By Katie Campbell Morrison
It is easy to relegate the story to a corner of history or to say that Fidel manipulated one side of the story whereas the Cuban American National Federation manipulated the other, but that argument would miss the true essence of the story.
This was time when the American family and the Cuban family united to overcome politics of division being spread by a super minority that used the burgeoning 24-hour news media to sow seeds of division “similar to the Trump phenomenon,” as highlighted by Ricardo Alarcon – Former head of the Cuban National Assembly. When fundamental truths of humanity were nearly destroyed by destructive and divisive politics of hate and division based in historical events.
Even if you don’t know anything about Cuba or the Elián González case, I imagine you can understand grappling with your concept of humanity, government and society in the face of vitriolic hate. All of us have had to reexamine how we have let the moral sins of our history continue to create deep divides and hate in our present.
In Cuba, the Elián González case is called The Battle of Ideas. My grandmother was the main intermediary between Cuba and the United States and to me, the battle wasn’t in between communism and democracy; it was a battle between love and hate; a battle for family.
My grandmother fought fearlessly for a Cuban child she had never met to reunite with his family because she believed it was the right thing to do, she stood on the side of what was moral, just and true. It was a time when love truly trumped hate, because people such as Rev. Joan Brown Campbell had, as Mariela Quintana, Elián’s paternal grandmother, called it, “the voice of the oppressed.”
Leaders formed bonds with families across cultural and language barriers to fight for love and compassion. It was a crisis that brought out the best and the worst in us and forced us to choose between love and hate.
At a time when our nation is reeling with the fallout of Charlottesville, Elián shines a light on a different point in our history, one where we chose to ignore the super minority and fight for love; a fight that changed the trajectory of the history of relations between two nations.
As Elián himself has said, “It was a moment when the relationship between Cuba and the United States turned around, the American family began to see the Cuban family in a different way, began to see it as a family, they began to see that Cubans felt joy in their family life, began to see the love between it, for theirs and that way changed the vision they had of the Cuban people.”
Elián calls us all to question how we can transform the paradigms of today to assure that a history of hate and division do not continue to define our future.
Elián will premiere on CNN Thursday August 24, 2017 at 10 pm EST / 7 pm PST.
Katie (KCM) Campbell Morrison was based in Matanzas, Cuba when she worked as a production assistant on the Elián documentary. She coordinated the Cuban interviews throughout filming with Ross McDonnell, Co-Director, and Oisin Kearney, Assistant Producer. All the interviews cited in this piece are pulled from personal interviews she conducted during while investigating for her masters in theology thesis at the Seminario Evangélico de Teología, which she did while simultaneously working on the film.