Saturday, February 27, 2010

Haitian Adoptees: The Problem with "Why Not?"

By Martha Nichols for Adopt-a-tude

This is the third in a series of commentaries on Adopt-a-tude about Haitian orphans and international adoption. The press spotlight has been on ethical infractions, for very good reason. But now we have local news stories about U.S.-Haiti adoptions that have been completed successfully. The word "savior" is never mentioned, but that's where the focus seems to be—again.

It's Saturday morning, and the Boston Globe has a beautiful, provoking, complicated photo above the fold on the front page. A dark-skinned girl with a purple headband and huge grin tackle-hugs a white woman with strawberry-blonde hair.

They're sitting on an oriental rug that's covering a hard-wood floor. The caption: "Wislandie, an 8-year-old orphan from Haiti, is right at home with adoptive mother Beth Wescott of North Andover."

I love this picture. As an adoptive mom myself, it's a relief after all the mug shots of misguided missionaries trying to smuggle children out of Haiti. In the video that accompanies the online version of the story, "A New Home for Wislandie," adoptive mom Beth gently rocks a little girl who is lively and mischievous but also clearly in need of comfort.

Yet the Globe's photo spread, video, and story by Maria Sacchetti—"Joy, Frustration Brought Home"—raise big questions for me, too, because of all that isn't said or shown. This front-page feature, more than all the press about those criminally ignorant Baptists, exemplifies the cognitive dissonance that's part of transracial adoption.

Why is the white-savior storyline so entrenched? And why is it so hard for the "objective" journalistic voice to talk about race?

The racial difference of these Haitian adoptees and their adoptive parents isn't mentioned once in this story. Perhaps the photo and video are supposed to lay that issue on the table—and they do—but the story frame is the usual one of dedicated church members (Wislandie's adoptive father is a pastor) visiting Haitian children in a Christian orphanage in Port-au-Prince.

To be fair to Wislandie's new parents and the orphanage (the Marion Austin Christian School) and this story, "about 10 Boston-area churches regularly send mission groups to help at the school," Sacchetti writes—and the connection prospective adoptive parents have formed with children apparently often goes back to when they were toddlers. Many of the prospective adoptees are in their teens.

Before the earthquake, some adoptions were already in-process; according to the article, a few like Wislandie's have been successfully completely. But other potential adoptive parents and adoptees wait, mired in even more bureaucratic red tape, as conditions for the orphanage children worsen. (In this same issue of the Globe, the story above Sacchetti's, after the jump to page A8,  is headlined "Haiti Wants Refugees Back in Ravaged Areas.")

As Massachusetts state rep Barry Finegold asks: "These children are never going to have families in Haiti, so why not try to bring them into loving families in Massachusetts?"

Yes, why not? The rhetorical question rings true in the most immediate way for long-time orphans. Seventeen-year-old Auguste Joseph wants to join his frustrated adoptive parents in Ashby, Masschusetts. Like other kids in the orphanage wearing Red Sox T-shirts, Auguste is quoted as saying, "I'm dying to go.... I've been waiting for a long time."

Why not?

For many of us in the international adoption community—adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoption workers—this question is far from simple, though. After "why not?",  I also wonder "what next?"

There are hints of the dissonance to come in an evocative description at the end of the Globe feature: Wislandie is now wearing pink Crocs and has a bedroom of her own with heart-patterned wallpaper. "It is not an easy transition," Sacchetti writes; the girl's adoptive parents "look alternately joyful and exhausted."

Most haunting: "Even though she has so much now, Wislandie insists on dividing every snack or sandwich, to give away half to her mother, father, or sister."

The story then closes with her adoptive mom insisting—rightly—that her daughter isn't the only one who's lucked out.

Yet this is really just the prologue. The rest of the real story, which varies with every transracial adoptee and his or her particular family circumstances, is full of complications of race and culture and loss that apparently can't be accommodated in a mainstream news feature.

Here's where have I to ask: Why not? Why can't a daily paper like the Boston Globe, in a metropolitan area that includes a large Haitian immigrant population, tell this story as more than one white family's joy and the frustration of other waiting white families?

At least one caller to a January 20 NPR show, "Where Will All the Haitian Orphans Go?", raised issues of cultural and homeland loss. These were treated seriously by Tom DiFilipo, president and CEO of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, the guest on this edition of Talk of the Nation.

Other sources, such as the ColorLines' blog RaceWire, have grappled with the racial question of whites adopting Haitian orphans. And as one topic on the Haitian Internet Newsletter, "Haiti's Orphans, what are we going to do about it?", puts it:
"Let me ask you a question:

Do you really think that the rest of the world will just fly to Haiti and take all these Haitian kids into new homes somewhere outside of Haiti so they can live happily ever after?

The orphan children of Haiti are Haiti's problem and now is the time to start talking about how we're going to deal with it.

This is our country, these are our kids..."
Discussions about race and culture and international adoption are all over the Internet and in various blog and editorial forms, even in mainstream-press outlets. But you wouldn't know it from this Globe feature about Wislandie.

Interestingly, a number of the online comments to the story so far have been negative, pointing out snidely that there are American black kids waiting for adoption, too. That kind of knee-jerk response flips too far in the other direction, but it's obvious that readers and video-watchers are reacting immediately to the racial difference.

You could argue that daily news features are really people stories. Americans adopting orphans from countries like Haiti or Vietnam (as in my own family) can surely be heart-warming.

Simplifying the emotional storyline, however, by focusing only on getting home to America has political and social implications. It seems to deny that differences of race and culture matter. And I don't think daily news is off the hook for promulgating musty stereotypes—letting anonymous online commenters criticize or go out on a limb rather than reporting on what this white mother, for example, thinks about parenting a black child.

Of course Wislandie is happy to be free of the current devastation in Port-au-Prince, where many families huddle under nothing but bedsheet tents as the rainy season approaches.

Yet what will she think of her homeland as she gets older? Will she make connections with the local Haitian community in Boston and Cambridge? Will she keep speaking French and Creole? Will she realize that Haiti has a rich history and literature, a complicated history, that it is not just defined by poverty and disaster?

That is the international adoptive parenting journey. It is very possible that Wislandie's adoptive mom and dad will help her along the way. In the video, Beth holds the girl close and talks realistically about adjustment challenges and the scene in Haiti.

But not until I read more mainstream stories that dig into white adoptive parents talking about race—and not until I hear more about the links that could be forged between adoptees and the Haitian American community—will I believe that the discussion of international adoption has moved beyond saving those poor lucky kids from a place better left behind in the rubble.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Haitian “Orphans” and Adoption: Do We Really Know What’s Best?

By Fran Cronin for Adopt-a-tude

This is the second in a series on Adopt-a-tude about Haitian adoptions and the church group that wreaked such havoc. More is coming out now about the decidedly mixed motives of church-group leader Laura Silsby. Click here and here to read provocative posts on Open Salon.

Fran addresses the situation from her perspective as an adoptive parent. The New York Times has run an interesting debate on “Haiti’s Children and the Adoption Question.”  But lost in much of the mainstream media discussion is a more complex appraisal of international adoption.

For most of us, exposure to acute poverty is a media event. But with Haiti’s proximity—both geographically and through extensive community ties—we have now been thrust from the security of the sidelines into an altered reality that exceeds not just our comfort zone but also all the usual touchstones we have formulated for helping those in need.

Front and center is the drama surrounding the recent arrest of American Christian do-gooders caught while trying to take undocumented Haitian children across the border to a supposed safe haven in the Dominican Republic. 

On February 4, Frank Bajak of the Associated Press filed a report on the scene that purportedly took place between the Baptists and a village of desperate Haitians: On a dirt soccer field in the middle of a quake-flattened town, more than 500 people came to hear what the U.S. Christians had to offer. Those gathered were told of the food and education the Baptists promised they would provide. With no documentation and only the promise that parents could visit their children, 33 kids were handed over.

What is so disturbing about this story is the ease with which those who had resources imagined what they could do and the willingness of the desperate for it be carried out.

In the days since the first media hullabaloo, the resources of the do-gooders have even been called into question. A recent article in the details the financial woes of Laura Silsby, the group’s self-appointed leader, including claims against her for unpaid wages. 

As reported on a local Idaho news station, the church did not officially sanction her. There’s a foreclosed mortgage on the house for her New Life Children's Refuge.

Brian Jack, once an employee for Silsby’s now shuttered online personal-shopping business, referred to her as “shady and only out for herself.”

Another big question that’s surfaced is why Silsby was taking children with parents out of the country when the group’s mission statement clearly stated their goal was to help children who had no parents.

Hardwired into this scenario is the issue of international adoptions. Propelled by poverty, lack of education, disasters and displacement, children are scattered like seeds to find (supposed) wealth and stability far from the history and deprivation they left behind.

Meanwhile, anxious to love, nurture, and give a child the life we insist they deserve, we middle-class Americans rush to judgment and assume much: What we have to offer has got to be better than what was left behind.

But, is it? What do we know of the complex web of circumstances behind each of these children’s lives?

Precious little.

Always baffling to me is how many children are born, like a throw of dice, into unplanned and often unsustainable lives. Not just because they may lack a father or an able mother, but because with their birth they become another mouth to feed, another body to clothe, or another child to give away. 

Does our love for our adopted children redress this inequity or do we, in our eagerness to provide, perpetuate a cycle of parental abdication? Where are the fault lines?

As an adoptive parent, I find myself confronted by similar questions. While I think the adoption of my son from Russia justifiable and legal, there is also much I do not know. I had to deal with a foreign bureaucracy; money and gifts had to be exchanged; and I was told what was necessary to qualify my son for his adoption. Pockets were lined

In a recent interview with John Hockenberry on NPR’s “The Takeaway,” Heather Paul, CEO of SOS Children’s Villages, the group asked to look after the 33 kidnapped children, said, “…this incident is proof-positive how important it is we put our children first…determine whether they are under parental care…and determine long-term outcomes.”

The most basic ethical question potential adoptive parents in Haiti must ask, as in the aftermath of the tsunami in South Asia and Operation Babylift in Vietnam after the war, is whether the parents or other adult family members of these children are alive.

But as Paul also made clear, every situation is different and circumstances complex. There can be real orphans, who are without loved ones, or social orphans, whose mother, father, or family members are unwilling or unfit to care for them.

The only sure bet when it comes to a natural disaster is the chaos that ensues. If institutions are fragile or deficient to begin with, as in Haiti, the situation is ripe for plunder and child trafficking. The unprotected, the least defensible, are always the most exploited.

That Silsby’s group did not appear to ask that first, basic question is reprehensible. International adoptions cannot be viewed as ethical if those with the resources and the power to adopt don’t start there. The more complicated political question of whether social orphans should be adopted—a question the government of Haiti, for one, has not resolved—comes next, with answers that vary depending on each child.

Yes, we want children to be well loved, safe, and well cared for, but before we rush in to airlift out, we need to make sure circumstances on the ground are resolved and stable. Perhaps placement in a new family is best, or perhaps best is helping that mother care for her child or children with the dignity and love she has to give.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Asian Adoptees, Anime Heroes, and the Racebending Controversy

By Martha Nichols for Adopt-a-tude

I began writing about the anime-inspired Avatar/Last Airbender cartoons in order to rave about how much everyone in my small family loves them. But I soon discovered that the live-action movie, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, has been cast with mostly white actors in the lead roles.

The controversy has been brewing for awhile, but I'd like to alert other adoptive parents to this "racebending," as it's been called by Asian American critics, especially after a glitzy ad for the movie ran during the Super Bowl. Please take a look at for information about the movie protest.

Who would have thought I’d develop a midlife crush on anime?

It’s true that at a recent showing of the New England Anime Society I felt a hundred years older than the mostly male geek audience. I had to leave within five minutes, unable to sit through the dialogue.

An approximation: “Look at his underpants!” “Ooh, he’s wearing underpants with a heart on them!” (Snigger, snigger.) “Careful, that girl on a bicycle has breasts.”

I won’t claim cartoons like this grip me. I've never been a big animation fan. But The Last Airbender, the epic Nickelodeon series, exists on a different plane altogether.

Whether it's My Neighbor Totoro, the kind of Japanese shorts I saw at the anime festival, or the American-flavored Nickelodeon series, these cartoons are undeniably Asian-themed.

As in Japanese anime, some of the characters have white skin or those big manga eyes. As in Kung Fu Panda, the Airbender cartoons employed mostly white voice actors; sometimes the young heroes sound like they've walked off an iCarly set.

But anyone who's watched the animated Airbender series knows that everything in it, from the character names to the music, is steeped in Asian cultural references. What my son sees in the cartoons are Asian heroes taking charge of the action—heroes who look like him.

That's why I'm frankly appalled that white actors will be playing many of the young heroes in the upcoming movie of The Last Airbender. In a good play on words, critics have called this racial reworking of the movie yet another example of "racebending."

Because my son has just turned eight, I want to celebrate what he so obviously loves about the Airbender series—the martial arts sequences, complete with lightning and ice arrows; the Asian imagery; the teenage heroes—and its particular meaning for us as an adoptive family.

I know I’m on suspect cultural ground here. Yet my son, an Asian adoptee, is growing up in a white American household. The Airbender cartoons are an anime hybrid created by two white American guys with the help of Korean animators—a fitting metaphor for us.

Now here comes a special-effects extravaganza of a movie, one my son will surely beg to see, which is another kind of metaphor. It will symbolize why Asian adoptees often feel like honorary white people.

I do worry about how my boy will put himself together as an Asian American man; I've come to see his fascination with anime and manga cartoons as a way for him to grapple with his heritage on his own terms. But with the Airbender movie, he'll get no help. Directed by the high-profile M. Night Shyamalan, it's in the works for this summer and may soon become a juggernaut. 

Shame on you, M. Night Shyamalan.

My husband and I can never claim we have a personal understanding of racism. We could be accused of ripping off Asian culture in adopting a child from Vietnam. Our family can't be reduced to that, but if I'm mercilessly honest, I have to admit that Asian culture is as appealing to me as it is to other white Americans who dabble in martial arts and yoga, attend anime festivals, and go to Chinese New Year's parades.

That makes it even more important for parents like me to challenge racism, unconscious and otherwise, and to name it for what it is.

When I mentioned to my son that white actors will be playing many of his favorite characters in the movie—including Aang, the last airbender and center of the story—he said, "What? That's weird. That doesn't make sense."

No kidding. Here's a fun YouTube montage from the animated original:

Aang is a bald 12-year-old monk with a blue arrow tattooed on his forehead. He's also a reincarnated spiritual leader known as the “Avatar.” He's the Dalai Lama, not Gandalf. 

Avatar: The Last Airbender first aired on Nickelodeon in 2005. Because we watched all three “Books” on DVD long after it was broadcast, we could see as many episodes as we wanted in a sitting. Every time we’d say a collective "No!" at the end of one—my son always adding, "What a cliffhanger!"—we’d look at each other and hit play for the next. (In case you’re wondering, the Avatar cartoons have nothing to do with the James Cameron movie.)

When the series opens, the Fire Nation is ruled by an evil lord who wants to take over the world. In The Last Airbender universe, benders have magical powers based on the four elements—air, water, earth, and fire. The Avatar is the one person who can bend them all. Aang is very young to become the Avatar. But the Fire Lord is on the march again, and Aang, with the help of his loyal companions, has to learn fast how to bend the other elements.

For those who don't love fantasy, there's no way to avoid the inflated portentousness this gloss implies. It’s manga-meets-The Lord of the Rings-meets Buddhism.

Yet it works. At least the animated version does. Thank God we've watched the cartoons before Shyamalan's epic rolls out. Here's the trailer that ran during the Super Bowl last night:

Impressive as it looks, it seems too bombastic and literal. As for the racebending casting choices, cartoonists Derek Kirk Kim and Gene Yang have written eloquent posts about why this is a problem. Take these excerpts from Kim's post, written a year ago "on the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration":
"[I]magine if someone had made a 'fantasy' movie in which the entire world was built around African culture. Everyone is wearing ancient African clothes, African hats, eating traditional African food, writing in an African language, living in African homes, all encompassed in an African landscape...

...but everyone is white.

How offensive, insulting, and disrespectful would that be toward Africans and African Americans? How much more offensive would it be if only the heroes were white and all the villains and background characters were African American? (I wince in fear thinking about The Last Airbender suffering from the latter dynamic—which it probably will....)

But curiously, when similar offenses are committed at the expense of Asian Americans, and Asian American men in particular, this sort of behavior goes mostly ignored by the press and the people involved." 
It's true that outcries of racism by the model minority are generally shrugged off by mainstream America. This trailer from an upcoming documentary called Yellow Face emphasizes why protesting the racial reworking of a kid's TV show is not just "silly" or a waste of effort.

The Shyamalan movie, the first of a planned trilogy, will likely get a big promotional push, especially after the success of Cameron's Avatar. That Shyamalan, an Indian American, went with such casting choices indicates how unconscious racism can be. Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire will play the crucial role of Prince Zuko, but only after replacing the original white actor cast for the role.

Just to be clear: Japanese and Korean creators of anime characters, be they super-ninjas or ghetto-talking African Americans, aren't off the hook for perpetuating racist stereotypes.

These days, there's an endless parade of martial-arts superhero franchises (and action figures and trading cards to buy), but most of this drek never rises above the ridiculously rote. There still aren't many positive, complex images of Asian characters in popular media—people who aren't karate-chopping villains on speeding trains or running nasty industrial cartels.

Which is why it's such a shame that many of the Airbender heroes won't be Asian in the movie.

In the Airbender cartoons we get Katara, a waterbender with healing powers, and her brother Sokka, resident goof and complainer. We get Toph, a blind earthbender who can bowl over bad guys four times her size and sees the world through her feet. We get Appa, Aang's flying bison, whom the loyal buddies ride through the air. 

There are kick-ass evil girls as well as good ones; soldiers who ride bird-horses; a haiku rap contest; even an old and cold soul in the spirit world who steals people's faces.

There are romantic entanglements, far more than in the buddy-plot of The Lord of the Rings. Aang’s cheeks often turn pink—in best anime style—in the vicinity of Katara.

Most important, there's character development and moral ambiguity, especially in the person of Prince Zuko, the banished teenage son of the Fire Lord. Zuko starts off trying to capture the Avatar in order to regain his father's approval. By Book Two of the series, Zuko is in a major tug-a-war of conscience over which side he's on. 

Adults will get more of the satirical references in The Last Airbender cartoons, but I think my son really understands and wonders about the same conflicts I do. To "bend" this story racially in order to appeal to a more mainstream audience is to do a real disservice to the complex questions about history and family the cartoons raise. 

In an early episode called “The Library,” Aang and his companions, along with a professor of anthropology, find a legendary library of all the world's knowledge almost completely buried by sand in the middle of a desert.

Once they enter the library through an upper window, they meet an Owl-like spirit who runs it. The Owl is not warm and fuzzy. This amoral spirit looks like a kabuki-painted demon in a black shawl.

Still, the Owl agrees to let them stay as long as they don't take away knowledge in order to hurt other humans. Sokka, in particular, doesn't keep that promise, and the Owl flies into a frenzy. They flee for their lives, just escaping before the library collapses forever into the sand.

On the way out, however, the professor can't make himself leave. He stays behind and disappears with the rest of the library. 

"Why didn't he leave?” my son asked. “Didn't he die?"

“Some people will do anything for knowledge,” I said.

He didn’t look convinced.

“It’s hard to explain,” I said. “Some adults just get obsessed.”

"Why?" His voice quivered. “Did he die?” 

I wanted to comfort my boy then, as if he were a baby, murmuring it will be fine, it’s all right, you will never lose anybody you love. Ssshh, real adults don’t act that way. 

I reached for him, but he slapped my hands away.

“No!” he sobbed.

I stayed with my son as he cried and raged—internally kicking myself. Stupid professor. Except I understood the man’s love of books and his obliviousness, just as my son knows some adults really do disappear.

More recently, he and I have talked about which Airbender episodes are the most disturbing. He doesn’t want to watch something like “The Library” again, and I’ve since wondered if I should have spared him the disturbing parts. But on balance, I'd say no.

Birthdays have their own emotional weight for adoptees. My son has just celebrated another one with us—happily, I think. Yet birthdays inevitably evoke missing parents, too, and in his case, a missing race and culture. At eight, my son is full of joy. He may also be excited by the prospect of traveling beyond his white American existence, a desire that churns up guilt and grief.

The point is, his journey will be complex. Shyamalan's movie may ask big questions, too, but he's got a hard act to follow.

Late in the animated series, Prince Zuko visits his family’s summer house on a remote island, discovering photos of his mother and father when he was a small child. In the pictures, they're laughing; they seem happy. Teenage Zuko, estranged from his father, his mother gone, becomes more furious and sullen.

As we watched Zuko burn the photos, my son snuggled closer to me.

“It’s sad,” he said.

I nodded my head against his glossy black hair. “It’s very sad.”

Oh, my dear boy. Happy Birthday.

This post appeared on Open Salon in a slightly different form as "How I Became an Anime Fan—Not a Racebender."  Some of the comments there indicate why racism keeps sneaking in under the wire.

All drawings by my son and used with his permission.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Saving Kids Right and Left

Growing up during the 1960s, the two scariest movie scenes I ever sat through were the flying monkey scene in The Wizard of Oz when they capture Toto, and the child catcher scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. As an adopted child, I knew how easy it might be for someone to come gather me up and cart me away into the netherworld of terror and loneliness where my parents might never find me again. I wonder in fact if my fears were any different than any of my peers who were not adopted. I doubt it. Being a kid means some understanding of how vulnerable you are.

The news story out of Haiti this week is the odd little rescue mission 10 American citizens attempted for 33 Haitian children. This story has all sorts of traction but very little substance -- at least so far. Looking at the photos of the members of this group and watching them interviewed on the nightly news, it's kind of hard to see them as child snatchers or baby traffickers. However, it does make clear that for now at least Haiti is ground zero in the cultural implications of adoption -- and for the broad nature of orphans in the world today.

You're not really hearing details in the mainstream media (check NPR's Talk of the Nation here though for something interesting), but Haiti is one of a number of countries where abandoning children is essentially a societal issue requiring the development of multiple orphanages, child welfare institutions, and a heap of funding (which, of course, Haiti doesn't have). According to one report in 2008, 173,000 Haitian children were given up for domestic servitude in something called Restavek.

"Through the Restavek system, parents unable to care for their children send them to relatives or strangers living in urban areas supposedly to receive care and education in exchange for housework. But the reality is a life of hardship and abuse; enslaved by their so called "hosts", the children seldom attend school."

Observing the humanitarian scene in Haiti right now, even before the seemingly stupid efforts of this naive bunch of Idaho Baptists, the importance of rules and limitations on what happens to orphans (from 1 day of age to 21 years) in any developing nation seems to be pretty obvious. Other reports indicate as many as 300,000 unpaid child servants in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. If you wear clothes made in those countries or put their sugar in your coffee, you may well be contributing to a very serious, under-reported global criminal conspiracy.

Without a very clear, defined and accepted state sanctioning of who is to care for or take responsibility for "unclaimed" children, the means of legitimizing adoption is seriously stigmatized.

And yet, we know that at least from a US viewpoint, there are more families looking for kids to adopt than there are available kids (quibble all you want here, but see this Huffington Post post). How we balance all of that requires some serious thought and careful weighing of policy. And I'm not convinced there's enough intelligent, bias free people focusing on this issue to get us where we need to be if adoption worldwide is going to be something that becomes common and accepted (to rebut myself, check out this great resource from the NY Times debate blog).

Obviously, Haiti is a nation in crisis and no one wants to see kids in harm's way -- especially kids without parents to comfort them. The level of altruism this crisis has fostered is remarkable. However, I still shake my head at how bizarre it was that the governor of my state, Ed Rendell, flew down to Haiti within days of the earthquake and airlifted more than 50 kids out of that country to the U.S. -- and came home a hero while they were still digging people out of the rubble.

And the stories of all these parents trying to get kids they were in line to adopt out now that records have been lost and destroyed are often heart wrenching (and warming) but also very bizarre too -- to me anyway. I mean, there are hundreds of doctors and nurses and other professionals down there right now trying to help people pick up the pieces of--or just save their lives. Swooping in to a country and yanking kids out is kind of weird in the greater scheme of things.

These Haitian kids were there before this crisis hit. Swooping in and rescuing orphans is not going to solve this country's family problems. Haiti needs to be rebuilt and changed forever over the next several decades with the plight of it's children in the front of all our minds. A working agrarian economy, sustainable energy and resource systems, a rising standard of living, and a model international education system could all go so much further in the long run than child rescue missions.

You have to ask yourself -- regardless of how much you care about the protection of the innocent -- is this one of those moments where we have the opportunity to get some perspective on a vexing problem that folks have had a hard time grappling with?

Haiti isn't just another third world country that can't get it's shit together. Haiti is our neighbor and we've kind of helped screw it up for a long time. I predict that the North American connection to this nation is going to become intimate and deep over the next decade.

It wouldn't surprise me if we begin to think seriously about turning this country into a territory of the U.S. somehow. It also wouldn't surprise me at all if Haitian adoption becomes a much more streamlined and common practice (especially for our most dignified citizens in the mold of Madonna, Brad and Angie, Rosie O'Donnell, and Tom and Katie).

But it also wouldn't surprise me that as soon as we get to the bottom of the story of the Haiti Adoption Ten, this issue will just slowly settle back to bottom of the pile and we will all get on with our lives thinking about things that are less depressing and more life affirming -- like Apple iPads, quirky cable TV shows, and the 2010 baseball season.