Elian Revisited – a hermit from Hudson

I wonder about the phariseeism of political slogan that “it’s for the children.” Often (and especially with liberals), it’s couched with state sponsored care of children, be it education or child health care. Given the spectacular inadequacy of state run anything and the embroilment over Elian, I have two questions. Are children really a priority? And who takes care of the children?

Under the cover of darkness, federal agents in paramilitary getup burst down the door into a home in Miami to seize a child. We are left with a picture of an “assault rifle” pointed at a child. Regrettably, I would have hoped that these brutal midnight raids, common in Stalinist Russia, would not find fertile soil in these United States.

Shock did not turn into outrage for the majority of Americans. It was felt that the boy belonged with his father.


I recall a conversation with a father who became livid when he heard about the initial federal court decision that Elian would have his day in court. He passionately explained to me that no obstacle would bar him getting his son back. He would have continued his rant, except he had to excuse himself to pick up his son at daycare. The incongruity of his words and actions never dawned on him.

When Louise Woodward, the Au Pair girl, was on trial for murder in Boston, I spoke to many people who had chosen sides over her guilt or innocence. I never seemed to gain any ground — light bulbs didn’t turn on — whenever I suggested that the parents were negligent. Both parents had comfortable incomes, yet they left the care of the child unto a teenager.

Add the high divorce rates and the collection of unwed, single mothers and the stark picture presents itself that the presence of a child does not change the behavior of the parents. That is to say, for many of us, the actions explain that children are not actually the highest priority.

Elian’s mother risked her life and her child’s life in order to provide for a better life for herself and her child. She never made it. Father Castro wanted his child back. Yes, the biological father made the proxy claim, yet the fact that in Cuba children are the property of the state never seemed to turn on light bulbs.

While extreme, a cult in Massachusetts engenders the philosophy many of us express: “Leave me alone so I can get on with my life.” A cult member, Rebecca Corneau, was brought into court, declared an unfit mother, taken into custody, and forced to receive medical care for her unborn child. Leave aside the can of worms this judge opened up (Yes, I know, the fetus given recognition in the court, and the steam roller over a woman’s right to her body). The transcendent message is the reach of the state. Think about it. This judge thought he could reach into the womb and take custody of the child. Since then, Rebecca Corneau has given birth, and she and her husband are fighting for custody of their children.

“So what?” you might say, “These people are a bunch of fruit cakes.”

Well, how about these examples?

Anamarie Martinez-Regino was taken into state custody because she was too fat. Apparently, her parents gave her solid food, which was contrary to the doctor’s orders of an all-liquid diet.

Kyle Carroll’s parents are in fear of the state because they dared suggest that their son be taken off of Ritalin. They are accused of being abusive parents because they disagree with the prescription.

When they said that Elian belongs with his father, it’s funny that the competence of his father was never a factor in their calculus. Could it have been the underlying assumption that in a socialist country the state is the caretaker?

There is a growing acceptance of parenting by proxy. It’s called daycare. Eventually as horror stories come out, and they will, state managed daycare will become the norm. And parents, who care deeply and cross the state, will find difficulties ahead. We can observe the parallel in schooling. Failing public schools demand more money and monopoly, while the success of home schooling is perceived as a threat. Heed this: the state has the luxury of failing; parents do not.

Regardless of the outcome this election, it will be uphill for conservatives. Elian is forgotten, and so are the accompanying arguments. Where is the passion that a child should be with his parents? Is it lost under the rubric of what the Santa-elect will give us on Christmas day, November 7th? “Just leave me alone” will be insufficient, because statists will not let you be. Remember Ruby Ridge and Waco. Remember the picture of a rifle pointed at a frightened child.

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