By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
ELIAN: In this weeks NYConfidential
(page 12) youll discover that the Elian Gonzalez story is the
second most covered story in American history, using the three major
networks as the barometer. OJ Simpson clearly is out in front, while
Gonzalez leads the tragedies of Princess Di, JFK Jr. and the murder of
Obviously, news coverage has changed and current
day occurances are sensationalized, side-barred and dissected to the
point of nausea. But Eilan, number two? As a matter of fact, look at
the top five, its some commentary on what turns on todays
culture. Sad, isnt it?
Back to the overworked Elian story.
I spent the past week in southern Florida visiting
mom and mom-in-law in Boca Raton. Who says Im not lucky?
The proximity to the sun may have something to do
with the warped thinking. No, not my mom, the folks in the Miami area.
I spent Monday of this week, in Miami and had the opportunity to chat
with several people. I also spent the week listening to Miami talk
The Cuban-American population of the area have been
so blinded by anti-Castro fever that civil dialogue, diverse view
points or an exchange of ideas concerning Elian Gonzalez is not
If Elians Miami family dealt with the
immigration folks in the same manner, then, the government showed more
restraint than I can understand.
I remember, as a child, watching a heroic Fidel
Castro come out of the mountains to free the people and overthrow the
Batista dictatorship. For a few moments in time, he was an American
and Cuban hero. Then he chose to follow an ideology that is not to our
liking communism. This communism thing has caused people to rise
up against family members as is the case with the Gonzalez clan
and no one is quite sure what its all about.
And, why is Castro such an anathema to the United
States? Has he killed Americans? Bombed our embassy? Cut off our oil?
Jailed our people?
I think not.
His record on human rights is certainly better than
a lot of countries we do business with. But of all the countries in
the world, the US picks on this almost harmless little island 90 miles
from the Florida shore. Its the Monroe Doctrine our right to
assert control in this hemisphere. It really doesnt make much
sense, does it?
Then again, it really doesnt make much sense
that five months have past and Elian Gonzalez is still being kept in
this country against the wishes of his only parent.
And finally, it doesnt make much sense that I am
writing in a Queens paper about this little boy for the second time in
Elian should be allowed to go home. This story
should end, happily. We should reevaluate our policy towards Cuba
maybe while we smoke some cigars. And we should move on.
SHEPPARD: Civility is an important bond in our
Queens community in any community. Acting toward others according
to acceptable standards enable neighbors, co-workers and all of
society to function with grace. When one acts uncivilly and rudely it
demeans themselves and everything about the interaction.
When trying to achieve change in society or our
community, confrontation or even civil disobedience has proven to be
an effective technique.
We are richer as a people because of the many who
came before us who could not accept things as they were and eventually
We have in Queens many civic activists who have to
face a slow-moving bureaucratic government. Frequently, they must
confront the situation, stretching commonly accepted techniques or
behaviors in order to effect change. We admire and applaud those with
the courage and tenacity to put their own reputations on the line to
achieve what they believe is the greater good.
Sadly, some of these activists get lost in their
own world of change seeking. They throw away the rules, they begin to
worship confrontation, they thrive on offending others and begin to
believe all who differ with them are the devil.
Joyce Sheppard of Bayside is one such activist.
There have been times Sheppards causes were noble. However, her
manner and style have caused the most of those who encounter her to
reject her and her causes because of her manner and style. With
Sheppard, rudeness and lack of civility seem to override her content.
Half truths, untruths, threats, disruption and
anything to achieve the end have caused elected officials, community
boards, this newspaper and many, many others to turn off the message
because the messenger is so offensive. Sadly, everyone could be a
loser when that happens.
The great activists who have righted wrongs in
society may have used civil disobedience but, the great ones were
always civil. Interpersonal interaction must recognize the value and
worth of all who are at the table. When a civic activist is cast out
because of his or her behavior, it is not a badge of courage, it is
another message that wont be delivered.
Joyce Sheppard, we believe, was once well
intentioned. She is now caught up in playing a role the role of
Joyce Sheppard who can be offensive, nasty and downright rude if you
dont see things her way.
Sometimes shes right. Sometimes shes wrong.
Sadly, shes rarely civil.
I endorse divergent opinion. I endorse challenging
However, I reject personal attacks. I reject those
who offend because rudeness is louder than civility.
I applaud community activism. It is a noble and
But not the brand practiced by Joyce Sheppard. She
has lost her way.
When Sheppard comes calling with her vile manner,
tell her to get the flock out of here.