Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Whenever I read articles about the Pat Roush case, my mind keeps coming back to Elian.
Of couse, the Roush case is much more cut-and-dried than Elian's was. In the Roush case, an American court awarded custody to the mother over 15 years ago. In the Elian case, the American courts had yet to rule on the question of asylum, much less custody. In the Roush case, the mother is still fighting for her children. In the Elian case, she was not alive to do so. In the Roush case, the children in question were already American citizens, and are now adults. In the Elian case, the dispute was over whether a minor could claim asylum, or whether his living relatives in the U.S. could do so for him on the basis of his late mother's (fairly clear) last wishes.
But what strikes me is that the attitudes of the American right, the American left, and the American government are strikingly consistent between the two cases.
In both cases, the American right sided with freedom and against totalitarianism (and, incidentally, with the mother and against the father).
In both cases, the American government - in bi-partisan fashion - sided with totalitarianism and against freedom (and, incidentally, against American courts).
And in both cases, the American left . . . yawned. In Elian's case, of course, they were outraged at the right's efforts to keep the boy here, whereas in the Roush case they are simply silent. I find it particularly notable that a search of NOW's website for the word "Roush" turns up . . . nothing.
I'm not suggesting that American feminists and the rest of the American left have anything particularly nice to say about Saudi Arabia (unlike Cuba). They don't. And you can certainly read pieces by them carping that the only reason we support such an awful, repressive regime is because of our oil addiction. But for some reason this never rises to the level of outrage. I wonder why? Because if the right cares about something, they have to belittle it? Because demanding action would mean demanding that the U.S. government defend its citizens, and the ideas of U.S. power and the dignity of U.S. citizenship are embarrassing? Because getting involved in anything involving Muslim countries means opening a whole other can of politically incorrect worms? Because these organizations serve no purpose except their own perpetuation, and their own perpetuation is best served by taking on symbolic causes of a perpetual nature rather than trying to actually help the people they claim to exist to help? Because, deep down, these groups are not opposed to power but in love with it, and so accept implicitly the compromises of power - such as practiced by the State Department - and have a hard time taking a stand on actual principle (as opposed to blathering in slogans whose substantive content is: give us more power)? I don't know.
But I do know that it matters. A vigorous liberalism that took to the streets over cases like the Roush daughters - American women held captive by a regime that won't let them leave the country without their father's or their husbands' permission! - would do a lot more to move the government and foreign opinion than any fulmination on the right. No matter how outraged the right gets, they can't actually embarrass the Administration. Not without liberal help.
How about it, sisters?