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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Elian Gonzalez Serves a Life Sentence

By Michael M. Bates
web posted July 10, 2006

He's just a normal, average, typical 12-year-old boy. If the normal, average, typical 12-year-old boy has the world's longest-reigning dictator drop by every year for his birthday, that is.

Elian Gonzalez was shipped into the waiting arms of Fidel Castro in 2000. The delivery man was Bill Clinton, who used a SWAT team armed with submachine guns to assure everyone's compliance.

According to public opinion polls at the time, most Americans thought sending Elian back to Cuba with his father was the right thing to do. I didn't. Sunday's "60 Minutes," which re-aired an October segment on the boy, was a reminder of why it was wrong.

Elian told the interviewer that he thinks of Castro as "not only as a friend, but also as a father." The young man is a leader in the Union of Communist Pioneers, an organization that the tyrant boasts prepares children for life by "ratifying the irrevocability of the socialist character of our revolution."

We can only imagine how terribly sad all of this would have made Elian's mother. After all, so frantic was she to escape Cuba that she took her small son and joined another dozen souls on a 17-foot homemade boat attempting the treacherous journey to the United States.

She risked her life to get her child to freedom. She lost her life to get her child to freedom.

She knew firsthand that Cuba is a dreadful place. There is widespread poverty. There are acute shortages in food, medical supplies and other necessities. The average worker earns less than $30 a month.

This situation doesn't make Cuba unique. Other countries are extraordinarily deprived.

What makes Cuba distinctive is the subjugation. The oppressor Castro has killed or imprisoned tens of thousands during his time in power. There is no free press. Political opposition is not permitted. Neighborhood spies keep their eyes open for any possible counter-revolutionary activity.

Communism collapsed from its own evil. With liberty breaking out around the world, American leftists have few heroes to cling to. Fidel is one of them; that's why sending Elian back was so important. It helped make Castro look less wicked by making Cuba appear to be just another country.

One U.S. congressman at the time delivered the party line. Asked if Cuba is free, he said he didn't really know because he doesn't live there. He couldn't say whether our form of government or Cuba's is better, only that they're "different."
Justifiably, the law presumes a youngster should live with his natural parents if possible. That's because it's usually in the best interests of the child.

This was never the situation in Elian's case. Returning him to his father effectively placed him in a prison with 11 million other prisoners. About the only difference is he's constantly surrounded by security. For his own safety, no doubt. And the worst part is that he'll probably never be able to escape. If Elian had stayed here, he would have had a choice when reaching adulthood. He could remain or, if he wanted, moved to the people's paradise run by Father Fidel. That option isn't available now.

When the boy's father came to the U.S. seeking his son's return, his wife, other child and other relatives remained in Cuba. You have to wonder if, were it not for those potential hostages, the father himself would have defected. He appears to be a loyal, Castro-loving Communist, but the reality is the man has no alternative.

The "60 Minutes" correspondent noted that Castro uses propaganda. Seeing a child clearly manipulated didn't deter him from helping the despot propagandize, though. He asked Elian what the worst part of his stay in Miami was.

The nights, said the boy, when his uncles would speak of Elian's mother. This "tormented" him. So when the Clinton storm troopers appeared, the child "felt joy that I could get out of that house."

Elian was also asked in the interview, which quite innocently was arranged with the help of "Castro's personal cameraman," if he'd like to be a member of the Cuban National Assembly. Yes, he would. "60 Minutes" didn't explain that although elections there usually have close to a 100 percent voter turnout, the electorate can vote for only one party, the Cuban Communist Party.

That must be what engenders such voter interest.

The CBS correspondent said, "Che Guevara was yesterday, Elian Gonzalez is today." To our shame, that's likely to be true.

Mike Bates is the author of Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths. This column by Michael M. Bates appeared in the July 10, 2006 Oak Lawn Reporter.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on.

Tue Jul 11, 02:44:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Geo said...

You say you stand for limited government? The law is clear and would say that if the mother is dead and if the father is a fit and unabusive parent, then the child should go with the remaining parent. Why do you support the STATE getting in the way of the law and enforcing its will on a child, separating him from his father, just because you don't agree with the father's politics? According to that logic, Hitler, Stalin and etcetera have the right to do what they did to their citizens if those citizens didn't go along with the will of the state and disagreed politically. So, then, your standard is, we should follow the law only if it agrees with conservative or libertarian political thought? As usually, with all ideologues, hypocrisy runs rampant.

Mon Jul 24, 06:21:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Michael Morrison said...

It's amazing how backward "Geo" has everything.
It was a state that forced Elian to return to Cuba.
It was his mother, a definite non-state, who tried to bring him to the United States, and it was his family, also non-states, who tried to keep him here.
His father was, in fact, reported to be abusive.
And what could be more a more abusive situation than living in a dictatorship?
Gosh, you have everything wrong in your comment, above.
Try to remember that a court -- a Cuban court -- originally ruled the boy should be in the custody of his mother -- and likely there was a reason for that.
As to the comment that he was glad to be out of the house of his uncles, please read his exact words, and try to understand what was really said there.
And go back and find that picture of the Janet Reno jack-booted thugs pointing automatic weapons at Elian's family in order to force the little boy into the arms of an even worse dictatorship than that of Bill Clinton or even George W. Bush -- and look at the face of that little boy as he is being kidnaped by those thugs.
Yeah, sure, he was glad to go.
Maybe you're not a hypocrite, Geo, but you sure have some problems of logic ... and of reason.

Wed Jul 26, 10:02:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Geo said...

I would be very interested in seeing the court documents in Cuba by which Elian was given to his mother. I guess Mr. Morrison has seen copies of them since he speaks with such authority on them? But if we are just talking about divorce papers, then, of course, in nine cases out of ten, the mother gets the child (even here in America), and they reflect no moral judgment against the father. Do you have these papers, Mr. Morrison?

So we are back to the law, not to the state, as Mr. Morrison contends. In most cases where one parent dies, who usually gets the child? Right. I agree. The other parent.

So who was resisting the law in this case and who was flaunting the law? Did we want Elian raised by American citizens who don't respect the law, who are, in effect, law breakers, who politicized the case to wrest a son from his one remaining parent, in order to make a point rather than show love for a child? Right. I agree, he should be with the parties who respect the law. And that would be who?

As to reading something into Elian's facial expression, captured on a grainy newspaper photo? (Do I smell a touch of the psychological mechanism of projection here?) Nice job if one can do it, but my common sense tells me that Elian was victimized in this case by the aunts and uncles who hysterically politicized the case, seeking to hurt Castro and Cuba, not caring at all about the child. Any child would be terrorized in such a situation, his mother dead, separated from his father, screaming, irrational adults all around him, armed men with weapons breaking in the door, tears, fear, craziness all around him. I think he'd have a rather terrible expression on his face too, but I don't think I could blame anyone for that expression other than the aunts and uncles who created the terrifying situation by their stubborness, and who were breaking the law and trying to separate a child from his one remaining parent.

As to the child being raised in Cuba. Only someone who is politically motivated would think it was better for a child to be raised by strangers in a democracy rather than his father in a socialist country. Such a belief must assume that Cuba is full of bad and terrible people rather than humans capable of loving and caring for a child as well as any, and maybe better than most, Americans. Such a mentality, lost in symbols and slogans rather than in reality, has truly lost the capacity and compassion to evaluate any situation calmly and fairly.

Wed Jul 26, 04:30:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Carol Shuman, Ph.D. said...

I'll bet you've never lived in a socialist country, Geo. Perhaps I am incorrect, but if it weren't for "principle" all of us wouldn't have the liberties we have. Mostly, principles have little to do with biology.

One of the saddest days I've ever seen was when that child was assaulted in a closet and dragged to a car to be sent back to a country from which his mother died trying to save him. Unfortunately, there is brainwashing everywhere--certainly in the U.S. included--however, a quick visit to Cuba might be helpful for you to make a well versed judgment. As a Canadian born person (now a darned proud American) and someone who lives in Bermuda (both with strong Cuban ties, especially the latter) I've seen the country's influence. I'm also old enough to remember that Castro was put in office by the U.S. government, believing him to be better than Batista (See Robert Redford's 1990 movie!!) and I remember all too well the Cuban missle crisis, which John Kennedy, in my view, handled well. Meanwhile, I hope people can look at the issues rather than geo-political ideology and perhaps try to view the situation with reasonable evaluation. Woman dies. Castro helps atomic bombs go near U.S. Castro "uses" child to promote his own ideology. How hard is it?

Fri Aug 18, 03:27:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Geo said...

Dear Carol Shuman,

I believe that cognitive science shows us that principles have everything to do with biology, being little more than verbalizations of our emotional responses to what our brains (the ultimate threat perceivers) tell us is a safe or dangerous situation for us to be in (or a comfortable/pleasant situation versus an uncomfortable/painful one. In fact, all reality is individual, is personal biology projected onto the world of phenomena, casting its net of meaning over an otherwise amoral universe.

I know that paragraph is pretty far removed from the actual feeling animal (you, me, Gonzalez, his aunts, uncles and father) who is suffering or enjoying whatever he/she is suffering or enjoying, but it is fun and sensible to get above the frey and breathe some rational and detached air, to clear one's head of over-emotional balderdash before returning to the discussion of the issues of the day.

(PS Something went wrong during transmission. If this gets posted twice, sorry.)

Sat Aug 19, 09:51:00 AM CDT  
Anonymous Richard Pope said...

Steve -- This is always an interesting topic. But I have to separate the political issues from the issues of parents' rights. There was no evidence that Elian Gonzalez's father was an unfit parent. True, the mother may have been given primary custody in a Cuban court. More likely, that is what mom and dad agreed when they got divorced -- most couples agree the kid(s) should go with mom, without any court having to decide this. But dad apparently had at least the normal visitation rights that almost all divorced fathers have in Cuba.

That said, the kid had to go back with dad in this situation. There is no evidence that Elian would be subject to special persecution in Cuba, or a life any worse than the 11 million other people living there. In fact, his father seemed well-connected politically in Cuba, with Elian likely to have a better than average life for a Cuban.

If we are outraged enough by the Cuban dictatorship -- AND I AM OUTRAGED -- then this is a matter for national policy, not individual policy. We got rid of Saddam Hussein as a national policy, and it would be far easy to get rid of the Cuban dictatorship -- and replace it with something decent. At least we wouldn't have to deal with religious zealots whose own beliefs and differences with ours are far more important than their own lives.

Why place so much emphasis on whether the life of one person could have been made better (a mixed result at best had he stayed here), when we could focus on something that would make the lives of 11 million people better?

Sat Aug 19, 03:22:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Michael Morrison said...

Geo is apparently one of those people to whom I can say, "The sun comes up in the east," and he replies, "Oh, so you believe the sun comes up in the west."
So I won't bother to try to reply to him and his comments.
Someone else said, "That said, the kid had to go back with dad in this situation."
Let's consider a similar situation: A mother attempts to flee persecution and tyranny with her child; she dies in the attempt; the child is given refuge with her relatives, who had previously fled and found safety.
Suddenly the child's father, previously divorced from the mother, and apparently prodded into action by the ruler/tyrant for political motives, demands custody of the child.
Only now, instead of the New York Times-endorsed Fidel Castro, the tyrant is Adolf Hitler and all the refugees are Jewish.
Would all the same people be so quick to say, "Send him to his father. That's the law. Never mind the political situation in that country."
Ignore the previous anti-family stands of so many of the people who said to send Elian back to Cuba, making suspect their sudden concern for a father's alleged rights.
Concentrate on one thing: The right of Elian, or of any individual, to have a chance at living in freedom.
But speaking of father's rights, and the alleged concern of Elian's father, last I heard, Elian was living in some kind of state-run facility and not even living with his father.
Does anyone know if that is still true?

Wed Aug 23, 09:14:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Geo said...

I'll ignore Mr. Morrison's claim to be able to read my mind and its motives and to know what I believe and think about family matters. I will ignore his hypothetical which strains to parallel the situation at hand. I will ignore his personal attack on me. I will ignore his claim to know Elian's fate in Cuba; it sounds like malicious rumor mongering to me, but I don't know that for certain. Instead, I will introduce a passage from Mr. Morrison's last comment that proves the truth of what I claimed in an earlier comment—that many who have opinions on this case put politics above familial love. He writes, "Concentrate on one thing: The right of Elian, or of any individual, to have a chance at living in freedom."

Okay, I'll concentrate on that one thing. Clearly, Mr. Morrison's statement puts politics above the right of a child who has lost his mother to be raised by his one remaining parent. He'd orphan the boy completely to make a political point against the dictator, Castro. This is how it is with all wars and political confrontations—the innocent civilian, the less aggressive human being gets torn apart in the conflict by those who are ideologues before they are human beings. From such distortions of human values are born terrorists like Osama and mad bombers like Timothy McVeigh though, let me make it clear, I have no reason to believe that Mr. Morrison might be a mad bomber. To claim that he could be a mad bomber and idealogue would be to imply that I can read minds and motives which I can no more do than can Mr. Morrison.

Wed Aug 23, 10:24:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Michael Morrison said...

Geo: "I'll ignore Mr. Morrison's claim to be able to read my mind..."
Again, Geo distorts what other people said.
I have NEVER claimed to be able to read his mind.
In fact, I am not convinced he even has a mind.
In place of any faculty for reasoning, he seems to have something resembling a funhouse mirror, something that distorts, that crazily reflects.
I don't have any problem with people who disagree with what I say.
I have a serious problem with people who disagree with what I didn't say.
Strangely enough, he writes surprisingly well, surprisingly lucidly for someone who apparently can't read.

Wed Aug 23, 03:53:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Michael Morrison said...

Wait, I will respond to one comment of Geo, whose own reply to my earlier statement implies that he "thought" -- no, I guess "believed" is more accurate -- I was answering him.
No, I wasn't.
As I said, since he gets everything backward, I was NOT going to respond.
But one thing he said in this latest diatribe does need answer:
Anybody ought to be ashamed who would write off as "politics" the human yearning to be free.

Wed Aug 23, 04:02:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Geo said...

Again, the personal attacks. I won't call Mr. Morrison a right wing fanatic because I don't know, but he throws around insults like the Roveites and O'Reillys. Here's what he wrote that I glommed onto:

"Never mind the political situation in that country. 'Ignore the previous anti-family stands of so many of the people who said to send Elian back to Cuba, making suspect their sudden concern for a father's alleged rights.' "

I took that to mean that Mr. Morrison questions my motives and the motives of all who sought to keep Elian from being completely orphaned over political differences. Granted, Mr. Morrison only claimed our motives to be "suspect". I'll give him that, but I did not completely make up what he said as he claimed I did.

Again, I'm not concerned with the politics, with the "rights" of the father so much as with a young boy being orphaned for political reasons. I know how being orphaned feels, and I also know that recent studies show that even a bad parent does better by the child than institutions or foster situations. I was raised age 4 to 9 by a very loving grandmother and then returned to my father after he remarried. He was busy in another state, doing war work twelve hours a day. Still the damage took nearly 50 years to be healed.

I write well probably because I've got a Master's Degree in Writing pasted onto a blue collar work history, giving me a unique double-edged viewpoint as I rest comfortably in a very enjoyable retirement.

Peace be with you, Mr. Morrison.

Wed Aug 23, 04:46:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Michael Morrison said...

Geo, you said, "I took that to mean ..."
There's part of the problem: You try to interpret rather than just allow the words of others to stand as they are.
As I said, I wasn't even answering you; I said, in fact, I was ignoring you because you get everything backward.
You also said, "...a unique double-edged viewpoint ..."
Does that mean you're schizophrenic?
I get into my attack dog mode because you keep attacking, wrong-headedly, what I wrote when I wasn't even addressing you or your comments, and because you get EVERYTHING wrong.
Now I am addressing you.
Back off, read the actual words and thoughts from me, quit interpolating and misinterpreting, and perhaps we can help bring peace: "Let it begin with me."

Wed Aug 23, 06:24:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Michael Morrison said...

Oh, wait, one more thing: Geo, you better NOT call me "a right wing fanatic" or a right-wing anything.
That's just one more example of your not knowing what you're talking about.
You seem to have fallen into the trap of jumping to conclusions based on the few words you see out of a long paragraph.
You seem quick to label people based on far too little evidence.
That seems to be part of your problem with getting everything wrong.
Context, Geo, context.
Read ALL the words.
ALL the words.
Maybe you'll learn something.
If only what other people believe, what other people mean.

Wed Aug 23, 06:30:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Geo said...

This is getting interesting, and I think Mr. Morrison is getting angry, but, I can't say for sure since I'm not walking in his shoes at the moment. But here's something he did say: "There's part of the problem: You try to interpret rather than just allow the words of others to stand as they are." But I think that is what he is doing when he says I'm schizoid, misrepesenting everything I said and not really reading my words. But it is common for us humans to see in others what we can't see in ourselves. I catch myself doing that all the time, but at least I'm aware of it. If you read carefully, you can see I did not say the Mr. Morrison was "right wing". I only said his line of personal attack sounded "like" the kind of attack Rove teaches other to use or O'Reilly uses. If the shoe fits. . . well, heck. Enough said.

Back to the point then: I think it's obvious that Elian belongs with his father and Morrison believes he should be orphaned for political reasons. There's no middle ground.

But, now, it is time for me to stop communicating about or with Mr. Morrison, for he has long ago quit the subject we were discussing and descended to personal attacks.

Wed Aug 23, 07:02:00 PM CDT  

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