The Tragedy of Elian

by Russ Roberts on June 16, 2008

in Cuba

My new book, The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity, is a novel that tries to help the reader understand a bunch of related topics–the role of prices in steering resources, the role of prices in creating innovation, the role of prices in letting us weave our own dreams of what we want to buy and how we want to spend our lives. It’s also about the role prosperity plays in our lives and why the average American lives better than in past generations.

The novel is the story of Ramon Fernandez, a Cuban-American tennis prodigy who finds himself in the middle of a campus protest at Stanford.

Ramon is a fictional character. So is Ruth Lieber, the provost at Stanford who seeks him out and begins talking to him about economics, for reasons that he and the reader do not at first understand.

Ramon is the son of a legendary Cuban baseball star. After the death of his father, Ramon’s mother comes with him to the United States, bringing the young boy to America.

And while the story is fiction, I was inspired by the Elian Gonzalez story. What would have happened to Elian if he had stayed in America. Would he have prospered? Would he have been torn between an allegiance to his new country and his father’s Cuba?

A number of pundits at the time of Elian’s return to Cuba talked about how he was lucky not to grow up in such a materialist society as America’s. I try and explore this issue in the book as well.

Word comes from out of Cuba, that the real Elian Gonzalez has joined Cuba’s Young Communist Union. (HT: Drudge):

Eight years after a headline making international custody fight which
ended with his return to his father in Cuba, Elian Gonzalez has joined
Cuba’s Young Communist Union.

In an article in Cuba’s communist youth newspaper, Juventud Rebelde,
the 14-year old Gonzalez said he would never let ex-President Fidel
Castro and his brother Raul Castro down. He joined more than
18-thousand others who joined the group on Saturday.

Who knows what he really feels? It was inevitable that incentives would encourage or force him to be happy with his lot. And maybe he really is. Who knows? I just wouldn’t put a lot of stock in today’s story as a sign of a happy ending.

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Franklin Harris June 16, 2008 at 2:37 pm

In the end, Winston Smith loved Big Brother.

Alan June 16, 2008 at 2:53 pm

Please have your publisher authorize a Kindle edition.

Paul Zrimsek June 16, 2008 at 3:53 pm

If that's the sort of thing they publish in Juventud Rebelde I can only imagine what Juventud Obediente must be like.

The Dirty Mac June 16, 2008 at 4:06 pm

I would conjectuure that more than a few Cuban-American votes in the 2000 election went from Gore to Bush as a result of the Elian controversy. Of course, a few votes in Florida went a long way in 2000. In that sense, Elian chaged history.

Martin Brock June 16, 2008 at 4:55 pm

I suppose Elian Gonzalez is as happy as your typical Nazi Youth or Boy Scout, but his happiness is not properly my concern. Children are property (proper responsibilities) of their parents, not pawns in intenecine squabbles between statesmen. Although Elian very nearly died along with his mother in his journey to the U.S., I wouldn't have tried to stop her taking him on the raft, and I'm not sure his father would have either.

For similar reasons, I favored the father's right to Elian's custody in Cuba. The risk of being brainwashed by a Communist state hardly seems more dire than the risk of drowning that Elian's mother accepted. We don't know how happy Elian's life will be, but we don't know how happy he would have been in the U.S. either. We also don't know how long his loyalty to Cuban Communism will last. Eldridge Cleaver fled to Cuba later to become an outspoken critic of the regime, and history is full of similar examples.

But Elian's fate is his father's choice, within very broad constraints, and ultimately his own, not mine, not Roberts' and certainly not Bill Clinton's or Fidel Castro's. This principle is far more important to me than any loyalty to any state, including the United States.

And if Moses, Jesus or Mohammad expect my loyalty to them or their creeds to trump loyalty to my children, they can kiss my unwashed ass too.

M Marty June 16, 2008 at 5:46 pm

Elian will almost certainly be receiving all the perks of being the in the top x% of the population, and one of the favored elite of the communist party. It would be bad publicity if it were to leak to the international press that Elian was unhappy with any aspect of his life in Cuba. His mother died trying to bring him a better life in the U.S. In a strange twist of fate, she will instead have brought him a marginally better life by putting him on the top of the heap of the zero-sum game being played back at his old stomping grounds. I wouldn't hold my breath for him to make a conversion when he is being treated better than the rest of the populace around him, it feels good to be seen as special in the eyes of those around you.

Martin Brock June 16, 2008 at 6:14 pm

His mother nearly killed him trying to bring him a better life in the U.S., and his father brought him back to the life of a political celebrity. I don't much expect Prince William to turn against the monarchy or Jennifer Gates to reject her inheritance either, but stranger things have happened.

Ray G June 16, 2008 at 7:46 pm

I had commented often at the time sentiments very similar to Marty's. The party cannot afford to have him go through life as normal Cubans would, and so he can look forward to a life lived as a shining example of Communist "prosperity.

Justin Ross June 16, 2008 at 7:56 pm

Any word on a release date for the book? Amazon doesn't have one.

Methinks June 16, 2008 at 9:03 pm

A number of pundits at the time of Elian's return to Cuba talked about how he was lucky not to grow up in such a materialist society as America's.

Let's make some key observations about said pundits:

1.) People, including Elian's mother, routinely risk their lives to escape to this materialistic nightmare we call the U.S.

2.) People do not risk life and limb to float a leaky inner tube to Cuba.

3.) Note that the Pundits' @sses are firmly planted in this materialistic horror with no plans to escape to Chavezland or Cuba.

Telling. No?

As a refuge from the Soviet Union and as a person who has lived in a communist utopia (and who is still close to the family that remains there) and this materialistic nightmare, let me assure you: Elian would have been happier here. If part of human yearning is to live without constant fear, then he would have been happier here. If it is to have hope, he would have been happier here. In Russia, even those who had no basis of comparison were not happy because you don't have to experience freedom from oppression and fear to want it. That's why so many with no knowledge of the outside world risked their lives to escape.

As for the horror of materialism, there is no more materialistic place on earth than a place where people are forcibly denied material wealth. In the Soviet Union people inflicted unimaginable horrors on their fellow man to obtain some extra butter, a loaf of bread or a room in a communal apartment with a couple more square feet than the one their family was already assigned to. People killed each other, accused their neighbours and even family to the KGB and NKVD of "crimes against the people" just for a bit of material comfort at which most American welfare recipients would turn up their nose.

Only the completely ignorant, hopelessly idealistic and completely blind and stupid could possibly justify Elian's return to his Cuban hellhole. Living in a country like Cuba is worse than death. And that is exactly what the countless dissidents and refuges from China, Cuba, the Soviet Bloc are telling you when they risk their lives to leave.

Oh, and in case anyone thinks we were poor peasants. My family was of a "privilaged" circle in Russia – making our lives both materially easier in the Soviet Union and our request to leave more dangerous. My parents told me many years after our immigration that they honestly put the probability of being arrested and shot at 70% once we became dissidents. They decided that it would have been better for us to die (although, that was obviously not the outcome they hoped for) than to continue to live in the Soviet Union. Having observed what happened to the family that remained, I agree.

Martin Brock June 16, 2008 at 10:20 pm

Only the completely ignorant, hopelessly idealistic and completely blind and stupid could possibly justify Elian's return to his Cuban hellhole.

Elian's father made this choice, and it was his to make, not yours. I'm not the least bit interested in your political rationale for any other decision. Family trumps politics, including your family and your politics.

Ray G June 16, 2008 at 11:00 pm

What about Elian's mother's choice?

You seem to think she made a bad choice concerning her child while lamenting everyone else's lack of respect for the father's wishes to have him back.

Championing the father's wishes while ignoring the mother's is a fatal lapse of logic in your argument.

Your response to that is of course the mother died, and so the child should be returned as a default decision, but this ignores the obvious point that his father lives under a harsh dictator and does not enjoy the liberty to speak his mind freely.

This makes you either naive or intellectually dishonest.

Russ Roberts June 16, 2008 at 11:32 pm

Justin Ross,

There is a release date on Amazon–it's just farther down the page. Amazon says it will be available August 4. I think it might even be a little earlier.

brotio June 16, 2008 at 11:59 pm

If I remember correctly, it was Elian's FATHER'S family already in the US that was trying to keep him from being re-sentenced to Hell and that it was their argument that Elian's father could not speak his mind without fear of reprisal.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 12:19 am

What about Elian's mother's choice?

Elian's mother was dead.

You seem to think she made a bad choice concerning her child while lamenting everyone else's lack of respect for the father's wishes to have him back.

I know for a fact that she nearly killed him, but that's not my point. Elian was not simply her child. Children have two natural parents. I take seriously the idea that Elian's father consented to the risk, but when the mother was dead and Elian was floating on a raft on the Atlantic and then made a national spectacle by political interests, Juan Gonzalez wanted his son back with him. Barring some truly extraordinary evidence of unfittness (not the sort of thing routinely concocted by statesmen rationalizing the seizure of parental authority), that's all I need to know.

Championing the father's wishes while ignoring the mother's is a fatal lapse of logic in your argument.

You aren't interested in the mother's will. You're only interested in yours, like all the other politicians. Elian's mother was dead before the issue arose, and she very nearly took him to a watery grave with her. Unlike you, I don't elevate my judgment over hers. I respect her prerogative to take this risk, especially if the father consented, but you don't speak for her anymore than anyone else. You can only mouth your own politics in retrospect.

Elian's father does speak for him while he's a child. That's still called "proper" in my neck of the woods, and it always will be, even if my neck of the woods is a solitary homestead.

Your response to that is of course the mother died, and so the child should be returned as a default decision, …

I'm not interested in your political theory of what the "default decision" should be. I'm not advocating any "default decision". My "default" logic is completely irrelevant. It was never my decision to make at all. You think it's yours, because you're an arrogant nationalist substituting your vague, simplistic, systematic abstraction for a real, particular father's autonomy over his family.

… but this ignores the obvious point that his father lives under a harsh dictator and does not enjoy the liberty to speak his mind freely.

That's an unfalsifiable political proposition if I ever saw one. You want to seize someone's child, so you decide for him that you're doing his will regardless of his protests.

Elian's father made a choice as free as his mother's. One choice nearly killed the boy. The other made him a boy scout in a stagnant, socialist monarchy. Neither choice was enviable, but both reflected a real parent's real dilemma. Your choice, by contrast, is a facile show of your politics.

This makes you either naive or intellectually dishonest.

No, it makes you a state worshipping busybody who wants to substitute his political theories for the difficult decisions that parents make every day.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 12:28 am

If I remember correctly, it was Elian's FATHER'S family already in the US that was trying to keep him from being re-sentenced to Hell and that it was their argument that Elian's father could not speak his mind without fear of reprisal.

Your quasi-religious zealotry doesn't impress me. Cuba is not Hell as a matter of fact. It's hardly my model of a political utopia, but neither is the United States. It's tragic that politics separates families, but you aren't Elian's father either. You don't matter. Get used to it.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 1:19 am

Elian's father's uncle Lázaro and cousin Marisleysis kept him in Miami. The father's mother and the mother's mother (both of Elian's grandmothers) traveled to Miami to recover him, but Lázaro and Marisleysis refused to surrender him.

brotio June 17, 2008 at 2:05 am

"Your quasi-religious zealotry doesn't impress me. Cuba is not Hell as a matter of fact. It's hardly my model of a political utopia, but neither is the United States. It's tragic that politics separates families, but you aren't Elian's father either. You don't matter. Get used to it."

And your snotty self-righteousness doesn't impress me. I'm quite aware that Cuba isn't Hell in the biblical sense, just as I'm quite aware that the Bushtapo doesn't exist.
Oh that's right, Martin Brock is the only one who can use hyperbole for effect. I'm sorry, Martin. I forgot.

I'm also quite aware that I don't matter in this regard, any more than you do. And if the Clinton Administration had decided not to re-sentence Elian to Hell, guess what? Neither of us would matter in that case, either. Would we?

The boy has been sent back to not-hardly-your-idea-of-utopia. You got what you want. Be happy about it. Have a cigar.

vidyohs June 17, 2008 at 8:31 am

In a world where all parties involved were free to make their own decisions about where to live, what to do in self support, what to think and express openly, and who to associate with, I would agree with Martin that the rights of the parent supercede anything that can be conjured up by the state.

But, we aren't talking about that world. We are talking about a world where the parents agreed to the risk of death to escape from one locale to go to another. That alone should give Matin pause and shouldn't be taken lightly.

That moves the weight of effective persuasion from Martin to Methinks and Brotio.

Far better to live in a land where the slave collar is light and the leash is long than in one where the collar is thick raw iron and the leash is a logging chain.

Outside of proof of actual threat of physical danger to the child inflicted. or intended to be inflicted, by the father, just going on the differences between Cuba and the USA in the conditions of slavery would be enough to support leaving the child in the USA.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 8:43 am

I'm also quite aware that I don't matter in this regard, any more than you do. And if the Clinton Administration had decided not to re-sentence Elian to Hell, guess what? Neither of us would matter in that case, either. Would we?

We don't matter regardless of the Clinton Administration, and I wouldn't have it any other way. You attribute Elian's fate to the Clinton Administration, only because you swallow the incredible proposition that everything is political, that politics ultimately accounts for everyting and politicians are ultimately responsible for everything. Your own words unmistakably signal this presumption.

I attribute Elian's fate to his mother's choice and then to his father's choice. By contrast, I attribute conduct of the war in Iraq to the Bushtapo, because Bush is commander in chief of the armed forces. Attributing this conduct to Juan Gonzalez would be as absurd as attributing Elian's upbringing to Bush.

Clinton gets credit for his heinous choices too, but choosing Elian's home happens not to be one of them. He didn't make it, because wasn't entitled to make it. How tough is that to comprehend?

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 9:07 am

But, we aren't talking about that world. We are talking about a world where the parents agreed to the risk of death to escape from one locale to go to another.

No, you imagine this world and don't distinguish your imagination from the complexities of real life.

Again, I take this speculation seriously, but it's pure speculation. We have no credible evidence that the father agreed, and it's beside the point. Even if he agreed before Elian nearly died along with his mother, he did not agree to leave his son in the custody of his great uncle and cousin over the apparent objection of both grandmothers. If statesmen may substitute their judgment for mine on the dubious grounds that their words reflect my will better than my own, then personal autonomy is a cruel joke.

Outside of proof of actual threat of physical danger to the child inflicted. or intended to be inflicted, by the father, just going on the differences between Cuba and the USA in the conditions of slavery would be enough to support leaving the child in the USA.

You bother less about proof of the father's own judgment. Here again, you accept the presumption that your politics and politicians, govern these familial relationships, not families. No thanks.

Hammer June 17, 2008 at 9:55 am

Martin, you seem to say that they best way for one parent to get their way in how and where a child is raised is to simply kill the other parent.
Yes, his mother was dead at the time of the decision. She died attempting to save her son from having to live in Cuba.

But hey, the b!tch is dead, right? So let's just undo everything she did for her son by sending him right back! His dad is still alive after all!

Of course, you can't quite see the AK-47 pointing at his head from just off camera in the film of him requesting Elian's return.

Your moral failing in this case, and it is a moral failing, is that you do not see Cuba as any worse than the US. You don't differentiate between slavery in Cuba and freedom in the US.
By your logic, if a divorced woman dies, her children should immediately be sent back to their abusive drunk of a sperm donor who she left in the first place.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 11:47 am

Martin, you seem to say that they best way for one parent to get their way in how and where a child is raised is to simply kill the other parent.

I say no such thing. I imply no such thing. Your "seem to say" veils your simple-minded, politically inspired deception.

Yes, his mother was dead at the time of the decision. She died attempting to save her son from having to live in Cuba.

This fact is irrelevant. Thousands of people bring their children to the U.S. this way every year. If parents choose to come here, I support practically open borders. I'm a libertarian, not a fascistic devotee of any American nation-state, including yours.

But hey, the b!tch is dead, right?

Why do you want to call her a bitch?

And when did you stop beating your wife? Your rhetoric is pure politics. You're Castro's kindred spirit.

So let's just undo everything she did for her son by sending him right back! His dad is still alive after all!

"We" don't do anything. Elian is not "our" son.

Of course, you can't quite see the AK-47 pointing at his head from just off camera in the film of him requesting Elian's return.

This political stunt was incredible. Someone could have walked in unarmed and walked out leading Elian by hand. Janet Reno should be jailed for handling the situation this way.

Your moral failing in this case, and it is a moral failing, is that you do not see Cuba as any worse than the US.

Your moral failing is that you elevate your politics above Elian's family business.

You don't differentiate between slavery in Cuba and freedom in the US.

More hysterical bullshit. This sort of hyperbole is how every politician rationalizes his forcible interference with other people's autonomy.

By your logic, if a divorced woman dies, her children should immediately be sent back to their abusive drunk of a sperm donor who she left in the first place.

Your presumptuous, political hate speech is irrelevant here. Juan Gonzalez is not your moronic stereotype.

Methinks June 17, 2008 at 12:22 pm

"Far better to live in a land where the slave collar is light and the leash is long than in one where the collar is thick raw iron and the leash is a logging chain." – Vidyohs

Exactly, Vidyohs. And if people don't understand that by observing the risks people too and take to escape scenic Cuba, the glorious East Germany and blessed Mother Russia, then there's nothing we can do about it. If they're blinded by stupidity, they're beyond help.

Methinks June 17, 2008 at 12:27 pm

I'm not sure if this has been brought up – I haven't read some of the posts.

We don't actually know what Elian's father wanted. We don't know what kind of gun Castro was holding to his back and to the backs of his father's family. So, let's not jump to conclusions that his daddy got anything near what he wanted for Elian. As I remember, his father held some high up job, making him more susceptible to coercion and more important for his son to return to the craphole that is Cuba. And…it's a F#cking craphole. Don't kid yourself. My dad spent a lot of time there.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 12:53 pm

We don't actually know what Elian's father wanted. We don't know what kind of gun Castro was holding to his back and to the backs of his father's family.

You don't have a shred of evidence for any gun of any description, but this rhetorical tactic is as common as the sunrise among politicians of every stripe.

So, let's not jump to conclusions that his daddy got anything near what he wanted for Elian.

Let's certainly not take daddy's word for it. After all, we want something else.

As I remember, his father held some high up job, making him more susceptible to coercion and more important for his son to return to the craphole that is Cuba.

He's a waiter in a restaurant. He's also a member of the Cuban National Assembly now, but he wasn't then. We'll never know how much state favor he'd have bought by coming here, but I doubt that he'd be a member of Congress.

And…it's a F#cking craphole. Don't kid yourself. My dad spent a lot of time there.

Your dad spent time there before coming to the U.S.? My own government forbids my travel to Cuba, even though it's one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Carribean for Canadians and Europeans. I can't use the internationally popular hospitals there either. I don't see how these impediments to my liberty help me or people in Cuba.

Methinks June 17, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Your dad spent time there before coming to the U.S.? My own government forbids my travel to Cuba,

Bully for you (not really, I'm not for that restriction on the travel of American citizens). If you read my posts, you would know that my family and I hail from the Glorious Communist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Cuba was the USSR's ally and my father spent a lot of time there while on business before we escaped from the Soviet Union. His conclusion: very pretty. Nice weather. Otherwise, same craphole as Russia. I'm thinking my father is more qualified than you to make a comparison.

I know EXACTLY the guns that communist countries hold to the backs of the their citizens – particularly in embarrassing cases like these. Of the two of us, Martin, I think I have a much better idea of how those countries operate and you're just shooting in the dark.

The rest of your post is a standard defense presented by "useful idiots" upon whom the communist party relied to perpetuate its murderous kleptocracy. Congratulations. You know I don't think you've been shortchanged in the IQ department, Martin, but if you're going to behave like a useful idiot, I'm going to call you out on it.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 2:15 pm

If you read my posts, you would know that my family and I hail from the Glorious Communist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

I did read your post. That's why I asked the question.

I'm thinking my father is more qualified than you to make a comparison.

I'm not denying it. I think Elian's father is more qualified to decide Elian's fate than you are.

I know EXACTLY the guns that communist countries hold to the backs of the their citizens – particularly in embarrassing cases like these.

Again, you have no evidence of any coercive measures directed against Juan Gonzalez or Elian's other family in Cuba at the time. If you do, present it. The silly personal attacks are not this evidence. They're the most prosaic avoidance.

Of the two of us, Martin, I think I have a much better idea of how those countries operate and you're just shooting in the dark.

I've never asserted much knowledge of how Cuba operates. I asserted that you have none of this specific evidence, of threats against Elian's family in Cuba, because you don't.

The rest of your post is a standard defense presented by "useful idiots" upon whom the communist party relied to perpetuate its murderous kleptocracy.

Rubbish. I don't present a single defense of any state. You're making it up. You avoid the issue by assigning meaningless, emotional labels.

Hold Castro down, and I'll kick him for you. So what? He's not Elian's father either.

Methinks June 17, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Why oh why do you insist on playing the role of useful idiot, Martin?

I'm not denying it. I think Elian's father is more qualified to decide Elian's fate than you are.

In a country where one is free to speak freely, we can make a reasonable assumption that what the man says is what the man thinks. In a country where one cannot speak freely, we cannot make that assumption. You have no proof that he wasn't coerced. I'm merely pointing out that, knowing what I know about communist countries, we don't know if his stated feelings are his true feelings and if this decision was entirely his to make.

Which brings me to another point. You said: He's a waiter in a restaurant. He's also a member of the Cuban National Assembly now, but he wasn't then.

I've seen people sell out their children, their mothers, their siblings for far less than a seat on the National Assembly. Favours from a dictator are pretty powerful incentives for a person living in a country where one can get ahead in no other way than to step on people to curry favour with a dictator. I don't think you understand exactly what life is like for these people and the trade-offs they make in their daily lives.

So, you may be right. Elian's daddy may have been promised all manor of material incentives to bring the child home. They stood to personally benefit from this international win for Castro. Thus, his father's stated feelings are his real feelings. In that case, I don't think he was better qualified than I to decide where Elian lives because the very last thing he thought of is his child's welfare. If you use your child as a pawn to get more goodies, you are not a qualified parent, IMO. I realize and I'm happy to know that most people in the West have a hard time imagining a parent behaving that way. But, I also know that selling your children into prostitution and modern day versions of slavery is not unheard of in my home country. Neither is taping newborns' mouths so that nurses don't hear them crying. When people are treated like beasts, they turn into beasts.

I know you said that children are property to be disposed of as the parent wishes, so we may just have to disagree on that point. I believe that it is our responsibility to protect the freedom of those who are powerless and unable to take care of themselves – children and crazy people.

Chris June 17, 2008 at 3:05 pm

Martin –

"You don't have a shred of evidence for any gun of any description"

Direct evidence, probably not, although I seem to remember there being some at the time. However, the Castro regime had a long history of abusing its own people for political purposes. Why should we believe that it was acting any differently in this case?

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 4:30 pm

Why oh why do you insist on playing the role of useful idiot, Martin?

You might as well call me a "capitalist lackey". Who cares?

You have no proof that he wasn't coerced.

More to the point, you have no proof that he was. My evidence that he wasn't are his own words. This evidence, however flawed, is more persuasive to me in this context than your words.

You didn't even know Juan Gonzalez' occupation. Without googling, what is his middle name? What is Elian's middle name? What was his mother's maiden name? What's his maternal grandmother's name? Where does he live? Who's his best friend, his best subject in school, his favorite movie? In his own words, why did he join the Cuban Communist Boy Scouts?

I've seen people sell out their children, their mothers, their siblings for far less than a seat on the National Assembly.

So what? Your vague, unsubstantiated insinuations and four bucks will buy me a gallon of gasoline.

So, you may be right. Elian's daddy may have been promised all manor of material incentives to bring the child home.

I haven't suggested that he was promised anything. He became a member of the national assembly several years after the event as a matter of fact. He's still a waiter in a restaurant. None of these facts shock me.

In that case, I don't think he was better qualified than I to decide where Elian lives because the very last thing he thought of is his child's welfare.

The boy came within a hair's breadth of drowning along with his mother, and your concern for his welfare is supposed to overwhelm me. Your concern is exclusively political. His mother made an agonizing choice, but Elian Gonzalez is nothing to you but a political icon. He might as well be a fictional character. Juan Gonzalez is his father. You are nothing to him. He doesn't know you exist, and he probably never will.

But, I also know that selling your children into prostitution and modern day versions of slavery is not unheard of in my home country.

It's not unheard of in the U.S. either. I'm familiar with a woman who prostituted her own preteenage daughter here. I know the daugher personally. She lives with the non-abusive stepfather who raised her after her mother bolted, or he lives with her. She's never known her natural father at all as far as I know.

Elian Gonzalez was a six year old boy with a fit father and two grandmothers who wanted him in Cuba. Your politics is utterly inconsequential by comparison.

I know you said that children are property to be disposed of as the parent wishes, so we may just have to disagree on that point.

No, I explained what I meant by "property". The word denotes a proper responsibility, a right respected within the bounds of propriety. Husbands and wives are also one another's property in this sense, taken "to have and to hold". This "property" has nothing to do with disposing of anything, and it has never been an unlimited right, but the presumption is that a parent cares more about his child than someone motiviated by politics, someone like you for example.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 4:41 pm

Why should we believe that it was acting any differently in this case?

I don't believe it was. I believe that Juan Gonzalez wanted his son back in Cuba with his two grandmothers after the boy nearly drowned in the Atlantic along with his mother. If the father did consent to the trip, I suppose he might have wanted the boy back even more, having nearly killed him.

If you weren't viewing the man through your political prism, you might understand his motiviation similarly. I only need to believe that he's as human as I suppose you to be. Most people are. You aren't special.

And Castro's a tyrant, and Cuba is a stagnant, socialist monarchy too, all at the same time. I just don't elevate my political opposition to the Castro regime over my respect for a father's relationship with his son, because the latter is far more important to me. The politics is nothing by comparison.

brotio June 17, 2008 at 5:30 pm

"You attribute Elian's fate to the Clinton Administration, only because you swallow the incredible proposition that everything is political, that politics ultimately accounts for everyting and politicians are ultimately responsible for everything. Your own words unmistakably signal this presumption."

Gee, Martin,

All these years I thought the middle-of-the-night raid was ordered by the Attorney General of the United States. I thought that that particular AG was a political appointment made by President Clinton, and as such that she was a member of the Clinton Administration. Please point out exactly where I'm wrong about this?

THIS case was resolved in a political manner. Your presumption that because I recognize that THIS was a political decision, that I believe that politicians are responsible for everything is nonsense.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 6:16 pm

All these years I thought the middle-of-the-night raid was ordered by the Attorney General of the United States.

Yes, it was, and it was a travesty, but that's beside the point. If some statesman drops a nuclear weapon on a thief fleeing your house, I suppose that's an overreaction, but it's still your house.

Please point out exactly where I'm wrong about this?

You aren't wrong at all. Reno's not Elian's father either. I'd like to see her locked up for the storm troop stunt, but that's beside the point.

THIS case was resolved in a political manner. Your presumption that because I recognize that THIS was a political decision, that I believe that politicians are responsible for everything is nonsense.

The case was neck deep in politics. That's the problem with it.

You believe that your politics trumps the proper, familial relationship between Elian Gonzalez and his father.

Patrick R. Sullivan June 17, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Again, you have no evidence of any coercive measures directed against Juan Gonzalez or Elian's other family in Cuba at the time.

Sure we do. We have countless stories from Cubans who escaped from those coercive measures. As well as the testimony of a personal friend of Janet Reno's who moderated the visit of Elian with his grandmothers:

When I agreed to provide a neutral meeting place at the Barry University president's house for 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez and his grandmothers, I expected to witness a meaningful visit. But I had no idea that what I saw would be so powerful that it would change my mind, persuading me that Elian should not be returned — at least for now — to his father in Cuba.

…. the delay of the grandmothers at the airport allowed Elian to spend an extra hour at the house before they arrived. I had a chance to see, firsthand, the strong bond between Elian and the Miami cousin who has taken care of him since his mother died in the same attempt to escape Cuba by boat that set him adrift.

His cousin is only a year younger than his mother was, and as he glanced at her for reassurance before the meeting and greeted her ecstatically afterward, it became clear to me that he has transferred his maternal love to her.

As I watched the grandmothers' Cuban escort keep close telephone contact with Havana during and after the visit, I came to feel that the Cuban government was attempting to exert control over these events. Even more troubling, I saw signs of anxiety in both the Miami relatives and the grandmothers: trembling, furtive looks, ice-cold hands.

I saw fear in Elian, too, and I became a wiser woman at that moment, wincing at my own naivete. I considered what it would mean for this boy suddenly to be ripped away from his surrogate mother, how this second trauma might scar him permanently. I saw and felt, at that moment, how wrong it would be to return Elian hastily to Cuba.

Also, the Cuban 'diplomat' who kept telling the Clinton Admin that Elian (and all Cuban children) was the property of Fidel Castro, somewhat undercuts your argument that Elian's father made a free choice, don't you think, Martin?

vidyohs June 17, 2008 at 6:44 pm

martinduck,

It is sad to see you've escaped your aviary again.

You could, and did say much the same to me:

"You believe that your politics trumps the proper, familial relationship between Elian Gonzalez and his father.
Posted by: Martin Brock | Jun 17, 2008 6:16:25 PM"

But, instead of reading and understanding you much prefer the mulberry bush chase.

I repeat, in a proper world where we knew the exact familial relationship between Elian and his father, and that relationship was not obviously abusive or life threatening then I would agree that the father has rights regarding Elian that no state can rightfully trump.

If we knew nothing about Cuba, communism, Castro, Elian's relationship with his dad,
his dad's feelings toward Elian, and nothing about the USA; and, it was all a mystery, then I would still support the father's rights regarding the child over anything claimed by the state.

Again for your seeming obtuseness, we do know some facts and the known facts all point to the very real probability that there was no, or very little, relationship there, and the very real probability that Elian would have a more privileged life and more potential to develop that life here in the USA is extremely high.

Having seen communism, and its affect on individual people as well as the whole body of people in all respects, up close and personal I can tell you without doubt I would refer be a ordinary privileged slave in the USA than a highly placed official slave in a communist regime.

Now go chase yourself around the mulberry bush, you are in the USA and privileged to make a fool of yourself.

Methinks June 17, 2008 at 6:51 pm

I don't believe it was. I believe that Juan Gonzalez wanted his son back in Cuba with his two grandmothers after the boy nearly drowned in the Atlantic along with his mother.

Who cares what you believe, Martin? Every one of your posts can be summed up thusly: "it doesn't matter what you believe, without iron-clad proof all you say is so much irrelevant bullshit." If our beliefs about what happened are irrelevant BS, so are yours.

Methinks June 17, 2008 at 6:58 pm

Your concern is exclusively political.n. – Martin

Again, don't be a useful idiot, Martin. Put that copious IQ to work. It's not about my politics. It's about protecting a human being's right to freedom versus condemning him to a lifetime of slavery to the state. Just because that human being hasn't reached the age of majority doesn't mean he is free to be condemned to slavery.

I haven't suggested that he was promised anything.

No, you didn't. I did.

He became a member of the national assembly several years after the event as a matter of fact.

Um…exactly my point.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 7:05 pm

Who cares what you believe, Martin?

No one. Elian Gonzalez doesn't know that I exist either, and that's fine.

If our beliefs about what happened are irrelevant BS, so are yours.

No, parents have rights that yield only to very persuasive and powerful evidence of harm to their children. The burden of proof is yours. I have no similar burden. I don't pretend to know all that you must pretend to know about Elian's life in Cuba. I only know that you haven't met your burden.

Methinks June 17, 2008 at 7:16 pm

I don't pretend to know all that you must pretend to know about Elian's life in Cuba.

No, Martin, you BELIEVE and we all know that's much better than KNOWING.

No, parents have rights that yield only to very persuasive and powerful evidence of harm to their children. The burden of proof is yours.

Life as a slave to the state sucks worse than a life of freedom. Slavery is harmful. A parent who chooses slavery over freedom for his child is harmful. The choice his father made was harmful.

I have no similar burden.

Yeah. I notice you like to exempt yourself from burdens that you claim others should shoulder. Must be nice.

I'm having a hard time taking you seriously right now, Martin.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 7:16 pm

It's not about my politics.

Of course, it's about your politics. It couldn't possibly be about anything else. Vague, political propositions are all you know about the case. Your words here clearly indicate as much.

It's about protecting a human being's right …

What's his middle name? How tall is he? What's his favorite food? Is he allergic to anything?

Let's see. His father doesn't want your protection, and neither of his grandmothers want your protection, and he's now fourteen and doesn't want your protect himself, and you hardly know a thing about him, but you speak for the "real" Elian, while Elian himself and everyone closest to him doesn't know what's good for him.

That's "liberty" as defined by statesmen alright.

Just because that human being hasn't reached the age of majority doesn't mean he is free to be condemned to slavery.

All children are subject to their parents before the age of majority, just as you were. Your political hysterics don't overcome Elian's fathers choice and his grandmothers' choices and his own choice. You'll need to get over that.

Methinks June 17, 2008 at 7:26 pm

Of course, it's about your politics.

Well, if you say so. Because who would know more about me than you?

ME: It's about protecting a human being's right …

You: What's his middle name? How tall is he? What's his favorite food? Is he allergic to anything?

If I knew his middle name and that he had a crooked toenail on his middle toe on his left foot, then I could fight to protect his right to live in freedom. If, on the other hand, I don't know any of those things but know his case, then I have no right to stand in Castro's way as he comes to collect his property. Gotcha. If you are unjustly imprisoned, I would have no right to ask for your release because I don't know what kind of cookies you eat as a snack and I don't know anything about your allergies – except your allergy to logic (but I don't think you'll find that enough). Makes total sense.

Let's see. His father doesn't want your protection, and neither of his grandmothers want your protection, and he's now fourteen and doesn't want your protect…

Let's see. How do you know all that? That smells an awful lot like pretending to know all about the "real Elian" and all about his glorious life in Cuba to me, Martin. Pray tell, how do you happen to know all this?

Methinks June 17, 2008 at 7:30 pm

Martin,

It has been hilarious as usual. V.I. Lenin, Stalin, Castro, Chavez, etc. all relied on folks like you to survive. Of course, folks like you never understood that they were useful idiots who shilled for the state without realizing they were shilling for the state. If they did realize, they would cease to be useful idiots. That happened, so I have hope for you yet. Unfortunately, I'm deeply disappointed with you right now, Martin. I must now go and work off that deep disappointment at the gym. Ciao!

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 7:38 pm

No, Martin, you BELIEVE and we all know that's much better than KNOWING.

You don't answer a single, specific question about the subject, and you presume to lecture Elian's father and his closest family and Elian himself about Elian's life. Then you accuse me of pretending to KNOW. It's laughable.

Life as a slave to the state sucks worse than a life of freedom.

I don't see everything in terms of the state. I don't like his state, but Elian is not a slave as a matter of fact. He's subject to another state, and it's more feudalistic than I like, but Elian himself declares allegiance to it for the moment. If he and his family were subject to the United States instead, my position would be exactly the same, because politics is not my rationale.

Slavery is harmful. A parent who chooses slavery over freedom for his child is harmful. The choice his father made was harmful.

"Slavery" is your hysterical description of a condition that Elian himself expressly accepts.

I'll make you a wager. When Elian reaches the age of majority and ceases to accept his life in Cuba and may not leave the country, you let me know. I'll buy both of us tickets to Cuba. We'll ignore the law and go by way of Jamaica, and I'll march down a street in Havana carrying a sign reading "Free Elian Gonzalez". If I don't, I owe you $10,000. If I do, you repay me for both tickets. Deal?

Yeah. I notice you like to exempt yourself from burdens that you claim others should shoulder. Must be nice.

No, it's not what I think you shoulder. It's what you do shoulder. You're here, because your parents brought you here. I think it's great that they did it, and I'm happy that you're happy with the change, but I don't therefore want you entitled to make the same decision for other children over the objections of their parents.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 7:42 pm

Let's see. How do you know all that?

It's what they say. Their own testimony is my evidence. You claim that your testimony about what they "really" think is better evidence. Your whole argument is incredibly authoritarian. Other people don't know their own will. You know it.

Methinks June 17, 2008 at 8:15 pm

…If I don't, I owe you $10,000. If I do, you repay me for both tickets. Deal?

Okay, first of all, I don't roll out of bed for less than $500,000. Second, it'll take a lot more get me to both roll out of bed and take a trip to Cuba.

It's what they say. Their own testimony is my evidence.

If I put a gun to your head and forced you to say that you believed you were the prettiest ballerina in the world, then we should all believe that you think that because you said it. How do we know that there's a gun to the family's and Elian's head? We don't. But we have tons and tons of evidence that these regimes do just that. The probability is high. So, because you don't know what these people really think and you're only going off what they stated publicly, your evidence is suspect and not worth very much. Before you go off the deep end again, I don't know for sure either (you'll ignore this bit in your response, I'm sure) but I'm not willing to accept your evidence on its face because it would require me to ignore a mountain of evidence that families are routinely coerced in these situations.

but Elian himself declares allegiance to it for the moment….. "Slavery" is your hysterical description of a condition that Elian himself expressly accepts.

A.) how do you know that he accepts what he says he accepts?

B.) you just made a giant case for children not being allowed to make their own decisions until they reach the age of majority. Did Clinton ask Elian what he wanted before he sent him back?

When Elian reaches the age of majority and ceases to accept his life in Cuba and may not leave the country, you let me know.

What? Now we're back to the age of majority? Okay. Of course, like all the other Cubans boarding rafts in the dead of night to float to Miami, he'll totally just be able to leave if he wanted. You have no clue what it is to become a dissident in a country like Cuba. Morons used to come to the Soviet Union, observe select locations under close observation and come back to the U.S. extolling the virtues of communism because they didn't see any of the horror that refuges described. They even called us refuges "disgruntled". You remind me of these people, Martin. Sadly. Very sadly.

I'm going to rename this thread "The Tragedy of Martin" in honour of you. Imagine sad music playing in the background as I type this in my gym clothes. I will now have to work out an extra hour to build up enough endorphins to offset my disappointment in you. Thanks a lot.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 8:32 pm

I repeat, in a proper world where we knew the exact familial relationship between Elian and his father, and that relationship was not obviously abusive or life threatening then I would agree that the father has rights regarding Elian that no state can rightfully trump.

No. Parents enjoy a presumption. It's not necessary for anyone to prove that Juan Gonzalez is not an abusive father. It's necessary for someone to prove that he is abusive to overcome the presumption. That's the law in my neck of the woods anyway.

We know that both of Elian's grandmothers sided with the father, including the mother of Elian's dead mother. The best his detractors can do is claim that the grandmothers acted under duress, that they flew to Miami and then to Washington with guns at their backs, though the detractors don't have a shred of evidence to support this conspiracy theory either.

Again for your seeming obtuseness, we do know some facts and the known facts all point to the very real probability that there was no, or very little, relationship there, …

O.K. What is this evidence? Juan Gonzalez contacted his uncle in Miami before Elian arrived, before the accident at sea was reported. Both grandmothers supported him. During the asylum petition, the 11th Circuit found that Juan Gonzalez "continued to have regular and significant contact with his son" after separating from Elian's mother.

… and the very real probability that Elian would have a more privileged life and more potential to develop that life here in the USA is extremely high.

He'd likely have been richer here, but the same is true of most children south of the border. Are you advocating open borders now? All the Mexicans and Columbians and Guatemalans and Salvadorans and Venezualans are welcome too? They just need to find adoptive parents in the U.S. regardless of their own parents wishes?

Having seen communism, and its affect on individual people as well as the whole body of people in all respects, up close and personal I can tell you without doubt I would refer be a ordinary privileged slave in the USA than a highly placed official slave in a communist regime.

That's your choice, and I don't propose to take it from you. You're the one suggesting that Elian Gonzalez should be here despite the expressed wishes of his father and both of his grandmothers, not to mention his own expressed wishes. I don't prefer your state-ments to theirs.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 8:49 pm

If I put a gun to your head and forced you to say that you believed you were the prettiest ballerina in the world, then we should all believe that you think that because you said it.

So someone could be putting a gun to your head right now, and you can't prove that no one is doing it; therefore, nothing you say is believable, and your personal autonomy is forfeit? Why don't you just write me the check for $500,000 now. Any protest that you don't owe it to me clearly can't be trusted.

But we have tons and tons of evidence that these regimes do just that.

You have tons of evidence, and I'm only asking you for a shred, but I can't even get that out of you.

So, because you don't know what these people really think and you're only going off what they stated publicly, your evidence is suspect and not worth very much.

No, I don't pretend to have any evidence disproving a gun to the grandmothers' and father's heads. I can't prove that George W. Bush wasn't on the phone with Osama bin Laden on 9/10 planning 9/11 either. I can't prove countless negatives. Disproving conspiracy theories is not my burden. I won't lose bit of sleep over it tonight.

Before you go off the deep end again, I don't know for sure either (you'll ignore this bit in your response, I'm sure) but I'm not willing to accept your evidence on its face because it would require me to ignore a mountain of evidence that families are routinely coerced in these situations.

I don't offer any evidence that Elian's father and grandmothers weren't coerced other than their own testimony. It's their words you deny here, not mine. You don't believe what people tell you about their own will. Everyone else is going off the deep end while you have them all figured out. That must be reassuring.

Martin Brock June 17, 2008 at 9:09 pm

A.) how do you know that he accepts what he says he accepts?

Well, I just assume that other people speak for themselves and you don't. Fancy that.

B.) you just made a giant case for children not being allowed to make their own decisions until they reach the age of majority.

No. I didn't make this case. I was born into a world governed this way for time without memory.

Did Clinton ask Elian what he wanted before he sent him back?

No. Clinton didn't send Elian back. Elian's father made the decision. If Elian's father had decided otherwise, Elian would still be here. A state decision overruling the father is what you're advocating here.

What? Now we're back to the age of majority?

We never left.

Okay. Of course, like all the other Cubans boarding rafts in the dead of night to float to Miami, he'll totally just be able to leave if he wanted.

I don't know how free he'll be, but I do know that thousands of Mexicans and other foreign nationals make similar trips every year, probably thousands every day in fact, and they aren't violating Cuban law. They're violating U.S. law.

You have no clue what it is to become a dissident in a country like Cuba.

I don't claim this knowledge and never have. You have no clue what it is to be Elian's father or grandmother, much less Elian himself.

Morons used to come to the Soviet Union, observe select locations under close observation and come back to the U.S. extolling the virtues of communism because they didn't see any of the horror that refuges described.

So? I've been a libertarian since before I could vote. I've never been to the Soviet Union or extolled its virtues.

They even called us refuges "disgruntled". You remind me of these people, Martin. Sadly. Very sadly.

Strange how I've never called you or anyone else "disgruntled" yet I remind you of these people. You don't have a shred of evidence for this claim either, but you do have a problem distinguishing your imagination from reality.

brotio June 17, 2008 at 11:22 pm

"No. Clinton didn't send Elian back. Elian's father made the decision. If Elian's father had decided otherwise, Elian would still be here. A state decision overruling the father is what you're advocating here."

Clinton DID send Elian back. The Justice Department raid was conducted because of the very real probability that Lazaro would have won in court.

Juan Gonzales' wishes were as irrelevant as yours or mine. Clinton wanted the boy returned to Cuba, and that's the only reason it happened. Had Clinton wanted the boy to remain in the US, he'd still be here.

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