Monday, January 24, 2000

Week of 01/24/2000

Poor Man’s Solomon
- by David Matthews 2

In the Old Testament, King Solomon was presented with a problem. Two women had come before the King laying claim to a baby boy. The first woman claimed the second woman’s child died during the night so she switched children and claimed the live son as her own. The second woman claimed the first woman was lying, that the living son was actually hers. Solomon then ordered his aide to get a sword and cut the living child in half so that both women would have one half of that child. The true mother of the child then begged the king to spare the child’s life and give him to the other woman. The other woman, meanwhile, simply said "Divide it!"

King Solomon knew that the child belonged to the woman who begged the child’s life be spared, even if it meant possibly losing any claims to that child, so in the end, he gave the child back to her.

If only today’s problem would be easily resolved.

Let’s suppose a parent took his or her young boy and fled to another country. In the process, that parent is killed. The boy is welcomed into that new country by relatives and a community that claims to care for him. Now the surviving parent, the one who did not flee to that country, is demanding that the child be brought home to live with him.

Now let’s say for instance that the parent who was killed was a Saudi man, who fled with his son so he could be brought up in an Islamic society. The surviving mother was an American citizen who is begging and pleading for her son to be brought home to live with her.

No-brainer, you would say. The father is dead, the son should be returned to America to live with his mother. Case closed.

Now suppose it was the other way around.. the child was brought to America by the parent who died, and the surviving parent lives in an oppressive country. What then?

That, in a nutshell, is the case of Elian Gonzales, a six-year old boy whose mother died on their way from Cuba to the United States. His relatives and the Cuban-emigrants in Florida all say he should stay in the United States. His father says he should come back to Cuba.

Now, gut reaction would be simple. The mother is dead, the father should have custody of Elian. Case closed. However, this is a case that even King Solomon would find difficult to easily resolve, simply because there are too many people getting involved in this matter.

First of all, you have all of the Cuban emigrants who are living in the Florida area who vow to create all sorts of havoc in Miami if young Elian was returned to Cuba. They’ve already created traffic jams and started protests to show how serious they are. To them, Elian represents the ultimate symbol of their exile from an oppressed country, and to give him up would be akin to giving up their own hearts.

Next, you have Fidel Castro and the people of Cuba who are staging their own demonstrations and protests to get Elian brought back. And I’m talking huge media affairs that are usually reserved for when the US bombs the crap out of yet another third world country. To Castro, Elian represents a great way to slam the United States for being imperialistic and anti-family.

Next, you have all of the politicians who inevitably feel they have to stick their heads into this matter just so they can feel important. Perhaps the most absurd of this political posturing was made when the US Congress subpoenaed young Elian to testify for the House Foreign Relations Committee. Remember, he’s six years old. The only thing he could really testify about would be watching his mom and everyone around him drown in the Atlantic. We all know the real reason to "subpoena" him would be first to keep him in America that much longer and then to pretend to care about the welfare of the Cuban exiles.

Then there’s the Clinton Regime… and, for once, they made up their minds based on rational thought instead easily manipulated polls. Ironically, it’s Attorney General Janet Reno, who originally came from Florida, that has made the decision to send Elian back to Cuba.

Did I forget anyone? Oh yes… and then there’s the media. The snap-happy, sound-byte-gathering, we-report-what-we-deem-to-be-the-truth people who are playing all sides on this issue. To them, Elian is a story about sorrow and a community that claims to care.

Let’s get brutally honest here. Despite all of the claims to the contrary, Elian Gonzales has become nothing more than a means to other peoples’ ends. A political football. A glorified public relations tool being used on all sides for reasons that have little to do with Elian’s well-being.

Fortunately, in the midst of it all, some semblance of real progress is being made. A trial will be scheduled to determine whether Elian should stay with relatives or go to Cuba with his father. Hopefully some very key questions will finally be asked. Questions that nobody has yet to ask about this case.

First of all, I would hope the court would ask Elian if he would want to live with his father. If not, why not? Was he a bad father? Was he abusive or negligent? Too many people who are saying Elian should stay are equating living in Cuba to being a bad parent, and that really doesn’t say much about themselves.

Did Elian even want to come to the United States, knowing that he may not be allowed to see his father for years, if at all? As much as we may not want to think one parent would make such a move to spite the other parent, such things DO happen!

Next Elian’s father, if he’s even allowed to come to America to testify, should be allowed to tell his side of the story. Did he know his ex-wife would take Elian and try to escape to the United States? What was the reason for their marital breakup in the first place? And most importantly, would he be willing to live in the United States in order to raise his son? How much of a sacrifice would he be willing to make?

Then Elian’s relatives who already live here should be answering a few questions. Questions like do they really want Elian to stay here out of his interests, or are they simply doing this to spite his father, or perhaps even just to spite the Cuban government? And perhaps an even more important question.. would they be willing to live in Cuba again in order to make sure Elian is being raised appropriately?

You know, a lot of the talk concerning Elian’s situation has had very little to do with Elian himself as it is in screwing Fidel Castro. To be blunt, I really don’t think a good percentage of the people who want Elian to stay here would care either way about him as long as he doesn’t go back to a Castro-run Cuba. And this spans a good segment of the political spectrum: liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and authoritarians alike seem to be waiving faux patriotic banners and claiming that Elian would be far better with relatives than his own flesh and blood.

"But, but, but, IT’S CASTRO!" these people claim. Well, maybe so. So why aren’t you doing something about Castro yourself?

In 1988, I saw something that people thought was unbelievable. I saw ordinary German citizens tear down a powerful symbol of communist oppression - the Berlin Wall. They didn’t wait for the leaders to order the wall be removed. They took hammers and pipes and even with their own bare hands they tore down that wall! In 1990, I saw a man who would later serve as Russia’s first president stand on top of a military tank and dare communist supporters to shoot him. He did not go to another country and complain about how his country is going to pot. And even America’s own history is replete with those who were willing to fight for what they believed was right instead of running off to another country to complain about the conditions.

Our policy with the Cuban exiles is sadly lacking the dedication of even our own forefathers. Somewhere along the course of the past thirty years, we went from helping the Cubans try to overthrow Castro to simply bringing in the Cuban exiles and waiting for Castro to die, hoping that his death would magically bring about a freer country. Unfortunately, that kind of rationality is not realistic. True freedom is made through struggle. It is never handed to you on a silver platter.

Whether we like it or we don’t, Elian Gonzales became a political football the moment his mother put him on that boat. That is an unfortunate reality, and perhaps even an unforgivable one as well, because it certainly does not speak well for those who claim to speak for his own best interests. If Elian came from any other country, he’d be back with his father in a heartbeat!

Elian Gonzales should be growing up and getting on with his life, not being paraded about by politicians and activists eager to gain public relations brownie points.

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