In the wake of President Obam’s new opening with Cuba, there has been a rush to Little Havana in Miami to try to gauge the reaction of the Cuban-Americans. Generally, the reporting has indicated that it falls along generational lines, with many younger exiles, many actually born in this country, ready for change in the US/Cuban relationship with many older, original exiles angry and upset.
This open letter to the exile community is the TerryReport response:
Dear Cuban exiles,
First, the main point: I don’t care what you think about the developing changes with Cuba. You are not the United States of America. No one has a right to hijack American foreign policy and insist that it be conducted under their personal grievances. No one owns the country’s foreign policy or has a right to overrule the concerns of the rest of the nation.
Some of you have been in South Florida for nearly half a century enjoying the protections of American law and rights and having been welcomed to this country warmly. Some of you have built businesses, raised families, built careers, sent your kids off to college and enjoyed all the things that come with living in this country, yet you have, apparently, spent far too much time thinking about revenge and reclaiming your property in Cuba. Many have gone to their graves angry at Castro and angry that some major invasion wasn’t launched to take Cuba back from the Castros. This country has given you much, apparently everything we have to offer, but your focus continues to be on anger and your loss in Cuba.
Here’s the deal: we don’t let the family members of murder victims decide the punishment. We don’t operate entirely on the principal of “getting back” at our enemies or those who offend us. We, you see, are a nation. We can take into account wrongs done to others, we can attempt to make things right, but we can’t base everything on your anger and resentment. Sorry.
There is no doubt that the Castro regime is horribly repressive. There is no doubt that Fidel ordered murders, killing people without trials when his revolution came to power. There is no doubt that the Castros continue to use repressive measures against the Cuban people. The question is what is best for the future for the United States and, potentially, the Cuban people. The last 50+ years of embargo and severed relations haven’t worked. They are never going to work in and of themselves to change Cuba, but whether it works or not is apparently not important to you. What is important is revenge or at least continuing the anger.
Nations around the world have “leaders” who have ordered or done horrible things to their own people. Thugism is not limited to Cuba. Eventually, people who lead bloody revolutions, participate in terrorism or carry out repressive measures generally get accepted into “the family of nations”. The world is not ruled nicely or politely. It is often ruled by those who gather the best thugs they can find and take power by force.
I respect your right, especially those who have earned American citizenship by becoming naturalized or by birth here, to protest and say what you don’t like. I do not respect misstatements of fact or an insistence that everything be done the way you want it. One Cuban-American woman in Miami quoted in a national newspaper said that Obama claimed the Cuba was no longer a state sponsor of terrorism. He did not say that. He said there would be a review of that status (sponsoring terrorism means what are generally considered to be terrorist acts, like attacks on airliners, public places, bombings, etc. It does not mean doing anything that might cause terror to an individual.)
Yes, I have lost respect for your cause. You have carried it on so long with so little development or flexibility that it has worn out its welcome in this country. The US has made an uneasy peace with Russia, with China and even our sworn enemies from wars we have fought. We fought a revolution against England and then, about 36 years later, another war, but now England is our closest friend in Europe. England carried out terrorist acts in this country by hanging our patriots who wanted freedom and independence from them, but we eventually made peace. Thousands died fighting Germany, but now tourists drink beer and eat in their restaurants and we are eager to drive their well made cars.
We will make peace with Cuba and we can, thereafter, continue to look for change. There are many who believe, myself among them, that the greatest thing we can do to alter the course Cuba is on is to develop friendly relations. Opening the Internet and opening Cuba to the outside world through television, radio and movies could have a tremendous effect of encouraging change. Information and ideas have a greater power than bombs to bring about positive results.
Ultimately, the Cuban people have to demand change for it to occur and there have to be people in the highest levels of power in Cuba who see the way clear to open their country to more freedom. One of the largest communist experiments in the world, Russia, fell because it could not manage to feed its own people and operate in the modern world. Change will come to Cuba, too, but isolating it is a failed policy.
The desire for freedom is a near universal human emotion, although the degree of freedom one has in any society is limited by laws, social conventions and the desire to be part of the whole. Freedom is relative and it is not merely a financial issue. One of the most important aspects of freedom is the legal codification of individual rights that the state may not violate.
America’s foreign policies have to be measured against the needs of the nation as a whole, not just various groups. The United States is not about the business of righting every wrong that was ever done to anyone anywhere in the world. We have our own internal problems and history and we are unable to rectify mistakes made here historically. We can’t change the past and we can’t live in the past, either. Apparently, for many Cuban-Americans, living in the past is all they want to do. Don’t think you can continue to force our nation to accept that view. Time and history move on to a new day, whether we, or you, like it or not.
Soon, a new generation without the name “Castro” will take over power in Cuba and, as one Cuban American put it to the NY Times last week, “One day when you least expect it, Cuba will be free.”
Doug Terry, 12.22.14