February 22, 2000
by Jay Higginbotham
The Elićn Gonzćlez affair, far from being merely a struggle between individuals and families, or even between the United States and Cuba, has much broader implications, even world-wide in scope.
The reason for this vital importance is due to international perception and world leadership. Since World War II, by virtue of our economic and military might, the United States has asserted itself as the pre-eminent international power. A nation assuming world leadership, however, needs not only wealth and power in its arsenal but also good will and fairness; otherwise, it risks the support of other nations, many with high standards of justice and respect. Thus, the importance of Elian Gonzalez.
If, as the international community readily recognizes, the inner tube carrying Elian had been conveying any other child from any other country in the world, that child would immediately have been returned to his father and grandparents. In this instance, however, lobbied by certain Miami partisans, few of our national leaders (and none of the aspiring presidential candidates) have been willing to speak out. The Clinton administration, while knowing and sometimes saying the right things, has failed to move decisively, fearing no doubt the reaction in Miami.
The world at large, however, does not grasp the intricate workings of the Cuban American National Foundation in our intrafederal politics. The majority of people everywhere perceive only the actions of the United States as a nation. And our treatment of Elian is not an action many admire. In fact, no other country on earth approves our handling of the Elian affair or of our embargo of Cuba.
Nor do the majority of Americans support such actions. Our governments reason for the embargo and our reason for detaining Elian have similar justifications: Cuba (so goes the myth) is a land devoid of democracy, human rights and material comforts. By this logic, we should never let a child go back to Haiti or Vietnam or any third world country. Be that as it may, a fundamental question should now objectively be addressed: Is Cuba really such an unhealthy a place to live and rear a child?
Despite the poverty that Washington and Miami have for nearly forty years sought by every possible means to inflict, Cuba is still not as impoverished as many neighborhoods in numerous American cities. Using its scarce assets, the Cuban government has put more of its nations resources back into helping its people than perhaps any country on earth. This is why, despite the relative diligence we have helped bring on, Cuba has made greater advances in the major problem areas affecting all societies than has the United States -- notably in education, in health care and in crime prevention. Compared to the U.S., there are no drugs in Cuba, no guns, no murders, no racism, no homelessness, no illiteracy, no AIDS, no executions and far fewer prisons and prisoners.
Most of humanity now recognizes this (the last U.N. vote was 157-2 to end the Cuba embargo) and every civilized nation is appalled that the mightiest nation on earth could for so long deprive needy people of vital medicines and medical equipment, costing the lives of many thousands.
If the United States is to maintain its respect in the world, we must take greater pains to act more responsibly and fairly. We cannot remain a credible world leader if we are perceived as the worlds bully. We cannot attack China for bullying Taiwan if we are doing the same thing in our own hemisphere.
Equally important, Americans must wake up to the wrongs we have committed toward our island neighbor and judge Cuba with more balance. Its obvious that Cuba is no threat to the United States, but we sometimes forget what a threat we are to Cuba. What would our reaction be if a nation twenty-five times our population and eighty times our size (this, incidentally, would be a nation the size of the rest of the world) were to surround us with a blockade for forty years, cause a depression in our land, and hatch over 600 plots and 28 overt attempts to assassinate our president? I.e., do everything humanly possible to bring down our government. Under such threats to our very survival, would we maintain our liberal standards of civil liberties?
In truth, Cuba is not our enemy at all. Not only is Cuba no threat to our security, but the Cuban government has taken great pains to insure the well-being of all its citizens, including the young, the aged and the infirm.
Make no mistake about it. Our current policy toward Cuba reverberates around the globe and poisons our efforts to encourage other governments to act responsibly. It infuriates most of Europe, as well as Russia and China, and reinforces the Muslim notion that the U.S. is an arrogant rodman able to be confronted only by terrorism.
If the United States wishes to serve as an example, we must act honorably. And we can easily do so. By dropping the blockade of Cuba and trying to help compensate for the decades of misery we have helped bring to an innocent, well-meaning people, we would not only restore some of our lost prestige, we could even inspire other nations to act more responsibly.
The first step in achieving this is to send Elian back to his family.
Jay Higginbotham is Chairman of Society Mobile-La Habana
WHEREAS, this Society has long striven to end the unnatural and unnecessary estrangement between Mobile and its sister city Havana and between the United States and Cuba, and
WHEREAS, our efforts have included several years of educational, cultural, medical, and personal exchanges between citizens of Mobile and Havana, and
WHEREAS, history has intimately linked Mobile with Havana and Cuba for centuries, despite the divisive disputes between our national governments in recent decades, and
WHEREAS, our attempts to help bridge this rift are now in jeopardy because of the furor and rancor over the presence of young Elian Gonzalez in Miami,
THEREFORE, the assembled members of the Society Mobile - La Habana voted their unanimous resolve on February 1, 2000
THAT Elian Gonzalez should be promptly returned to his father and family in Cuba as a living emblem of hope for the full restoration of the shared history and the common humanity of the people of Mobile and Havana and the people of the United States and Cuba, and
THAT copies of this resolution be presented to appropriate authorities in the United States and Cuba for their swift consideration and action.