Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias When my daughters were toddlers, one of their favorite books � a tale that Cindy and I had to read over and over again � was titled Are You My Mother?

Some of you parents may be familiar with the book. It's a story that's been around a long time, describing the adventures of a baby bird who falls out of his nest, becomes lost, and desperately tries to find his mother.

The book has a happy ending. Baby and mother bird, after enduring a fair share of adventure, are eventually reunited.

This fictional children's story was written more than 40 years ago, and its author probably thought it would always be just a figment of his imagination.

But the fairy tale has become true, and sadly, demonstrates that adults are very capable of exploiting a child for personal gain.

In the true life story, the "bird" who has lost his mother is Elian. The poor kid has never had a chance to mourn this loss.

There are some who wonder if he truly understands that his mother, who drowned in their attempt to flee Cuba for a life in the United States, is gone and won't be returning.

Since Thanksgiving, when Elian was plucked from the Florida Straits, he has been the center of a custody battled turned into a circus.

The boy belongs with his father. His great-uncle and second cousin and a host of other friends and relatives who have cared for him for more than four months in Florida resisted all attempts to give up custody of Elian.

The Florida relatives have been living in denial � denying that the Immigration and Naturalization Service has jurisdiction in this case, denying that their actions were separating a father from his son, denying that their constant rallying of neighbors and media and politicians � stirred to the point that Elian was constantly surrounded by a sea of demonstrators � was creating an atmosphere that was harmful to the boy.

Elian's Florida clan in fact demonstrated that they have learned one thing from Fidel Castro very well. They have become the masters of spin.

They know how to make things appear much better than they actually are.

They released a video showing a defiant Elian telling his father that he doesn't want to return to Cuba. They shower the boy with gifts, take him to Disney World, and make sure television cameras are following his every move.

Some have even suggested that Elian's life in Cuba, while without the higher standard of living, the trips to see Mickey Mouse and the sea of gifts and the ton of attention, actually may be healthier for a 6-year-old boy than what Little Havana has become since last Thanksgiving.

The plot of Elian's story, the lost child, took a major twist Saturday when officers whisked him away from the Florida relatives' home so that he could be reunited with his father.

Observers who have grown weary of Elian being constantly in the spotlight were premature in thinking that Saturday's actions marked the beginning of the end of this saga.

Sadly, politicians just couldn't keep out the fray after Saturday. Many members of Congress (mostly Republicans) launched a partisan attack, claiming Elian was taken by an armed force of government storm troopers.

They began implementing the same emotional histrionics as the people of south Florida.

Members of Congress began whining about the rescue of Elian (an operation that was 100 percent successful in reuniting the child with his father).

They politically milked the incident for everything it was worth. They ordered Attorney General Janet Reno to explain herself.

They've threatened the rest of us with the potential of lengthy, expensive, and totally unneeded Capitol Hill hearings to fully investigate Elian's rescue.

They're all ignoring the fact that, as far as the raid is concerned, the end justified the means.

Elian's saga isn't over. Future court hearings will determine the next course his life will take.

Hopefully, like a child's story, there will be a happy ending.

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