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 boy.
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.