“Never I go back!”
With these four words of broken English, in 1980, a twelve-year-old visitor to the United States named Walter Polovchak defiantly announced his refusal to return with his parents back to their home in the Soviet Union.
Polovchak’s case dragged through the court system for five and a half years until Walter’s 18th birthday, when was finally permitted to apply for asylum on his own behalf. Today, an administration that stonewalls, delays and obstructs every inquiry into its own corruption and misconduct, did everything in its power to ensure that Elian’s case was decided before it was considered. Yes the two cases are different, but the differences seemed to balance in Elian’s favor. In Polovchak’s case, both of his parents wanted him to go back; in Elian’s case, his mother died trying to bring him to America and Juan Miguel Gonzalez was an out of wedlock father. In Polovchak’s case, no precedents existed covering asylum petitions by children. In Elian’s case, the INS’s own guidelines expressly allow asylum requests by children much younger than Elian — guidelines the INS refused to follow. Following the lead of a president who quibbles about the meaning of “is” and “sex”, the INS argued that the case turned on the meaning of “apply”. Ultimately, the biggest difference proved not to be Elian’s immaturity, but the immaturity and selfishness of the current occupant of the Oval Office.
Throughout his lonely ordeal, Polovchak had an important defender in Ronald Reagan. The Reagan administration did not demand that Polovchak’s “distant” relatives turn the boy over to his Ukrainian parents. They did not orchestrate a propaganda campaign to demonize and discredit the Ukrainian-American community, which supported Walter’s cause. Attorney General Ed Meese did not order a Gestapo-style raid of the relatives’ home to the forcibly remove the boy at gunpoint. Instead, the Reagan administration filed amicus briefs in court, persuasively making the case for freedom for the second-littlest defector.
Then and now, so-called conservatives who think parental rights are more important than freedom found strange bedfellows on the Left to mimic their cries of fathers’ rights like myna birds. Liberal champions of children’s rights to undergo abortions behind their parents’ backs dismissed Walter’s “right to choose” to live in a free country. Communist apologists like the National Council of Churches and the odious Joan Brown Campbell and the Marxist Congressional Black Caucus dusted off twenty-year-old talking points about father’s rights that they never seriously considered before Elian came along. And more than a few self-styled conservatives bought it, hook, line and sinker. As if Ronald Reagan was a threat to parental rights and Bill Clinton was its champion. Then, the liberals and progressives attacked Reagan as an intransigent, ignorant, provocative, Manichean reactionary who failed to see the goodness of progressive movements indiscriminately killing people all over the world. Now, latter day family value conservatives spearhead the attack on true conservatives who recognize a con-job when they see one. History will prove Elian’s defenders right and Juan Miguel’s defenders were wrong, but it will be too late to save Elian.
Despite the novel legal questions presented in Elian’s case, the initial fumbling over whether it belonged in the federal or state courts and the illness of the judge initially assigned to the case, once Castro told the Clinton administration what it wanted, the fix was in to send Elian back before the clock ran out on the most corrupt administration in history. The Elian case raced through the INS, the District Court for the Southern District of Florida and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals at breakneck speed reminiscent of the Soviet show trials of the 1930s whose outcomes were decided in advance. Judge Moore and the three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals published opinions longer than Stephen King novellas and in roughly the same amount of time. Perhaps the Supreme Court of the United States can issue an opinion between now and Wednesday. It should not take them long to cut and paste excerpts from the Dred Scott decision — a fitting precedent for a nation hell bent on the road to fascism. If the justices are truthful, they can leave the word “slave” as is, instead of changing it to read “Cuban citizen”.
Barring a last-minute miracle, Elian Gonzalez will fly home to Cuba Wednesday evening to live happily-ever-after with his loving Cuban father who made no effort to see his son for five months after his mother drowned. The loving father who told Elian on the telephone that his mother was still alive back in Cuba. The loving father who we are told asked the Attorney General to use overwhelming force to seize the boy at gunpoint, even after his Miami relatives agreed to turn the boy over voluntarily. Perhaps, Juan Gonzalez will return to his cashier’s job at a Varadero beach resort where his international celebrity status might fetch him $5 instead of $1 tips from pampered progressive plutocrats dining on pate de foie gras and sipping Chateau Lafite in what purports to be a classless society.
Barring a second miracle, Elian and his family will fly first-class back to the island dictatorship his mother and countless thousands died trying to flee. We can expect magnificent parades and celebrations, the likes of which have not been seen on the island since its greatest hero, Div. General Arnaldo Ochoa came home from leading Cuban military expeditions in Angola, Ethiopia, Venezuela, Yemen and Nicaragua. Let us hope Elian’s welcome has a happier ending. Ochoa himself was executed by firing squad after conviction on trumped-up drug charges, followed by a show trial. In the tradition of Cuban patriots executed by Spanish firing squads during the colonial wars, Ochoa asked to give the order for his own execution, but was refused. In turn, he refused a blindfold and told his executioners he understood they were only following orders. Moments later, the order Fuego was given and a hail of bullets from AK-47s ended his life. No victory parades or long-winded harangues from the Maximum Leader commemorated the death of a military hero who had to die because his popularity posed a threat to Castro. Afterwards, anonymous and resourceful graffiti artists painted cryptic messages of protest “8A” (for Ocho-A in Spanish) throughout Havana; anonymous because they risked imprisonment or worse if caught; resourceful because — after all — where in Cuba did they find paint?
Most watching on television will not ask why coverage of the Million Marxist March does not include close-ups of actual Cubans forced to attend the propaganda circus. Most will not even notice fear instead of joy in the eyes of the average Cubans forced to recite obligatory paeans to Elian and Fidel for a gullible foreign press. Few will ask why their impromptu anti-American remarks sound so much like scripted anti-American remarks. Perhaps after seven years living under an administration that functions as a wholly owned subsidiary of the People’s Republic of China, there is no longer any difference between us and them left to notice.
Religious illiterates unfamiliar with the Biblical account of King Herod’s slaughter of the 14,000 Holy Innocents or the cult of Santeria prophecies naming Elian a reincarnation of the Yorumba deity Eleggua belittle the notion that a six-year-old child poses a threat to an aging dictator wielding absolute power in Cuba since 1959. The great exiled Cuban writer, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, tried to explain Castro’s demented obsession with this particular boy who escaped his clutches, but nobody listened.
What motivates those intent on plunging headlong like lemmings over a cliff into the abyss of totalitarianism? Walter Polovchak tried to tell them. His poignant appeal for Elian to have a chance at the same freedom he enjoys was published recently in the Wall Street Journal. Sadly Elian will never read the words of encouragement from the second littlest defector who risked everything to pave the way for other Walters and Elians to live in freedom.
Walter Polovchak did not betray Elian; we did. We ignored Walter and countless others who tried to expose the biggest fix since the 1919 Black Sox World Series scandal. We slept through the first-hand testimony of Cuban poet, dissident and human rights activist Armando Valladares, who spent 22 years in Castro’s jails for the crime of criticizing Castro. We sneered at those patriots and true conservatives who see the risible farce of flimflam artists like Bill Clinton and Janet Reno pontificating about family values and the rule of law. We refused to heed the consistent and credible accounts of eyewitness to Castro’s terror. We rejected the truth that stands as a beacon of light against the fog and smoke and distortion and lies put forth by sophists and special pleaders. But even the truth cannot reach ones whose ears are closed, whose hearts are hardened, and whose minds are prisons they choose to live inside.
Walter’s appeal on Elian’s behalf might as well have been delivered to the dead letter office to be consigned to the flames, a place not unlike the Socialist hell the Clinton administration, Greg Craig, Janet Reno, Doris Meissner, Archer Daniels Midland, the National Council of Churches, the Congressional Black Caucus, CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN and too many other villains to name in this Satanic soap opera — our very own Dreyfus affair — conspired to send a once ever-smiling cherub named Elian Gonzalez. The dead letter office is a fit resting place for the words of one, like Kafka’s messenger, who tried to deliver a message of great importance, only to be discarded by those whose folly and ignorance the messages warned against. Somewhere in a great Bonfire of the Vanities, Walter’s words and ours can find a home along with so many other undelivered messages of “pardon for those who died despairing; hope for those who died unhoping; good tidings for those who died stifled by unrelieved calamities. On errands of life, these letters speed to death.”
Ah Elian! Ah humanity!
© June 2000