Castro - 1; Liberty - 0
On Saturday night, I sat back on the infield of Veterans Stadium after watching the Phillies beat the Pirates 4 – 3. Because athletic team owners have decided to charge outrageous prices for games (which is their right), they have to give other enticements for all but the hard-core baseball fans to attend the game.
Saturday was Fireworks Night and those of us who couldn’t see where the fireworks were to be fired where invited to move onto the field.
So there I was. In Philadelphia, the birthplace of our nation and constitution. On the field of Veterans Stadium, memorializing all those who have fought for that constitution and the liberties it guarantees. Sitting back and watching a baseball game on the Fourth of July weekend. Throw in Mom and an apple pie and you don’t get much more American than that. And then came the fireworks.
As any good American, I got chills and realized an enormous pride when the ‘rockets red blared’ and Lee Greenwood sang I’m Proud to Be an American.
Forty thousand Americans looked into the sky smiling, laughing and applauding for America. Rewind three days.
Last Wednesday, I sat in front of the television and felt my heart sink. I sat and watched as President Clinton returned to Papa Castro his prized calf, Elián Gonzalez. Sir, we’ve captured your runaway slave. We return him to his rightful owner.
Now that I think back to the baseball game fireworks, how could we celebrate the liberty and freedom of America in the same week, we—not the Supreme Court or Bill Clinton or Janet Reno, we all most shoulder the responsibility—signed the death warrant for a small, six-year old boy?
We have become a nation of cafeteria constitutionalism. We pick and choose which liberties are most suitable to our own needs and forget the others. As long as I have the right to free speech, who cares if the Feds bust into innocent peoples’ homes and kidnap their legally held children.
Elián Gonzalez didn’t get to know the feeling of liberty for very long. He doesn’t get to look up into the sky as it explodes with majestic colors and know that he can go as far as his mind will take him. No. Americans swept him back in Cuba. You can almost hear Castro’s taunting like a school-age bully, "Red, white and blue makes a monkey out of you."
One could hope that Elián’s life will turn out like a fairy tale: The young boy whose mother died to bring him to freedom. The U.S. president who struck a deal with Castro to return the boy to slavery. The young slave at 18, remembering his experiences with the crown jewels of capitalism like Disney, cable TV and the Internet, leads a successful rebellion over Castro and gives re-birth to a free nation under a democratically elected government and capitalistic economy. And Cuban cigar smugglers have to find new jobs as the U.S. lifts the Cuban embargo.
Alas, most likely, Castro has already snuffed out his future with the assistance of Lady Liberty herself.
This is no longer about Elián Gonzalez. This is about what kind of nation we have become and what kind of nation will evolve.
I have wondered many days now how a people could deny a small boy the right to fulfill his potential by banishing him to slavery and in the same week celebrate our own freedom.
We failed Elián because we have forgotten why our country was founded and for what great liberties it stands. We have been drugged into complacence and ignorance by government handouts and subsidies. We have accepted the revisionist historians and politically correct pillars of the day. We accept socialism as a political alternative, not the slavery our Founders saw it as.
We failed him because we enjoy the fireworks for their spectacular colors and brilliance and not the day of independence from tyranny they represent. If we don’t learn a lesson from this tragedy, we turn our backs on all those who have died to preserve and expand our liberty.
Castro won this battle. Socialism won this round. Elián lost his life.
On this Independence Day week, I hope that each one of us will ask Elián to forgive us, and vow to never forget the liberties we have and the country we could live.
The choice is simple, freedom or socialism. There is no in-between.