Last week I read a story about a children’s charity from France called Zoe’s Ark, with the stated purpose of getting orphans out of Darfur and adopted by families in France. So far, so good.
Except the orphans…uh…aren’t orphans.
Also they may not be from Darfur, but neighboring Chad.
And now the leaders of Zoe’s Ark are being held on charges of kidnapping and child trafficking.
Many of the children, aged 2-8 or so, are too young to be able to give accurate information about where their families are, or where they are from, so it may be awhile before they go back home. I was struck by this article from the BBC, which talks about how these actions will reverberate around Chad: aid workers from all over the world (largely white) are now viewed with suspicion, being tarred with the same brush as Zoe’s Ark. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been reading too many blogs about babies, but this strikes me as hugely imperialistic. The mentality that Westerners can swoop in and “give these children a better life” is a little uncomfortable and slightly offensive to me. Obviously, I have heard wonderful stories about families who welcome children from different countries, but the image of Angelina Jolie or Madonna jetting into a country to do a little PR and pick up a kiddie while they’re there is merely propagating the idea that Africa or Asia is not a good place to have children. This whole thing with Zoe’s Ark is less a tragedy of kids being separated from their families than it is a holdover from an imperialistic age, where Western countries would graciously civilize the savages, since they didn’t know any better.
I also read today that the pilot of the Enola Gay—the plane that dropped “the” bomb on Hiroshima, has passed away. I wish I could have known this guy. Just reading the few quotes they had from him on the Beeb’s website made it sound like he was a neat old coot. The thing that struck me about this article was the fact that Gen. Paul Tibbetts had no regrets about dropping the bomb—and no conundrums about why he did it or blinders on about the country he was bombing. I am anti-war, as you know, so it is a relief to me to see that someone with this huge responsibility is able to perpetrate acts of war with a clear sight of what will happen and why, instead of this bungling around in foreign countries. The final quote of Gen. Tibbetts says that it’s a “damn shame” that the focus today is on the suffering of Japan and not on the military crimes they perpetrated. I know my loyal readers are probably thinking it’s weird that I blast an “adoption” agency for being imperialistic Westerners and then praise the guy who bombed Hiroshima in the same post, but I think that Tibbetts gets it. Japan was a very different country sixty years ago. I see no problem talking about the crimes they committed then in context with the suffering that happened or the country they are today. (Much the same way I have no problem talking about the awesomeness of America sixty years ago compared with our, er, problems today.)
It is important to keep things in perspective. Countries today are the cumulative experiences of our past, and we have to acknowledge those experiences to appreciate the choices people make today. We might see nothing wrong with adopting children from overseas—but for former colonies, having la France swoop in AGAIN is a touchy subject. Just the same way that General Tibbetts has requested no headstone, lest it become a place for today’s protestors, even though he received thousands of thankful letters from WWII vets for ending the war quickly.