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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Think Tank

Read the news. More and more celebrities are adopting. It's a trend. Obviously adopting will not fix the dire poverty in the village, country or continent where an orphan/adoptee was born. That doesn't matter. America becomes their new home and culture - but I wonder, what is American culture?

When celebrities like Madonna and Angelina Jolie made international adoption headlines, we heard nothing about their adopted children (of different skin color and ancestry) who lose their language, identity, family connections and traditional diet.  It’s taken for granted their adopted children will survive emotionally. Tabloids may cover these families intensely but it’s doubtful Madonna or Angelina will ever leak news about their children’s bonding issues, reactive attachment disorders or any signs of emotional trauma.

Madonna adopted an indigenous boy, David, from the Malawi tribe in Africa in 2007. Oiling the adoption machine, Madonna gets more publicity, this time as savior. Oprah’s audience listened as an unapologetic Madonna described taking (and saving) David from his poor tribe.

Oprah neglected to ask Madonna, “Will his tribe make any money from the movie you and your husband shot while adopting David in Malawi, or from your appearance on my show today?” Madonna made the rounds on numerous talk shows for several weeks touting her plan to adopt and save David, describing horrible poverty and diseases in Africa. Apparently David was near death and Madonna got him immediate medical attention.

Oprah and Today show’s Meredith Viera also forgot to ask, “Will your biological kids equally share their inheritance with David since he’s your adopted son? How will they treat him, as an equal or inferior or an outsider?”  The rich in America use very different rules when it comes to adopted children, even step-children, who will inherit and share wealth. Take Warren Buffet who didn't want his adopted granddaughter to inherit any of his billions.

More is always better when it comes to Madonna. Even though she has enough money to end the poverty in Malawi, it would require a much greater sacrifice than adopting just one or two of its children. In 2007 she announced her plan to adopt another orphan, this time a girl from Malawi named Mercy (right). By June 2009, Madonna had done it and Mercy was secretly flown to London to join Madonna. In another headine, Madonna said she will adopt again, this time in India, a British tabloid said.

Even if David and Mercy get a nanny with a skin color like theirs, these precious children will feel isolated. They will have been colonized. Malawi culture will be removed for a cleaner “whiter” existence with Madonna and her two biological children.

Right after this happened to David, I consulted my “think tank,” friends who are Native American adoptees. The consensus was: when you are taken away from what is familiar, tribe or family, taken by strangers, it’s traumatic and very confusing. “Where am I? Who are these people?” That’s what David or any young adoptee/orphan is really feeling.  It’s not happiness but fear, unspeakable fear.
Will a grown David be able to discuss his alienation from his tribe? Not likely. Will his tribal brothers and sisters be jealous or resentful of him? Not likely, since he’s not there anymore. David may become a legend among his people. Will David run back to Africa? Maybe, once he’s an adult but he may not feel a part of his culture anymore and may feel too uncomfortable (and different) to rejoin them.

Several of my adoptee friends remember wanting to run away as very young children. It’s more common than Americans (or our adopters) realize. One adoptee friend who is Lakota ran away at age 13, surviving horrific abuse by his adoptive parents in New Jersey. He barely survived on the Manhattan streets for several years.

Sadly, there is yet another reality Mercy and David from Malawi will grow up with - guilt. They and other adoptees feel they owe their new family, especially when they “save” you from ugly poverty. Anything less than gratitude (and praise) fills you with guilt. Boys especially do not want to disappoint or hurt their adoptive parents, my “think tank” decided.

Many adoptees wait until their adoptive parents die before they search for answers. It’s big this guilt.

PHOTO INFORMATION: Mercy Chifundo James, the 3-year-old toddler adopted by Madonna, was secretly flown from her home country of Malawi to London early Saturday morning (reported June 21, 2009).  "A private jet flew in from South Africa and collected her at five minutes to six last evening," an airport source tells PEOPLE. "She connected to London from Johannesburg at 10:30 p.m."  Mercy, who will be joining big sister, Lourdes, brothers Rocco and David Banda, – also a 3-year-old from Malawi – was accompanied by a nanny, a child nurse and another aide. Madonna has homes in England and in the United States.

This was one early headline: Madonna adopts baby from Malawi

[October 5, 2006 ] Madonna, whose talent has gained her reputation as one of the world‘s wealthiest women, has officially adopted Africa as a cause - and has sealed the endorsement by adopting an African baby boy.  Government officials in Malawi said the 48-year-old singer had chosen the one-year-old orphan from among 12 children specially picked prior to her arrival. The landlocked southern African country, rated the 10th poorest in the world, has legions of children orphaned by Aids.
Government spokeswoman Adrina Michiela told reporters that "She asked us to identify boys only, which we have done after visiting four orphanages in Lilongwe," Ms Michiela said Madonna actually wanted to adopt a girl but changes her mind in the last two weeks.
The popular £248m artist, arrived at the capital of Lilongwe by private plane yesterday and today she will have to spend time traveling another 30 miles to the village of Mphandula, where she financially support the Raising Malawi centre to feed and educate HIV orphans.
Orphans at this centre are taught a curriculum based on Spirituality for Kids, linked to the Kabbalah school of mysticism, of which Madonna is a follower.
Mphandula is a village of mud huts with thatched roofs, no mains electricity and only a handful of radios, where few have heard Madonna‘s music. Madonna visit to this village is highly speculated. Many of Mphandula‘s households are headed by children whose parents lost their lives to Aids and raise their children alone. Malawi‘s has population of about 13 million, one million of the children have only one parent.
As local tribes rehearsed on the songs to welcome her, the Head of Village said: "We will show her how we in Malawi welcome such visitors who are ready to help."
Madonna plans to spend at least $3m (£1.6m) on programmes to erase out poverty in Malawi and another $1m to support on the documentation of plight of children in the country. She has plan the project with former US president Bill Clinton to see whether they could try to work at bringing low-cost medicines to the region.
Madonna got together with the economist Jeffrey Sachs to assist his "millennium village" programme, in which he is looking into changing the fortunes of individual villages.
Social Welfare Department told reporters that Madonna was expected to file the adoption papers today.
This would be Madonna first visit to Africa. She has long shown interest in assisting the continent to a "better perspective" on life derived from Kabbalah believes that “we‘re put on this earth to help people," Madonna told Time magazine when she revealed her plans in August.
Malawi is a country needing a lot of attention. It has few resources apart from land, and agriculture employs 85% of the working population. HIV/Aids has made a cut down of the adult population.
It was uncertain as to whether Madonna would leave the country with her adopted child or block by the Malawi non-resident adoptions rules might have to be reunited later.

Malawi People:  Malawi is often called the "warm heart of Africa." because of the warms and friendliness of the people. Malawians typically live with their extended families in huts that are grouped together in villages. A spirit of cooperation prevails as family members share both work and resources.  Malawi has a population of about 10,000,416 (July 1999 est.), with 90% of the population living in the rural areas, and population growth rate of 1.57% (1999 est.).  The Malawi people are of Bantu origin with the ethnic groups including Chewa, Nyanja, Yao, Tumbuka, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian and European. The Chichewa (Chewa) people forming the largest part of population group and are largely in the central and southern parts of the country.  The Yao people are predominately found around the southern area of Lake Malawi. Tumbuka are found mainly in the north of the country. There are very small populations of Asian and European people living mainly in the cities. Source:

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To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.