Sunday, January 20, 2013

Russia vs. USA

I was just reading this article (Here a Gun, There a Gun, Everywhere a Gun by Paul Waldman) which is very interesting and worth your time, and it got me thinking.

But not about gun control.

It got me thinking about the differences between the US and Russia, and the comment made by Miss Muffett on my blog yesterday. Miss Muffett proposes a number of alternate explanations for the Russian Adoption Ban in her post--explanations which come from the Russian media, yes, but which are in direct contrast to what the Russian government has been saying since the ban passed. (The Russian government has consistently said that the Adoption Ban is a response to the Magnitsky act.)

I responded to Miss Muffett's arguments in a comment last night, which you can read by following the link above, but what I want to talk about today is the American idea of freedom--an idea that makes little sense to Russians.

When I see someone asking the questions Miss Muffett asks--why doesn't the US track Russian adoptees better? Why doesn't the US give Russian officials access to adoptive families accused of abuse? Why doesn't the US close boarding schools that are really dumping grounds for adoptees that nobody wants? (This last is an allegation for which I have found no evidence, but for the sake of argument, let's suppose it's true)--I realize that the person asking doesn't really understand the US and how we work.

We can't track Russian adoptees better because we don't track our citizens. This is less true in the age of the Patriot Act, but it's still essentially true, especially of children. Yes, the FBI now has my fingerprints on file (this is part of the international adoption process) but unless I commit a crime, or apply for a job in a school or with the police, my fingerprints aren't checked, so those fingerprints do not allow the FBI to track me.

As for the case in Florida that Miss Muffett references, in which a couple was arrested for alleged abuse, and then the charges were dismissed in court, because the charges were dropped, the US Government does not have the right to enter that person's house. They gave the family's phone number to the Russian officials, but unless the parents consent, nobody can go into that house.

Finally, there is a boarding school in Montana that advertises itself as a place that treats children with post-adoptive stress disorders. It is a Christian boarding school that has no therapy license. Miss Muffett contends that people dump their adopted children there when they can't handle them, and while I can't find any evidence to support that theory, it may well be true. I am no friend of mysterious Christian schools that seem to be indoctrinating children. However, it is a parent's right to send their children to boarding school, and the US Government can't do anything about it unless there are allegations of abuse at the school.

All of these things are protected rights in the US, and while I am ashamed to hear that some people do not complete their post-adoption reports to Russia, horrified to think that people could abuse their children and retain custody, and shocked at the notion that anyone would send an elementary school-aged child to boarding school, the alternative is a country that doesn't protect individual rights, and I value the rights of individuals, so I accept the trade-off.

A big part of the miscommunication that goes on between Russia and the US has to do with the differences in our cultures. We start from different assumptions about how the world works, and that can make negotiation difficult. Russia has one set of assumptions about how a government takes care of its children--when we adopted Boo, we had to notify the local police that she was no longer residing at the baby home and get a paper that said we had permission to relocate her, because the police are responsible for keeping track of who lives in their district, even babies. After centuries of totalitarian rule, Russians are used to the idea that government officials can enter their houses at any time. And a school that the government of Russia doesn't like is closed. But that is not our way.

Until both sides understand each other a little better, these misunderstandings will continue.

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