|Monday, April 24, 2000||
Volume 65, Issue 139
Trevino on Elian
Ed De La Garza
A nice, quiet Easter Vigil
The Justice department finally took matters into its own hands and seized six-year-old Elian Gonzalez from his relatives' Miami home. Eight armed federal agents broke down the door, looking for the boy, before finding him in a closet, in the arms of Donato Dalrymple, one of the fishermen who rescued him on Thanksgiving Day ‘99.
The editors at "Houston's leading information source" chose to run the image of the agent with a gun pointed in the general direction of Elian, being held by the shocked and confused Dalrymple. The caption made sure to point out that the gun was set on safety. Oh, then there was that small photo of Elian mere hours later, being held by his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.
Few can fault the Chronicle's decision. Many, if not most, of the nation's newspapers chose to run that photo prominently across their front pages. It certainly says more than the reunion photo.
What's troubling about the image of a screaming child being carried away early Easter Vigil morning is who's at fault.
For five months, Elian was deified, turned into a Christ-like figure. On Saturday morning, he was effectively crucified -- not by the government, but by his Miami relatives.
This was their fault -- not Janet Reno's, not President Clinton's, not Juan Miguel Gonzalez'. They could never understand that it didn't matter what they could provide for him (even that's debatable, given the fact that Elian's uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, didn't have an exemplary employment record and had been arrested for drunk driving). His father was alive and he demanded custody. He had every legal right.
When Elian was shown on the Spanish language Univision network telling his father that he didn't want to go back to Cuba, that should have been the end of the family's joyride as media darlings. Elian spent five months being Americanized, thinking that living in the United States was all about having hordes of supporters on the front lawn and that Cuba was a horrible place.
Havana may not be the best place to grow up, but Juan Miguel seems to have done all right for himself. If you keep Elian on American soil, what will you do about the thousands of illegal immigrants deported every day? Why are they sent back to Mexico -- because they're not cute children?
Although Gov. George W. Bush turned the issue into a political one,
this was about a boy who was finally reunited with his father. If the boy
is traumatized because of this weekend's events, don't blame the government.
Blame the family.