Amar chotho apu. My sister from another mother (because all of us Bangladeshis essentially are, nah?). Is Bridget your bhalou nam or dak nam? Neither? Ok. Well, yay! Finally, a Bangladeshi-American makes it to the stage of a big political party convention. Rumor has it that your outfit was pretty fly. How did it feel being up there on stage? Did you feel like you were breaking boundaries? Because as the first Bangladeshi-American on stage at the Republican National Convention, you definitely were. And your mother, Cindy McCain, made sure to let everyone know in her RNC speech how she “discovered” you too.
For me, the great moment of clarity was when I became a mother. Something changed in me. I would never see my obligations the same way again. It was after that I was walking through the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, surrounded by terrible poverty and the devastation of a cyclone. All around me were the children and the desperate faces of their mothers. The pain was overwhelming, and I felt helpless. But then I visited an orphanage begun by Mother Teresa, and two very sick little girls captured my heart. There was something I could do. I could take them home, and so I did. Today, both of those little girls are healthy and happy. And one of them you just met tonight: our beautiful daughter, Bridget. [Fox News]
Ahh, but who is this other little Bangladeshi girl you were adopted with?
John and Cindy McCain adopted one of them, Wes Gullett [McCain's former aide] and his wife Deborah adopted the other… The McCains adopted the baby with the cleft palate, Bridget, and the Gulletts adopted the other one, Nicki. Both children required a lot of medical attention, but the Gulletts never saw a hospital bill.[ABCNews]
It was a little bittersweet to see you on stage, I must admit. I wonder how many times you’ve heard that story told, over and over again. I wonder if you are tired of hearing it, or if in reality, you are too young to realize how you were touted like a token. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you must be proud of your mother, the way you are proud of your father, John McCain. I’m also sure they provided you with a happy life in your four (or maybe seven?) houses.
But, I have to admit, Cindy’s speech felt a little like pandering to me. Did it feel like that to you? Or maybe Cindy’s speech was simply your father taking Karl Rove’s advice. The video introducing your father said, “his youngest daughter…who became a McCain after his wife Cindy discovered her as a baby.”[YouTube @ 6:22] I hate they say that you were ‘discovered’ as if you are a piece of land to be colonized, or gold to be found. You existed as a Bangladeshi far before your discovery. At least this true story is a positive change from the smear campaign in the 2000
2004 where you were called a ‘black love child.’ So hey, at least there’s that.
Seriously though. It’s great. Really, the chance to have a Bangladeshi- American teenage girl in the White House. So exciting there’s even a couple of books out on it, The First Daughter series by Mitali Perkins.
The First Daughter books are about Sameera Righton, the daughter of a front-runner candidate in the presidential election…In the first novel, Extreme American Makeover, campaign staffers try to package Sameera into what they think would be a more “American” version of the Pakistani-born only daughter of James Righton… I had no idea that John McCain had adopted a daughter from Bangladesh, and by the time I found out about Bridget, the first book was already written. I wrote the Senator’s office and explained my dilemma–I had no desire to exploit Bridget’s real life joys and challenges for my own purposes…If she objected to the publication of books in any way, I’d be willing to dump them. McCain’s office responded with a lovely note setting me free to go ahead, asking for copies once the books were released, which I gladly sent. [cynsations]
So you see, Bridget? Your story is exciting. But since you have a chance at being a Bangladeshi voice in the White House, I have a couple of words of advice. Most Bangladeshi-Americans can’t afford the $300,000 outfit Cindy McCain wore on Monday. Nationally speaking, 23% of Bangladeshi Americans live below the federal poverty line. In fact, the median income for Bangladeshi’s in the US is $37,074 (Asian Indian is highest at $61,322). And even though your parents don’t know how many homes they own, only 25% of Bangladeshi- Americans own homes. And almost 23% of them have less than a high school degree.[AAJC's A Community of Contrast]
I just…I kinda want you to know how the other Bangladeshi- Americans live in this country. If you make it to the White House, it’d be great if you could advocate for the Bangladeshi community. On the real, you are welcome to our house for some dhaal bhaat & roshogulla whenever you are in town. You know, to see how we do it on the flip side.
Khuda Hafiz, Taz Apa