When the little boy with the huge story hit these shores, my first thought was, we've got to let the family court people sort this out. This happens all the time. And we've got to be careful, 'cause sometimes it's an American parent who is trying to get one's kidnaped child back from some awful place like Saudi Arabia. Family court may not come up with the 100% correct decision, but they're on the spot -- I'm not -- and they're the people whom we pay to decide these things.
I don't recall that family court ever got a chance to sort out Elian's case in a routine way. Everybody jumped in with both feet. Dad in Cuba was fighting for the return of his son; relatives in this country played the media. INS and the federal courts were involved. Finally, federal troops with guns assaulted the Gonzales home and kidnaped/rescued (what do you call it?) the little boy on Janet Reno's orders and forcibly repatriated him to Cuba. Whatever the right result for Elian should have been, nobody today has anything in that whole circus to be proud of.
When Terri Schiavo's case first started making big news a year or so ago, I thought -- as I had thought about Elian -- that I don't know what's right here. I feel all sorts of difficult things. I think her husband is a heel, but 10+ years is a long time to put your life on hold. I think her family loves her, but I'm not sure that she's more than a symbol to anybody else: the media who love a big story; the religious folk for whom life is sacred; the disability advocates, who are worried about involuntary euthanasia; the privacy advocates, who want their own "death with dignity" instructions to be carried out some day.
It seems to me that this whole thing should have been decided by now. Maybe she hasn't had the proper tests and rehab and the evil husband has denied these things to her -- so why didn't her parents sue her husband directly FIVE YEARS AGO, seeking the appointment of a guardian ad litem? And on and on. I feel a great tug at my heart for her, but I'm not there. I don't know her. I can't evaluate her medical prognosis. I feel anger at her husband, but I feel used by her parents. I think the various politicians involved are trying to do the right thing -- I don't think they're just politicking here, they really mean what they say. But you just CAN'T solve these things by organizing the public. Isn't somebody supposed to make a ruling, and hasn't that ruling been made?
After she dies, I suppose her parents could sue her husband for wrongful death or something -- but I doubt it. I mean, who mentions Elian Gonzales any more besides his own family members, who do their hurting in silence? The media and political parade has passed by.
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Full disclosure: My father died of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) some years ago. He wanted everything possible done for him, and we did it. I remember standing by his bedside, saying softly (mostly to myself), Dad, if you had your choice to do over, would you still chose this? And even though we all knew where this was going and how it would end, one of my sisters sued for guardianship (for various reasons, none of them good) and my other sister and I disputed it, and we endured one of those awful family trials. All that made it even harder to bring the family together and plan his funeral when I was awarded guardianship. I got his affairs in order one month before he died. Anyway, I look on the Schiavo case and all I see is pain, pain, everywhere.