- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 16, 2000

As T.S. Eliot wrote, "April is the cruelest month." Now we may soon have a new reason to think it so.
April, of course, was the month when seven years ago federal forces stormed the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas an attack that precipitated at the hand of one side or the other a conflagration that claimed the lives of 80 people.
The 20th of this month also is the lamentable birthday of Adolf Hitler, and hence, in recent years an occasion for evilly commemorative deeds. Such was the murderous attack last year at Columbine High School in Colorado by two troubled teens who belonged to an outcast "trenchcoat mafia."
In April 1861, our bloody Civil War began with the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.
Four years later, in April 1865, the Confederates were defeated and Robert E. Lee was forced to "die a thousand deaths" and surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Va. And on Good Friday that same April, the acclaimed actor and Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth stole behind Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in Washington and fired a fatal shot into the "Great Emancipator."
In April this year, Good Friday comes again, marking the Crucifixion, death and burial that led to the Easter Resurrection of the Founder of the Christian faith.
April, with its soft promises of new beginnings, stirs remembrances of things past loves lost and lives gone by, looking toward Memorial Day in May.
And now, despite the temporary stay granted by a federal appeals judge, we may still be fated to remember April 2000 as the month they took away Elian Gonzalez, back to his father but also back to communist captivity in Cuba.
It is hard if, despite all appeals to law or reason or feeling, one's idea of justice fails. It is harder still, and more confusing, when two rights are in conflict and only one can prevail.
For it is right that a fit father should be with his son, and that the son should be with his father. But it is also right that even a 6-year-old who has survived such a perilous journey, against the odds, and paid such dues as the loss of his mother's life in a boat-wreck at sea, should have a chance to grow up in liberty. But these rights seem mutually exclusive by the father's decision (and Mr. Castro's insistence) that the son's place not only is with him but in despotic Cuba.
Let us wish Elian well, and all the Elians thousands of young boys and girls who remain in Cuba. Let us hope that, somehow, Elian will flourish and grow to a commendable manhood and one day be part of the resolution that will bring his native land back into the mainstream and a new relationship with us.
Still, the risks abound. And there lurks an apprehension that one day a decade hence we may feel deep sorrow in hearing a news bulletin that "authorities have confirmed that the body of the young man who washed ashore near Miami Beach was that of a little castaway who had been rescued at sea 10 years ago, and this time failed in a last, desperate attempt to return to the United States." This apprehension is only deepened by that sad video of the little boy telling his "papa" that he does not want to return to Cuba. His re-entry into Cuban society may prove rough going.
We must try somehow to have faith there can instead be a positive outcome in the years ahead.
Maybe we should offer some token of good will to the Cuban people, gifts to follow Elian if he goes back as benefits the sojourner returning from the land of freedom and plenty. A hospital ship, perhaps labeled "Hope," with medical syringes and other such basic supplies (said to be short in the island's clinics) might be considered. It could be accompanied by some U.S. volunteers or U.N. health personnel to facilitate and ensure distribution to Cuba's public hospitals.
By this, we would show our lasting magnanimity, even in the face of Mr. Castro's mean-mindedness. For beyond Mr. Castro and his nasty residue of totalitarianism and the Cold War, we have a relationship to rebuild with the long-suffering people of Cuba.

Benjamin P. Tyree is deputy editor of the Commentary pages of The Washington Times.

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