Politics aside, Elian belongs with his father

January 20, 2000|By Kathleen Parker

ELIAN Gonzalez may become one of U.S. history's most regrettable footnotes. Not only are we missing an opportunity to unite a child with his only living parent, but we also are setting a dangerous precedent for the supersession of state over parental autonomy.

The question comes down to this: When a child is found lost at sea after the drowning death of his mother, what do you do? Answer: You find the child's father, establish that he is a fit and able parent and reunite them as quickly as possible.

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has done just that, yet we continue to detain this child on American soil. Yes, but . . . He has cousins and uncles in the United States. His native country is in shambles. His mother died trying to ferry him to freedom. His father has nothing to offer but love, while we have Disney World and Pokemon. Top that, Fidel!

As contests go, Fidel Castro has nothing on the United States when it comes to propaganda and brainwashing. The past few weeks have been a material tsunami as friends, relatives and strangers have demonstrated

cf03 the American way

cf01 by suffocating this boy with an embarrassment of childhood riches.

Under the cloak of freedom we have lavished him with toys, made him a celebrity, handed him a puppy, taken his picture, raised his hands in the victory sign and then asked him if he wants to go back to icky old Cuba.

Imagine a foreign government deciding to keep your son or daughter because, say, your society is permeated with drugs, sex and violence. Do we have the right to separate a child from his natural parent in the name of cultural superiority ?

Meanwhile, what about the father's right to raise his child? Know this: Had Elian's father drowned en route to America, leaving the child afloat and his mother in Cuba mourning her beloved child, Elian would have been back in Cuba before the next sunrise. President Clinton himself would have delivered the boy, his cheeks a-smear with tears o' mercy. A photo, quick, before they dry.

Instead, we profile and pontificate. We push the envelope and advance the clock. Courts bicker over jurisdiction. It's a state issue, says Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. No, it's a federal issue, says U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. It's a political issue, say the pundits. No it's a father issue, say the activists.

The child belongs in Cuba, say Mr. Castro's agitators. No, the child belongs in Miami, say bitter Cuban-Americans. Such arguments are parlor games played by fools. Elian belongs only to his parents as ordained by a power higher than we.

For anyone to impede Elian's reunion with his father is simply a crime against humanity. It is also an open invitation for future challenges to the universal understanding that parents are the primary caretakers of their children. Absent abuse or neglect, no one has a right to impede or dilute that relationship. Yes, but . . . What about communism? Let Elian confront that issue when he becomes a man.

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist.

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