(or: “The Journalistic Stunt of Trafficking Syrian Children”)
In a recent article written for Information Clearing House [link], Franklin Lamb states: “I confess to having purchased four children near Ramlet el Baida beach recently from a stressed-out Syrian woman.” The article goes on to describe the illegal practices of brokering, bartering, purchasing, and trafficking children. The eventual goal seems to be a “re-homing” of these young ones, with the side benefit of a journalistic coup in terms of self-promotion. In this light, Franklin Lamb represents the very worst of “white savior syndrome”, and reveals a complete inability to understand his privilege as a foreigner in this region. Most of all, his own “shock” belies decades of adoption/trafficking practice that has taken place here and elsewhere in the region and world, and only exposes his own distance from this reality.
As one of the earliest of children adopted via Lebanon (we are not all “Lebanese”), I am myself shocked that so-called progressives still consider the purchasing of children to be a viable act of charity or beneficence. Furthermore, their ignorance of the history of this trafficking—the connections of adoption/trafficking to indentured servitude, the population of foreign colonies, the eradication of Indigenous peoples—indeed, the very connection between rampant anti-human capitalism and the trade of flesh/DNA no matter how formalized and mythologized, puts them in the same league as fascistic societies which do not bother with such niceties and formalities, much less myths of “forever families”. Whereas Spain, Chile, Argentina, Lebanon, and Israel (among others) have historically elevated the targeting of internally seen-as enemy populations via adoption to a state priority, progressives in the so-called West continue to uphold the mythology of this trafficking/adoption as having “saved” children. This must come to an end.
Like Mr. Lamb, I, too, arrived in Lebanon as an “American”, and have spent 12 years attempting to undo that acculturation. Unlike other ex-pats here, I categorically refuse to hire slave labor (in the form of, for example, Ethiopian women, whose children are also targeted for dispossession and disinheritance), much less brag about it. I have come to know as friends and brothers many Syrian workers in this country, and they are the first ones to tell me that what happened to me was “haram“—”wrong”, in the sense of unjust but also forbidden. That Mr. Lamb cannot fathom the impossibility of how difficult it will be to integrate these children into Lebanese society reflects his distance from the street, and his ignorance of the racism and sectarianism that rules the lives of anyone unfortunate enough to not be seen as valid by the Lebanese nation-state and its elites. That this holds true for adoptees from this country should give us great pause.