On my way to Cuba for a second visit, I’m draw back to my memories of being in Havana a year ago. What stood out the most about my trip then was the warmth with which we were greeted from everyone we met.
There was no pretense or expressions of distrust for us Yankees. Just remember, for fifty years we had cut off economic possibilities for these folks who are but ninety miles from our shores. I got the sense that Cubans were anything but political; they were living the lot they were handed, which by our standards wouldn’t be much.
But here were kids laughing and playing baseball, men concentrating on their domino tables and artists using some rather primitive techniques and instruments to unveil glorious works of art and music. And then there are the cars – as in America, a representation of individualism and freedom of expression. Without easy access to quality paints and pigments, engine parts, replacement hardware, some of the cars were sparkling examples of the soul and spirit of Cubans. These neighbors laugh, dance and sing their days away, despite life’s challenges.
When we arrived back in the U.S., we were welcomed by news that a hand had been extended in peace to Cuba by our President. Having many Cuban American friends, I knew that daggers would be hard to bury but that this was a proud moment for our country. The aftermath of this gesture to make peace has seen a torrid of anger, hatred, and personal attacks unleashed that shakes the foundation of our democracy.
If fifty years is not enough punishment for people, what is appropriate? Should we starve people until they revolt and spill blood or should we make peace if there is a possibility? Follow the trail to a new divide opening -- moves to counteract peace and anti-nuclear negotiations with Iran. Oh, I remember the Carter years and the holding of our embassy in Tehran all to well. But, are we so arrogant as to allow that memory to threaten peace? What do we remember about Vietnam? Go there today and make sense of the suffering for so many Americans. And, what is Vietnam today? They are our strategic allies in the region. Did the fighting and loss of life lead us here or did years of people to people exchanges and an opening up of economic recognition? We can’t possibly continue to hate everyone we have warred with. There are just to damn many of them.
Any discussion about lingering hate reminds me of 103 year-old Amelia Boynton Robinson, whose memories of being beaten unconscious in Selma, Alabama, left her with this advice, “Hate makes a person unhappy.” And so it does Amelia and all the more reason to eliminate it from our lives.
So, off to Cuba I go again on an art mission and wonder what I will say a year from today? Will we clamp our vice back down on the Cubans? Will we have walked or been forced away from the negotiating table with Iran. And, will we become more and more isolated because we can’t allow ourselves to imagine a world of peace?
Let’s allow Cuba to be a turning point for peace. Let’s do what Amelia, many in Vietnam and Cuba have done and forget the past to free us from hatred. There is no shame but only glory in honoring all American’s who have faced hardship from adversaries by demonstrating the power of an act of peace.