As the final pages of this issue were being sent off
to the printer, the saga of the little boy found floating
in the sea took a very dramatic and very traumatic turn.
Just before dawn on the day before Easter, U.S. immigration
agents with guns drawn raided the house where Elian
Gonzalez had been living in Miami's Little Havana, and
in less than five minutes, whisked him away. Within
hours he had been reunited with his father. But so many
questions linger, as do lawsuits, political postures,
pontifications, recriminations, and accusations.
How easily, it seems, we can become puppets. One minute
yours is an ordinary life. You have a circle of family,
friends, schoolmates/coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances--to
varying degrees, they know who you are. Your daily activities
have a familiar rhythm. And then something happens and
you find yourself in the center of the spotlight. Everyone
knows your name and your face. People you know and folks
you've never met are suddenly discussing you. The media
pokes its nose into every nook and cranny of your life.
Politicians look to use your name and your story to
gain public attention, to advance their agendas. One
minute you are a face in the crowd, the next you're
the flavor of the month.
Maybe you enjoy the ride or manage to reverse the strings
and make the puppeteers dance to your tune. Perhaps
you use the opportunity to pursue some deep-seated dreams
of your own or to achieve a particular goal. You are
Kadiatou Diallo mourning your son's murder, leaving
Guinea, coming to America, and seeking justice. You
are Carolyn McCarthy, transformed by one man's murderous
rampage on a commuter train from nurse of 30 years,
suburban wife, and mother to successful representative
in the United States Congress. Or you may be overwhelmed
by the heat, the attention may not be just unexpected
and unwanted, it may also be hostile. You go into a
hotel room or the back seat of a limousine or out on
a date, and get raped by a man who is a celebrity. You
are the wife or mother of someone known to the public
as a depraved killer or . . .
Or you are the father of a little boy named Elian,
who was found floating in the sea.
But at least you are an adult, you have a voice, you
can gather people you trust around you, you can pack
a bag and leave town or lock your door and simply refuse
to talk to the politicians and the media. You may not
be able to stop the noise, but you don't have to participate.
But what happens when the person caught in the glare
is a child? In this country, we routinely profess to
love children, yet do too little as a society to ensure
that our children are safe, healthy, well housed, well
fed, well educated, or cared for. In this country, using
children as political footballs has become routine.
What's in a child's best interest varies according to
the interests of those who profess to champion that
child's rights. That's been Elian's story. Hopefully,
he will be allowed to go back to being just a little
P.S. As you turn the pages you'll discover that "Ms."
has a new look. This redesign is in response to your
comments and suggestions and our desire to make this
magazine shine for you. Everyone at "Ms." has been engaged
in the process--sharing ideas and opinions--and excited
by Chalkley Calderwood Pratt's creative vision. We hope
you enjoy the way "Ms." looks, as much as you enjoy
the content. And I look forward to hearing from you.