Elian saga should be a learning experience

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 30, 2000

Seven months after being thrust into the national spotlight, Elian Gonzalez finally went home on Wednesday.

After weeks and weeks of being in the center of a international custody debate, the tiny refugee returned to Cuba with his father.

Few people realized the turmoil that was about to unfold, when Elian was first found adrift on a raft, the lone surviving member of an attempted escape to the United States.

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Should Elian stay in the United States or should he return to Cuba? Little, if any, gray area existed in the issue.

As the plight of Elian become front page news across the world, both sides of the debate polarized. The situation quickly got ugly, and the little boy was stuck in the middle.

Since his mother died during their flight from Cuba, we said from the beginning that the boy should be returned to his closest relative – his father in Cuba.

Now that the saga has come to a close, perhaps we should all pause to think about what we can learn from the ordeal.

First we hope that our government leaders realize the importance of ending standoffs – such as the one between Elian’s Miami relatives and immigration officials – before guns are required.

Elian should serve as a diplomatic example for the United States and for Cuba.

Communism will likely fall one day in Cuba, and when it does, it will fall because the Cuban people revolt, not because America wants the oppression to end.

While many Americans may disagree with the communist rule in Cuba, the Elian saga forces us to realize that regardless of our political feelings, we all share common traits.

Both nations should learn we are all much more alike than we are different.

Perhaps one day Elian, his family and other Cubans will be able to come to America whenever they’d like without all of the fuss.

But until that day comes, Elian deserves a normal life in his homeland with his family.