60 Minutes: Pimp My Child!

The following is an editorial written for Babal? by a dear friend writing under the pen name Lola Candela:

60 Minutes: Pimp My Child!

It was never about the boy. Not for the supposed child advocates, the self-ordained rescue brigades, the foaming peanut galleries, the bigots unleashed. To them, Elian was simply a useful punctuation mark to freshen up their stale rhetoric.

Those of us who endured the hostility surrounding the case of Cuba’s most famous refugee boy know this all too well. It was never about Elian for them. And it was never about Cuba. It never has been, not for them. For all they care, Cuba and its people can sink into the ocean. Like Elian’s mother. Did they utter her name on the evening news? Did they rally around her in the New York Times? Did they, in the Clinton White House, in the leagues of Janet Reno’s true believers, or in the ranks of American “feminism,” pause to consider the tragedy of her life and the irony of her death?

Of course not. The Elian story was never about her, either. It was about what it’s always about – U.S. foreign policy and its consequences. That’s the angle, the one that pumps up castro and skewers his critics.

We in the Cuban diaspora so naively want to believe the rest of the country gives a rat’s ass about us. We’re the freedom-loving embodiment of the American Dream. Surely they share our pain and celebrate our success, we’ve told ourselves for too many decades. And, frankly, we’re so self-involved at times that we don’t stop to read the writing on the wall. Or if we do, we refuse to believe it’s meant for us. Oh, they must be talking about the Haitians or the Nicaraguans. That’s what we always told ourselves.

But a 6-year-old boy proved us wrong. He proved how alone we are.

The exile reality surrounding the Elian saga, the reality few on the outside dared to see, was a complex one. Many of us wanted the boy to stay in Miami, yes. But many of us simply wanted Elian’s father to be man enough to come for his son. We wanted him to be as brave as Elian’s mother had been. We wanted the burden of logistics to be on him – not on his traumatized child. We wanted him to prove his independence from the Cuban government by saying, “I’m not afraid, y’all. I’m coming to Miami.” We wanted him to do this not for us, but for Elian, to prove to the boy that he would protect him from whatever nefarious forces lie in his future.

But that didn’t happen. Elian’s daddy allowed himself to be played by two governments. He surrendered his child long before the kid landed in Cuba. Not only did he fork him over to castro, he handed him on a platter to visiting dignitaries and TV crews.

In the heat of April 2000, one might have argued that Juan Miguel Gonzalez feared for the safety of the wife and toddler he left behind in Cuba. He has no choice, we might have said. And that was bullshit. If ever he had a choice it was then, when the world’s cameras were focused on him, when his words were being broadcast live across the planet. What better protection does a Cuban father have than that? But he proved to be a monumental wimp, a coward who would allow the feared Border Patrol Tactical Unit to storm his kid’s bedroom and drag him away at gunpoint. Tell me, where will this kid ever feel safe again? I mean, father of the fucking year.

Of course, the media have lavished no such scrutiny on Juan Miguel Gonzalez. Nor have they grilled fidel castro for shamelessly pimping this child. Nor have they paused to review the complexities, the red flags they missed, the questions they never asked. (Remember the official Cuban delegation shrink who tried to smuggle in psychotropic drugs for the newly “liberated” Elian in Wye, MD?)

Five years after the BORTAC thugs yanked Elian out of Little Havana, we in Cuban Miami still hold the distinction of being the most scrutinized players in that drama.

It’s now curious to see the boy’s words held up by 60 Minutes – and by every outlet who reported on Sunday’s broadcast – as headline-grabbing news.

castro is his friend!

The Miami kin held him against his will!

Read all about it!

Yet they shrugged at Elian’s words in Miami. He was coerced, poor child.

The truth is it’s grossly inappropriate to shove a microphone in this boy’s face – it was wrong in Miami, and it’s wrong in Cardenas.

But while we’re not afraid to do a little soul searching, ask some meaningful questions, and review the larger lessons of Elian, they’re incapable or unwilling to do the same.

That’s why, for us, the greatest lesson of Elian was the realization that he came to show us who we are:

We’re that refugee child adrift in a hostile sea.

Lola Candela is an alias.

12 thoughts on “60 Minutes: Pimp My Child!”

  1. What we Cuban Americans need is a think tank that’ll produce scholarly books, pamphlets, films, paid advertisements, etc.. analysizing the role of the American media in perpetuating Fidel Castro. What CBS did last night is the same thing that Dan Rather did when he interviewed Elian’s father and what the late Peter Jennings, or Barbara Walters used to do when they interview Fidel. The list of examples is endless. It’s always the same thing, Castro or his minions are asked leading questions, they are never contradicted in anyway and whatever the Cuban government says is taken at face value. Now this is the same news media that will tear the Bush Administration to shreds, the same news media that will push conservative republicans against the wall until they are gasping for air and the same media that will do microscopic research into a story when they want to, yet with Fidel Castro and Cuba they seem to be utterly ignorant. They don’t no about dissidents in jail, they don’t know about Las Escuelas al campo where children are forced to harvest crops in order to pay for their “free education” and they don’t seem to understand that Fidel Castro has turned Elian into a trophy boy and has gone as far as building a statue of Elian in El Malecon. Wasn’t he supposed to go to Cuba to lead a “normal life?”
    Why all of these interviews and attention? This doesn’t seem to be the life of a normal boy.

    Undoubtedly, one of the reasons that Castro is still in power is because of the American media. By the way, it should be noted that Fidel Castro always creates smoke screens when things aren’t going well for him inside Cuba. He is AGAIN currently cracking down on dissidents and there are dissidents on hunger strikes inside Cuba. This interview could be part of his strategem to refocus attention away from his internal problems. It certainly serves that purpose.

  2. As an “outsider” to the “diaspora” and to the “cuban” in Cuba – I scan this blog with interest frequently. I don’t know what the answers are; I’ve spent many years back and forth to Cuba – staying in remote areas with families, staying in the tourist spots watching my “brothers & sisters” take advantage of the desperation of the “disadvantaged.” I have “felt” a basic “contentment” in the peoples – or, I ask, is it “resignation” because of a sense of “hopelessness”? I have been told to “hold my tongue” while strolling through the streets of Habana or tourist Varadero…for “people” are listening – when I comment on something that saddens or angers me – on the injustices so apparent. I have hated my own people and those from other countries who force acts upon a people stripping them of all sense of pride – in desperation to feed and clothe their families. I have tried to “imagine” what it must be like for the disapora – to know that they may never see family or friends again. I have shared in discussions with many – of the love for the land. I have spent hours and days in one of your “houses of justice” and your “jails” in Cardenas…trying to get someone out; being told the person is not there, being lied to and mocked…and ultimately when I produced $…the person was “found, paid for and released.” I condemn my justice system but in comparison it is just. I have hated people – an emotion new and foreign to me – in Cuba – for stripping and stomping on the down-trodden, the poor, the illiterate, the widow – their own brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers….and still I CANNOT IMAGINE what it is like to be a “citizen” – exiled or otherwise – except to compare my experiences in Cuba to those of working in our prison system in my home country…at least I knew, that at the end of the day, I could open a door and leave. The choice was mine.

    Elian – when I was in Cuba friends would point to his house in Cardenas as we passed and tell me with almost a national pride, like this child was a hero “Elian lives there.” And I thought to myself – so what? Last evening as I watched him on 60 Minutes…it felt like it was a witness I’d prepped for a trial, feeding him tapes and information so that when the “day in court” arrived, it was like flicking a switch and the “right words flowed out.” ALSO it felt like situations I’ve experienced in family law – where the “spouses” use the “child” as a “pawn” in a chess game – to “make the last move,” or have the “last say,” – not caring one iota what it was doing to this “child” that both parents “professed to love and want the best for above all else.” WORDS, empty words from both of them. The same applies to what little I have seen, what little I know – about this “Elian thing.”

  3. I still don’t know what Elian’s mother’s name was. But it strikes me – in a way that it will never strike the apologists-in-perpetuity for castro and his regime – that mothers do not fling themselves upon shark infested waters with their children to face a better than average chance of ending up dead simply to flee from “free health care” and “100% literacy,” the snarky sniping by bloated disgusting mentally retarded millionaire marxist organgutans like Michael Moore notwithstanding.

    The very fact that she did what she did testifies to the truth of claims of how bad things have become on the island, and no amount of chanting “freeeee health care” changes that. The fact that her act bears witness to something liberals wish to deny presents much of the drive to conceal and to pretend and to sweep the unwanted truth under the rug by sending a kid back to his captors so that they can wash his brain of truths _they_ wish concealed from their subjects.

    I don’t know if a way exists to explain this to the people who don’t understand what really happened here, because I don’t think they can allow themselves to believe any different without risking an avalanche of unwanted self-awareness about what they are and how flimsy their pretense of standing up for the little guy is. To admit the wrong they did Elian Gonzales opens floodgates to admitting things like how wrong they’ve been historically to sell out large portions of humanity to brutal communist regimes.

    That one drop of blood on their hands might make them aware of the fact that they’re covered in it up to their nostrils.

  4. Lola:

    Thank you. The pro-Castro propaganda effort in the media is done by relatively few, who spread it as “fact,” then re-elicit these “facts” from a larger group of faithful. We simple have to keep at it, never give up.

    One can take some comfort in the situation Castro finds himself in now. He must stay in power, or he will be killed or imprisoned. As he gets older this is harder and harder to do. He is at the stage where dictators such as Oliver Cromwell and Stalin were in, tired, old, and not daring to sleep in one place every night. It is a horrendous and deserved punishment…..

    take care and be well


  5. Catching my eye: morning A through Z

    Here’s what’s caught my eye this morning:

    Guest blogger “Lola Candela” on Babalu Blog disapproved of the ^0 Minutes segment on Elian Gonzales last night.
    Bird’s Eye View has a review of the world premier of John Ada…

  6. The truth is it’s grossly inappropriate to shove a microphone in this boy’s face – it was wrong in Miami, and it’s wrong in Cardenas.

    I think “people” still wanted to get back at the Miami family for the video they produced of Elian saying he did not want to go back. Guess this was their attmept.

  7. Wow…the little boy was 5 or 6 at the time, and now at the ripe-old-age of 11 he is giving “the interview”! “Pimp My Child!” is the appropriate term for all parties concerned, and frankly all are guilty!

  8. It appears to me that many Americans; particularly Democrats, appear to have lost some sense of themselves and the idea that the United States is a land of oppurtunity and free enterprise. A place where a person with initiative and self-reliance can make something of themselves.

    This might be a bit rich coming from a foreign national; but the renouncing of these principles is manifesting itself in abysmal public education and health systems; the Social Security system which sees an entire generation living off the labor of the next, and a bureacracy that is constantly expanding and enveloping almost all aspects of our daily lives.

    Dragging a small child out of his extended family’s house after he has lost his mother in an attempt to escape a nation where he has no freedom, no oppurtunity and no future and sending him back to this awful country; to a dictator with a God complex, is hardly in his best interest. He might have broken a rule, but scores of Mexicans jump the US border every day and the US Government doesn’t give a damn about them.

    One of the worst parts of this sorry chapter is that the only people who tried to help Elian, his family in Miami, were the most demonised and despised.

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