To the editors:
Thanks to my colleague Jonathan Rosenbaum for his letter [July 22], the one that clarified when exactly Tommy Lee Jones came blasting out of the prison cell in Speed. I just have one more question: Was it before or after he had that big shoot-out with Harrison Ford on top of the Hilton?
On a more serious note, I wish the Reader’s press columnist had given a bit more credit to the opinion of Justice James Heiple in the Baby Richard case before joining the feral journalistic mob calling for his head [Hot Type, July 22]. It is not the justice’s responsibility to make a point by point disputation with Bob Greene; on the contrary, it is the responsibility of Greene–and all the other reporters and columnists who’ve been ululating about the case–to display a little intellectual humility in the face of things they have not bothered to learn anything about. I hope I’m not the only person who suspects that most arguments between Bob Greene and the state supreme court justices–indeed, between Bob Greene and most living things above the level of plankton–will on analysis find Greene rather unequipped to compete.
I am a little unsure of the facts of the case myself, since the reporting on it has been almost Stalinistically one-sided. But I think it is agreed that (a) the father did not know the child was being put up for adoption and (b) the birth parents have been trying to get their son back for three years and four months of the three years and six months the boy has been alive. It is Justice Heiple’s contention that the initial adoption was illegal and that the boy should therefore go back to his biological parents. In this context, the length of time the child has spent with the adoptive parents is irrelevant, and their refusal to give him back three years ago irresponsible.
The defenders of the adoptive parents harp on the fact that they are the only mother and father the child has ever known. If the rabid attackers of Heiple want to create a statute of limitations on illegal adoptions, they should make that case. They don’t because it is a difficult one to make: Perhaps the defenders of Rolando Cruz would like similar logic applied to his situation. “We’ve had him in jail for years now,” the state could say. “He’s used to it, and it might be traumatizing if we let him out.”
The mob’s next line of defense is raised eyebrows at the birth parents’ less-than-perfect home life, contrasting this with the allegedly ideal one of the adoptive parents. If this is the new standard, let’s get it on. I suggest we start on the North Shore, specifically at the homes of newspaper editors. Let’s find (say) the alcoholic husbands and adulterous wives and start dragging their kids away. We could set up a rating system for families, perhaps on a scale of 1 to 100, based on things like income, an agreed-upon “love quotient,” proximity to good local schools, or a commitment to funding an Ivy League education. A couple with (say) a ten-point-higher rating would be automatically allowed to relieve another couple of their children.
Family law is based on one central precept: short of abuse, keep the kids with their parents. Any alternative is a legal and moral nightmare. Instead of asking Heiple to address Bob Greene’s idiotic points, Heiple’s lynch mob should address his trenchant ones: “A child is not available for adoption until the rights of his proper parents have been properly terminated”; “the legislature is not given the authority to decide private disputes between litigants”; “this case cannot be decided by public clamor generated by an irresponsible journalist.” It all seems pretty plain to me. The scandalous nature of the coverage of the Baby Richard case is that these central questions have been frighteningly absent from the public discourse.