DeFede

A Modest Proposal for Elian Gonzalez

The ruling last week by U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore left little doubt that Elian Gonzalez will be returned to his father in Cuba, and that this saga is now entering its final phase. Attorneys for the child's Miami relatives have filed their desperate, last-minute appeal, but they have virtually no chance of success. At best they will only delay the inevitable by a few weeks. Now that Moore has ruled, Attorney General Janet Reno says she will move promptly to reunite the six-year-old with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

Negotiations already have commenced to arrange a peaceful surrender of the child, while the attorney for Elian's father proclaims his client is ready to fly to the United States from Havana immediately to pick up his boy. In the meantime a vigil is now under way outside Elian's Miami home, as Cuban exile leaders meet to plot strategy. They are expected to call for mass demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience in an effort to keep Elian in Miami. Those efforts, however, also are doomed to fail.

As time grows short, supporters of the boy's Miami family are therefore left with only one option: Elian must die.

Naturally the decision to sacrifice this young lad is not an easy one. It cannot be taken lightly. And believe me when I say that if there were any alternative, I for one would be willing to listen. But as it stands now, this child could be returned to Cuba at any moment. Handing Fidel Castro such a stupendous propaganda victory is utterly unthinkable.

Time and again I've listened to the weepy pleas of Marisleysis Gonzalez (Elian's cousin, who has assumed the role of surrogate mother) as she begs the public to honor the wishes of Elian's real mother. I agree. Elian's mother decided she would rather have her boy drown in the Florida Straits than spend another minute in Cuba. The least we can do is honor that wish.

And let us not forget Judge Moore, in his ruling, found that every day Elian is kept away from Juan Miguel only causes the boy more harm. Thus prolonging separation from his father through legal maneuvering is nothing less than cruel.

So if he can't go home and he can't stay here, what other choice do we have?

None of us wants the world to think that we in Miami who believe the child must remain here -- no matter the cost -- are barbarians. I'm not suggesting, for instance, that we follow the mother's wishes literally by going to the beach at high tide and physically drowning Elian in the surf. We may be fanatics, but we're not sadists. In addition to the negative impact such a move might have on tourism, a public drowning could provoke comparisons to those women in China who kill their newborn girls by tossing them into a river. The absolute last thing we want is for Elian's death to be misinterpreted as tacit approval of social behavior in Red China, when the entire idea is to repudiate communism in all its forms.

In discussing this modest proposal with a friend recently, he suggested Elian could be snuffed as part of a lavish extravaganza, complete with leggy showgirls, singers, and acrobats; something campy, à la Havana's famed Tropicana circa 1955. The expected high demand for tickets would certainly justify holding the event at the swanky new American Airlines Arena.

Elian, dressed in a spiffy little tuxedo, would watch the show with his Miami relatives from one of the skyboxes. (The affair would be broadcast live around the world through a pay-per-view deal, which could easily pull in between $100 million and $150 million for the Miami clan.) Respected journalist Rick Sanchez would serve as master of ceremonies, a subtle reminder of how wonderful life was in Cuba prior to the revolution.

As a dramatic finale to the festivities, Elian would come down from the skybox and step onto the national stage for the last time. Holding his puppy under one arm, he'd smile, wave goodbye, and then be crushed by a metal cargo container filled with the thousands of toys and presents he received from well-wishers. On the sides of the container, which would be dropped from a great height, would be portraits of Fidel Castro. People could then boo and hiss at the dictator's image. The outpouring of emotion would be therapeutic, allowing the community to vent its rage in a responsible manner. After a few minutes, a stage curtain would slowly descend, and Gloria Estefan would step from the shadows singing "Wind Beneath My Wings."

There wouldn't be a dry eye in the house.

Some folks I've talked to believe that dropping a cargo container on Elian might be a bit too horrific, but I like the idea because it has a nice cartoonlike quality about it that would cut across demographics and appeal to viewers of all ages -- something akin to the Road Runner meets Sabado Gigante. True it could be a little messy during the cleanup, and I imagine the clenched fists at the Humane Society might get huffy and object to us squishing the puppy as well.

To be perfectly frank, though, getting hung up on the specific method used to dispatch Elian (garroting, immolation, firing squad, hemlock, toy-stuffed cargo container) can only be counterproductive. I suggest appointing a committee to explore the options and put forward a recommendation. With her credibility shining like a proud beacon, Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin would be an ideal fit to chair the committee. I'm confident we can find a compromise that is both humane and entertaining, and that doesn't cause us to lose sight of the real villains in all this.

I'm sure some readers must be saying, "DeFede, are you insane? You can't possibly be serious. Killing this innocent child would accomplish nothing. Why not secretly train Elian to be the world's youngest assassin, so when he returns to Cuba and is embraced by Castro, he could throttle el tirano with his bare hands? You know, a midget Bruce Lee."

Good point. Unfortunately after reviewing the curriculum at the Lincoln-Martí school Elian attends, we've learned that children only begin learning assassination techniques in the fifth grade. Apparently there's no point in teaching them to kill before they're taught to hate Jews and gays and communists. Besides, Elian wouldn't be able to get his tiny little hands around Castro's throat. Trust me, we've thought about it.

Now you're probably thinking: Okay, if we can't train him to be a pint-size assassin, why don't we surgically implant a powerful bomb inside him that could be detonated by remote control when Castro hugs him? The answer is that Castro could be expecting this. We can't take a chance that Cuban surgeons might simply remove the bomb, then return the child to his father.

The only logical choice left for Elian is martyrdom. It's God's will.

Remember the dolphins who beached themselves in the Florida Keys and died? Many in the exile community believe those were the same legendary dolphins who protected Elian while he was drifting along in the Gulf Stream waiting to be rescued. After their contact with Elian, the dolphins evidently decided it was better to die here in a free country than return to the waters off Cuba. Clearly a sign from God.

Once Elian is deceased, you can expect Pope John Paul II to expedite the canonization process. We mortals can do our part by naming streets for him, erecting statues in his honor, marking his birthday as an official holiday in Miami-Dade County, and immortalizing him in song, verse, and political pontification.

Best of all, Elian will remain forever young and innocent. He will always be the adorable little boy scampering around his front yard with his puppy. In death he will become a timeless image, an enduring icon, a symbol ripe for effective exploitation.

Just as he was in life.

jim.defede@miaminewtimes.com

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