The steady stream of photos of a smiling Elian Gonzalez reunited with his father could well foster the impression of a happy ending to the sad story of this young Cuban refugee. Were one naive enough to believe this, one might well conclude that the entire matter was a tempest in a Miami teapot. Moreover, one would think that Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston was quite right when he said the whole thing was nothing but a circus with a simple solution: returning the boy to his father.1
With possession regarded as nine points of the law, Elian’s is a closed case for many Americans. All too soon, this family affair will be yesterday’s news. Father knows best, and Fidel — who in a candid moment described himself as the true father of all Cubans — will have won more than meets the eye for his “new look.” Cuba’s baseball team has already come to the United States to play the Orioles, and American tourists, in turn, are visiting the prison island in growing numbers. All’s well that ends well.
In this prevalent — if perverse — mindset, the valiant fight for Elian’s freedom is reduced to three elements: a nonsensical case of parental rights, an emotional group of aging anticommunist Cubans, and a government that overreacted by using armed force to solve the problem.
Is that its real meaning? Is that how we will see it when we look back years from now? Does the fact that Elian appears to be happy with his father and stepmother end the story? We’re not so sure. Before the final chapter is written and the camera lights go out, we have a few words to say.
What Is the Real Issue? Returning a Child to his Father, or Dealing with Cuba’s Stark Reality?
Of course, if the Elian case really concerned only the father’s rights, there would have been no case — and no story to consume so much printer’s ink and radio and television airtime.
Behind the question of the father looms the larger problem of the fatherland, or rather, the unrepentant communist dictatorship. That decrepit despotism lies at the heart of the matter — and everyone knows it.
A courageous group of priests on the island recently declared that Castro’s regime shows “diabolical efficacy” in its domination of the Cuban people.2 Even the United Nations Human Rights Commission has again condemned Cuba for its human rights violations.3
There is no freedom in that island prison, where the most basic civil liberties — the freedom to practice one’s faith, to own property, to associate with friends of one’s choosing, to express one’s opinions openly, to travel in safety — are routinely denied.
Elian’s return to Cuba — forced or voluntary — cannot alter that fundamental reality. By holding on to him, the Cuban-American community was fighting to defend him from a police state whose constitution decrees that “the formation of the communist personality of youths and children” belongs, not to the parents, but to the government.4
Let Justice Be Restored in Cuba and We Will Restore Friendly Ties
If, like Cuban-Americans, all Americans had a family member languishing in a Cuban prison (well out of sight of free-spending tourists), we would soon join the anti-Castro chorus of our Cuban-American brothers and sisters. And instead of inviting Castro’s baseball team to come and play in our cities, we would demand that Castro liberate our kinfolk before any improvement in relations. We would settle for nothing less.
If, like Cuban-Americans, all Americans had relatives subjected to the stifling oppression in Cuba, earning a pittance for their hard labors, eating whatever rations are distributed, while being forced to proclaim their allegiance to Marxist doctrine and policies, would we tolerate any cozying up to Castro?
Of course not. Rather, the American people would rise up as one to demand that the regime branded by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as the “shame of our time”5 be overthrown, and that freedom, private property, free enterprise, and family life be restored.
If every American family had a relative in such demeaning and unnatural conditions, would anyone dare raise the question of loosening — much less lifting — the embargo against so cruel a regime? Obviously, no. The only acceptable option would be the total restoration of a free society under the rule of law.
We Must Steer Clear of This “Psy-war” Maneuver!
A crafty maneuver of revolutionary psychological warfare is under way, seeking to exploit the good-hearted sentiments for which Americans are renowned and blind our eyes to a rabid wolf in sheep’s clothing. We are expected to accept as a legitimate ruler a blood-stained despot — the unelected “President” Castro — while closing our eyes to steps designed to normalize relations with his police state. In short, we are being asked to endorse the Neville Chamberlains of our day — or at least to look the other way at their betrayal.
Would we have agreed to cozy up to Hitler in 1944? Unthinkable!
We must not forget that to uphold the principles of freedom, America waged wars against Nazism and its evil twin, communism, sacrificing legions of her sons.
Are we not the same America? Why should we renounce our principles and convictions now? The very principles that made America great?
The American TFP does not believe our nation will so dishonor itself. Rather, we cherish an abiding hope, nurtured in faith, that we will defeat these psy-war intrigues and work to restore the sound principles of our nation’s glorious past that have made America known across the globe as the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Our future — and the future of the world — depends to a great degree on our faithfulness to that heritage.
We turn our thoughts and prayers to God Almighty and to Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, who watches over Cuba as its patron saint. Divine Providence saved Elian from the shark-infested waters of the Florida Straits. May Our Lady and Her Divine Son intervene soon to liberate the millions of “Elians” still groaning under the communist yoke and, above all, to keep America faithful to its noble ideals.
April 26, 2000
Published in The Washington Times on Thursday, April 27, 2000.
- Cf. Bernard Cardinal Law, “End the Circus: Let Elian Rejoin His Father,” The Boston Globe, April 19, 2000.
- “Cuba, su pueblo y su Iglesia de cara al comienzo del tercer milenio,” El Nuevo Herald, Miami, September 27, 1999.
- Pablo Alfonso, “Condena por derechos humanos aisla a Cuba en la ONU,” El Nuevo Herald, Miami, April 19, 2000.
- Chapters IV (“Family”) and V (“Education and Culture”), and the Code on Childhood and Youth, II.
- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Instruction on Certain Aspects of the “Theology of Liberation,” Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, August 6, 1984, No. XI, 10.