Monday, October 16, 2006

On collections

Okay, so this open letter/rant is inspired by my dad, who wants to know if someone won't think of the children.

Dear Madonna (et al),

This is Malawi:

This is an animal shelter:

Cambodia and Ethiopia:

Animal shelter:

Aww, munchkin.

I wanted to point that out to you to make it clear that Malawi isn't an animal shelter. And more importantly, little African children aren't pound puppies. I'm very happy that you're using your millions to improve the lives of others, rather than just expanding your shoe collection, but children in third-world nations aren't pets.

For some reason, ethnic babies seem to be this season's teacup chihuahua. Angelina Jolie picked one up when she was in Cambodia filming Tomb Raider and liked him so much that she adopted another one in Ethiopia a few years later. And when it came time to give birth to her own kid, she chose to do it in Namibia. Meg Ryan traveled to China in January to adopt a little girl. Penelope Cruz is looking to adopt a kid from India. And most recently, Madonna spent time in Malawi browsing little boys until she found the one she wanted to take home.

These children in developing nations are absolutely in need of good, stable, safe, healthy homes, and there's no reason that a millionaire celebrity shouldn't use those millions to provide those homes. A child in Malawi or Cambodia or China is no more or less needy than the "undesireable" nonwhite and/or drug-addicted babies that American orphanages have such a challenge placing. But any child, American or European or Asian or African, deserves to be a much-wanted addition to a loving family - not a new, trendy accessory.

Now, I'm sure that Meg Ryan loves her Chinese baby very much. I'm sure Madonna (or her nanny) will take excellent care of her kid from Malawi. And Angelina seems quite fond of her imported tots. But when you're traveling the world with the expressed intention of collecting a kid from every continent and creating your own "rainbow" family, when you're ready to pick up another'n and you just have to decide "which race would fit best with the kids," you're not a parent - you're a hobbyist, and kids deserve better than that.

Absolutely, if you have the resources to adopt, do so. There are kids all over the world in desperate need of good homes, and a lot of them are right here in the US. Some of them aren't the "cool" kids that look way different from you and make you immediately identifiable as a Doer of Good Deeds. Some of them are scratched and dented and have special needs. But they're all people, human beings, not a kinkaju you can dress up in a little sweater and cuddle for photo ops. It's great to use your celebrity to bring media attention to developing countries, and Angelina has done great things as a UN Goodwill Ambassador, but anyone with the desire to adopt and the wherewithal to travel needs to remember that it's a kid, not a political statement.

Much love,

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