Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Obama and Che in the same picture

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Obama in Argentina

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A baseball game and lots of pain, too

It was great to hear “play ball” in Cuba and watch a baseball game.  I guess baseball is the ultimate painkiller, even if the pain is emotional and deep.
My father died a few months ago.  I wonder what he would think of President Obama embracing Raúl Castro.  I think he would have mixed emotions.  On one hand, he would be happy to see Cubans watch Evan Longoria and Jim Looney play baseball.  On the other hand, it would be hard for him to hear Raúl Castro, a man who was never elected to anything and executed many who disagreed with the communist regime, given the dignity of the title of President Castro.
Dan Le Batard spoke for many of us a day or so ago.  He did not go to Cuba.  He couldn’t do because of his parents:
My parents were put on planes as teenagers by their parents, not knowing if they’d ever see each other again. How desperate would you have to be to send your not-ready-for-the-real-world 16-year-old away to a foreign country without knowing if you’d ever be reunited? A lot of things have happened to Cuba since my parents fled it. But change doesn’t appear to be one of them.
The ocean between our countries is filled with the Cuban bodies that tell the story, lives literally thrown to the wind in desperation, hoping to reach America’s possibility-soaked shores on boats made of old tires and wood and poverty’s debris. No free press. No elections. No freedom. That’s the Cuba that still surrounds the baseball diamond where we play this game. That’s the Cuba people still get on makeshift boats to flee today.
My mother? All this happy news coverage has brought the bad memories back. She has some post-traumatic stress disorder from the communism. She feels it in her heart whenever she is shipping medicine to her brother stuck back in Cuba. She feels it in an esophagus that hasn’t worked right since she was put on that plane, the communism literally choking her a little bit with every breath she has taken since.
She had her phones tapped bAack home. She endured neighborhood spies coming into her home whenever they pleased. She attended services for students and intellectuals killed for fighting for elections and a Constitution. She was chased through the streets by police dragging chains for attending those services. Her brother was a political prisoner. Whenever she visited him, she wondered if the fresh blood on the firing-squad walls might be his. He spent almost 10 years in that prison for his politics. Why the hell would she trust any of that today?
Understand something please: My parents are exiles, not immigrants. It is an enormous difference. They didn’t come to this country looking for money. They left money behind and came here to risk poverty. They did so because they were exiled from a land they didn’t want to leave and still miss, a land they will not visit until this regime is ousted or they see real change that can be trusted.
Yes, the subject of Cuba always takes us back to our parents.  It’s because we look back and remember what that communist regime did to them – i.e. the prisons, torture, and many other things that most Americans would never understand.
And also because we remember what they did for us, the kids fortunate to grow up in freedom.
Some people say: doesn’t the U.S. have relations with other dictators?  I guess so, but those dictators didn’t hurt my parents or put a family member in a political prison.
In five years or so, Fidel and Raúl Castro will be gone and buried somewhere.  I understand that the U.S. has to be there to have a role in the inevitable transition from Castro-ism to whatever follows.
At the same time, I’d prefer to see President Obama demand a bit more from the regime.  It would have been a lot better if a baseball game would have featured a president of the U.S. sitting next to an elected president of Cuba.
P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

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Obama trip to Cuba and reactions by Cuban Americans

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