Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – December 20, 2013

It turns out that The Handshake That Shook the World at the Nelson Mandela memorial was more symbolic and important than originally thought. Meanwhile some people are actually surprised that the “Duck Dynasty” patriarch is a homophobic racist. Or is he a racist homophobe? And finally, it appears that the Teapublicans are determined to retire the Lifetime Achievement Award for Meanness as they push to cut unemployment benefits AND veterans benefits – at Christmas time.

About That Handshake

Despite the fact that Richard Nixon shook hands with Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro, and Ronald Reagan shook hands with Mikhail Gorbachev and John McCain shook hands with Muammar Gadhafi, the Teapublicans worked themselves into a frothy frenzy because President Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at the Nelson Mandela memorial service. But it took Fidel Castro to come out of seclusion to point out the real hypocrisy.

Because while everyone was focusing on the handshake, Fidel Castro pointed out that in the struggle against apartheid the United States government did not do much to aid Nelson Mandela or the African National Congress. Indeed there were economic sanctions in the last days and times of apartheid, but there was also the United States government labeling Nelson Mandela as a terrorist and communist threat at a time when words of support from Washington would have meant a lot.

We should harbor no illusion that a bit of truth will change the hypocrisy of the Teapublican right, but the truth possesses a power all its own.

Dumb Duck

The patriarch of the “Duck Dynasty”, Phil Robertson, in an interview with GQ magazine went on a homophobic rant on the record and for good measure channeled his inner racist. While selectively quoting the Bible to support his damnation of homosexuals he also made the fantastical claim that he never saw black people in the South being mistreated.

To its credit, the A&E suspended Mr. Robertson from the Duck Dynasty show. What is surprising is that anyone is surprised that Mr. Robertson would hold these antediluvian and caucasiancentric points of views. He is who he is.

The Teapublican Grinch

We have read a lot about the glories of the first bipartisan budget since the first one hundred days of the first term of the Obama Administration. But looking behind the curtain we see that there is a clear indication of the stone headed meanness of the Teapublicans in their demand for cuts to unemployment benefits as well as veteran’s benefits.

The unemployed are vulnerable by definition and veterans are worthy of their benefits by reason of their serving and supporting the military policies of this country, no matter how misguided and wrong they have been over the last decade.

The fact that these cuts were announced at Christmastime would be considered excessive if there were such a thing as Mean Olympics judges.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

Point of View Columns

Alone at the Summit

The news from the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Columbia is not that men patronize prostitutes. It is not that Secret Service men patronize prostitutes – even while they are supposed to be protecting the President of the United States. There are enough big head-little head commentaries in that story to fill several columns.

The big news is that President Obama found himself shackled to an ancient Cold War policy towards Cuba that left him, and the United States, alone at the Summit of the Americas. Indeed, it was unnerving and disappointing to see an undeniably brilliant man advocating an undeniably stupid policy.

Virtually every country in attendance at the Summit of the Americas recognizes Cuba and engages in diplomatic and trade relations with that country. Virtually every country in attendance, that would be every country in the Western Hemisphere, has gone on record as refusing to attend another Summit of the Americas Conference is Cuba is not in attendance. And there was the President Obama vetoing the prospect of the Republic of Cuba participating in the next Summit.

This raises the question; will the United States boycott the next Summit? Will the United States also demand that Cuba be ejected from the United Nations? Will the United States withdraw from the U.N. if its demands are not met?

Questions cascade from Colombia that have nothing to do with who is protecting the President of the United States. One has to wonder if this is just the first time that the guardians of the presidency have been caught.

One also has to wonder as to what it is about Cuba that keeps the United States frozen in a time of finned Cadillacs and charcoal filter cigarettes while the world has moved on. Over 50,000 Americans died in Vietnam and the U.S. has diplomatic and robust trade relations with that country. The leadership of the Soviet Union threatened to “bury” the United States, and its historical descendant, the Russian Republic, is a part of full diplomatic and economic linkages.

The People’s Republic of China is a communist country, its booming economy notwithstanding. Yet the United States would never think of terminating diplomatic relations with China – communism be damned.

Yet, the United States still does not have an embassy in Cuba. Travel to Cuba by American citizens is still wrapped in layers of red tape and rigmarole. Trade relations are subject to draconian regulations and restrictions meant to strangle the Cuban economy. All the while, almost every nation in the world recognizes Cuba as an independent country and engages in diplomatic and trade relations with that country.

Consider the fact that Spain, the country which claimed Cuba as its colony for three centuries and fought a vicious counterrevolutionary campaign against the Cuban people has a full and complete diplomatic and financial relationship with Cuba. So what is the matter with the United States?

A cursory review of history will indicate that for the first half of the twentieth century the United States subjected Cuba to political interference and economic intervention. This interference and intervention led to tremendous financial advantage for American businesses and even the American mafia. At no point did American policy ever sound even a faint note of concern for democracy or human rights in Cuba.

Since the Cuban revolution, Cuban emigrants to the United States, most of whom held privileged positions in the “old Cuba”, have ranted and raved about the horrors of Cuba under the post revolutionary rule. To an unbiased ear, they sound like for beneficiaries of privilege who long for “the good old days”.

And all the while the Cuban people have higher literacy rates and lower infant mortality rates than were ever enjoyed during the heyday of American sponsored Cuban dictators. Indeed, as this column is written, every Cuban citizen has a primary care physician, something that Americans only dream and fight about.

The shame of it is that President Obama and the United States are fighting a battle that is frozen in the amber of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The entire planet has moved on. Los Cubanos, those Cuban emigrants who froth at the mouth at the mere mention of Fidel Castro, are now old men harboring the fragments of dreams that belong only to old men.

If there was ever a time to move on when it comes to Cuban-American relations, now is the time. There is nothing noble about holding to policies that perpetuate injustice that is now over 100 years old. There is everything noble about moving forward to a future that adapts to reality. We have done it with Vietnam, Russia and China, why not Cuba?