On the EDge: Obama, Stones rock Cuba

Left shows a former resort in La Habana, Cuba; right is Cuban flag | Image composite, St. George News

OPINION – It’s been a big week for Cuba.

In this March 21, 2016 photo, Cuban President Raul Castro, right, lifts up the arm of President Barack Obama at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba. Brushing off decades of distrust, Obama and Castro shook hands, a remarkable moment for two countries working to put the bitterness of their Cold War-era enmity behind them. Havana, Cuba, March 21, 2016 | AP Photo by Ramon Espinosa, St. George News
In this March 21, 2016 photo, Cuban President Raul Castro, right, lifts up the arm of President Barack Obama at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba. Havana, Cuba, March 21, 2016 | AP Photo by Ramon Espinosa, St. George News

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.

Thousands gathered at the Ciudad Deportiva as the Rolling Stones perform in Havana, Cuba, Friday. The Stones performed in a free concert in Havana Friday, becoming the most famous act to play Cuba since its 1959 revolution. Havana, Cuba, March 25, 2016 | AP Photo by Ramon Espinosa, St. George News
Thousands gathered at the Ciudad Deportiva as the Rolling Stones perform in Havana, Cuba, Friday. The Stones performed in a free concert in Havana Friday, becoming the most famous act to play Cuba since its 1959 revolution. Havana, Cuba, March 25, 2016 | AP Photo by Ramon Espinosa, St. George News

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.

A boat crowded with Cuban refugees arrives in Key West, Florida, during the 1980 Mariel Boatlift | Public domain photo from U.S. Coast Guard via Wikimedia Commons, St. George News
A boat crowded with Cuban refugees arrives in Key West, Florida, during the 1980 Mariel Boatlift | Public domain photo from U.S. Coast Guard via Wikimedia Commons, St. George News

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.

Fans carrying the Cuban and the U.S. flags draped on their backs arrive at the Ciudad Deportiva for the Rolling Stones concert in Havana, Cuba, Friday March 25, 2016 | AP Photo by Ramon Espinosa, St. George News
Fans carrying the Cuban and the U.S. flags draped on their backs arrive at the Ciudad Deportiva for the Rolling Stones concert in Havana, Cuba, Friday March 25, 2016 | AP Photo by Ramon Espinosa, St. George News

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.

Mick Jagger, right, of the The Rolling Stones performs as Keith Richards plays the guitar and Charlie Watts plays the drums, in Havana, Cuba, Friday March 25, 2016 | AP Photo by Enric Marti, St. George News
Mick Jagger, right, of the The Rolling Stones performs as Keith Richards plays the guitar and Charlie Watts plays the drums, in Havana, Cuba, Friday March 25, 2016 | AP Photo by Enric Marti, St. George News

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.

Fans watch the Rolling Stones concert from a neighboring house next to the venue, at the Ciudad Deportiva in Havana, Cuba, Friday. The Stones performed a free concert in Havana, becoming the most famous act to play Cuba since its 1959 revolution. Havana, Cuba, March 25, 2016 | AP Photo/Desmond Boylan
Fans watch the Rolling Stones concert from a neighboring house next to the venue, at the Ciudad Deportiva in Havana, Cuba, Friday when The Stones performed a free concert. Havana, Cuba, March 25, 2016 | AP Photo/Desmond Boylan

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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9 Comments

  • RealMcCoy March 29, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Wow ed. What a nice, unbiased article.
    As for comparing the politicians to zoo animals (and don’t think we don’t know the kind you are referring to here): “…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.” Now, if someone said that about obama, you would be on here with a whole spiel about racism and people stooping to new levels of low.
    ed, you are an embarrassment to America.
    Go kneel to your hero’s in Cuba and don’t come back.

    • .... March 30, 2016 at 12:53 am

      Wow RealMcStupid you are an embarrassment to America with your ignorance and stupidity. go kneel to your hero in the Mormon Temple. ..

      • RealMcCoy March 30, 2016 at 11:36 am

        Your level of ignorance is now confirmed.
        I see now you don’t even read my comments, you just find them to ramble your drivel.
        It’s pretty obvious I’m not a mormon.
        Thanks for the laugh though.

        • .... March 31, 2016 at 3:04 am

          Your level of ignorance is now confirmed .we all know your Mormon but you try to hide it.you just look for my comments so you can spew your drivel. but thanks for the laugh stupid. You can atone for it Friday. if you can find your way out of mommies basement

          • RealMcCoy April 1, 2016 at 1:12 pm

            I’m not the one up at 3 in the morning replying to comments on here.
            What got you us so early dotboy? Researching law to defend yourself for your future tortoise law arrest?

  • BIG GUY March 29, 2016 at 11:58 am

    I support rapprochement with Cuba; with a little patience, democratic ideals may triumph over the current dictatorship. But I couldn’t fail to notice several blatant inconsistencies in Ed’s thinking:

    Ed says, “Our infatuation with the Saudis is irrational….” This statement is completely nonsensical. Saudi Arabia exports more oil than any country on the planet; without that oil the world economy would head sharply downward in short order. The world would do far better without low cost Chinese exports than it would without Saudi oil. Cuba exports cigars and sugar. Do the math, Ed, and get “rational.”

    Ed says, “…there was a time when young people were jailed for the dissident act of listening to The Beatles or Stones.” He implies that with the Stones’ concert, everything is better. Ed ignores the fact that hundreds, even thousands, are still being jailed each year in Cuba for “dissident acts” such as advocating democracy or voicing dissatisfaction with some aspect of the Castro dictatorship. Mick Jagger hasn’t seemed to change much at all.

    And no, Ed, “this is [NOT] every bit as impressive and historic as Richard Nixon smoothing things over with China.” Far from it. Ed is delusional about its import only because it was done by a progressive Democrat with an otherwise disastrous foreign policy record. Nice to have at least one accomplishment in eight years.

  • Curtis March 30, 2016 at 11:07 am

    An irrational column.
    The US is hardly infatuated with the Saudis and our relationship with them is perfectly rational. They have something to sell that we have wanted to buy — oil. We have something to sell that they want to buy — billions in sales of military equipment.
    Ed described the experience of Cuban refugees in the US only in negative terms. Most but not all Cuban refugees did suffer poverty and frustration when they first arrived in the US. Most overcame that and thru hard work, and being highly entrepreneurial were able to rise above those conditions and many of the original refugees and certainly their children and grandchildren are firmly in the middle class. And of course they were free from dictatorship and able to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Hundreds of Cubans still try to immigrate to the US each year which I guess is irrational since, as we have been assured, there really is no difference between communism and capitalism.
    The Cuban refugees were hardly voiceless and helpless. Some normalization has been so long in coming, and legal restraints to further normalization still remain because the Cuban community was and is neither voiceless or helpless.
    Jailing of young, middle aged and the elderly continues and not because they are listening to rock and roll. Hundreds were detained to get them out of sight and quiet during Obama’s visit.
    Trump and Cruz have been hasty in advocating carpet bombing. However Ed — you do realize that the Islamic State is not merely looking, thinking and acting differently, don’t you?
    If you think normalization with Cuba is anything like normalization with China you should ease up on that really good rum.

  • IDIOT COMMENTERS March 30, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    if all cubans are as bad as rubio and cruz then we need to nuke that island, and fast!

    • .... March 31, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      Good idea. but wait till mesaman and the RealMcStupid land there. Then nuke it !

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