Maundy Thursday might have satisfied those who view Elian Gonzalezas a religious icon. Then Good Friday could have produced photos of theboy "dying" in the embrace of his father.
But a Thursday evening slot parallel to the arrest of Jesus wouldhave encountered the media circus on full prime-time alert. No amount ofsensitivity training--"Keep your finger off the trigger!"--wouldhave averted a public relations disaster. So Saturday was fine.
Good Friday would have satisfied those who view the Elian story as asham, like the mock trial of Jesus: grownups chasing personal agendas bytormenting a third party. Instead of the religious and politicalestablishments of Jerusalem finding common cause in killing Jesus, wehad two branches of a Cuban family acting out their four-decades-oldfeud by violating the life of a child--each side claiming virtue, ofcourse.
Think of the high-tech edge of a Good Friday sweep by theImmigration and Naturalization Service, that heavy-handed band whoregularly sweep entire neighborhoods looking for undocumented lawnworkers and maids.
A daytime raid would have shown off the troops' training andweaponry, made them the envy of police forces everywhere, perhaps helpedin recruiting, too. Daytime photos of urban-combat gear would have beena delight to those resisting gun control--"Do you want people likethis invading your house? Be armed!"
As it was, the wild-eyed INS trooper storming a closet merely lookedover-dressed for the occasion. And the gun lobby is forced to explainaway a shootout at the Washington National Zoo.
The rapid-fire camera wielded by a photographer named Alan Diaz wentfar beyond the clumsy Shroud of Turin in providing an account. But avideo recording--think of it--a video recording of the seizure wouldhave played on every news program for weeks. What a lost opportunity.
Being forced to compare still photographs--"Where is the missingtooth?"--was so 20th century, like the doctored photo of Chairman Maoswimming in the Yangtze River.
But Friday would have been a day too soon. Preachers would have beenforced to abandon their safe Easter sermons and wade into a modern-daymorality drama--or expose this episode as media-driven madness whoseenormous expense would have been better spent providing food and shelterfor millions of desperate children caught outside the limelight.
As it was, a Saturday raid came too late for serious sermonrevision. Easter could proceed unencumbered.
It is an election year, of course, so any day was fine for givingpoliticians an opportunity to call for hearings into something theydon't begin to understand. Besides, if Attorney General Janet Reno isbeing interviewed about Elian, she'll be too busy to answer questionsabout the Justice Department's unrelenting assault on Microsoft Corp., agovernment vendetta that is driving NASDAQ to its knees andaccomplishing nothing that the marketplace wasn't already doing moreefficiently.
I do like Easter Week as a time for grappling with the aftermath ofSaturday's pre-dawn raid. The original was a time of bewilderment, ashazy stories spread among confused men and women and left them wonderingwhat had just happened.
Now we, too, can wonder, What just happened? Did the massive weightof the United States government just dance on the head of a pin? If wethought Waco and Ruby Ridge were small occasions for such thunderousforce, what about a single child? Does it get any smaller than that?
I do appreciate the cartoonist who drew two figures: one was mediadarling Elian, yet another unwitting victim of grownups' inability todeal directly with their own issues; the other was a child in Ethiopia,still able to stand as children around him sprawled in death.
Long after American media have moved on and the INS has trained itssights on Mexicans hiding in, say, your neighborhood, that African childwill have died, another victim of hatred. No one will stand vigil forhim. Only God will hear him die.