CBS–and Maureen Langan–Should Be Ashamed

Be prepared:  This post has nothing to do with education. 

It has nothing to do with technology or policymakers or media specialists.  Heck, I'm not even going to write about Interactive Whiteboards.  I can't write about any of those things today because my mind has been completely consumed by one of the most shocking clips that I've ever seen on network television

In a lot of ways, it's surprising that I'm so riled up.  I hardly ever watch television.  It just so happens that I was home feeding my beautiful adopted daughter this morning and I couldn't reach the remote—the cat was sitting on it—-so I was stuck watching CBS's Early Show

That's when a segment titled Comedians Joke About the Week came on.  After a few jokes about Sarah Palin, the comedians decided to tackle a topic that surprised me:  The decision made by a mother this week to send her adopted son back to Russia with nothing more than a note in his backpack explaining that she didn't want him anymore.  

The case is honestly heartbreaking—-especially to a guy like me who worked 70+ hours a week for five years to raise enough money to adopt the child that my wife and I couldn't have biologically. 

I feel for everyone involved:  The 7-year old Russian boy forced to feel like a throwaway, the Tennessee mother who felt so unprepared for parenthood that she made a decision that she'll never live down, and the thousands of other parents whose long-awaited Russian adoptions have been put on hold as a result of her actions.

Honestly, there's nothing funny about the situation at all, so I was surprised to see it in the CBS clip.  My surprise turned dark when comedienne Maureen Langan made a joke that went a little something like this:

"This could be a good thing.  It could lead to an increase in domestic adoptions.  After all, sending a child back on Jet Blue is a lot cheaper than sending a child back on Air Kremlin."

To suggest that adoptive parents are looking for an easy out when times get tough is nothing short of insulting, Ms. Langan.  We're not celebrities you know, picking out new kids from new countries like they're poodles.  Instead, we're compassionate humans working to bring love into the life of another.

We struggle with our own inability to have children.  We worry about whether or not our adopted children will embrace us.  We work endless hours to pay crushing fees, we wonder how our families and friends will react to our new additions, and we wait—sometimes for years—to become parents. 

And most of us would never think about walking away from our children. 

Had Ms. Langan stopped there, maybe it would be easy to excuse her for pushing the envelope just a bit too far.  The problem is she didn't stop.  In fact, her next joke was even worse.  When speaking about the future of the abandoned boy involved in this case, Ms. Langan said something that went a little like this:

"Now that he's back with his drinking buddies, he'll be fine."

Are you kidding me? 

You're going to poke fun at a child who has lost his family twice during the course of his first decade on earth?  Don't you think that's a bit harsh?  Shouldn't we feel regret that there are children in the world who are stuck in conditions we wouldn't wish on anyone?  Is it really funny to laugh about a life ruined?

Did you think that was okay just because Artem—he's a real person with a real name, Maureen—hasn't got a family to stick up for him?  Cheap humor is appropriate when it comes at the expense of children whose birth parents can't care for them?

What's more, how do you think your humor looks to parents raising children born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, an all-too-common problem facing the children left in Russian orphanages?  Is it really okay to trivialize a problem that leaves thousands of children with serious emotional problems and learning disabilities each year?

Nope.  Not in my mind.

Who knows…maybe I'm overreacting.  Maybe you should ignore my post completely.  Maybe I'm an oversensitive adoptive parent.

Or maybe I'm a decent person taking a stand against tasteless comedy. 

That's your choice to make. 

8 comments

  1. mo

    Bill,
    I just had a GREAT idea. Let me host an adoption awareness night for you. I’m not even joking. That’s a way to turn anger into action. (I turn anger into dark humor, which makes you angry, but makes me not wipe out a village). I’ll make fun of what I said and how you hate me, but we all love kids. I would do that for you. I’m being totally serious. And I’ll fly Jet Blue or whatever airline likes kids!!
    Think about it. It’s a way of turning bull-s–t into something productive.
    Maureen

  2. mo

    Bill,
    I can see this is a very painful issue for you. It is a noble cause. It is the BEST. And I applaud you. Children. They deserve the best. Every minute you spend on a comic whose joke you don’t like is a minute you take away from helping a child.
    Comics flip pain. And, yes, many have commented on the topics you describe. It’s just one method of dealing with life.
    You’re going to boycott me because I made fun of people who return children? Do you not see the irony? Do you not see that we are on the same side of the issue, but have different ways of deling with it? YOu may not agree w/ my expression but it doesn’t lessen my pain of having 6 miscarriags and being nearly taken in the adoption process. I’m sorry you don’t get that. Boycott. Go ahead. But do more useful things by continuing helping children. Help them. Don’t spend time on me. You are absolutely right. And that’s my point. Your anger is displaced. Every minute you blog about how wonderful you are and how terrible I am, is a minute you are not helping kids. Don’t worry about boycotting me. My career isn’t that big. But keep helping kids because you seem like a good guy who has a lot to offer.
    All the best Maureen

  3. Bill Ferriter

    Maureen Langan—who posted here as Mo—wrote:
    A sense of humor will help you with many of life’s pains.
    That’s why so many comedians designed bits on 9/11, isn’t it Ms. Langan. Or on major kidnappings. Or on the never-ending piles of deaths in Iraq.
    Right. No one jokes about those things because they’re not funny. They’re sad and hurtful.
    Just like this situation.
    Having a “sense of humor” involves recognizing when something is funny.
    And when you finally figure that out, maybe you’ll be a comedienne worth listening to.
    Until then, I’ll continue to ignore your work and boycott any organizations, clubs, groups, or media organizations that hire you.
    Bill

  4. Mo

    I was riciduling how obsurd it is for a person to return their child. What’s next, returning them on more cost effecive airlines? Did you not hear the irony? The craziness of it all? Do you not get satire as a way of lambasting the ridiculousness of our society? As a woman who has had six miscarriages and dealt with unscrupulous people in the adoption world, you must see that sometimes one turns to humor to deal with it all. C’mon. See beyond the word “adoption” and don’t be defensive. Kids are the best… no one wants any harm to come to them. A sense of humor will help you with many of life’s pains.

  5. michelle hillison

    The entire situation was horrible and the jokes ridiculous. One of the things you learn about adoption quickly is that there is loss everywhere. Adoption is a wonderful thing but there is sadness, grief and loss for everyone involved. This Russian situation was horrified and this child deserves nothing but compassion.
    My daughter mentioned to me today that you told the class your daughter was adopted. Thank you for doing that. It helps kids like my daughter who were also adopted feel less isolated.
    Unless teachers have experience with adoption, I find many don’t understand how it can crop up in all sorts of school situations. I certainly don’t accuse them of being ignorant, just unexposed. I had teachers at Salem that I love ask me about my child’s ‘real parents’, about why she was ‘given away’. One teacher tell me they’d never had an adopted child in class so they didn’t know it could impact the family history project they sent home. I shared with that teacher that they certainly had other adopted children, just not one where the adoption is open and the family is comfortable talking about it. To their credit, the teacher took my words to heart and revised the assignment, making it easier for all children in all type of families to complete. Humorously on the day that parents came into the classroom and saw the projects, two other families shared their kids were adopted too.
    After all of that I worked with the guidance counselor at Salem Elem to put together a packet on adoption friendly information for teachers. After all, you can’t expect someone to know something if they don’t get any information on it.
    It does my heart good to know there is already a teacher on her team who has experience with adoption. Thanks.

  6. Allison

    No one should disregard your post, Ms. Langan went a little to far with her jokes, I am all for free speech but that was just to much. I really don’t think she should have tried to make that funny at all, It just isn’t. I feel so bad for that poor boy and I hope the adoptive mother regrets her decision for the rest of her life.

  7. Laurie Wasserman

    Bill,
    This is absolutely disgraceful and digusting.I feel for this little boy, Artem, and can only imagine how sad and devestated he must feel.
    As a special needs teacher who often teaches the kids who are adopted from other countries, (thank you for parents who adopt the kids who are “challenged from birth”)I am so deeply saddened and angry too that CBS allowed this so-called comedian and entertainer to “perform.” She owes everyone, especially Artem, and other children who may have been adopted from foreign countries, as well as their families, an apology.

  8. Catina

    Wow. I am so sorry that you had to see that–even sorrier that it was said! You have a beautiful daughter, and I am so happy for her that she has parents like you and your wife.