I know -- one more opinion on Elian Gonzalez and you're going to urp. This case has been sliced and diced from points of view legal, psychological, political and international. It involves family values, family law, the Cold War, the presidential campaign, civil disobedience, hysteria, Fidel Castro, allegations of psychological abuse and heartless manipulation of a small child for political purposes. And, of course, the usual array of fully merited charges against the media for exploitation, unseemly mob scenes, callous disregard for the child's fragile emotional health and other gross behavior.

So naturally everyone has an opinion about it. We have even heard from some people with enough common sense to come in out of the rain. Or at least to remember the basic rules: Never play poker with a man called Doc; never eat at a place called Mom's; and never get involved in a family fight. This custody battle is a lot sadder than "Kramer vs. Kramer.

The number of people who feel entitled to fling themselves into this family's business is extraordinary. Al Gore's pander on the issue is simply disgusting -- although following the law and then granting Elian Gonzalez permanent residency status so he could return here at age 18 if he wants to is not a bad way out of this mess.

Personally, I think the major villain in the piece is ... Cuban coffee. Yes, friends, Cuban coffee -- that mud-like substance with the bed of grounds at the bottom containing enough caffeine to render an entire brigade hyperactive, and sweetened with more hyper-inducing sugar.

What else could account for the behavior of the Cuban exile community in Miami? Since we know they're not all nuts, it must be the coffee.

I realize there are some cultural differences involved here. Not to make a gross generalization or anything, but our Cuban-Americans are, by and large, a little more in touch with their emotions than the rest of us. The stoic-WASP tradition holds that our emotions are largely unpleasant and that we'd really rather not hear from them all that often. Phoning long-distance once or twice a year is plenty for most of us. After hearing from my emotions recently, I was exhausted.

I asked my Cuban friend Mercedes how Latinas do it -- day after day with the feelings. She looked at me solemnly and said, "That's why we take siestas."

Unfortunately, doubtless because of the coffee, many Cuban-Americans seem to believe, "If I feel more passionately about it than you do, I win the argument." Actually, that's not true. There's no question about the law in this case, either immigration law or family law.

Furthermore, if we fail to obey the law in this case, we will completely screw up about 1,500 other cases in which American kids are in the position that Elian Gonzalez is in. Try the rule of sauce-for-the-goose: If this situation were reversed and Castro were refusing to return an American child to his only living parent, how would we feel about that?

If I may be presumptuous enough to offer some well-meant advice to the Miami Cuban community: Y'all need to think a little bit about the public relations of this deal. Do you have any idea how horrible it will look if there is any violence involved with turning Elian over to his father? You may not agree with the law in this case, but if you want to perfectly demonstrate that none of you gives a toot about this poor child, go ahead and stage a riot outside the house where the kid is living.

Does this little boy need to witness any scenes of violence, or even a screaming mob? The kid is almost certainly suffering from post-traumatic stress already. He watched several people, including his mother, drown. Who in his right mind would expose the child to a scene of violence?

The child's Miami relatives have a particular responsibility to avoid provoking any violence. To do anything other than peacefully surrender the boy to his father on neutral territory would be a shameful and shocking display of callousness about the child. To reinjure an emotionally damaged child is unthinkable cruelty.

As for the Miami officials who have said they will not allow police there to assist federal officials in carrying out the law: We already had a war about this. Your side lost.

Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2000 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.