Streetwise Professor

April 18, 2010

Political Posturing at its Worst

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:06 pm

There’s been quite a bit of fussing and fuming from Russia over the sad story of a Russian boy adopted by a Tennessee couple who was sent back home alone.  It is pretty clear that the woman involved was in way over her head, and showed very poor judgment.  However poor her judgment, it is no justification for the histrionics and hyperbole emanating from the highest levels of the Russian government.  It is a human tragedy, not an affair of state.

In 2005, returning on a trip to Moscow, there must have been a half-dozen Russian kids traveling with their adoptive parents.  Most of the kids were old, as adopted kids go.  Most of the parents were old too, as adoptive parents go.  It was pretty clear that each was the last chance for the other, and that the odds of it working out well were not too good.  Most of the kids were in distress, and most of the adoptive parents were at a loss at how to handle it.

My Russian seat-mate (now a close friend) was clearly affected by the scenes, and I was troubled.

The Tennessee story is no surprise to me, then, given what I know, what I’ve read, what I’ve observed, and what I’ve learned from friends (including a family that adopted 4 Russian children in the early-1990s).  Indeed, the only thing that surprises me is that it doesn’t occur with greater frequency.

I might give the outrage of Medvedev and Lavrov more credit, if they were to show the same level of umbrage at the treatment of Russian children in Russian institutions by Russians, or at the social conditions that produce such tragedies.  The appalling conditions in Russian orphanages are quite well known, as is the fact that many who live there are not orphans, but abandoned by their mother, or mother and father.  The cynical and mercenary nature of the adoption business in Russia (even by the fairly dreary standards of these things) is also an open secret.

But it’s so much easier to demonize an unprepared, overwhelmed American woman than to come to grips with the conditions that resulted in a troubled boy being placed with someone incapable of handling him.  You can play the patriotism card, criticize the damned Americans, and relieve your conscience of any thought of your own responsibility.  That’s cheap sensationalism and grandstanding that exploits the tragedy of a damaged Russian boy and a well-meaning but overwhelmed American woman.

Yes, Russian can muster moral outrage, and stop adoptions by Americans.  Just how, pray tell, will that help all those institutionalized Russian kids facing a future which the word “bleak” does no justice?  Indeed, I find the posturing about this sad episode, in the face of the myriad tragedies about which not a word will pass the lips of anyone in power in Russia, to be more than a little nauseating.  It is an evasion of responsibility, and exploitive political posturing.  In a word: disgusting.

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  1. Russia has over four million unwanted, discarded children, who treated like garbage by the state and by society. A brilliant movie called “The Italian” was made about this atrocity:

    In the best of times, American families are allowed access to only a tiny fraction of this population, the most undesirable that Russia wants to purge. When the day comes that Russia can properly care for her four million tiny souls, it can bray and posture about the actions of foreigners. Until then, it should just say “thanks” and “sorry.”

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 18, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

  2. Professor,

    I fully agree. A few years ago, Russian TV was abuzz with the Suffolk Strangler. Meanwhile, .

    Comment by So? — April 19, 2010 @ 12:40 am

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