Just because we may disagree about which things need to change and how doesn’t mean we don’t respect each other. (*Most of us respect each other, that is. I’ll say it again: some people will continue to be racist and have prejudices – and that can include people of any race; racism/prejudice is not restricted to whites, as my Asian husband can attest, since he has faced taunts from blacks in the South, for instance – we simply will not eradicate racism.) If I draw a different conclusion about some changes and how they should be made from some of you or some prominent thinkers, it doesn’t mean I haven’t considered their experiences and opinions; it simply means I have done so and have drawn different conclusions. 

And that is my long-winded take on independence and this great land. I love this country and believe it is a special place. It can be better, but we as citizens must do better because we ARE the United States. We should all a) get and stay informed, listen to each other with respect and carefully weigh all we read and hear from a truly diverse set of outlets and individuals, and b) elect representatives who will truly represent the people, all of them, and work with each other and compromise. We can overcome the division that is happening. This can be a truly UNITED States. 

American black babies being adopted outside the U.S.

So I read another article that just made my jaw drop. It said that while international adoptions are becoming more difficult, and thus are dropping in numbers, would-be parents from other countries are finding it fairly easy to adopt babies from here in the U.S. — and many of those are black babies, because there are more of them in the “waiting child” category.

Yikes. The article actually reminds readers that racial prejudice is still an issue here in the U.S. and that some black birth parents hope that by letting foreigners adopt their babies, that their children might face fewer racial issues in other countries, such as the Netherlands.

Here I am the first time I met my gorgeous baby Charlotte, the day after her birth.
Here I am the first time I met my gorgeous baby Charlotte, the day after her birth.

As the wife of an Asian man and the mother of three biological children who are mixed-race (Caucasian and Filipino) and one adopted black daughter, I am certainly sensitive to racial issues. Most of the time, however, since I personally just don’t see any difference in who people truly ARE at their core regardless of what they might look like on the outside (and I suppose this also extends to disabilities, since one daughter has Down syndrome…), I tend to not think about racial issues too much. I’m not saying I’m being insensitive; I guess I just don’t think about it frequently because of my attitude about people and race.

But this article, though a bit shocking, isn’t a complete surprise; when we adopted our daughter, we heard that some other prospective parents weren’t interested in adopting a baby who didn’t share their race (i.e., since many were white, they wanted a white baby). And I knew there were some agencies and services out there that specifically work on finding homes for black or mixed-race babies (in addition to children with special needs), because they’re harder to place.

Again, as with so many issues today, even though we’ve come a long way as a country when it comes to race, we’re not color blind yet. And don’t even get me started on the hateful comments some people made about one of Mitt Romney’s sons adopting a black baby (as if it were for political purposes!). I just wish that prejudice and all the assorted other hatefulness out there didn’t have to affect babies.

Let’s fix our health care system before it breaks entirely

Catastrophic CareI just finished reading David Goldhill’s excellent book Catastrophic Care: How American Health Care Killed My Father — and How We Can Fix It. I don’t say this often, but EVERYONE must read this book. MUST.

It’s important to note that Goldhill is a Democrat and a liberal, as he states in the book. He wants everyone to have access to health care, at reasonable prices for them. But even he is clear that the American health care system as it has evolved over the past 40 years or so is broken and that having our government step in and use the current messed-up system to provide more care is not a viable solution. Indeed, the costs of this bloated, convoluted system are already at levels that can’t possibly be sustained, and as time goes on, the whole system will hit a critical level at which it can no longer function, and no one will receive adequate care.

There are a lot of problems going on. One is that we’re already getting poor care from the system; hundreds of thousands of Americans die every year from medical errors. Most of us have cause to complain about our insurance or health care (which are not synonymous but which are essentially tied together in a sick, symbiotic beast), but we feel helpless to DO anything about it. Goldhill writes that the problem there is that we as patients are simply not the consumers/customers of the business of health care: the insurance providers are. The system itself has pushed us out of the loop so we feel we can’t demand better care or prices.

Goldhill makes his case very clearly and simply and walks readers through how we got where we are today; read my review of the book for more information, but then read the whole book to really get the idea. That background of health care/insurance’s history then allows us to understand why the government “fixes” are just going to make the problems even bigger and worse. By the end, Goldhill even comes up with his own plans for making health care available and affordable to everyone in this country, even for rare and costly illnesses.

I can’t emphasize enough that we as consumers and patients and citizens of this country need to get better informed and then act to change the situation. Only if we all urge our political leaders to make an overhaul — and then prepare ourselves to take more responsibility on ourselves as consumers — will the system change and be something that will give us better care, prices, and customer service. Unfortunately, it may well take a terrible catastrophe or crisis (not too far off in the future) before we decide to act. I only wish we could act before that happens.