Madonna’s African Safari
You are no doubt dismayed by the public outrage that has greeted your decision to adopt a baby boy from Malawi–a country that most people in the West probably only know from the ad campaigns of charitable organizations showing sickly babies covered in flies, while being watched over by your former wedding guests, now sockless and stubbled with earnest three day beards. I imagine that you are shocked, truly shocked that anyone would question your decision to remove a child from such unimaginable suffering as Bono breathing down his crib. After all, what kind of person would condemn someone so young to a life of hardship, especially someone with millions at her disposal; a loving "mammy" who will tote her little Sambo around in a 1,200 thread count batik Snuggly specially designed for him by Tom Ford himself, and provide him with every consumer item under the less skin-damaging sun.
Little David Banda is the luckiest boy in the world, you repeat to yourself 666 times a day while fiddling with your little red thread bracelet, because that’s how every self-serving mantra eventually becomes truth. It’s written in the Khabible. One minute little whats-his-name is languishing in a overcrowded, under funded orphanage in one of the poorest nations on earth, and the next minute he’s soaring over the ocean in a private jet to make his new home on a palatial English estate, where he will be tended to by a complete staff of servants and diapered in monogrammed Pampers. You have even sweetened the deal with a complete DVD box set of ‘The Lion King’ so that he can immerse himself in African culture. That should shut up those annoying people who think removing a child from his own people and culture is somehow a bad thing, even if said culture hasn’t yet invented pots to piss in.
No stranger to criticism, you probably think the public backlash over your latest publicity stunt is just more sour grapes from the usual suspects, this time disguising themselves as human rights campaigners. And what exactly are they complaining about, anyway, you gripe at your husband, who is no stranger himself to your sudden fancies, whether its a decision to fire your interior decorator or take up the cause of philanthropy several decades after it became fashionable. "Angelina can eat my ashes!" you shriek when Guy suggests that the Jolie-Pitts have already claimed the title of ‘Cookie’ magazine’s most beautiful baby shoppers–an honor you have coveted almost as much as an Oscar and an audience with the late Pope on his death bed.
"A girl just can’t get a break", you fume. "I mean, what IS the problem?" First, NBC edits out the part of your concert tour where you stand crucified on a ‘lite brite’ cross to prove you haven’t quite "nailed" the cause of your dimming celebrity, and now they are on your ass about your latest Missoni (oops, I mean MISSION) to Africa.
Here’s the problem, Madonna. You swoop into Malawi with a yet to be signed cheque for $3 million, hoping that by pledging the money to an orphanage, the authorities will re-write the laws in your favor. "What laws"? you grumble to your husband when someone points out to you that your actions amount to kidnapping, even if a bribed official has given your crime the government stamp of approval. Someone in your entourage points out to you that under Malawi law, people hoping to adopt children must live in the country for at least eighteen months. "This dump doesn’t even have flush toilets, what makes them think their laws mean shit"? you scream at him as he peers off into the distance hopefully, while silently praying that a pack of jackals comes along and tears you apart limb by limb, and dragging your still squawking head into the dense foliage encircling the camp to be pawed at and batted around by hungry hyena pups.
Undaunted, you return to your tent and check yourself in the full length mirror you brought along for the occasion and make the final adjustments to your outfit. You told your stylist you wanted your look to be evocative of Africa’s "glamorous" colonial era. "Think Marlene Dietrich meets King Kong at the opening of the Stork Club inside a smoking volcano". This is why you’ve chosen to dress like the trophy whore of a wealthy plantation owner. Your African hosts should really get a kick out of that. Even though you ended up being more Norma Desmond than Desmond Tutu, your low-cut jungle green Versace wrap around dress and safari hat complimented your caked on alabaster complexion quite nicely. You managed to achieve the look of a former "blimey" spewing bar wench, plucked from obscurity by a visiting adventurer from the "Dark Continent" looking for a piece of tail to compliment his collection of rhino heads. Your new look is reminiscent of someone who spends her days in the shade, reading romance novels and shooting the occasional elephant before heading out for cocktails at the club. But I guess we should be grateful that you left the rollerskates and the ghetto blaster at home.
After a hard day at the orphanage, choosing a baby that will compliment that wonderful hand woven bag you picked up in the market earlier, you decide it’s time to celebrate. With the entire International press corps surrounding you, you seize the chance to make a video for your next dance hit. A word of advice: You should probably edit out the part where your unpaid African back up dancers look on in bewilderment and embarrassment as your frantic pogo-ing recounts the age old story about the evil sorceress with fire ants in her pants.
In the clamor and excitement of the festivities no one noticed as you discreetly handed over the little "orphan" to your assistant, who boarded him into your private jet and spirited him away before the ink is dried on the adoption papers. You insist on calling him an orphan, even though is father is very much alive, but temporarily, at least, unable to raise his son, owing to the tragically, all too familiar circumstances of his life. The death of his wife has left him a bereft and impoverished widower with no other choice but to relinquish custody of his son until he is able to get back on his feet. For considerably less than what you paid for David, you could have given him at least that opportunity. If you had maybe read something more relevant to the topic of global poverty than ‘Cookie’ magazine’s top ten list of lucky celebrity orphans, you might have discovered that the wealth you endlessly accumulate, and the system that makes it possible for you to lavish such largesse upon your latest self-improvement project at the expense of people like Yohane Banda, is responsible in large part for Mr Banda’s inability to feed a child on his non-existent earnings as a farmer. Not surprisingly, you have chosen to overlook that particular aspect of your new child’s life and legacy, wilfully ignoring the bigger picture here in order to clutch a small black child at your breast in a homage to your own brand name. So now Mr Banda is left to deal with his most recent loss, cast aside like last season’s Prada bag, and realizing only too late that he has signed away his past and future to a new colonial master, using the same tactics as the previous ones to seize another nation’s assets under the cover of legality and consent.
Having being told that the "nice" American lady would provide his son with an education and raise him until he was ready to return to his homeland, Mr Banda signed on the dotted line. Since Mr Banda can neither read or write, there was no way his consent should be considered legal or binding. Clearly, he was misled by orphanage officials in order to speed up the process of your fly-by "adoption". But naturally, you blame all the negative publicity on the media, whom you accuse of manipulating Mr Banda to give false and conflicting accounts of the abduction of his son.
Acting on your publicist’s advice, you brought your case to the American public on ‘Oprah’, hoping the African American billionaire talk show host would give you her own official stamp of approval, and a sob sistah shoulder to cry on. No stranger to disastrous shopping expeditions, your new friend, Oprah™ knows first hand the woes of trying to get one’s hands on a coveted consumer item and being told by the staff at Hermes that she would have to wait until the following day to make her purchase. Unfortunately, Oprah used the obvious racist slight on her spending power to highlight the astonishing inability of French saleswoman to recognize her as a global brand phenomenon, rather than use her own first hand experience of France’s institutionalized racism to enlighten her viewers to the worsening plight of France’s non-white immigrant populations. The fact that she was taken for a North African (quelle horreur!) by a Hermes staffer and therefore denied access to the store for after hours shopping didn’t offend her principles, only her vanity. Imagine confusing the elegantly coiffed icon of American media with a lowly Berber shoplifter. The ‘gaul’ of some people". There is a similar disconnect in your aggrieved sense of injustice, too, Madonna. You present yourself as the victim of a media smear campaign, a misunderstood philanthropist, unfairly maligned by hostile forces who will stop at nothing to bring you and your butt munching bodysuit hemlines down a notch.
No match for Oprah, or the global media juggernaut camped out in his goat pen, Mr Banda is forced to reconsider his options and has "agreed" to relinquish custody of his son to your permanent care. Congratulations. The war on the poor rages on, but you’ve won your own personal battle, and even have the "trophy" to prove it. I just hope the next time you are looking to something to adopt, you might consider a more humane and less self-serving world view.
JENNIFER MATSUI can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org