Two thirds of the Americans polled think Elian should go back to Cuba with his father. That alone proves it's wrong thing to do. If you need further proof, consider that Janet Reno and Bill Clinton also want him sent back. When was the last time either of them were right about anything involving morals, ethics or the law?
Although reasonable people may disagree on the best thing to do for Elian, we can all agree on one thing: everyone, absolutely everyone, involved in this fiasco has behaved despicably.
On the American side, we have his relatives, who have been showering him with gifts in an obvious attempt to buy his affection, both for them and for America. There was nothing wrong with them bringing him to Disney World - that's what you do with a six-year-old in Florida. ("Hey Elian! You just spent two days floating on an inner tube in shark infested waters, and then unwittingly caused an international incident. What are you going to do now?" "I'm going to Disney World!") But that was enough, and it should have stopped there. Instead they showered him with books and clothes and toys and pets, many of them gifts from Florida's large Cuban expatriate community. They would have given him a Humvee if his legs were long enough the reach the pedals.
On the Cuban side, The Beard is using this incident to pose and posture and rile up his
serfscitizens. He's having a great time portraying America as an evil country that rips children from the arms of their parents. The question "why are so many people willing to risk death to escape your island" remains unasked, under threat of long prison sentences. Castro has prepared a very nice villa where Elian will be reeducated to be a good little communist. His classmates will be uprooted to join him and provide support. With the world watching, we can expect that he'll be treated like royalty, and probably won't even realize he's in a prison.
His grandmothers put on one of the most disgusting spectacles of this entire affair. When they arrived they were immediately invited to visit Elian, but declined so they could hit the talk show circuit and complain about not being allowed to visit him. When they finally squeezed a visit into their busy schedules, one of them pulled out his tongue and bit it, which she claimed was a symbol of affection. Perhaps she was raised by snakes. (Wait, snakes don't even do that, do they?) The other pulled down his pants, pointed at his penis and asked if it had grown. When my kids were six I read a lot of books offering advice on child care. None of them had a chapter titled "Ridiculing Genitalia." Perhaps it's only in the Cuban versions.
Elian's father is probably the most sympathetic character in this whole mess. He seems like a decent guy. But raised in a communist country, he's well adjusted to dancing whenever his strings are pulled. He danced at the beginning of this, when he was invited here and refused, he danced when he showed up with his wife and baby, doing his best to come across as the doting daddy. And he'll keep on dancing in that luxury prison once he and Elian return.
Clinton and Reno's actions have been despicable because, well, because they're Clinton and Reno. We can only breathe a sigh of relief that she didn't order a carpet bombing of Elian's neighborhood, followed by a search for him in the rubble.
Stripped of all the politics, emotion and hyperbole, there are only two real issues here:
A father has the right to custody of his child
A person has a right to live in freedom.
In this case both options are not possible - it's appears we must choose one or the other. But on closer examination that's not the case.
In a previous article I overused the word "bonehead" to describe those who selected the first right over the second. After debating this extensively with a lot of people I realize I was wrong. Not about the right to freedom trumping the right of custody, I still feel that way, but I was wrong to make a sweeping generalization that all those who disagree are boneheads. Some people think the custody right is more important than the freedom right. Some pick it because they don't believe things are all that bad in Cuba. For some it's the sheer delight of seeing a father, any father, get custody. This emotional response is understandable considering that fathers are routinely screwed in every American family court. ("Boneheads" can be accurately used as a sweeping generalization of family court judges. Most of them would have to show considerable improvement to be considered substandard.) Some people feel that the right of a child is subordinate to the right of the parent. And some, of course, really are boneheads.
But even if you feel the ultimate right is Elian's father's right to custody, we can't give it to him. As long as he intends to return to Cuba we can only give him the illusion of custody. The Cuban government's manipulation of children and interference in parental rights makes any pretense of custody a joke. While we argue about the father's right to determine his child's future, Castro is taking twenty of Elian's classmates away from their parents to put them in that showcase villa. This is a perfect example of how much power Juan Miguel will have in determining his son's future back in Fidel-land. The only way he can really retain custody is to stay in the US, and he doesn't even seem to be considering that option.
The US government, perhaps confused that anyone would pick this country to find freedom, is hell-bent on sending him back, so further debate about it is just an intellectual exercise (mental masturbation). It is likely that by the time Elian becomes a young man the embargo will be gone, and Cuba will be on it's way to being a free state. We can only hope so, because considering the current direction of this country, by then we may be looking for a free country to emigrate to.
Twenty Reasons Elian should stay in the US.
After reading a list of Cuba's human rights violations, check out a few specific examples of what happens to those who dare to complain.
Hear a snippet of the song that inspired the title of this article.
How to Finance a Raid.