Letter addresses family’s dishonor

This story was published on April 26, 2000 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

Dear Marisleysis:

I was intrigued by your comment on Saturday, April 22, that Janet Reno had “dishonored” your family. Like much of what you have said over the course of the five-month soap opera that has transpired in Little Havana, it was half-true. Your family has been dishonored. The question becomes, who has dishonored it?

I suggest that you dishonored your family when you took the position that being a first cousin, once removed, gave you greater rights to a young boy than were possessed by his father.

I suggest that you dishonored your family by telling the half-truth that Elian’s mother had died “bringing her boy to freedom.” From all apparent information, Elian’s mother left Cuba to be with a boyfriend who had left Cuba at an earlier time, found Miami not to his liking, returned to Cuba and decided, a second time, to leave for Miami in a boat ill-suited for those purposes. Until Elian’s mother met this new boyfriend, there had never been a suggestion that she was dissatisfied with life in Cuba.

I suggest that you dishonored your family every time you claimed that no one would ever wish to live in Cuba, rather than America. Two of your uncles have always remained in Cuba and appear quite contented. Your father had visited them in Cardenas, Cuba, and the truth is that a great many Cubans will always wish to remain in Cuba, whatever the government. This should come as no surprise. When I visited Chile as the Pinochet dictatorship was winding toward a close, I was surprised at how many Chilenos still supported Pinochet. Similarly, long after Gorbachev lost power in Russia, a great many Russians still vote for the Communist party. In this country we would never thinking of denying a father his parental rights because of his political beliefs.

I suggest that you dishonored your family when you took a 6-year-old boy out of the school system under the pretense of providing home-schooling for him, thus depriving him of one more element of normalcy, which any child who had lost his mother would crave.

I suggest that you dishonored your family by allowing Elian to stay up to all hours of the night to wave to the TV cameras.

I suggest that you dishonored your family by encouraging all of Little Havana to surround the house at all hours of the day, throughout Elian’s ordeal.

I suggest that you dishonored your family by allowing TV cameras to invade Elian’s privacy and to surround and invade your home.

I suggest that you dishonored your family by, at every opportunity, playing to those TV cameras. I appeared that the most dangerous place in Little Havana was the distance between you and any television camera.

I suggest that you dishonored your family by propping Elian on a bed long after midnight and encouraging him to speak hateful words that his father might hear.

I suggest that you dishonored your family by insisting that a father could only see his son by passing through a gauntlet of proesters who had long ago demonized Juan Miguel Gonzalez as an alter ego of Fidel Castro and suggesting that any visits between Juan Miguel and his son could only be on your terms at your tiny home in Little Havana.

I suggest that you dishonored your family by never acknowledging that your father’s right to temporary custody to Elian came only with the permission of the INS and that, once revoked, the only lawful custodian and guardian of Elian was his father.

I suggest that you dishonored your family when, on the day you forced the federal government to end this hostage drama and to liberate Elian, you chose to fly to Washington, D.C., to demand immediate visitation with Elian. As Dana Carvey as the Church Lady might have said, “Isn’t that special.”

As I saw your continued histrionics before the camera all weekend, I realized that it is not Elian to whom you are devoted, but the klieg lights. Although you will be able, as was your father before you, to visit Elian in Cadenas, Cuba, in the future, I rather doubt you will, as the klieg lights will not be there and Elian will be living the normal life that he has so despertely needed to live for the last five months.

However, you needn’t worry about the loss of Elian, because you have clearly obtained more than the 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol promised to all of us. Indeed, as I heard you claim Sunday that the photograph of a beaming Elian and his father had been doctored and in fact, did not involve Elian at all, I had two reactions. The first was that the photo of Elian and his father reflected a young boy who had finally had his hair washed, gotten a good night’s rest, and was where he always should have been. My second thought was that you will have a very interesting career ahead of you on “The Jerry Springer Show.”

Arthur J. Greif is a Bangor attorney.