My post-colonial fantasies of adopting Haitian orphans
The American press is full of stories about Haiti’s orphans that paint American adoption of these children as a heroic and worthwhile act. I should know. My children, even living here in London, are so influenced by the American media that they have decided that I too should adopt a Haitian orphan. That it would be better to have a home, any home, where there was enough food and a place to sleep, than be fighting to survive in Haiti. I myself have, for a moment or two, succumbed to the desire to “save” these kids, or at least parent them.
And how can we resist when American journalists portray the idea of Americans adopting Haitian orphans as not just ethical, but necessary.
A typical example from the American press describes in great detail the plight of these kids.
Tens of thousands of children have been orphaned by the magnitude-7.0 quake, aid groups say — so many that officials won’t venture a number. With buildings destroyed and growing chaos in the capital, they say many children are like Jean — living alone on the streets.
Without doubt, most of them are in the open,” said Elizabeth Rodgers, of the Britain-based international orphan group SOS Children.
Some may have family, but they’ve been abandoned or left unconscious at triage centers for care.
One 5-month-old patient at the Israeli field hospital has a number rather than a name.
No one even knows who left him at the makeshift medical center after he was pulled from a collapsed building four days after the quake. Doctors have a difficult decision as he recovers.
“What will we do with him when we are finished?” said Dr. Assa Amit of the hospital’s pediatric emergency department.
Adopt him to an American family, of course. The Catholic Church, always ready to be a Colonial force in the world, has come up with a plan: dubbed Pierre Pan,
that would allow thousands of orphaned children to come permanently to America. A similar effort launched in 1960, known as Operation Pedro Pan, brought about 14,000 unaccompanied children from Cuba to the U.S.
Pierre Pan is an apt name for these Lost Boys and Girls. After all, at this point no one has any idea where their families are in the post-earthquake chaos.
The Joint Council on International Children’s Services said
Bringing children into the US, either by airlift or new adoption during a time of national emergency, can open the door for fraud, abuse, and trafficking.”
But even if these children are adopted in the best of circumstances with people with their “best interests” at heart, people like me, it is still doubtful that such adoptions are a great idea. To ship Haitian orphans to the US, as is already being done, instead of working to keep them on the ground, safe and fed and housed, is probably less about being ethical and more about our own desires and fantasies- desires and fantasies that can best be described, given the US role in Haiti, as post-colonial.
We are (I am) succumbing to our desire for “cute” children and perhaps even a deeper desire to “civilize” them (remember that the Indians in Peter Pan could not be civilized, but that all the Lost Boys, except for Peter, decided they would “grow up” and become part of British society and leave their primitive ways behind in the end).
Whisking Haitian orphans away so wealthy Americans can raise them in the Never Never Land of endless play, pirates, and, like the original Peter Pan, with a strong dose of Colonizing desires is just not a game I can participate in. But, as my girlfriend pointed out, there are all sorts of ways to support these children. Personally for every time I engage in the fantasy of adopting a Haitian orphan, I’m going to donate $100 to the UN’s Central Emergency Relief Fund instead.