Governmental ideology has no place ;br; in Elian custody battle

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 5, 2000

Just stop for a moment, those of you with kids, and imagine that your ex-spouse took one away.

Wednesday, April 05, 2000

Just stop for a moment, those of you with kids, and imagine that your ex-spouse took one away. That’s bad enough, but now imagine that your ex-spouse dies in the process and his or her relatives lay claim to your child. It gets worse. Now imagine that your child becomes a political pawn between two countries, with clashing ideologies. Imagine that the government of that country gets its knickers in a twist, because one branch says one thing, another says something else and some in the same branch can’t agree.

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Kids, imagine your mom dies and instead of you living with your father, you end up in another country – albeit a great country where you get loads of cool things – with your great uncle and a bunch of relatives you hardly remember or never met before.

Imagine you’re six years old and you can’t even say "democracy" or "totalitarian communist regime." Why would you want to? You’ve probably been too busy playing with your friends until now to bother.

The sad case of Elian Gonzalez has gone on way too long, and the line of people to blame for this tragedy turned international tug of war is a long one. Too long for this mother to tackle, and far too complicated.

If I died, I would certainly want our daughter – it does take two to tango after all – to live with her father who dotes on her. Of course I would love it if her great-uncle Bob would stop by and talk to her about leaves falling off of trees and the Zen-ness of raking. I would not, however, want him to be given possession of her by a government.

I heard on Minnesota Public Radio that one of Elian’s cousins, who has been acting as his surrogate mother since he arrived on U.S. soil, fainted during her rounds of the TV shows on Tuesday. The strain of all that publicity must, indeed, be great. The strain of coming up with reasons not to return Elian to his father must be even greater.

Elian’s Miami relatives seem to have picked up one of America’s most irritating characteristics – only agreeing with the court’s decision if it is the one they want.

I haven’t been to Cuba. I am aware that many here think it must be the stop right before Hell because it is ruled by Castro. Political ideologies, however, should not be the issue here. The right of a parent to decide what is best for his child is the issue.

If Elian’s father comes here to get him and decides to stay, wonderful. If he comes here and takes Elian back to Cuba, then that should be his decision, no one else’s. And that human chain in Miami better do all they can to welcome that man, because he’s been through a lot.

Of course most countries in the world are not as wealthy as America. Most do not have all our freedoms, at least not all together. Most do not have our arrogance either.

Some of the most oppressed countries have produced some of the world’s greatest philosophers and bravest warriors.

But never mind that.

More important to note is the following: happiness and love are possible, even in poor countries, communist countries and cigar-rolling baseball-loving countries.

Maybe they’re even more possible, because people in those countries aren’t quite so busy running around making money and plonking their kids in front of the television when they don’t have time to spend with them.

There are many things that are good for Elian in Cuba – he has a father there. He has grandparents too. He has a home, not a circus.

Jana Peterson’s column appears Wednesdays