When this baby finds out later... - Macleans.ca

When this baby finds out later…

Elton John and spouse, David Furnish, will not be allowed to give baby Lev a gorgeous forever home in Berkshire


When this baby finds out later . . .If you will forgive the awful image this conjures, I’ve been trying to put myself into the diapers of a 14-month-old child in an east European orphanage. Is this the worst situation I could be in? Being abandoned in Somalia is probably worse. But let’s concentrate on the baby with parents MIA in lands east of the Oder-Neisse line.

This little person has worked out that smiles and gurgles give him a good chance of being picked up, so he is gurgling at this nice stocky man with funny glasses who, wonder of wonders, wants to adopt him. Even though he’s already 14 months old and past prime adoption age. Even though chances are he’s HIV-positive. Even better, the nice man has oodles of money. This is too good to be true.

Which guarantees it is not true and is a dream about to be noisily squelched, as it was last week by Yuriy Pavlenko, the minister of family, youth and sports in Ukraine, where our little orphan resides. Pavlenko says Elton John can’t adopt one of his country’s fabulous, in-demand HIV orphs because he is too old (62) and is married to another man, a union not yet appreciated by the good people of Ukraine. So, for your own sake, little Lev (that is the name of our orphan), Elton John and spouse, David Furnish, will not be allowed to give you a gorgeous forever home in Berkshire. I think we can all be fairly certain that when little Lev grows into big Lev and fully appreciates this decision made for his very own good, he will come after Yuri and his cohorts with homicide in his heart. I would.

The specific circuitry of the Ukrainian mind is not familiar to me, but there are certain eternal verities in this story. Little Lev is a part of that phenomenon known as the besprizornost, the children of the former Soviet empire who have either lost, or been dumped by, their parents. They’ve been called, inter alia, vermin, hooligans, foundlings and “waifs in drab tatters,” but the long and short of it is that they are stuck in orphanages. Sometimes they are not on the adoption list, as little Lev is said not to be, since his HIV-positive mother hasn’t decided what to do with him. This unhappy, unholy mass of besprizornost continues in the post-Soviet years as HIV rates skyrocket and newly independent states flounder in economic disarray.

If the Ukrainian bureaucrats are hung up on rules (adopt little Lev and you have to adopt his brother), or are simply homophobic or lean more toward Christian evangelicalism than is fashionable in the West, so be it. They will have to answer to Ukrainian society where the besprizornost have a high rate of turning into criminals. My beef is with the chattering classes of the West, who have taken up the Ukrainian decision with delight.

“Elton John, forget children and adopt a cat” was the front page slash of the Daily Telegraph. Inside, writer Andrew Pierce dismisses John as an unsuitable parent because of his tantrums and late conversion to fatherhood. Pierce gives his own credentials, as a gay man himself and one who spent two years in a British orphanage after his mother attempted to escape the “harsh moral climate that was sixties Britain.” Well, we can all pull that one off: two years in a ’60s British orphanage bears about as much resemblance to the world of a Ukrainian AIDS orphan as my experience as a ward of the court in harsh postwar 1940s Britain does. Zero.

In the Spectator, columnist Rod Liddle allows for the possibility that John may have been motivated by the “most charitable impulses when his eyes fell upon baby Lev,” but finds the impulse sickening. Along with some digs at John’s being seen sniffing Tom Ford’s new perfume Black Orchid Voile de Fleur, which Liddle tells us was described by some critics (one?) as having the subtle aroma of a man’s crotch—imagine the cartwheels when that aperçu surfaced in the research—he criticizes John’s impulse as merely a “lifestyle choice,” like a nicely crafted bit from Prada. Then throwing in Angelina and Madonna, he underlines how children as “lifestyle choices” are society’s big problem.

I have no idea what this means anymore. At least 50 per cent of births, abortions and C-sections are lifestyle choices. Little Lev’s present address is a lifestyle choice of his parents. One could swallow this muck if Liddle or Pierce were prepared to adopt Lev themselves. But this is just a column and, once written, chances are they won’t pay the slightest attention to the child.

Writing about people you don’t know and embodying your own opinions in them is a breeze. “It is hard to imagine an environment less suited to the rearing of children than that inhabited by Sir Elton John and David Furnish,” opines Liddle, whose notion of the Elton John environment is that of the outsider with nose pressed hard against Google. Writing about people you do know is so much more awkward: you’ve got the obstacle of reality in the path of your Pegasus, making it harder for the old horse to soar.

I do know John and his spouse Furnish: they’d be fine parents, if obsessive about clean hands and behind-the-ears. Perhaps Elton and David might subcontract some of Lev’s bringing-up to a team of nannies and educationists, but I expect they’d do a far better job of vetting experts in child-rearing than the Ukrainian orphanage. And while I’ve never asked him, I rather think Elton would delight in a rousingly heterosexual son.

Refusing to allow an adoption from an orphanage to anyone short of Jack the Ripper and child molesters is fundamentally wrong and is redeemed only by the objector being willing to adopt the orphan themselves. That is a moral imperative. Little Lev lives with the consequence of it not being followed.

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When this baby finds out later…

  1. A brilliantly written editorial. I agree it is sad when not only do bureaucrats deny a chance for happiness to an orphaned child based on trivial such as a couple's age or sexuality, but when it is supported by judging outsiders who have no credibility on the subject they write. I do not think that Elton John, nor Madonna, nor Angelina Jolie, should receive favourable treatment because of their celebrity status. But should they be determined to be suitable parents, they should be allowed that right like everyone else. And I commend you Barbara for putting the focus back on the child. As much as we may be upset over the treatment of Elton and David, the greatest loss here is of the opportunity for happiness, peace and long life for Lev. Let's hope he gets another chance.

  2. I just wanted to say that, as a conservative Christian, I have a great deal of respect for what you've said here. I think there's often not enough dialogue about questions like this, and it's absolutely shameful that a major cause for this is the fact that conservatives resort to mud-slinging instead of approaching the topic rationally and openly.

    Your comments about the lacking actions to back up the words of these authors is bang-on, particularly in conjunction with their statements. I would love to see more conservatives resort to less rhetoric and insults, and instead focus on humbly acting out their convictions, while opening conversations where appropriate.


  3. This is by far the best story written on this topic so far!! Elton and David have for years discussed adoption. Elton felt that because of his busy lifestyle, it would not be fair to the child. That same lifestyle did not stop the Jolie-Pitts or Madonna. He was putting the needs of a child above his own desire to be a parent. These people who claim that he is too old to be deciding now that he wants to be a parent, are ill-informed at best. I do hope that Lev is told exactly what happened when he is older, and told or shown what kind of life he missed out on. I hope that the powers that be will someday have to answer to him. I would love to hear them talk their way out of this!

  4. You are the only person I've read on this subject who has given a split second's thought to the rights of that poor baby. Good on you, Barbara! And may all the nay-sayers get to spend a year in diapers in a Ukranian orphanage.

  5. This is Barbara Amiel at her best. Her tolerant views regarding lifestyle choices is a logical outcome of her libertarian position and demonstrates that one can be a 'right liberal' – a counterweight to one of Amiel's favorite term- 'left liberal'. Most right wing libertarians on both side of the Atlantic are not libertarians at all but social authoritarians. These hypocritical 'libertarians' claim to believe in small government , yet they would invoke the coercive power of big government against certain groups pursuing alternative lifestyles at the drop of a hat. This is not to say Amiel does not hold unfortunate views regarding certain matters-she manifestly does. Yet even these views are presented in a manner which arouses amusement rather than revulsion with the underlying intuition that the author doesn't think ill of anyone. Compared to Melanie Phillips- Britain's most vitriolic and bigoted columnist (I live in London) I find Amiel a breadth of fresh air. Hope she continues to write outrageous things (especially in defense of the mega rich) so that I can get mildly angry and momentarily forget about my problems.

  6. pardon my inherent ignorance but…why are you giving this lady such praise? is she because she is uppity uppity or someone special? who is this lady and where does she come from? never heard of her before…but you ask who am i also? just an ordinary person…with a distorted opinion about everything in general and no knowledge about any thing…and i like being ignorant …ignorance is an excellent teacher..is there some guilt involved in this seemingly enlightened opinion of elton john private life or could it be something else like maybe you have become accepting tolerant torch bearers of editorial pompacity and hypocritical butt kissing? what about a column on the reservation children who suffer and are exposed to elements and living conditions you would find sickening ms gorgeous princess of all humanity!

  7. Lady Black of Crossdressers aka "Babs" while awaiting the release of her convicted, jailed husband Lord Black of Doublecrossed aka CON
    must have much time on her hands. As "Babs" is quickly advancing to
    "no longer useable" perhaps writing more wonderful articles such as the above is her new "outlet"
    Although I totally disagree, we are fortunate to have diverse opinions.
    With one exception. Would any parent permit their newborn to be raised in that enviorment?
    Sorry "Babs" I vote NO!

    • And what is "that enviornment??" And who – pray tell is "Babs??" – your envioronment sounds very judgemental and just a tad "bitchy" – lije most undiscerning johns!!

  8. Two years ago, I adopted 3 year old Katya from Russia who was removed from her birth mother because of neglect and abuse. Her birth mother drank while pregnant with Katya and that made her tiny and frail, and no one in Russia wanted someone else's damaged child. Even international couples looking to adopt had no interest in her and her “alcohol issues”. That is until my husband and I met her. She was incredible and we took her home – despite the orphanage doctor's warnings about her physical & mental deficiencies. Fast forward 2 years, Katya is nothing like the shadow of a child we took from the orphanage. She's healthy and intelligent and miraculously shows no signs of damage from the alcohol abuse. The moral of the story is this: Orphanages are places that hold many diamonds in the rough, and those poor kids need people (straight, gay, who cares) who are willing to adopt them. Shame on the Ukrainian government for such incredibly bad judgment. God forbid that Lev should grow up with 2 loving parents who just happen to be gay. It's much more sensible to let him be adopted by — oh wait, there's no one else who wants him. Shame.

  9. You've still got it Babs!

  10. The too old excuse is an interesting one. My husband is 62 years old and just a few years ago, we assumed guardianship of my two grandchildren – they were then sixteen months and 6 years old. There was never any question by anyone that we were too old to raise these children. It sounds like a made up excuse to me to hide a lot of homophobia.


  11. I was just wondering if this baby actually has a future and how long can be expected if he is infected with HIV? He's a beautiful child at the moment but what exactly is in store for him? Will he live long enough to wonder about being adopted? An article on what happens to children who are HIV positive would be appreciated. Thank you. Heather Johnson

  12. Magic Johnson – still going strong after 25 years HIV positive. Give the kid a chance!

  13. Ms. Amiel,

    You do not know anything about how Ukrainian orphanages are run because if you had ever stepped foot in one, you would never have made those ignorant, sweeping generalizations based on the faulty premise that Ukrainian orphanages in the post-Soviet period are by definition ghastly institutions where children are tied to bedposts and left to lie in their own filth. Clearly you may have seen only such images in documentaries about Romanian orphanages, but check out some docs on Ukraine's orphanages and stop writing inflammatory drivel. And if Ukraine does not approve of same-sex marriages or adoptions by homosexuals, then that is Ukraine's business and nothing to do with you. Your article is nothing but bombast.

  14. The folks responsible for little Lev have made their call and so it stands. Their value system may be quite different from yours; you may envision in your special world all sorts of weird scenarios, but the fact remains that they are not you, and you are not they. In fact, you evidently know nothing about them. They, and Lev, are the issue of a civilization of great antiquity. It has survived to this day, and so will little Lev if God wills, your fit of pique notwithstanding. Get used to it.

    • Isn't leaving it up to God to whether little Lev lives or not, rather, uh, superstitious if not downright lazy? The child had a chance at a true change in circumstances and because of the bigotry against what you like to call "a weird little scenario," this chance has been taken away.

  15. Ah, Ms Amiel, When you wrote of botox to fill out those unsightly toes before gracing an $800 pair of sling-back Manolo Blahniks or of Bernie Madoff's pencil-stub of a penis, I thought: "Barbara has found her groove." But this matter of whining over a Ukrainian orphanage not simply handing an orphan child to an old mildewed rock star is straying outside your intellectual parameters. Say… weren't you among that tribe of neocons that was all gung-ho for the US invasion of Iraq back in 2003? Boy! that never ending atrocity (into its 7th year now, and no end in sight) has sure left behind a lot of orphans! Funny how these things go, don't you think?

  16. How about instead of spoiling one little unfortunate child, John donates a fraction of his wealth for the benefit of orphanages in Ukraine, or any other country that is in dire need of humanitarian aid? He'll get even more fans doing the Crocodile Rock…

  17. I learned a new word today… besprizornost. I agree with George about sharing his wealth amongst multiple children that need it.

  18. I totaly agree that the whole issue has a homophobic flavour. Elton John may have his irrational episodes but don,t we all at times. That doesn,t mean he would be a bad father.I wish him the best in this endeaver.

  19. This is actually kinda funny. and why would the baby says when he or she grows up and yea Elton is one creepy guy

    JJ Kams

    Prada Handbags

  20. It's true that most of us (ok pretty much none of us) know what it would really be like to live with Elton John. But is her picture of the Ukraine remotely accurate? And though I see from her point of view that it is nice if a man with bags of money notices you (!) but she seemed to think that the bags of money alone qualify a great parent. Anyway her article was fun to read as usual, like all trips away from reality.