11th Circuit Court Rejects the Rights of Elian Gonzalez
By Peter Schwartz (Las Vegas Review-Journal and Ottawa Citizen, January 14, 2000; Contra Costa Times, January 16, 2000; El Nuevo Herald, May 11, 2000)
Is communism physically harmful to human life?
That should be the fundamental question in the Elian Gonzalez case--but the 11th Circuit Court ruling to deny Elian's right to an asylum hearing ignored it entirely.
But a parent has no right to inflict physical harm upon a child. A parent has no right to beat up a child. A parent in prison has no right to demand that his child live with him in his cell. That would be a violation of the child's individual rights. But a communist nation is simply one huge jail, where every aspect of the citizen's life is under the physical control of the state. That is what Elian faces under the court's ruling that his father has a right to take him back to Cuba.
Would such a decision by a court be tolerated if it involved, say, a young black boy who had escaped to the North from a Southern plantation 150 years ago? Or a Jewish boy who had come to America from Nazi Germany during the 1930s? Would he have been sent back if the father--with a gun to his back--declared his desire to have his child returned to slavery or to a concentration camp? Would our opinion-shapers argue that the child's best interests are served by "family reunification"?
Certainly not. Why, then, is Elian's situation any different? Life in totalitarian Cuba, after all, is life in slavery.
It is absurd for the court to assert that the father is "expressing his true wishes" regarding his son. Mr. Gonzalez is not free to say anything else. If he displeases the state, his job, his home--his life--can be summarily taken from him. If Castro orders him to ask for the return of his son--or, conversely, to renounce any interest in the boy--the father has little choice but to obey. Like the slaves on a Southern plantation, the citizens of Cuba exist at the whim of their rulers.
Some make the accusation that Elian's plight is being "politicized" by outdated "Cold Warriors." But it is actually these accusers who are using Elian to push a destructive, fossilized ideology. It is the INS and its supporters who are still trying to pretend that communism is not a system of enslavement, and that the difference between America and Cuba is merely one of "lifestyle." It is this Administration that orders the Coast Guard to physically repel Cuban refugees who approach our shores, resulting in the disgraceful sight of American officials firing water cannons at Cubans to keep them from reaching U.S. soil. It is the zealous advocates of Elian's deportation who are clinging to a discredited philosophy that refuses to acknowledge the tyrannical nature of life under socialism.
Keeping Elian in America is no violation of the rights of the father (who--if he has any genuine affection for the boy and were free to express it--would announce his fervent desire to have his son live in freedom). Anyone concerned with the actual rights of the father should be demanding, not that Washington return Elian, but that Havana let the father choose to stay in America. It is Castro who is dictating to Mr. Gonzalez what he may say and do. Let Castro permit him to remain permanently and unconditionally in America (along with all his relatives, so that none can be held hostage against him). He can then live here--or in any free country he chooses--and keep custody of his son. Both his and his son's rights would thereby be upheld.
Elian's mother willingly risked death on a desperate voyage to liberty--not on a "migrant smuggling trip," as a N.Y. Times editorial despicably described it. She was drawn by the American principle that each individual has an inalienable right to be free. It would be tragic if the politicians and the judges in America failed to grasp the essence of this country as well as she did.
Elian's future should not be determined by the liberal's desire to whitewash communism, nor by the conservative's desire to promote "family values." This issue should be decided by the standard of individual rights--a standard that precludes anyone from sending a six-year-old into slavery.
Peter Schwartz, author of The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest, is a distinguished fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand--author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
For more articles by Peter Schwartz, and his bio, click here.
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