Once upon a time...
Just as the Soviets were putting up a wall cutting the City of Berlin in half, a small group of East Germans decided to make a break for freedom. At first, the barrier was only a mix of concrete block and barbed wire. They decided to cross before the wall became solid concrete. They were determined to reach the freedom of West Berlin – even if it cost them their lives.
The small band consisted of a divorced mother, her six-year-old son, and a handful of their friends. Besides her desire for her son to grow up in the freedom of the West, the mother wanted to reach West Berlin for personal reasons as well. During their marriage, the boy’s father had abused her, had been unfaithful and had shown little or no interest in the boy. In fact, since the divorce, the father had not visited the boy and was living with another woman.
With few worldly possessions to leave behind, with no male role model for the boy to look up to, with no child support, with the bleakness of the East German economy and because of constant oppression by the communist government and the secret police, the mother vowed to take her boy to freedom – even at the risk of her own life. Fortunately, she and her boy had relatives in West Berlin who would care for them until she could find work.
On a moonless night, the mother, her boy and the others began to crawl across the “death zone” separating East and West Berlin. One of men used wire cutters to open a small opening in the barbed wire. They helped the boy through the wire and were in the process of pulling his mother to freedom and safety when a night-piercing spotlight almost blinded them. But the light allowed the mother to see her boy being helped by American soldiers into the safety of a guardhouse marked “Checkpoint Charlie.”
A guttural voice from a nearby guard tower shouted: “Halt, oder Ich schiesse!”
Desperately, the men tried to pull the mother through the opening in the wire. But her belt caught in the barbs and they couldn’t pull her free. A stream of machine-gun fire erupted from the guard tower. It cut the mother in half. Her last thoughts were of her son. She smiled at the thought of how she had seen him embraced by the American soldiers. She died in the wire.
The little boy cried and cried over the loss of his mother. But because his father had, in essence, abandoned him in East Berlin, he shed no tears over him. His relatives in West Berlin loved him, gave him toys, provided good food and arranged for his schooling.
Then, one day a West German official served an order on the boy’s relatives stating that immigration rules required the boy to be returned to the custody of his father in East Berlin. How would you have reacted, gentle reader, to such an action by the West German Government?
Now, let’s alter this sad story a bit. For East Berlin, let’s substitute Havana, Cuba. Replace West Berlin with Miami, Florida. For the people involved, let’s substitute little Elian Gonzalez, his mother, his father and the boy’s relatives in Miami. Instead of the Berlin Wall, substitute 90 miles of ocean separating Havana and Miami.
All of the facts about the divorce, the attitude of Elian’s father toward the boy when he was living under communism and the mother’s dying attempt to bring her boy to freedom are exactly the same. So why are Bill Clinton, and Janet Reno insisting that Elian Gonzalez must go back to communist Cuba?
Across the American southwest, local authorities report truckloads of illegal aliens to the Immigration and Naturalization Service and virtually nothing is done about it. So, why pick on this one little boy? If you figure it out, let me know.
William Hamilton is a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today.