CULTURAL REVOLUTIONSrnE L I A N G O N Z A L E Z , the six-year-oldrnCuban boy whose mother died in an illegalrnattempt to enter the United States,rnhas become the smiley-faee of the NewrnWodd Order. Not that Elian or his fatherrnor Fidel Castro (or, to go still lower, thernClinton administration) is to blame—farrnfrom it. This mischief is being made byrnconservative Republican politicians andrnfamily-values Christians.rnThe custody battle between Elian’s fatherrnand his mother’s family living inrnFlorida is not about Cuba or communism,rnbut it has ever)thing to do with therndestructive do-gooding forces that arernnever far beneath the surface of thernAmerican character.rnThis is not the complex case that cynicalrnpoliticians and dishonest journalistsrnwould have you believe. It is a clear-cutrncase of right and wrong. By Cuban law,rnby Florida law, by the laws of all 50 states,rnand according to international agreementsrnsigned by the United States, ElianrnGonzalez belongs to his next-of-kin, hisrnfather. No one else has standing in therncase. No one. Not the INS, not his maternalrnuncle in Florida, not SenatorsrnConnie Mack and Jesse Helms, not CongressmanrnDan Burton. No one.rnCuban exiles and their conservativernfriends insist that Cuba is a living hell —rnan island “gulag”—that justifies any violationrnof law and common sense. Yes,rnCastro is an uglv thug, a communist whornhas ruined his country’, but recent visitorsrnto Cuba have not returned with stories ofrnmassive oppression and executions. Ordinaryrnpeople who stay out of polities—rnwhich is most people in most places mostrnof the time —run into few problems withrnthe government. They are free to v^’orkrnhard and live on the margin.rnElian will probably not grow up to be arnK-Mart shopper in Cuba, and he will notrnbe able to afford designer jeans and AirrnJordan sneakers. In fact, there is realrnwant in Cuba, somefimes approachingrnfamine. But the lack of food andrnmedicine is not entirely the fault of therncommunist government. The Americanimposedrnembargo on the island—an embargornthat is immoral and illegal—keepsrnthe Cuban economy on the ropes. Yourncan’t have it both ways, arguing in favorrnof an embargo and then complainingrnthat the Cubans are poor.rnThe other “arguments” in favor ofrnkeeping Elian in the United States arernequally ludicrous. “How do we know hernwon’t face political reprisals?” I’ve beenrnasked, and “How do we know his father isrnfree to speak?” We don’t know in anyrncustody battie if one or another claimantrnhas been blackmailed or bullied, and anyrnAmerican who thinks the press is free inrnUSA-land ought to pick up a copy ofrnTime or subscribe to a Gannett paper. Inrnthis case, however, there is simply no evidence;rneven if there were, it would not alterrnthe simple fact that no U.S. governmentrnagency has jurisdiction.rn”But,” I have been told b’ conservativernChristians, “a eommmiist country is notrna healthy place to grow up in.” Probablyrnnot, but how much pornography is onrnCuban ‘Y°V? That is virtually all there isrnto American pop culture. I don’t knowrnwhat the abortion rate in Cuba is (or evenrnif such a figure is available), but it is hardrnto believe it begins to approach the Americanrnlevel. In fact, one of the glories ofrnAmerican democracy is that we give ourrnmothers the freedom to kill their babiesrnwith impunih’, and —”ironically” —onernof the first steps taken by post-communistrncountries like Rumania is to imitate thernWest by legalizing abortion. If Elian isrnforced to remain in the United States, hernwill live in Miami —one of the most violentrnand decadent parts of this violentrnand decadent nafion. If the child’s safet}’rnis all that we are v’orried about, send hinrrnback. Besides—and this cannot be saidrntoo often^we the people and we the governmentrnhave no standing, morally orrnlegally.rnEven Doris Meissner, the INS director,rnfinally realized the truth in decidingrnnot to put any obstacles in the ivay ofrnElian’s repatriation. The crude fact isrnthat, by American law, the boy is simplyrnan illegal alien who can either be returnedrnto Cuba or stuck in a concentrationrncamp.rnThe case is simple, but in an amazingrnact of judicial arrogance, Miami-DadernCounty Circiut Court Judge Rosa Rodriguezrnissued an order delaying Elian’srnrepatriation on the grounds that hernwould face “imminent and irreparablernharm.” She would have better groundsrnfor ruling that the people of East Timorrnor Rwanda face irreparable harm if theyrnare not all immediately transported to thernUnited States. This amazing decisionrnwas only made intelligible on Januar}’ 12,rnwhen it was revealed that the spokesmanrnfor Elian’s Florida relatives had worked asrna paid consultant for Judge Rodriguez.rnMoney and ethnic ties — comparativelyrnhonorable motives —may explainrnJudge Rodriguez’s judicial activism.rnWhat explains Congressman Dan Burton’srndecision to hold hearings, subpoenarnlittie Elian, and delay his return home?rnOr Jesse Helms’ offer to make Elian’s fatherrna citizen? These two Solons, in passingrnthe Helms-Burton act, have done almostrnas much to make Cubans miserablernas their communist dictator. If they wantrnto help Elian, they should end the embargo.rnBut neither Dan Burton nor JessernHelms has the slightest interest in whatrnhappens to any Cuban, apart from thernCuban-Americans who give heavily tornthe Republican Party. At the same timernthey were trying to ruin the life of onernCuban family, GOP leaders were meetingrnin San Jose to concoct an Hispanicbasedrnelectoral strateg}’.rnDick Armey apparentiy thinks that, byrnoffering up to $3,000 of free medicalrncare, he and his colleagues can woo Hispanicrnvoters. The Republicans even heldrnfocus groups with non-citizens, who apparentiyrnhad a hard time understandingrnthe plan. What poor minorities do imderstandrnvery well is the fact that thernDemocrats will always up the ante, andrnwhen the legals and illegals vote, they arerngoing to vote for Al Gore. Except, ofrncourse, for the Cubans, who are loyal tornthe party of the Cold War.rnThe Republican right lost its reason forrnliving when the Berlin Wall came down,rnand by whipping up opposition to Castro,rnthey hope that a little Reagan-dust willrnfall on their candidates. They are wrong.rnGOP intervention in a sinrple child-custodyrnbattle once again reveals the hollownessrnof their anti-government/pro-familyrnrhetoric. Wlio would have believed thatrn”conservatives,” of all people, woidd berndefending the federal government’s rightrnto take a child away from his father? Thernanswer is simple: anyone who had lookedrnat their voting records instead of listeningrnto their speeches.rnBut this is more than a governmentrnversus the family issue. It is, as the dictatorrnCastro has termed it, a case of Yancjuirnimperial arrogance. There is no spot onrnearth, no private business, no intimate relationship,rnthat Americans are unwillingrnto interfere in.rn6/CHRONICLESrnrnrn