I have a son in China. Well …not really. He was almost my son. Maybe he should’ve been. He is probably around 17, now. And I think about him almost every day …

During the dramatic adoption of my daughter, we had to rush her to the Chinese hospital twice in two days. This wasn’t the beautiful hospital, tailor made for photo ops. This was the utilitarian, open-air, urine-trough-in-the-floor, blood-and-puss-on-the-examination-table triage hut, the Chinese didn’t want Americans to see (I was asked to put my camera away several times). I’m always amused at theoretical communists who’ve never actually SEEN it in action …but I digress.

As the over-worked nurses were trying to put a needle in my daughter’s head, suddenly, high-pitched Cantonese was being yelled into my right ear. I jerked around, startled to find a very loud, tiny, determined “peasant lady,” complete with dirty head-scarf, missing teeth and weathered, cracked skin, yelling at me.

At first I didn’t know what was happening. But then, on closer examination, I saw that she was holding a 3-year-old boy (about) on the examination table next to her.

He was smiling at me and wearing a red sweater. I still see that sweater in my dreams. The peasant lady was showing me his teeth and his hair while she jabbered on incessantly. I had no idea what was happening. Finally, our translator pulled away from the drama playing out on our own exam table, and told me the woman was trying to give me her son to adopt and take to America.

I thought, in my semi-shocked state, that this was some sort of joke. I laughed a little, trying to lighten the mood. But the translator said, in her slightly broken english, “she serious. She has never seen American before. Thinks this her only chance to get son out of China.”

And that was the day I fully understood birth privilege. This woman and I were only separated by the fact that we had been born in different places …as different genders …under different governmental systems.

Some people roll their eyes at concepts like “white privilege” but I believe it’s a real thing.

Although I cannot change the skin into which I was born, I understand all too well that I write and create and LIVE from the perspective of a white male. And that comes with a certain amount of privilege in this current culture (at least for now).

Once you understand your privilege, it’s up to you (individually) to try and balance it. But the tricky thing about privilege is that everybody has it in some way. And it can play out in paradoxical ways. My daughter was born into less privilege than that little boy. But ironically, his “male privilege” kept him trapped in China. And her LACK of privilege (being born a female orphan) got her out of China …and into more privilege than he will ever know. Life is interesting.

Since that day in that hospital, I’ve tried to level my white, male, American privilege in ways I really don’t care to talk about …because it’s no one’s business but mine. But just know that YOU have some sort of privilege too. White women in America probably have more privilege than black women. But black women in America have more privilege than that peasant woman in China. Privilege is a global thing.

One of the biggest privileges on earth is being born in the United States. We all kind of know this. And many feel guilty about it. But there is also a certain privilege to being born on the North American continent. Why is that?

Being born in Canada is certainly its own privilege. And believe it or not, being born in Mexico has its own privilege when it comes to immigrating to the US.

You see, they didn’t allow me to bring that little boy back from China. There were armed guards and public officials and government agencies LITERALLY everywhere, blocking that from happening. The little peasant lady and her son were ushered away from me by two men in uniforms. She didn’t understand the protocol. And as she was being led away from me, she was still yelling and trying with all her might to get her son out of rural China, to a better life.

What she didn’t understand is you can’t just go to China and pick out a kid and bring them home. There are processes and forms to fill out and back ground checks to do. And there’s a lot of cross talk between both countries and their various adoption and immigration agencies. This is how things have to work.

Even though I still dream of that little boy …I simply could not take him home with me. And some days I have a hard time reconciling that. But laws and borders are serious things. We all know this in the abstract. It just gets difficult to accept when human lives are caught in the middle of that realization.

We’ve had an open southern border in the United States for decades. And we’re the ONLY organized nation on planet earth that allows people to simply walk across that border and live here. We’ll only try to catch you at the point of entry. But if you make it past the guards, you’re pretty much home free …literally.

Nobody else does that. You can’t do that in Canada or even MEXICO. Definitely not China. And reasonable Americans have often wondered to themselves, “Should we build some sort of wall or fence? Don’t we need a secure border? And maybe a vetting process of some kind for people who want to come here? That seems reasonable to me. Am I wrong about that?” But no one wants to say that out loud because they don’t want to be labeled a racist.

No U.S president in my lifetime has ever tried to truly address this …until now. And the can of worms has been opened.

The truth is we who were born in the U.S do have privilege. It’s absolutely true. But, in our attempt to level that, should we keep our borders open and simply allow people to walk over? If so, then why can’t I go get that little boy from China and bring him over? I’ll tell you why. Because he doesn’t have continental privilege.

He was simply born in the wrong hemisphere.

The fact is, if we gave the southern half of the U.S back to Mexico, people from Mexico would still be crossing into Utah and Colorado. Because Mexico has some problems. BIG ones. And people want to get out of there. And THAT’S the issue you have start squaring once you drill into your own privilege.

The ultimate goal is not to have all 7 billion people on earth come to America. That is not physically possible. But what IS possible is to support countries who are moving toward more freedom and equity. And call out counties who aren’t …and help move them in that direction. If China were a better place, there would be no peasant women trying to give their sons to Americans. If Mexico were a better place there would be no inflow of people racing to get out of there.

But laws and borders are necessary. Even if you think the enforcement of such things is unseemly.

If people from Mexico are simply allowed to cross the border without process, then why do we have customs? Why do we have to carry passports? Why do we have border check points going in and out of our countries?

If walking across a border is acceptable, just because …you know …IT’S RIGHT THERE …then someone owes an impoverished teenage boy in China, 14 years of a better life in America …with me.




    • Interesting, and correct in some ways, but ethnocentric. Not all 7 billion people what to end up in the US. I spent 5 years in the US as a visitor from Canada, great place, lovely people, but in the end Canada is home and the values here are closer to mine and for me it is more free. If Americans opened their minds a litte to the rest of the world they may find that importing ides form elswhere could make the US an even better place. The rest of the world imports plenty of good ideas from the US, think of it as idea free trade.


  1. I like this blog. But you lost me at the border sentences. For example, on a recent trip, I easily entered the Czech Republic while traveling from Germany without anyone checking my U.S. passport. Border patrols aren’t always militant around the world. Regardless, border protection is important and should be instituted. But these recent mandates are overreaching and are conveying too much power over the wrong people. They should have been thought out more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Czech Republic and Germany are part of the European Union. They are a group of 28 counties that have teamed up and allow travel between themselves. That doesn’t mean a Czech person could necessarily become a citizen of German. Or the other way around. We travel between the 50 states without having to notify anyone but it doesn’t mean Mexico or Canada would let us become citizens of their countries. We all still need borders.


    • The Schengen Agreement means you can travel freely within all member states and only need to present your passport at the point of entry (the member state you come across first).

      That doesn’t mean that thousands could not WALK from Syria to Germany. They have, in fact. Across several borders. So I also have to disagree with the “And we’re the ONLY organized nation on planet earth that allows people to simply walk across that border and live here.” statement. Italy and Greece in particular would probably like to show us THEIR immigrants and refugees as well (even as their own economies are barely staying afloat) – and at the same time roll their eyes at our panic.

      We have ONE border across which illegal immigrants come.
      Unless you count the occasional Canadian moose. Or their geese. Those are mean, I’d like the Canadians to keep them.

      But just for comparison, because Germany was brought up and I happen to be stationed here:

      Population: roughly 82 million
      Area: 357,021 square kilometers (137,847 sq mi)
      Population density: 229.4 inhabitants per square kilometer
      Borders with: France, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland .. I’m sure I forgot someone. Switzerland. Belgium.

      Took in One. Million. Refugees.
      Granted, that was more than even they could handle easily in so short a time – but they’re STILL HERE. Their country has not collapsed. Their economy is chugging along. Their trains are on time, the supermarkets have kumquats and beer is still sacred in Bavaria.

      By contrast:
      US population: 319 million (give or take a few geese)
      Area: 9.8 MILLION square kilometers (3.8 million sq mi)
      Population density: don’t even want to go there, it’s embarrassing.
      Borders: TWO. Mexico. And the moose. Meeses. Moosen? Eh.

      We could take ALL 122 million Mexicans and STILL not compete with Germany.

      Now please understand, this is NOT saying we should. Unless they also bring all the guacamole. And the tequila.
      This is NOT saying this would be practical AT ALL. Alaska is huge and empty for a reason (side note though, even vibrant, populous California has FEWER people per sq km than every single European country. Close, but no cigar).

      This is perspective.
      This is me siting in my privileged American bubble in the middle of Europe and feeling just a little foolish.


  2. One of your best! I applaud you! I have been to 61 nations & have had babies put in my arms with poor destitute mothers pleading with tears for me to take the baby to America. So sad but it is a reality that world travelers are confronted with daily. Thanks for this heart wrenching blog.

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, you have done it again. It is so simple, I have a difficult time believing people do not understand we cannot allow this migration to continue and that we are no inhumane for stopping it. No where else in the world is this allowed to happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. *Why* is patrolling borders necessary? Why are *countries* necessary? (There are some small questions for you – ha! And yet, your post, based on your own personal experiences, opens the door to such enormous questions.) I ask these things knowing full well how naïve I sound, but I’m willing to wonder, at the risk of making myself sound vulnerable and stupid, if, in an increasingly globalized world, continental privilege SHOULD still exist–if the world playing field shouldn’t be leveled for us all. If we wouldn’t be better off if we gave up the competitions and the ownerships and tried harder to be a planet, instead of places ON a planet (or even people belonging to places on a planet). Does that make sense?

    My family is poor and white, living in a one-bedroom apartment in America and working full-time just to pay our debts. We make just enough to cover what we need, but no more. (We eat, wear thrift store clothes, etc.) We are one financial disaster (a death/funeral, a car accident, a major illness) away from financial ruin. We cannot save for our futures. We will never be able to retire.

    And yet we still have so more than so many who weren’t born in America. I wouldn’t wish disease or abject poverty or lack of access to clean water/education/other privileges on my daughter for all the world, and yet, why *should* she have those things when another mother’s daughter, across the world from mine, doesn’t? The answer, to me, is that she shouldn’t. She just does.

    I don’t know much, but I know this: I would give up ten years of my American life to extend that rural Chinese mother’s (she, so willing to sacrifice in order to give her son a better future) life by ten years. If that boy in the red sweater appeared at my doorstep tomorrow, I would take a second or even third job just to feed him, clothe him, etc. It might not be legal or even loyal to my country. But it would be human.


  5. I liked your piece, and I wonder if the now 17 year old Chinese boy wishes he were American, or if he is happy in his Chinese life. Certainly a woman with such tenacity may have taught her son well, and he smart enough to expand on that.


  6. I feel this way everyday.

    How can we share our “privilege” with others when our own government is almost preventing that. Or making it to be taboo to even think like that though.

    We have enough in this world to sustain.. and because of greed.. is where it all comes down too.

    Example… build a wall.. appx 20 billion..

    Feed and house the homeless of the world?

    Appx 20 billion…

    Kinda ironic.

    Your blog post though..

    I get it and I wish as “white” people… we could do more to change it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well written and thought provoking blog. Thank you so much 🙂

    I would have been heartbroken over the little boy in the red sweater too. Heart wrenching story. I hope and pray good things came his way, even if you could not be the one to adopt him.

    President Trump is a different animal and we all know it. He is unwilling to do things “the way they have always been done” in Washington, which many people I talk to at least, find this to be refreshing. My gut tells me Trump has no malicious intent toward any non-terrorist, good, hard working people who are trying to immigrate to the U.S.

    It is sad that so many people do not see it that way. Trump may seem like a bull-in-a-china shop with his non status-quo approach, and this is of course inconveniencing a lot of people. It’s unearthing that “entitled” attitude that to me is extremely unhealthy.

    I’m sure when my great-grandparents came through Ellis Island on a ship from Italy in 1902, that it took a TON of time and was also very inconvenient. Nobody in the U.S. made them any promises, either! Some of these immigrants coming over made it and raised their families here, and some did not. What I want to say to the good, non-dangerous people trying to come in is: PLEASE…work with our process and hopefully your situation will get sorted out soon. We have to take care of our country, too. Then it will be even better, and safer when you get here.


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