When Little Orphan Annie is adopted by Daddy Warbucks in the Broadway show "Annie," does anyone in the audience think, "This is an outrage"? Daddy Warbucks lives in a huge, fabulous mansion on Fifth Avenue, is friends with President Roosevelt and when he first brings Annie home for a tryout visit, he assigns his assistant to take charge of her — yet no one in the audience gasps. I don't recall theatergoers telling their children that poor little Annie should have stayed in the orphanage because Daddy Warbucks is too rich, too single, and possibly in too much of a midlife crisis to adopt her.
And remember, it's not ascertained until the end of the show that Annie is in fact a true orphan — her parents could still be alive.
Well if it's OK for richie rich Daddy Warbucks to become an "adoptive" dad, then why are media and other Big Mouths in a fury that megarich Madonna is about to "steal" another African child from an orphanage? So what that she's rich and is touring the Malawian orphanage in a $2,800 Chanel sweatsuit? At least she's there and she's spent a portion of her fortune making improvements to that orphanage. Are her critics raising money to improve the lives of the one million Malawian orphans or lining up to adopt them themselves? There's certainly plenty of children desperate for parents in the small African country — one in five of its children are, in fact, orphans.
If Madonna can give an opportunity to even one of these poverty-stricken children, why should her wardrobe matter? Has anyone priced out Angelina Jolie's outfits when she went to Vietnam, Ethiopia or Cambodia - the home countries of HER three adopted children? When Angelina dresses for red carpet events, she routinely wears Ralph Lauren, Versace and Max Azria. Should this disqualify her from adopting in the future? Should all wealthy people with designer-laden wardrobes be excluded from adopting? Should Oprah forget her dream of educating poor South African girls because she likes to carry an Hermes purse?
The child that Madonna is adopting is reportedly named Mercy and she is 4 years old. I remember hearing that when Madonna adopted David Banda as an infant — he's now a healthy-looking 3-year-old — she had also wanted to adopt a little girl named Mercy. So she's had Mercy in her sight for two years, and never forgot about her. She's hardly returned to Malwai to "shop" for a child. If anything, she's refused to forget about an orphan that, like Annie, desperately needed a home to call her own.
According to press reports, Mercy's 18-year old mother died when she was just five days old, her dad is MIA and she has a 61 year-old grandmother Lucy Chekechiwa who has accused Madonna of stealing her granddaughter. Mind you: Mercy lives in the same orphanage where Madonna discovered David Banda. She does not live with her grandmother.
Now, I am sympathetic to the feelings of Mercy's grandmother who doesn't want to lose all ties with her granddaughter. But put this in an American perspective. There are hundreds of thousands of children in this country who are ineligible for adoption because a parent or grandparent who can't care for them has refused to release them for adoption. Instead, these children and teenagers are caught in the foster care system for years, and can be shuttled from foster home to foster home to group home, until they are 18.
The result: They never have the opportunity to have their own loving, stable home with an adoptive family of their own. Instead, when they are 18 they are thrown out like unwanted animals to fend for themselves in the streets. Rosie O'Donnell just filmed a movie called "America" for Lifetime about this harsh reality.
Now imagine being Mercy. She has a chance to escape a place where one in five children doesn't live past the age of five, the average life expectancy is 48, and the average household income is $160 a year. How powerless would you feel if a bunch of muckety mucks that you've never met are trying to ruin your chance for a better life?
Wouldn't you want to be special to someone? Have a mom? Have someone to kiss your boo boos? Have a big sister and two brothers? Have a cozy bed? Go to school? Be able to see a doctor when you're sick? Have enough to eat? Go to college? Be able to have a profession that you love when you grow up?
Would you really want to be denied these things because your potential mom was rich and wore a $2,800 Chanel sweatsuit? Madonna with her Kabbalah and fitness obsession may not be everyone's cup of tea but by all reports she is a loving mother. Lourdes and Rocco have been photographed playing happily with local kids in Central Park numerous times. They look like completely normal, happy children. Pictures of David Banda show that he's grown into a healthy, smiling three year-old. There's no evidence that the children of rock stars grow up any more or less dysfunctional than other children, at least as long as they aren't featured in a reality show, Ozzy Osbourne- style.
So have mercy on Madonna Bigbucks and Mercy. If you're not prepared to go to Africa and adopt a needy child, then don't diss someone who is, even if she is a material girl.
For more on Madonna's adoption, follow Bonnie at Twitter at twitter.com/bonniefuller.