Associated Press photo
Elián Gonzalez, now 16, is shown in Havana, Cuba, three days ago.
I remember when the right-wing, mostly Repugnican, anti-Fidel-Castro Cuban-Americans and their supporters made Elián Gonzalez, then only 6 years old, a pawn in their feud with Cuban President Fidel Castro a decade ago. (And I remember how ironic I found it that his name sounded an awful lot like the word “alien,” which he was…)
Gonzalez’ mother had tried to get Elián into the United States illegally in order to join her relatives in Miami. In November 1999, she left Cuba in a boat with Elián, who at that time was 5 years old (he turned 6 the next month), and several others without having first informed Elián’s father. She and most of the others drowned during their attempt to make it to Florida, and Elián was one of three survivors found holding onto an inner tube off of the coast of Florida. (Since 1995, U.S. law has stated that Cubans intercepted in the water attempting to reach U.S. soil may not remain on U.S. soil, but must be returned to Cuba or to a third country.)
After a protracted political and legal battle, Elián finally was returned to his father in in April 2000 – per the international law that mandated that the child, a citizen of another nation, be returned to his father, who still was residing in that nation. If you were Elián’s father, you would have wanted his return, too.
The relatives of Elián’s mother in Miami absolutely refused to release him to the rightful custody of his father in Cuba, so federal authorities, under order of then-Attorney General Janet Reno, had to force their way into Elián’s relatives’ house and take him forcibly.
While they wanted to appear to be martyrs, Elián’s relatives were simply lawbreakers, and it is reported that they tried to brainwash Elián against returning to his father in Cuba; notes Wikipedia:
On April 14, [2000,] a video was released [by Elián’s mother’s relatives] in which Elián tells [his father] that he wants to stay in the United States. However, many considered that he had been coached, as a male voice was heard off-camera directing the young boy.
In a September 2005 interview with “60 Minutes” after [having been] sent back to Cuba, Elián stated that during his stay in the U.S., his family members were “telling [him] bad things about [his father]” and “were also telling [him] to tell [his father] that [he] did not want to go back to Cuba, [when he] always told them [he] wanted to.”
I tend to believe Elián’s account that he wanted to return to his father in his familiar Cuba instead of remain with relatives in a strange land whom he didn’t even know, relatives who essentially were keeping him as their political/ideological prisoner — and who had the support of the right wing.
Now, had Elián been Mexican and his mother died while trying to get him across the southern border, and had he been found wandering in the desert, it would have been an entirely different story. Then, he would have been an “illegal Elián” – er, “illegal alien,” no question about it. No right-wingers would have taken up his “cause.”
But because Miami’s embittered Cuban-American community and its supporters wanted to turn Elián into a political football in their ideological war with Fidel Castro, the law was supposed to be bent to their political will, and Janet Reno and then-President Bill Clinton were demonized for only having followed the law (and common decency, which dictates that a child whose mother has died be returned to his father unless there is a very compelling reason not to do so, and a difference in political ideology is not such a compelling reason).
The Cuban government has been accused of propaganda for having recently released some images of an apparently happy and healthy teenaged Elián, but it wasn’t Cuba that turned Elián into a symbol of the decades-long cold war between Cuba and the United States – it was his mother’s relatives in Florida and their supporters who did that.
And to this day the American right wing asserts that Elián should not have been returned to his father. Yahoo! News quotes a wingnut blogger as having proclaimed:
If Elián had been granted asylum, today he would be a teenager preparing to go to college with every opportunity for success ahead of him. Instead, on the cusp of adulthood, Elián poses for propaganda photos sandwiched between Cuban army soldiers attending the Union of Young Communists congress in Havana…
The youthful Gonzalez should have been wrapped in the America flag. Instead, a boy who once represented the quest for the God-given right to be free, waves a Cuban flag symbolizing poverty, oppression, authoritarianism and misinformation.
Oh, Jesus fuck. Where to begin?
“Wrapped in the American flag”? That blogger must be a fucking virgin to use ridiculously jingoistic rhetoric like that. I mean, fuck — cue the screeching bald eagle!
Look, if Elián were an American teenager, he’d be lucky to be able to even get into a good university, and if he did, he’d probably graduate with a mountain of debt, because instead of being seen as valuable individuals inherently worthy of educating, our young are seen only as cash cows, such as for the student-loan sharks and the textbook-industry rectal rapists.
Maybe, not being able to afford college and not wishing to take on major student-loan debt, Elián would have joined the crusade in Iraq or Afghanistan for the war profiteers and the oil profiteers — er, I mean, for freeeedom — and he’d have been maimed or killed.
Or maybe he’d just have an exciting career as a wage slave for his capitalist masters ahead of him.
Oh, yeah, it’s sooooo much better here in the United States of Amurica, with our robust economy and freedom in such abundance that it’s oozing out of our asses.
As for the “If Elián had been granted asylum” bullshit, Wikpedia notes that
After Elián was returned to his father’s custody, he remained in the United States while the Miami relatives exhausted their legal options. A three-judge federal panel had ruled that he could not go back to Cuba until he was granted an asylum hearing, but the case turned on the right of the relatives to request that hearing on behalf of the boy.
On June 1, 2000, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Elián was too young to file for asylum; only his father could speak for him, and the relatives lacked legal standing. On June 28, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the decision. Later the same day, Elián González and his family returned home to Cuba.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene. That’s good enough for me that what was done in Elián’s case was legally proper.
And it’s interesting that a wingnut would trash Cuba as “symbolizing poverty, oppression, authoritarianism and misinformation.”
First of all, since the anti-capitalist Cuban Revolution, the capitalist U.S. government has done everything in its power to cripple Cuba. To try to cripple a much smaller, much weaker nation, and then to criticize it for not being stronger than it is is insane – but of course the wingnuts are, by definition, insane.
Secondly, we have plenty of poverty here at home, and capitalist oppression and exploitation and authoritarianism, too (oppression and exploitation are OK with the wingnuts as long as it’s making someone money), and misinformation?
Oh, please, how about the ominous warnings of the members of the unelected Bush regime about “mushroom clouds” here in the United States if we didn’t nip Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” in the bud?
No, the U.S. government never is guilty of misinforming its citizens. Never.
Oh. And Hurricane Katrina.
And the Abu Ghraib House of Horrors.
And speaking of Cuba – how about that Guantanamo Bay Concentration Camp?
I certainly don’t assert that Cuba is perfect. Elián is closely guarded by the Cuban government, the media report, and I find that at least moderately disconcerting, even while, from the Cuban government’s standpoint, it’s understandable.
What I do assert is that Cuba surely isn’t as bad as all of the wingnuts paint it to be, that Cuba would be much worse off than it is now if it were opened up to capitalist exploitation as the American wingnuts want it to be, and that Cuba would be an awful lot better if it hadn’t had to endure the wingnuts’ decades-long effort to make it fail because they disagree with its government’s ideology.
All in all, I tend to believe that Elián Gonzalez is better off where he is.
P.S. I read the above-referenced wingnut’s entire nauseating piece on Elián Gonzalez. The wingnut, who, I was surprised to learn, apparently is a female, a she-wingnut, also wrote these gems:
As Elian was placed into [his father’s] arms, [his mother’s] death was officially for naught. Hope for Elian growing up liberated disappeared beneath the cold, murky waters between Cuba and the U.S. like a mother failing to find safe haven for an only child.
Wow. So it wasn’t a child rightfully being returned to his father. It was the child’s mother’s death being “for naught.” And when Cubans (especially the light-skinned, Repugnican-supporting variety) try to get into the nation illegally, it’s for freedom, you see, but when Mexicans and other undesirables (Democratic-supporting, most likely) try to get into the nation illegally, it’s only to freeload. (Please try to keep up!)
Fast-forward 10 years and take a glimpse into Elian’s life as a teenager. Instead of a Miami Dolphins Jersey, “Cuba released photos of one-time exile cause celeb Elian Gonzalez wearing an olive-green military school uniform.” Elian Gonzalez is what youthful subjugation looks like when a boy, a heartbeat from freedom, is deprived [of] liberty…
So all of those graves at Arlington National Cemetery — they died for our freedom to wear football jerseys. And apparently the U.S. military is full of “subjugated,” liberty-deprived youths, since they have to wear those anti-freedom olive-green military uniforms.
Really, everyone in the U.S. military should be wearing football jerseys — which we now should call freedom jerseys.
In Cuba, Elian is a hero. Yearly, Fidel approved celebrations marking Gonzalez’s birthday because Elian epitomizes the height of Cuban triumph over America. Lest we forget, America willingly acquiesced in the battle to grant a defenseless child freedom, choosing instead to don riot gear and send a terrified child back under Castro-inflicted bondage.
Really? Elián says he wanted to go back to his father in Cuba. And the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene… And again, it wasn’t about reuniting a child with his father — no, it was a big, bad-ass “battle to grant a defenseless child freedom” (even though the child wanted to go back home to Cuba…).
There was a “Cuban triumph” over the United States back in 2000? Really? I missed that in the news… I’d thought that Cuba was a rather small, rather defenseless nation…
And the “riot gear” — well, as the family of Elián’s mother refused to release him to the custody of his father, and as the officials who came to get Elián (only because his mother’s relatives were illegally holding him) had been threatened with violence by the family spokeswoman should they attempt to enter the home, and indeed they were pelted with rocks and bottles, it seems to me that the “riot gear” was appropriate protection and not some sign of “liberal” “fascism.”
Also, from what I can tell, contributing to the fact that the feds went to get Elián is that the local law enforcement officials, apparently in a gross dereliction of duty, had refused to do so. (Of course, as Elián was not in the United States legally and was a citizen of another nation, it became an immigration, and thus a federal, matter, and maybe it would have been illegal for local officials to get involved in taking him from his kidnappers.)
Sure Elián was scared when they came to get him — but it was his stupid fucking relatives (and those who aided and abetted them) who made that scene necessary, and I blame them, not the federal authorities who had to resort to what they had to resort to.
As Barack Obama emulates Fidel Castro’s health care system and ferries a reluctant nation toward socialism, the scenario is reminiscent of a frightened Elian Gonzalez being wrested from the arms of liberty by an out of control federal government dictated to by a liberal American president.
Free people should take a good, long look at Elian Gonzalez and observe what our nation has the potential to become 10 years down the line if, instead of moving in the opposite direction, America’s rowboat continues to inch closer to Cuba’s shores.
Actually, “Obamacare” is much, much closer to Repugnican Mitt Romney’s health care for Massachusetts than it is anything like Castro’s health care, and how in the hell do we go from Elián Gonzalez to Obama and health care and “Obamacare”? (And hasn’t the fucktarded charge of “socialism” been so overused to the point that it’s rather meaningless now?)
The bottom line: The Elián Gonzalez case was just another example of Repugnican meddling in a private family matter in Florida for perverse political gain – just like the Terri Schiavo case was in 2005. Just as the Repugnicans in Washington passed legislation specific to Terri Schiavo (in order to get her case kicked up to the U.S. Supreme Court — which promptly refused to hear it!), the Repugnicans in D.C. tried to pass legislation specific to Elián Gonzalez to make him a U.S. citizen – because, after all, Florida is a swing state and Florida has a lot of Cuban-American voters, and the majority of them vote Repugnican because the Repugnicans hate Fidel Castro, too.
(Passing legislation for just one person is illegal, by the way. It’s called a “bill of attainder.” Check it. Not that the Repugnicans give a flying fuck about what’s legal and what’s illegal.)
And again, it wasn’t an “out-of-control-federal government dictated to by a liberal American president” that returned Elián Gonzalez to his father — it essentially was the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to intervene on behalf of Elián’s mother’s family, just as it would later refuse to intervene in the Schiavo case — because the U.S. Supreme Court, while it picked our “president” for us in late 2000, generally refuses to get involved in family law, leaving it to the courts below it that handle family law.
But the wingnuts are No. 1 in cheesy rhetoric — to the wingnuts, Elián wasn’t returned to his father, whom he wanted to be with, but was “wrested from the arms of liberty” (try not to choke on your own vomit there), and surely it’s clear from just reading my blog that “America’s rowboat continues to inch closer to Cuba’s shores.”
I mean, shit! To paraphrase Sarah Palin-Quayle, I can see Havana from my house!