In Cuba, Big Brother would be Elian's father

By David Bardallis
web posted April 24, 2000

The political left's hierarchy of values, such as they are, can be a fascinating study. Even the most imaginative thinker would have been hard-pressed to dream up a situation in which the likes of U.S. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts would come out (pardon the pun) as a great defender of "family values."

But such a situation has indeed arrived in the form of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban refugee who washed up on American shores many months ago (decades ago, the media-weary would argue) when his mother drowned in her quest to win freedom for her boy and herself. In this case, the liberals' love of communist dictator Fidel Castro ranks so high up the value scale that it trumps their normal opposition to something they ordinarily hold in contempt: the family.

With one voice, those who routinely sneer at the idea of parental rights, never mind paternal rights, have risen to demand that Elian be sent back to Cuba, to presumably be cared for by his father, Juan Gonzalez. Seemingly lost in their calculus is the fact that nobody has any rights in Cuba, parental or otherwise.

Ever since Hemingway left the island in 1959, there's been only one "Papa" in Cuba, and that's Big Daddy Fidel. Castro has controlled every aspect of life--and death--ever since his communist revolution vanquished the hated bourgeoisie and established the Western Hemisphere's premier tropical workers' paradise.

The sad truth is that Juan Gonzalez, along with his fellow Cubans, is nothing more than a prisoner in an island-sized penal colony. Those who argue for Elian's return to this prison in the name of parental rights--and this includes many well-meaning conservatives--insist that this reality is beside the point. I would that it were so, but my nagging conscience will not let me believe that it is.

The congenital hypocrisy of the left aside, can the very real concern of inviolable parental rights be squared with the natural American desire to keep an innocent boy out of the clutches of communist tyranny? To answer that, allow me to mull over an analogy.

We read in the news all the time of child custody battles, of fathers and mothers who are declared by courts of law to be "unfit" to raise their children. It is not material to my present purpose here to argue over the justice of every such decision (I believe quite frankly some at least are likely to be unjust). But it is relevant to ask, first, are parents in prison "fit" to raise their children, and second, is it a violation of their parental rights if other family members decide the answer is "no" and claim the child?

That Elian would not be "raised" by Juan Gonzalez, as Americans understand the word, is not in doubt. Marta Molina, a Cuban psychiatrist who escaped from Fidelissimo's prison nation in August 1999, said in a February 24 affidavit that if Elian is returned, he "will be immediately taken into seclusion away from the mainstream, to reindoctrinate him in the ways of communist ideology." This "silencing of his thoughts and memories of the United States," Molina says, will "lead to . . . severe psychological trauma" for Elian. Cuban official and Castro mouthpiece Luis Fernandez has stated that Elian Gonzalez is "a possession of the Cuban government." It is clear that Elian's "father" in Cuba would actually be Big Brother.

The Maximum Leader, for his part, can't even wait to get Elian back to Cuba before he starts the brainwashing procedure. On March 29, Castro announced a plan to send a 31-member delegation of doctors, teachers, and other surrogate "caretakers" to the United States to establish a mini-commie school for Elian right here on American soil. The "school" would, according to the bearded tyrant, "proceed, without losing one minute, with the rehabilitation and readaptation [of Elian] to his family and school nucleus" (read: re-orient him to the idea that the state is supreme).

So what does all this mean? It seems to me that, just as few would argue that care of a child should rest with a parent in prison or an abusive or neglectful guardian, we are foolish to passionately defend the parental rights of a man not free to exercise them. It seems equally improper to send a child to his father's prison when the child has relatives who can care for him until his father is paroled.

It is unfortunate that Juan Gonzalez lives in a prison. But his being Elian's father is not sufficient reason to consign his child to the same prison. We make a mistake, I believe, when we treat communist nations such as Cuba as countries that just happen to have a "different economic system." Communism is slavery. In Cuba, as in other tyrannies, there is no due process, no right to a jury trial, no freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to own property, or freedom of religion. It took a visit from Pope John Paul II himself for Castro to even let his subjects celebrate the birth of Christ.

It would not sit right with my conscience to send this child back to Cuba, where his de facto "father" would be Fidel Castro, the man ultimately responsible for the death of his mother and countless other Cubans whose only crime was to want freedom.

David Bardallis is co-editor of LexNatura.Net, a conservative, Catholic journal of politics and culture.

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