Keep Elian Free

by | Jan 17, 2000

The debate over Elián Gonzalez, the 6-year-old Cuban boy whose mother died trying to bring him to America, hinges on one essential question: Is freedom a necessity of human life? For our own sakes, we must answer this question with a resounding “Yes”–and keep Elián in the United States. Elián was brought to America by […]

The debate over Elián Gonzalez, the 6-year-old Cuban boy whose mother died trying to bring him to America, hinges on one essential question: Is freedom a necessity of human life? For our own sakes, we must answer this question with a resounding “Yes”–and keep Elián in the United States.

Elián was brought to America by his mother and stepfather, both of whom died during the dangerous crossing from Cuba. The very fact that people will risk such a crossing speaks volumes about Fidel Castro’s communist dictatorship.

In a dictatorship, the individual is regarded as having no rights; his person and property may be disposed of by the state at whim. He has no right to choose his own career, to run his own business, to think independently, to attempt to change the political regime under which he lives, or even to leave for a freer country. It is the prerogative of the dictator to give orders, and if the citizen does not obey, he will be beaten, imprisoned, tortured, killed. Over the past forty years, thousands have suffered and died in Castro’s gulags. What parent would want his child to live in this kind of environment?

Like the desperate people who scaled the Berlin Wall during the Cold War, Elián’s mother and stepfather realized that a truly human life is not possible under dictatorship–and that any risk was worth taking to live in freedom.

This love of freedom is a basic American value, expressed best in the words of Patrick Henry: “Give me liberty or give me death.” But that value is now being betrayed wholesale by our nation’s leaders. Elián’s father has demanded that the boy be taken away from his relatives in the US and returned to Cuba, and the Immigration and Naturalization service, with the approval of Janet Reno and President Clinton, has ordered that Elián be returned. Most on the left approve, declaring that life in Cuba is no worse than life in the US and screaming that we have no right to “force our values”–values such as freedom–onto other nations. This should be no surprise; the left’s self-righteous talk about “human rights” has always applied only to fascist dictatorships, not communist ones.

The right, for its part, has offered only a weak defense of Elián’s rights. Congressional Republicans have declared that they will hand over the boy only if his father comes to the US to claim him. It is true that the father’s own wishes cannot be ascertained while he is still in Cuba and thus not free to speak. But this argument implies that if the father really did want to bring his son back to live in a dictatorship, he should be allowed to do so. Unfortunately, the conservatives’ allegiance to so-called “family values” leads them to sacrifice the rights of the child to the alleged rights of the parent.

But in fact, Elián’s father has no right to bring his son back to Cuba. Just as the courts would never recognize a parent’s right to sell his child into slavery–so they should reject out of hand Juan Miguel Gonzalez’s request to force his son to live in a slave state. Family law in America clearly recognizes that a parent has no right to abuse or neglect his child. But bringing a child back to Cuba is equivalent to abuse. The legal standard in these cases is the “best interests” of the child. And who can doubt that Elián’s best interests would be served by living in freedom?

America is the one country in the world explicitly founded on the affirmation of freedom and individual rights. We stand for the rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”–rights that are systematically denied and attacked in Cuba. If we do not affirm that freedom is a necessity of human life–if we do not make Elián’s freedom the paramount consideration in deciding where he should live–then we will betray that legacy.

Robert Tracinski was a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute from 2000 to 2004. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Mr. Tracinski is editor and publisher of The Intellectual Activist and TIADaily, which offer daily news and analysis from a pro-reason, pro-individualist perspective. To receive a free 30-day trial of the TIA Daily and a FREE pdf issue of the Intellectual Activist please go to TIADaily.com and enter your email address.

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.

Have a comment?

Post your response in our Capitalism Community on X.

Related articles

No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

Pin It on Pinterest