Wednesday, January 12, 2000

Opportunity trumps biology

I've been following the case of Elian Gonzalez, the six-year-old Cuban boy turned political football, with some interest. Not for the ideology involved, but for the very intriguing precedent being set. An American court actually appears to have ruled that living with a parent is less important than the chance for a better life. Good news for all those kids languishing in the foster care system! No more waiting for parents to get their acts together; if someone can provide you with a puppy and a PC, you've got yourself a home. At last, our priorities are straight: Opportunity trumps biology.

Previously, there's been such an effort to keep families together that kids could go for years without a family at all--the emotional equivalent, surely, of clinging to an inner tube on the open sea. Parents' rights were so important that children's rights to life and love and unlimited opportunity were almost completely overlooked. But now, all is changed. Anyone who can prove that they can offer a child a better address and better clothes and better educational opportunities and better vacations has as much right to parent that child as Mom or Dad. Send all them younguns to Beverly Hills and be done with it!

It's good news for international adoption, too. There can certainly be no argument that children stuck in Russian orphanages can have a better life here in the U.S. with adoptive parents who will provide the therapy, education, tender loving care and PokÈmon paraphernalia they so desperately need. Perhaps the INS could just waive all that paperwork. Perhaps social workers doing homestudies could just take a look at how nicely we've fixed up the child's room and stamp "approved." Perhaps we could forgo all the messy meddling with foreign bureaucrats and just smuggle the kids out. It doesn't need to be legal anymore--it's a better life, and that's all that matters.

And how do the kids feel about this? From what we hear, Elian is a happy camper. Any day now he'll be cutting one of those commercials--"Elian, you survived a perilous trip across the ocean, what are you going to do now?" "I'm going to Disney World!" And that's where the situation's going to get sticky. Because, you know, our own kids could get the wrong idea. How long will it be before some homegrown kid announces, "Mom, Dad, it's been nice, but Mr. and Mrs. Smith have a big-screen TV and a new minivan and a faster computer and fewer kids, and I think my opportunities for a good education and a high allowance are much greater there. No hard feelings, but I've got to look out for my interests."

If the Smiths live across the street, he won't even need the inner tube.

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