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Jewish World Review
Oct. 25, 2006
/ 4 Mar-Cheshvan, 5767
Follow Madonna's example (you heard me)
Gee, I'm so shallow, vain and starved for attention. Guess I'll adopt a baby from Africa to show I'm deep.
If that's how cynics want to think of Madonna's Malawi adoption, fine. Only problem is: No one sounds more shallow than them. If it takes an international superstar to make international, interracial adoption hip, who's complaining? Not the 12 million orphans in Africa.
"The Material Girl's misadventures in adopting the boy, David Banda, have made her the newest Ugly American," sneered G. Pascal Zachary on the liberal Web site AlterNet. The baby is just a "prop."
That evil woman! Why, she plied an impoverished child from a life of maize porridge and forced him into a life of grinding opportunity.
Granted, the Material Girl did not go about this in the best possible way. By adopting a child whose dad is still alive, she should have known she was walking onto a minefield. She claims the dad understood the adoption process. The man now claims he did not - but he's still okay with it. So we should be, too. More than okay! Any action that gets any kid adopted is one we should applaud - and emulate.
Jennifer Bessemer-Marando knows this firsthand. As co-director of the agency A Child's Waiting, she was delighted to see a spike in inquiries after Angelina Jolie adopted a baby from Ethiopia. Now she hopes to see the same again, because Third World orphanages are no place for kids.
At one Jennifer visited in Uzbekistan, the babies didn't wear diapers - they were lined up and strapped to empty coffee cans. For hours. Her agency showered the children with food and toys but these were gone the next day, stolen by the workers for their own families.
And Eastern Europe's orphanages look positively luxurious compared with those in Africa.
"There's a level of poverty that's hard to imagine," says Mark Moore, Africa program adviser for American World Adoption. At orphanages he visited in Uganda and Ethiopia, they didn't have diapers, either. They also didn't have running water, or soap.
Years ago, orphanages in Africa were relatively rare. Extended families took in orphans until AIDS created too many. Now there are orphanages all over the continent, but only Ethiopia, Liberia and Sierra Leone have legalized international adoption.
People agitated that Madonna skirted the rules by adopting from Malawi should agitate, instead, for more countries to open up adoptions.
Orphaned children are much more likely to end up abused, even enslaved, than kids with parents. The alternative is to get them out of there.
Madonna did not pick up a prop, she answered a prayer. Let's hope the Madonna wanna-bes still wannabe exactly like her.
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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.
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