Madonna's ex-husband, Guy Ritchie, says that she's a "great mum," but the rejection of Madonna's application to adopt four-year old Mercy James by Malawi's High Court seems to imply otherwise. The adoption was denied on grounds of "residency" and a fear that relaxing these laws for Madonna might have serious implications for future adoptions with regards to child trafficking. However, the fact that she was permitted to adopt her son David, also a Malawian orphan, has many wondering whether the current judge, a woman, was less than impressed with Madonna's mummy credentials.
In Malawi's very traditional Christian culture, Madonna's recent divorce and latest hook-up with a 22-year-old Brazilian model named Jesus were probably not helpful. Equally unhelpful are Madonna's celebrity antics and over-the-top lifestyle, which she seems incapable of scaling back on during her visits to this desperately poor African nation. She travels exclusively by private jet with a large entourage that includes Israeli bodyguards, a trainer, and her treadmill (yes, she has that flown in). She also has French wine flown to the luxury lodge she rents out – apparently the South African wines they serve are not to her liking. Since all appointments revolve around her strict two-hour workouts, a three hour car tour of the Malawi countryside to visit Mercy's orphanage was attended by Madonna's staff – not the Material Girl, who stayed behind to exercise.Even Madonna's charity work in Malawi, which to her credit, is extensive, is wrought with her eccentricity and narcissism. The thousands of children who attend the schools she funds are subjected to "spirituality classes" which are code for "Kabbalah," a religion based on the mystical aspects of Judaism; Madonna is Kabbalah's most famous and enthusiastic follower. For government officials of this traditional Christian culture, this must have been interpreted as the height of arrogance and insensitivity on the part of a celebrity philanthropist who purports to love the people and culture of Malawi.
Others wonder whether the judge was influenced by the fact that Madonna's mothering involves a journalist said: "Neither her millions nor her muscles adds up to a hill of beans when it comes to assessing her suitability as a mother."
Here's what I think: It is true that none of this adds up to much confidence in Madonna as a loving, stable and deeply involved mother. However, Johnny-come-lately claims of the grandparents of poor little Mercy James are equally hollow. Where were these relatives when Madonna set out to adopt this child who was living in the Home of Hope Orphanage? And what realistic prospects are there for an orphan girl born in a country that ranks among the ten poorest in the world?
Madonna's detractors are smugly pleased that a spoiled, millionaire pop star is being told "no" by a third world judge, but I wonder if, in all this circus, what's best for little Mercy is being truly considered. I wonder if perhaps there are worse things for a toddler than being forced to eat a macrobiotic diet, being raised by a nanny or being subjected to Kabbalah. Growing up in a Malawian orphanage comes to mind.