Elian Gonzalez, Communist Cuba, and “Father’s Rights”: An Interview with Psychologist Edwin Locke

by | Jan 20, 2000 | Cuba & Castro, CULTURE

Prodos for Capitalism Magazine: You have been very busy lately talking about Elián Gonzalez and the argument of whether to keep him in America or to return him to Cuba. You’ve been talking to a lot of the media on this issue. I’m pleased to see that the issue is taken very seriously and that […]

Prodos for Capitalism Magazine: You have been very busy lately talking about Elián Gonzalez and the argument of whether to keep him in America or to return him to Cuba. You’ve been talking to a lot of the media on this issue. I’m pleased to see that the issue is taken very seriously and that this poor kid is not just being dismissed. Can you give us a bit of an idea of what is happening for and against Elián’s situation?

Edwin Locke: Well the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) has decided to deport him or send him back to his father and the Cuban American Committee in Miami is fighting that and who knows where this will all end. Maybe if they can fight it long enough maybe it’ll go to the Supreme Court.

Capitalism Magazine: So there is that option still available?

Edwin Locke: I’m not sure how it works in cases like this, but I hope they can fight it in the courts.

Capitalism Magazine: So the INS seems to have determined that he should go back to his father in Cuba but the INS don’t have the final say on this?

Edwin Locke: Well they do unless they can get a Court Order staying that ruling – which is what they’re trying to do.

Capitalism Magazine: Is this a big publicity stunt by Fidel Castro?

Edwin Locke: Well from his point of view it is, because since his entire regime has been a complete failure he really survives by trying to make the US into the cause of his own vicious and irrational policies. So any excuse he can find to blame something on the US he does as a way of diverting attention from his own failures.

Capitalism Magazine: Whose attention is he actually diverting Ed? Is it the Cubans’ or the world’s.

Edwin Locke: From his own people.

Capitalism Magazine: Right. Are they that silly?

Edwin Locke: Well you have probably three kinds of people in Cuba. You have people who love Communism – probably those who are people in power and people in the secret police. And then you have people who are probably completely indifferent to everything and don’t care any way one way or the other. And then you have people who would like to overthrow him or escape and that group – if it gets too big – could be dangerous [to Castro].

Capitalism Magazine: I see. So what Fidel Castro and many dictators and oppressors seem to appreciate is the importance of moral arguments and good publicity. That’s something which the free world seems to have not worked out yet. Would you like to comment on that?

Edwin Locke: Well, either that or they don’t understand how to apply morality in this case. And I think the biggest confusion is the rights of the parents versus the right of the child. The fundamental principles is that the rights of the individual always come first. That’s recognized in other cases – like if a child is sexually abused by a parent – he is taken away from the parent – and justifiably so. But they don’t seem to grasp that sending somebody to a dictatorship is morally worse than sexual abuse because it’s condemning him to a lifetime of slavery.

Capitalism Magazine: Yes, exactly! There’s no way that he can get out of it. At least in a free world he can get therapy, he can talk to good people.

Edwin Locke: Right he can his father or his mother put in jail

Capitalism Magazine: (interrupting) Yes, but Cuba IS the jail!

Edwin Locke: He can get therapy and he can start his own life. People don’t understand that a dictatorship is more inimical to human life than is sexual abuse. That’s what they are not grasping it seems to me.

Capitalism Magazine: It seems that the INS in the USA is putting forward an argument based on the rights of the father. That the child rightfully ‘belongs’ to the father – and you’ve disputed that anyway – but even if that was so, then what about the rights of the mother who lost her life and even risked her child’s life fleeing from Cuba. Obviously she believed that death was better than dictatorship.

Edwin Locke: I don’t know if legally if a person’s intent has any standing in a case like this. Clearly the mother intended him to be free, and risked her life to be free.

Capitalism Magazine: If she’d written a Will, she could pass on her wealth and her wishes to her child why can’t she pass this on?

Edwin Locke: One would think that might help but it seems to have been ignored. But the father’s rights can never supercede the rights of the individual child. No parent’s rights can supercede the rights of the child. People don’t seem to grasp that sending your child to a dictatorship when they’re in a free country is a form of child abuse! Much more fundamental than beating them would be. Now, of course a lot of these people who are siding with the government like this big church group, they like Socialism, so they are hardly in a position . . .

Capitalism Magazine: (interrupting) But they’re in America aren’t they?

Edwin Locke: Oh yeah that’s true . . .

Capitalism Magazine: Wrong country! Wrong country!

Edwin Locke: Well, they like socialism, so they are pretending that he will be just fine over there because actually they consider that probably the ideal society for them.

Capitalism Magazine: Right

Edwin Locke: They care nothing about the child’s actual welfare. And neither by the way does the father. If the father really was concerned with the child’s welfare – if he really loved the child – he would be ECSTATIC to think that the child could grow up in a free country. And he would be delighted in it and if he had any sense of decency at all, would advocate the child stay there. And even better yet he would try to join him there.

Capitalism Magazine: So if Elián Gonzalez was your child – and you were in Cuba – you would be happy for him to escape to America?

Edwin Locke: I would INSIST on it! And I would try to go with him!

Capitalism Magazine: OK! Well his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, I understand has a new family and Elián had a stepfather. So in fact the father was not looking after the child in any case. He had already passed on the care of the child to the mother.

Capitalism Magazine: There a lot of MORAL issues here. One of these is to do with the nature of America. Earlier I read out a quote which is found inscribed at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty. It would seem to me that America is the sort of country you’d expect to welcome people who are willing to risk their lives to come and live there.

Edwin Locke: Exactly. So sending him back is not just a violation of his rights it’s really an abrogation of America’s founding principles. It would be one of the most shameful days in American history to send this boy back. And going back to your previous, although the father may or may not have had contact with the boy and may or may not really care, it’s really irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if he was living with him or not living with him. The point is the boy’s right to his own life supercedes any right the father has to send him back to slavery.

Capitalism Magazine: Yes. The arguments that have been put forward by people – by those supporting young Elián staying in the USA – have you found them to be good arguments, based on proper principles?

Edwin Locke: They seem to be kind of wishy-washy from what I’ve seen. But I haven’t been reading the Cuban press in Miami and maybe they’ve been hitting the issues correctly. But the stuff I’ve seen in the other papers has been kind of wishy-washy and they don’t really give much of an argument. Another thing that is interesting is no-one has ever mentioned if they’d ever talked to the boy about HIS desires.

Capitalism Magazine: Would that matter though?

Edwin Locke: Well, it’s an interesting question because he’s only six but if I were a judge ruling on this issue, I think I would at least talk to the boy. You know, if the boy says I don’t like it in America, I don’t care about freedom, I don’t care about dictatorship, I understand the difference and all I really want is to see my father I’d be inclined to send him back – even though he’s only six. Although I wouldn’t say I would make the child’s wishes a primary but I would certainly give them some consideration.

Capitalism Magazine: That’s an interesting point.

Edwin Locke: It’s complex because the child is not an adult – and how much can you expect him to understand the long-range issues involved. But it’s interesting no-one’s ever asked him

Capitalism Magazine: Can a six year old appreciate the concept of liberty versus dictatorship?

Edwin Locke: I think that if it’s concretized correctly for him and the child was reasonably intelligent he probably could. Not at the same depth as an adult – but he could grasp it in some form

Capitalism Magazine: How would you put it for a six year old if you were going to frame the question for a six year old?

Edwin Locke: I would say – the first thing would be – do you notice any difference between the two countries? And, did you know that in your country if you disagree with Castro you can be shot and in this country you are free to speak? Do you think that’s the kind of something that you would care about? Do you know in this country you can own your own house and in that country all the property is owned by the government?

Capitalism Magazine: But could a six year old grasp even things like that?

Edwin Locke: You could concretize things like that and see if it’s of any relevance to the child. So it’s a difficult thing but I’m surprised no-one’s mentioned whether the child has any opinions. It’s like he’s been left out of the equation. That might be relevant to a certain extent but I think if I were a judge I’d probably want to talk to him.

Capitalism Magazine: I’m still not sure that a six year old can understand those concepts. As I’m thinking through it, I’m just thinking back to when I was six years old – could I have understood it. I feel that I would have – perhaps I’m giving myself too much credit there. . .

Edwin Locke: Again, it’s a difficult issue and I’m not sure that his opinion would be a primary but it would be interesting to know what he thinks.

Capitalism Magazine: It would be interesting to know how a six year old thinks. I’ve never had children. Do you have children Dr Locke?

Edwin Locke: Yes, but they are older than that. I have one child and she’s 27 which is quite different.

Capitalism Magazine: Right, but she was six once though. She was once a six year old and do you think you could you have explained it to her then – the difference between freedom and dictatorship.

Edwin Locke: Oh, I think so. Yeah, I think so.

Capitalism Magazine: Young Elián’s father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez – we are hearing that he SUPPOSEDLY wants his child back – I personally believe that he doesn’t give a damn.

Edwin Locke: I suspect he doesn’t give a damn either, but now he’s become a symbol for Castro – so who knows what he really believes.

Capitalism Magazine: Well that’s the point. See, if he now takes the child back that gives Fidel Castro a victory and that makes him, the father, a national hero as well.


Edwin Locke: Yes, I think so. I think that’s the case.

Capitalism Magazine: Plus, also, his father being a Cuban in Cuba – his life and his family’s life would be expendable so if he doesn’t toe the line . . . I don’ t think what he says can be relied upon.

Edwin Locke: Yes. You don’t know what his real view is and you don’t know how the politics is affecting him. All that I can is that if he really loved that child he would glory in the child’s being in America.

Capitalism Magazine: I fully agree there. Do you think that the whole idea of multiculturalism has contributed to this predicament Dr Edwin Locke?

Edwin Locke: Probably so because, (multiculturalism maintains) . . . no one way is right and everybody has their own opinion . . . I mean High School students today will say (for example) how can you condemn the Holocaust – it’s just another view point.

Capitalism Magazine: Do they say that?

Edwin Locke: I’ve read that by things that teachers have written. (Students say that) because their minds have been destroyed. Especially their capacity for valuing and for identifying objective values. So that has probably contributed to it.

Capitalism Magazine: In other words multiculturalism renders it impossible to tell the difference between a Cuban and an American or an Australia.

Edwin Locke: If you accept it (multiculturalism) then everybody’s equal. Castro is no different than Thomas Jefferson.

Capitalism Magazine: (Laughs, appalled) My gosh! The INS actually went to Cuba I understand and spoke with the boy’s father. Do you have any information about that?

Edwin Locke: No. I know the Church folks went to Cuba and spoke with the boy ‘s father and they thought everything was just fine.

Capitalism Magazine: (sarcastically) Oh yeah.

Edwin Locke: But again to me, it’s irrelevant. It shouldn’t even enter into the case.

Capitalism Magazine: Well what about an agency like the INS? It reminds me a little bit of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ where the job of the firemen was – not to put out fires – but to ignite fires. The INS seems to be an agency dedicated to its role in reversal.

Edwin Locke: Well, their basic function is keeping people out. And, of course, if its terrorists you say good for them – let’s keep them out. But their basic role in life is to keep people out of the country. That’s all they do. And that’s fine if they are terrorists or criminals and the like, but they should understand issues like this are totally different. And you know, if Clinton had any sense of decency and courage he would intervene in this case and just grant the boy asylum – which I would assume, is within his power to do.

Capitalism Magazine: What has America got to gain or lose – what does the Administration think it’s got to gain or loose by sending the boy back? I would have thought that America could have come forward and made a bold, strident statement in favor of liberty and against Castro by keeping the boy!

Edwin Locke: Since Clinton has no principles . . .

Capitalism Magazine: (Laughs)

Edwin Locke:. . . it really doesn’t matter to him what happens. So he wouldn’t know the difference between the good and the bad anyway. That’s probably why he hasn’t intervened. If he had any sense of decency and history and what America stands for he would have intervened long ago in this and just made a ruling.

Capitalism Magazine: I would have thought that he could make an actual crusade out of this. He could actually . . . I mean what’s he got to lose? Fidel Castro can’t do anything to America – so why not rub Castro’s nose into the ground on this one?

Edwin Locke: Castro’s view should be completely ignored. He is irrelevant to the world, he is irrelevant in history, his views should have no play whatsoever. The only principle involved is the boy’s right to his own life.

Capitalism Magazine: I understand a lot of Cubans are pretty energetic about getting out of Cuba.

Edwin Locke: They risk their lives everyday to get out as this boy’s mother did. And some die in the process, and hundreds of thousands have done that.

Capitalism Magazine: Just one final question Dr Edwin Locke and that is, for those who want to defend Elián Gonzalez staying in America what would you suggest that they argue, and what would you suggest that they do not argue?

Edwin Locke: If they’re lawyers I would ask them to offer their services. Maybe this could be gotten to the Supreme Court somehow. If they’re others, I would say – any kind of publicity that they can arouse – any kind of pressure that they can put on the White House or any kind of public statement that they can make would be good. But you have to defend this boy on the correct grounds and that is his right to his own life and the evil of sending him to a dictatorship when he’s in a free country. And that this supercedes any claimed, alleged, right of a parent. I consider any parent who would advocate taking a child from a free country and bringing him to a dictatorship to be a monster.

Capitalism Magazine: I’ve got a further question for you. I’m interested in your confidence in the Supreme Court. So do you feel confident that if it got to the Supreme Court that it would be ruled that he could stay?

Edwin Locke: It’s a good question. I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe they could get a temporary stay by bringing it in before, like, Clarence Thomas or someone. But in the end I really don’t know how they would rule. I haven’t studied their philosophy and I don’t know it, obviously it has many mixed premises but it might be the only chance.

Capitalism Magazine: Should the INS be scrapped?

Edwin Locke: No, I think you have to have people watching the borders because you don’t want certain people to come into the country. And we wouldn’t really have to worry about the INS because they can be overruled but somebody has got to have the courage to do that.

Prodos Marinakis runs an online radio show at prodos.com

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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