OPINION – It’s been a big week for Cuba.
First, President Obama swept in for a historic visit.
Then, The Rolling Stones threw an intimate party for a half-million or so people.
For the first time since the Mafia left town, Havana was swinging.
And, with good reason.
The foreigners landing on Cuban shores weren’t trying to spur revolution, kill Fidel Castro with poisonous cigars or smuggle some world-class baseball player out of the country.
No, this was a major step in normalization, a major step in reconciling the Western Hemisphere.
Yes, relations soured when Castro took over the island nation and brought communism to within 100 miles of U.S. shores.
It got worse, of course, when the Soviets tried to ship nukes to be deployed in the sugar cane fields.
But, that was ages ago and, apparently, the grudge has passed.
It won’t be long before U.S. citizens will be able to jet into Havana for a night at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba like in the old days.
That’s a good thing.
Besides good Cohiba cigars, cheap and plentiful sugar and really good rum, we stand to gain much as the cultures meld and the wounds heal, particularly in the field of medicine where Cuban researchers have made some impressive gains in the war on cancer and other diseases.
On the other side, look for an infusion of dollars into the Cuban economy, mostly from what will be a thriving tourist trade.
Now, before getting your knickers in a twist because of an easing of relations with a communist nation, remember that we have done – and continue to do – business with communist countries and worse – from China to Saudi Arabia. We fed the Soviet Union when it was starving at the height of the Cold War and owe China a whopping chunk of our national debt. Our infatuation with the Saudis is irrational and, to be honest, the U.S. has made some bad choices in whom it partners with when it goes to war.
So this Cuba thing is nothing to get upset over, although there are many who hold an anger they cannot account for, other than it is longstanding, akin to the Hatfields and McCoys who inhabit the Middle East and have been going at each other for millennia.
We haven’t had a sitting president visit Cuba in about 90 years. We haven’t had a secretary of state visit in 70 years. Rock ‘n’ roll was pretty much confined to an underground of the daring who would smuggle in albums of the great rock groups or try desperately in the dead of night to tune in radio stations from the United States broadcasting with strong signals.
During the embargo era, the only thing that was accomplished was the amplification of the distrust and isolation of one country from the other.
Some – they have been called the Cuban boat people – tried to escape the island for a new life in the United States. Many were turned back. Some made it to U.S. shores, only to find they had traded one form of poverty and frustration for another. They were, for the most part, penniless, voiceless, helpless and separated from family members they did not know if they would ever see again.
See more – 2011 feature with Cuban emigrant family in St. George: Communism, Socialism and Freedom: Is America Turning into Cuba?
As neighbors in an ever-shrinking world community, that’s not good.
But, the policies and mistakes of the past continued unabated without understanding that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So the hostilities between the two nations continued.
A dialog has been opened, now, however.
The public and government officials in Cuba were gracious, although Fidel Castro did dash off a nasty note, in true revolutionary style, to Obama. The thing is, Fidel’s revolution has passed him by like the rest of the old-timers and hardliners, making him irrelevant in today’s world. It is abundantly clear that Mick and the boys have more clout these days than a tired old man in fatigues.
And so, diplomatic relations have been restored.
Things are happening.
A president touched down on Cuban shores and The Stones rocked the island.
It may seem silly, but those are historically major accomplishments and an indication of a softening of old-school attitudes on both sides.
You see, there was a time when young people were jailed for the dissident act of listening to The Beatles or Stones or any other rock group.
They were seen as dangerous and subversive by a group of dangerous and subversive revolutionaries.
I don’t think it’s a matter of age mellowing all of the parties involved, especially The Stones, who looked, sounded and acted as dangerous and daunting as ever even if they are now well into geezerdom.
I’m pretty sure Keith Richards still carries a blade and, even at 72, I’m sure he could get the drop on just about anybody. Just ask Donald Trump, who was once run off by the knife-wielding rocker for trying to push his way into a press conference for the band.
This new tact of opening doors and extending welcoming hands is simply an example of what logical minds can accomplish; how nations can find a way beyond all the ego and face-saving; how humanity can work its way to the surface if you allow it.
This is what leadership is about in the greater world.
This is how credibility is raised, how alliances are made.
Over the years, there were threats, none of which worked.
Over the years, we pretty much ignored the existence of an island with 11.27 million people living on it.
Over the years, we allowed political ideology to supersede the common thread of humanity.
A little diplomacy, a little negotiation and voila, success.
It’s nice to see this sort of thing, especially when we have wannabe candidates full of bombast and simplicity, thumping their chests as they swing in their tire in the corner of the zoo and shriek about carpet bombing anybody who looks, thinks or acts differently.
Like it or not this was a major win for President Obama despite what the hardliners or narrow-minded may say to the contrary. Of course, any time normalcy between feuding nations occurs it is a win, even if normalcy is a rapidly moving, almost impossible to distinguish target.
Even the biggest Grinch among you must admit that this is every bit as impressive and historic as Richard Nixon smoothing things over with China.
But, The Stones weren’t a part of that deal, which makes this one a lot cooler.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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