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An Iranian adoptee talks socialism, academia, and the adoption crusade: My Conversation With Dr. Farnad Darnell

Changes are coming to Land of Gazillion Adoptees.  First and foremost, I’m excited to announce the expansion of Team LGA.  Iranian adoptee Dr. Farnad Darnell, who is featured below, has agreed to be a monthly contributor.  As you’ll see, Farnad brings a unique perspective to the adoption conversation.  KAD Shelise Gieseke, whom we saw a couple of months ago, will bring her Midwest/Pacific Northwest sensibilities to the pages of LGA every month as well.

Another addition to Land of Gazillion Adoptees will be a monthly video segment – “MN Brew With a KAD.”  We’ll slowly roll this out in the next few months, but it’s safe to say that the aim isn’t “Inside the Actors Studio” with James Lipton.  Rather, we’re hoping to approach something akin to “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis and “7 Minutes in Heaven” with Mike O’Brien.  Stay tuned.

And Land of Gazillion Adoptees is getting a facelift.  To accommodate all of the changes, the look and feel of LGA will be drastically different in the coming weeks.

Okay.  Enough of that.  We now return you to your previously scheduled program.


Land of Gazillion Adoptees: You’re pretty much a right-wing conservative’s worst nightmare. You’re Iranian, socialist, and academic. What’s your angle, man?

Farnad: My angle is to try and take over the world – Pinky and the Brain, and myself.  No. My angle on being Iranian, socialist, and academic stems from my upbringing, I would argue. Having been brought to this country at age six and subsequently raised in a conservative Republican Mormon household, I found myself disagreeing with much of what I was taught. I began to question, but the answers didn’t satiate my desire to learn. So I pursued education in hopes of being able to quench the thirst for knowledge of a better world, one without ignorance of another’s nationality, physical appearance, etc. As I began to learn about race and culture, social class reared its ugly head, and I could not deny that for me it was the crux of much of society’s ills. Perhaps without economic “class” status we could focus on dissipating the racial and gender gaps that are often associated with class. For me, the big picture was a utopian society (a la Thomas More), and thus I began to read more Marx and Engels, and began to understand the possibilities. Of course I have since deconstructed Marx and Engels to some degree, but I will always believe that a better world is out there. This is my [ideal] pursuit.

Being Iranian has its own implications. Not knowing my culture personally and not being able to go back due to nationality issues (I am considered an Iranian citizen in their eyes and would most likely be forced to stay for a long period of time if I went back to just visit), this frustrates my desire to learn more about Iran. Post 9-11 has not changed this fact, as being from a country that was once touted an “axis of evil” still doesn’t provide security from ignorance, be it our government or theirs.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: Wow… How many Iranian adoptees do you think there are in the US and are you in contact with some of them?

Farnad: I know of six Iranian adoptees, one with whom I am close. I would venture to guess there may be as many as 100.  However, given the historical context of adoptions from Iran between the 1950’s to 1970’s, I don’t think many are willing to come forth as they have settled into the American culture and want to blend in. I do want to pursue this further and try to find as many Iranian adoptees as I can and share their stories, but I think this will be very difficult.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: You expressed some deep concerns about The Nation article I (re)posted recently in FB. Would you mind sharing your thoughts about the article here?

Farnad: If you’re referring to the article that addresses the Evangelical Crusade for adoption, I fear for not only the children of the country, but the people whose good intentions are derailing the adoption process. I am a firm believer that children should be able to be adopted, but not from fundamental pressures which may in fact go against the host countries’ culture and process. Historically adoption has been associated with religious groups (i.e. Bethany Christian Services and Holt International), but they have bettered their process by promoting a colonialist/imperialist attitude, justifying their good works in the name of God. It should be our moral imperative to see that all children are cared for and not have to bring God into the process, else by that logic God is the one who “abandoned” adoptees in the first place.

Like many adoptees, I had a fantasy story that I was “chosen” for a special purpose. In my case it was because my adoption story incorporated the words “…you were chosen, as Heavenly Father led us to find you.” Talk about feeling the need to live up to unrealistic expectations. For many years I believed this to be the case.  So I lived up to what I was supposed to do because God chose my family to find me. Perhaps, but this is no way to have sheep follow the shepherd, metaphorically and biblically speaking.

I was angry once I became an adult and could think for myself and be able to question religion. I remember the moment the realization hit me that religion was the cause of so much anger, hatred, and segregation in the world, and for me personally, even more so. I became more open to my parents about the lack of religious exploration and encouragement than I had ever been, and I let them know that, although I understood their perspective, I didn’t agree with it; it wasn’t fair that I be part of their religious narrative.

To this day I cringe at fundamental Christians who claim God but act without forethought of the damage incurred upon children who don’t have the ability to think for themselves. Adoption is not the job of Christian, Jewish, or any other faith-based organization that claims to be doing “God’s work.” A loving home does not have to be religious-based. Love of humanity should be enough. We can teach moral good without having to feed children a story of them being “chosen.” Furthermore, being chosen has its negative implications of living up to a standard that is unfair and unrealistic. Having been a missionary, I know firsthand the possibilities of leading someone in a direction that is convenient at the moment, but in the long-term can have negative effects.

So for all those faith-based adoption services, I implore you to look at the long-term damage you may be inflicting on unsuspecting children and families. Please cease in spreading tenets that a child need not bother themselves with when they have more urgent issues to deal with, like a new culture, family, and life. Let them grow up and when they are adults they will find their own path. All children deserve a better life, but don’t bring God into the conversation. We’ve had enough crusades for many lifetimes, and I don’t think God would appreciate his/her name being brought into this.

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