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Jewish World Review April 5, 2000 /29 Adar II, 5760

Don Feder

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Re: Elian, parental rights? GIVE ME A BREAK! -- THE DRAMA of Elian Gonzalez, the littlest defector, moves to its sad conclusion. Parental rights would be vindicated. The integrity of our justice system will be preserved. The only losers will be a 6-year-old boy and the cause of freedom.

The arrival of Juan Miguel Gonzalez, sent to America to retrieve his son, is imminent. The Immigration and Naturalization Service can't wait to transfer custody of the boy from his Cuban-American relatives in Miami to the father who's under orders to recover Fidel Castro's lost property.

We know what motivates Castro and the Clinton bureaucracy. But what's with the American people, who favor sending Elian back by an almost 2-to-1 majority, according to a recent poll? What don't they understand?

Elian's mother died trying to bring her 6-year-old son to freedom. The boy was rescued after two days, tied to an inner tube, floating in shark-infested water. He is now in the loving care of his Cuban-American family.

If he's repatriated, he will languish in a communist hellhole for the rest of his life or until the regime falls. The rights you and I cherish, he will not know again. Once he's back in Castro's clutches, he ain't never getting out.

More than 100,000 Americans died fighting communism in Korea and Vietnam. Now, a president who dodged the Vietnam draft would consign a 6-year-old to the same kind of tyrrany this nation has always fought.

Of course Castro wants Elian back, not out of deep affection for Cuban youth (in 1994, his executioners rammed a tugboat carrying refugees, deliberately drowning 10 children and 22 adults) but because Elian in America is a symbol of freedom for the Cubans in Miami and the Cubans who wish they were -- everyone but Fidel and his brother, Raul.

Bill Clinton, who has the backbone of a squid, is probably being blackmailed. It's easy to imagine Castro threatening to send another refugee wave to Florida if his fugitive slave isn't returned.

Administration spokesmen prattle about parental rights. "The father must speak for the little boy because the sacred bond between parent and child must be recognized and honored," intones the Rev. Reno. The last time Reno told us she was acting in the best interests of children, 25 of them ended up dead in Waco.

Alina Fernandez explains that the parental rights Reno extolls are non-existent in Cuba. She notes that at age 11 children are taken from their families and placed in a school where parents are allowed to visit three days a month. Fernandez, who fled the island in 1993, is the daughter of Fidel Castro.

It's not just Reno who's on a family-rights kick. Many on the left have suddenly discovered the sacredness of a concept they formerly disdained. The ACLU, which claims parents should have no say about their 15-year-old daughter having an abortion, insist that Juan Gonzalez has an absolute right to sentence his son to a gulag for life.

No rights are absolute. Ordinarily, a parent has a right to decide where his child will live. That does not include the right to stick him in the hole at Alcatraz. Families have a right to discipline. They don't have a right to apply the a cat-o'-nine-tails.

Then again, the true wishes of Elian's father probably will never be known, even when he comes here (surrounded by a phalanx of Cuban security agents). Throughout the affair, Juan Miguel has been reading from a script provided by the regime.

Juan Gonzalez will arrive enveloped by an entourage to prevent him from sprinting to freedom. Papa Gonzalez will stay at the home of the head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington -- a very secure place to keep him. If the administration was really interested in learning what the father wants, it would have issued a visa on the condition that Juan Miguel meet privately with his Miami family at a neutral spot. It didn't because the last thing Clinton wants is more defectors named Gonzalez.

You can tie it up with a rose-scented ribbon labeled "parental rights" and it still stinks. The Clinton administration is willing to trade Elian's freedom for Castro's cooperation.

The left, which can't conceive of anyone choosing America over a progressive state, would sacrifice Elian on the altar of its ideology. If they succeed, the child will lose any hope for the future and America will have lost its way once again.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest book is Who's Afraid of the Religious Right. Comment on his column by clicking here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate