February 11, 2000 (Ira Pilgrim)

Exploiting Children

Never has such an overhyped controversy over a 6-year old tyke reeked with so much hypocrisy -first, about troubled children, and second, about our outmoded, Cold War Cuban embargo.

Sandy Grady, Jan. 2000

Pretty Baby was a remarkable movie. It dealt with the daughter of a whore who was working in a whorehouse. The child had been raised in the whorehouse and had been exposed to sex in all of its ramifications for most of her short life. She knew of things that people who haven't seen hard-core pornographic movies never know about, even as adults. There was an implicit assumption that the little girl was being trained to follow in her mother's footsteps. While she engaged in sexual activity, her virginity was preserved in order that it be auctioned off to the highest bidder. The most poignant scene in the movie was when she, and her virginity, were being auctioned off. The camera focused on the face of a black servant in uniform, who said nothing, but whose expression told of his thoughts about this white child being auctioned off much as his descendants had been auctioned off in times past.

It is obvious that this type of use of children continues and is treated by the press as almost respectable, except when it occurs in the orient. What I am referring to is children being sold to the highest bidder, with little regard for what is good for the child. A narrow line divides guiding a child to a career and blatant exploitation. Shirley Temple turned out okay, but there are many who didn't.

It was the murder of Jon Benet Ramsey that called the public's attention to the way that children are exploited (I use this word in its most derogatory sense) by training female children to parade around in sexy clothes and perform as if they were sex objects for sale.

More recently, Elian Gonzales has been shamelessly used by anti-Castro Cubans in Florida as a tool in their propaganda war. He was not actually abused but, instead, was made a celebrity and showered with gifts and attention in order to embarrass the Cuban government and convince the US government to keep him here. All of this was done to a 6 year old boy who had accompanied his mother in a clandestine boat trip from Cuba to Florida. His mother's boyfriend charged the other passengers $1,000 a head for the trip. The ship sank and, among others, the mother and her boyfriend drowned. The boy was rescued and was taken to Florida where he was cared for by his mother's relatives. He was immediately made a cause celebre by some overly enthusiastic anti-Castro Cubans who had little regard for what was best for the boy, which was to be with someone who genuinely loved him; namely his father.

I never thought that I would have anything good to say about the Immigration and Naturalization Service(INS), but in this case, they did what was right and ordered the boy returned to his father in Cuba. They and the attorney general stated that the law was very specific and that the welfare of the child should be in the hands of his father who really cared about him. This is in stark contrast to others, who were using the boy to further their political agenda.

Naturally, some politicians had to get into the act by ignoring what was best for the boy and doing what they could to keep the boy from his father. The details are immaterial, but that kind of behavior is what you would expect of Jesse Helms and politicians of his ilk.

I do not believe that kids should be allowed to "do their own thing," but there is a world of difference between guiding a child and exploiting him. In one case, what is being done is done for the benefit of the child, while in the other case it is being done solely for the benefit of the exploiter. In other words, using a child in this way is almost the equivalent of selling a child into prostitution.

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