There is more than a little Ellis Carver, part of Baltimore’s fictional finest in The Wire, in me about the recent Obama administration changes to U.S. policy towards Cuba. In a memorable rant atop an unmarked police car, [then] Sgt. Carver announced to teenage drug dealing trainees that were hiding from him, “you do not get to win, shitbird.”
Sgt. Carver wasn’t wrong that day, just ineffective. He would eventually adjust his tactics. Which is not to say that he then experienced success. What he eventually experienced was the satisfaction of acting in the most defensible manner possible and better able to live with the ambiguous results.
Similarly, for those of us born in Cuba, raised in el norte and on the right of the political spectrum, winning ‘Twitter-feed cycles’ or any other snippet arguments, has never been in the cards on the subject of the embargo, i.e., what U.S. foreign policy should be towards the government of Cuba. The reason is that the anti-embargo argument frequently comes attached with an irrefutable ace in the hole, knowledge as to the will of the Cuban people.
I have taken in recent years to attempt to see if the reading of wills phenomena extended to other populations, for example the will of those living in poverty in Appalachia. Perhaps there the insight from the reading of wills can prove to be more actionable, but no luck to date.
In my case, my thoughts on the embargo are moderated by the conversation[s] I expect to have at some point with people with whom I am related, including a half-brother, and whose parents enthusiastically remained, at least initially. I have never had substantive contact with them, in effect respecting the initial choice of the two sisters who remained regarding the two brothers who left.
You will assume that I was not heart-broken to hear of their regrets many years later, and you would be correct. But don’t assume too much. Those type of feelings did not survive the realization over time that my country address was a result of parental sacrifices made for me, not of my doing. John Bradford’s reflection, ‘there but for the grace of God go I,’ does not feel like a cliche.
We are soon to be bombarded with polls showing that a majority of Americans support the lifting of the Cuban embargo. Further, that even a majority of Hispanics in South Florida, especially those under the age of … pick a number, also support lifting the embargo.
Regarding my views on how Iowans [to select a generic Mid-America state] view the embargo, all I will ever have to say is thank you for your past generosity towards this immigrant turned grateful citizen and his tribe. But as to young South Florida Hispanics, that’s a crowd I was once a part of and have gotten to observe up close for many years. It is regarding their opinions on the subject of Cuba that I am spectacularly unmoved.
The reason is that I believe that their views on the subject reflect something other than an opinion regarding a U.S. foreign policy position. It would be hard to overstate the level of resentment towards ‘la guardia vieja,’ which I define as the Cuban exiles which began immigrating in the 1960’s.
If other parts of the U.S. have long been tired of the Cuba subject, imagine the feeling among young Hispanics whose families aren’t from Cuba, in effect being lectured about how the ‘greatest Hispanic generation’ paved the way for the opportunities they now experience. If you think a majority of them accept that formulation and are outwardly grateful, you would be mistaken.
Closer to home, consider those Cubans who immigrated beginning with Mariel and after. While it may seem a minor distinction from the outside, the divide is real here. Recent Cuban immigrants are consistently apolitical, and who can blame them, it’s the sorest of subjects. When you factor in that many of those post-1980 immigrants had parents who may have initially supported the revolution, or at least not sufficiently alarmed to upend their lives, the resentments get really complicated.
So when I hear about the polling results of young South Florida Hispanics, I have two reactions:
- For a majority of those polled, the actual verbal exchange during the polling constituted their longest conversation on the subject in years.
- Whatever they were asked, here’s what I believe they heard; “Tell us whether you agree with the U.S. foreign policy stance which is most important to the Cuban-American establishment?
That a majority, like the German barbarians response to Maximus, ‘say no,’ is predictable and uninstructive.