In Which Our Hero Jumps On The Elian Bandwagon And Finds There Is No Room

It's been a while since I've had a fresh Droning. There are a lot of personal reasons why, too much overtime at work and too much dealing with actual human beings. If you want more information, bugger off, personal reasons means that they are PERSONAL.

What is mean to you, my loyal readers, is that I have not had enough time to watch the news and get all worked up over the latest piece of human sausage being fed into the 24 - 7 news machine to be ground up and made into our latest docudrama. The latest little "controversy" to be shoved down our throats like a brand new boy band is the whole Elian Gonzalez saga. Now I know that people are either fascinated by this or sick to death of it, but to me, it doesn't have anything to do with him.

Sure, the story is ready made for TV, a little 6 year old boy washes up on the shores of America through shark infested waters to live in the home of the free and the land of the 24 hour Wal-Mart. He has escaped the last Communist regime that we haven't decided to do business with and lives with a pair of distant relatives to be happy and productive ever after. However, as with all movies, TV shows and bad novels, there is a complication introduced in the second act. His father is alive and would like us to kindly send the little boy back home. If you know the three act structure of stories, the third act is now what we are in, where the two sides come into conflict and one wins while the other loses.

Every day in the paper, we get a headline showing us which side is winning that day. "Father Meets With Reno!" "Relatives Refuse To Surrender!" "Elian Wants Chocolate Milk!" The news programs break it down so that we can understand it simply, easily, in order to pick a side and argue about it on the internet, while at work, and in drunken brawls outside pubs. OK, so maybe I was the only one who would get into a rumble about Elian, but still, the potential is there.

MSNBC commits more time to talking about Elian than the boy spends time being awake. Diane Sawyer and the ABC vultures smell interview ratings and talk to him, getting him to reveal that he likes it here because he can go to Disney World. Last night, in a rare at home moment, I saw that they spent five minutes talking about the story on Entertainment Tonight. Just for comparison, that is the same as three hours to those of us with an attention span longer than a 7 year old after a dinner of Pixy Sticks, double espressos and crack cocaine. Am I the only person who looks at this and feels the same sort of revulsion as when I hear a fat guy in shorts get up off a leather chair on a hot, humid day?

Some facts, for those of you who haven't been paying attention, or have just been paying attention to TV. First, the mother came here with a sleazy boyfriend who made a living making shoddy boats for refugees and not much caring if they made it or not. The fact that he died in a shoddy boat would be ironic justice if it wasn't so pathetic. You would think that after making crappy boats for quick money, he would at least know all the mistakes and try to avoid them. Second, the father actually seems to like his kid. The usually comes as a shock to American audiences who have been programmed by years of media slant and judicial bias to think that fathers only want their children to get even with ex-spouses. In fact, in Cuba, the kid lived with him most nights. Third, EVERYONE involved is using the kid. Cuba is using him a symbol, the Miami community is using him as a symbol, the Uncle is using him to show what a defiant bad-ass he is, Congressmen are using him to show how tough they are on communism, the news is using him to get the audience that watched the Lifetime Channel and Providence, and I am using him to foam at the mouth and get pissed off enough to write something.

And we should all sit down, take a deep breath and think quietly to ourselves, "Why in the name of Gene Reyburn do we give a flaming blue hootie about what happens to this kid?" Sure he had a rough life, but you know what? We had a lot to do with making his life rough. We are the ones who refuse to trade with Cuba because they are Communists...even though China is far more repressive and has a Communist government. We refuse to trade with Cuba because we got involved in their revolution and lost, even though we work with Vietnam, whom we were more involved with and lost more.

Because a bunch of our gangsters and spies lost their little island paradise in the 50's, we're willing to allow a small group of people to run our whole policy. Letting to so-called Cuban Exiles dictate how we treat the country is a lot like letting the people who shout "The South Will Rise Ah-Gain" to run our civil rights programs, a militia group be our communication to the United Nations, or letting me be the Ambassador to France.

A few salient observations that I will also interject here.

First, if the child had come from Mexico or Haiti, we would never have heard about it. We are so trained to hate Mexicans coming in and taking our lucrative jobs of scrubbing toilets and washing dishes that he would have been thrown bodily across the border and told to start walking. No visits with Barney. No trips to Disney World. George W. Bush would have told him, in Spanish mind you, to get the hell out and not to come back until he owned a company that would contribute to his campaign, thank you very much, instead of saying that if he were President, he would have the military made sure the boy stayed here. Nice family value, Nimrod, I guess family only matters if you like the politics of the father.

Second, if the father had brought him over and the mother was the one wanting him, the story would be about how he snatched the boy from his loving mother and subjected him to near death and what a horrid rat bastard he was. Might even be a TV movie where he's played by Sean Penn at his snarliest.

So, what is to be done? What can WE do as consumers of the media and buyers of the toilet paper, sports cars, and maxi pads they sell?

Not a lot.

There will always be stories like this. It's become a means to an end. Does the news make the stories or do the stories make the news? Yes. Yes they do. The story went into the machine and people come out with lives destroyed on the other end of the machine. All harm, all foul and no lessons learned.

However, if I was in charge, I would have a few things done to resolve the situation.

One, children should be with their fathers. Period. Not some great uncle the kid's never heard of. Not some 5th cousin twice removed who treats the boy like a Pavlovian dog who has to denounce Castro to get a glass of milk. He has a living father. Doesn't matter where the father lives. Otherwise we need to start "rescuing" children whose parents go from Texas and Arkansas to visit civilization in Chicago and Minneapolis, because it's better for the child to live there than in a place where grits are served and the phrase "y'all" is said without a sense of detached irony.

Two, tell the Cuban Exiles to shut the hell up. They lost. They haven't done jack or shit to do anything positive to change the country other than have protests in the streets of Miami. They aren't going to take over Cuba, the South won't rise again, and the Who will never stop having farewell tours. These are facts of life, people.

Three, the 24 hour news grinder will keep destroying lives and then report on how they've done so until we quit buying their product. When Dateline 20/20 Minutes starts a story on the latest future made for TV movie, turn the channel, call the advertisers on that show and tell them why.

Four, any politician using this little slice of Hell a la salsa should be taken out back and pistol whipped and forced to spend a month with his first family to see just how much he cares about children and family values.

Five, next time the Uncle says that he will start shooting at any INS agents who show up to get Elian that no matter what he hears from the militia movement, it is still a crime to shoot at law officers in their country and deport his ass back to Cuba. When did it become OK in this country to shoot at cops if you don't agree with them?

Finally, treat Cuba the way we do every other country, as a pathetic little outlet mall that can buy our products and make our Nikes for 34 cents an hour. Just because we don't like their leader is no reason not to exploit the hell out of them.

But, I'm not in charge due to you bastards not drafting me as a Presidential Candidate. So, instead, we're going to get to see all the pain of a custody battle on our TV sets, live, in color and with extended commentary. Would someone tell me why, with the powers-that-be in America using this little boy like an very special episode of Jerry Springer, it's a bad idea to send him to a country without Diane Sawyer, CNN and an obsession with ratings. At least in Cuba he won't have to endure being interviewed by Mary Hart.

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