On a daily basis, I sit in awe at the amount of nonsense that pervades the world’s media. The latest is the preoccupation with the ethnicity of Steve Jobs’ birth father.
Steve Jobs was adopted at birth. And until his untimely death last week, as far as almost anyone in the world knew, Steve Jobs was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Jobs – father Paul and mother Clara.
In fact, as far as Steve Jobs himself was concerned, his only parents were Paul and Clara Jobs. As the New York Times reported nearly 15 years ago (“Creating Jobs,” Jan. 12, 1997), “Jobs holds a firm belief that Paul and Clara Jobs were his true parents. A mention of his ‘adoptive parents’ is quickly cut off. ‘They were my parents,’ he says emphatically.”
But in reading much of the world’s press in the past week, one would be excused if he or she came to think of another man as Steve Jobs’ father.
The amount of attention paid to his birth father, a Syrian-born American named Abdulfattah Jandali, dwarfed the amount of attention paid to Paul (or, for that matter, Clara) Jobs.
By all accounts, Jandali is a fine man, and nothing written here is meant in any way to counter that assessment.
But I have to ask: Given that Jandali and Steve Jobs never once met, and that Steve Jobs thought only of Paul Jobs as his father, why all the attention to Jandali? And why no attention to Jobs’ birth mother?
For example, take this headline in the International Business Times: “Steve Jobs Dies: He Was The Most Famous Arab in the World.” Or the headline of this article in the New York Times: “Steve Jobs, Son of a Syrian, Is Embraced in the Arab World.”
I suspect that there are two unimpressive things going on here: political correctness and a widespread belief that blood is important and therefore adoptive parents aren’t a person’s “real” parents.
First, the political correctness.
The press feels bad for the Arab world in general and for Arab-Americans in particular. The former is almost never in the news for anything positive, and the latter are deemed victims of xenophobia and Islamophobia. So if one of the giants of our age can be declared an Arab and an Arab-American, many in the media are only too delighted to do so.
Though the birth father played no role whatsoever in the life of Steve Jobs, article after article has been written about Jandali. That this has been motivated by a desire to label Steve Jobs an Arab-American is further proven by the fact that we read nothing of the birth mother – which is particularly noteworthy given that those who are preoccupied with blood parents are almost always more preoccupied with the identity of the birth mother than that of the birth father. But the poor woman is merely a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, a member of the only American group that is granted no special status by the politically correct.
So a man whose only parents were WASPs and one of whose birth parents was a WASP is now declared an Arab. Google “Steve Jobs Arab” and you’ll get 86 million hits.
The other unfortunate trend is the belief – widely held in the media, academia, the social work community and among the well-educated, generally – that adoptive parents are not one’s “real” parents. Even many adoptive parents have been convinced by social workers and others that their foreign-born sons or daughters must be educated in the language and culture of their birth group. Instead of regarding their Korean- or Chinese- or Honduran-born child as fully American, many American adoptive parents are convinced that they must teach their child Korean, Chinese or Spanish language and culture. And many of the particularly sophisticated are adamant that their children one day go to those countries to find their “birth families.”
Once each year on my radio show, I devote an hour to making the case for how much less blood matters than love and values. And for anyone who disagrees, I offer the following story.
One year, a man called in to tell me that while he nearly always agreed with me, I was simply wrong on this issue. He explained that he was the only child of Jewish Holocaust survivors and that the Nazis had murdered every one of his parents’ relatives. He was literally the only blood relative they had. Now, he asked, can I see how blood can be very important – and that a blood child is different from an adopted one?
I responded by asking this man to ask his parents one question: “Would you rather have a blood child who converted from Judaism to another religion or an adopted child who was a committed Jew?”
That one question changed his mind.
None of this is meant in any way as disrespectful to Arabs or Arab Americans. I would say this if his birth father was Jewish or Albanian or Greek: Steve Jobs was an American, the son of Paul and Clara Jobs. Period.