Victor Bloom MD
The best interests of the child were served when Elian was returned to his father. The six year old Cuban boy was traumatized by the fact that he was in a shipwreck in which his mother drowned. The mother was fleeing to America with her boyfriend, presumably without the knowledge or permission of the father, with whom Elian had had a close relationship. It is well known that when a child suffers such a great loss as the death of his mother, he is best comforted and reassured by the surviving parent, especially if he had been closely involved.
Unfortunately and unluckily, Elian was 'rescued' by distant relatives in Little Havana, an enclave of Cuban exiles, many of whom fled to Miami when Fidel Castro's revolution deposed the previous ruthless fascist dictator, Battista. Some will remember that at first Castro was heralded as a hero in the US press, and even appeared on the Johnny Carson show. Soon thereafter he was cast aside when he refused to take American aid to become another 'Banana Republic,' even more unfortunately, Castro turned to the Soviet Union for aid, and Cuba became a Russian satellite close to our shores, and in the Cold War, a potential military threat.
Sure enough, eventually the Soviets secretly tried to make Cuba into a missle base to balance out the nuclear brinkmanship at the time. We had ICBM's in Turkey, close to Russia, and they wanted an equivalent strike force close to our shores, to equalize the 'balance of power,' which was also a 'balance of terror.' Fortunately, the Cuban missile crisis was resolved without a nuclear catastrophe, but what remained was an embargo, which limited Cuba's ability to prosper and develop. Castro stayed in power and exercised totalitarian control. We got our sugar, bananas and cigars from elsewhere. Some claim the Cuban Mafia connection had something to do with the assassination of president Kennedy, who reportedly tried to get the Mafia to assassinate Castro. Our Bay of Pigs invasion was a fiasco and a sad blot on our military history and foreign policy.
Cubans who wanted freedom from communist domination and control fled to the United States, first illegally and then legally. They formed a powerful ethnic group in Miami and became a political force. They beat the drum to eventually return Cuba to democracy and capitalism. Outside of Florida, nobody paid much attention to them. With the rescue of Elian Gonzalez, Little Havana was in the news. Elian became a religious icon. It was said that dolphins rescued him from shark infested waters and he was treated like a little Moses and was called the Dalai Lama of Little Havana. The Cuban exiles took the opportunity to parade their religious affiliation to contrast the atheistic communist state that restricted religious freedom. The demonstrators displayed religious symbols and even prayed to a shroud which was said to have been cast from the shadow of this special boy.
Of course the boy responded to all this attention and adulation. It distracted him from the loss of his mother, a loss he denied, and missing his father, who was back in Cuba. The father was relatively successful there and sympathetic to the communist regime. The New York Times did a great job of investigative reporting, showing that Elian's family was typical of the stress, turmoil and disruption of family members with divided loyalties and affiliations, some in Cuba, some in the United States, the old grandmothers striving to get the families together in one place. Elian's grandma hoped that Elian's being in Miami would induce the father to emigrate, bringing yet another family member to America.
The family showered Elian with gifts and trips and a puppy dog, hoping to win his affection and loyalty, and produced a video based on convincing this vulnerable child to say he wanted to stay in America, that he didn't want to return to Cuba. Ironically, now that he is with his father near Washington, they are accusing the father of brainwashing him to return to his homeland of Cuba. And amazingly, a federal court is actually considering letting the six year old decide where he will stay, under a law permitting residence for those seeking asylum, a law with no mention of age restrictions.
How many thinking Americans will support the idea of a gullible, traumatized and immature boy knowing what is good for him, what is in his best interest? The majority of unbiassed, child experts are clear that the best interests of the boy at this time and at his age and considering the loss of his mother, is to be with his father, whether here or there. He needs the love and support from those closest to him when he was a baby, not those who barely know him, who have kept him from his father, actually keeping him hostage from the immigration authorities. It was these relatives who gave the government no choice but to seize him in a surprise raid.
If possession is nine tenths of the law, it was necessary for the good guys, in this case our own government, to get possession, and that is what they did. Now, for the first time, Elian is in a position to deal with his loss, slowly and gradually, surrounded with the love and affection of his natural father. His biggest trauma, next to he loss of his mother, was his weird captivity by distant relatives, gushing love while taking every opportunity to sensationalize their minority cause to the press, creating a veritable circus. This defiance of the law was intolerable, and preventing access to the father was inexcusable. It is well known that captives develop ties to their captors as time goes by.
Finally, the prolonged conflict is over and finally, the best interests of the child are finally to be served. Elian reacts like a strong, well-loved and resilient boy, one who has been raised with warmth and affection, and the chances of his surmounting this trauma are actually quite great.
Dr Bloom is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University School of Medicine. He is a member of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and on the editorial board of the Wayne County Medical Society. He welcomes comments at his email address--- firstname.lastname@example.org.