Meet Ana Menéndez. You know her already, of course, as The Miami Herald's spokesman for Cuban-Americans who does nothing but speak ill of them, in contrast, for example, to its African-American columnist, whose job it is to champion his community, which often translates into attacking other communities on their behalf when he feels that his own has been shortchanged or victimized. Menéndez is no champion of her people; on the contrary, she exists for the sole purpose of misrepresenting them and embracing all and sundry who oppose them. But this is not news to you. She is what she is, and by now everybody knows what that is.
But you would do Ana Menéndez a great injustice if you thought she was merely a self-hating Cuban who trades on her ethnicity while remaining aloof from "her people" and even contemptuous of them; who discovered at the age of 35, after denying her roots all her life, that being a Cuban by accident and a liberal by choice had its advantages in the world of journalism, where such rara avis are collected and sheltered and even presented to the world as representative of their species when in fact they are only freaks.
There are many faces of Ana (as if one were not enough). There is Ana Menéndez, exponent of moral equivalency between victim and victimized; Ana Menéndez, critic of all things Cuban except tyrants; Ana Menéndez, beleaguered uber-conscience of her people; and, my personal favorite, Ana Menéndez, martyr for truth. All in an amateur capacity, of course.
Today, we will concentrate on Ana Menéndez, amateur psychologist. Since Cuban-Americans are such a disturbed and conflicted bunch (so unlike her, their therapist), it is necessary for the transplanted Valley girl to psychoanalyze them in all her columns, for only in the light of her intuited knowledge (the only knowledge she has of them) can her non-Cuban readers understand the depths of their depravity. The most famous example of this tendency to read the worst into anything they do was her column on the Cuba Nostalgia convention a year ago. Where most people would see a bunch of old folks lovingly fingering ancient postcards and reliving their past through its relics — imbibing, as it were, cubanidad with their coffee — Menéndez saw only the commercialization of patriotism and the cheapening of culture. Such criticism is ridiculous on its face (Menéndez as a champion of Cuban patriotism and culture!) and shows just how disconnected she is from her own roots or any fellow-feeling for her people. She also indulged in psychological mumbo-jumbo to explain this Cuban obsession of looking backward at one's life (exclusive to us, of course) while cheapening that past by fetishisizing its nostalgia (exclusive to us, as well). This particular column even won a prize (actual money, $4000) from some Cuban-bashing group, which should be a powerful incentive to continue doing what she's doing because there is a paying audience for her work in addition to her employer. (I wonder how many other journalists get "bonuses" for their columns from likeminded readers?)
Today I am going to dissect her last column, also written in that psychological vein of hers, entitled "Cuban Girl's Case Is Part of a Larger Story" [The Miami Herald, Sept. 23, 2007]. Quite a keen insight, as usual. Isn't every story a part of a bigger story? But don't let me shoot down her column before she's even started.
Menéndez is puzzled that anyone should give a damn about Elenita, the refugee girl whose custody is being contested in a Florida courtroom by Fidel Castro (using her father as his proxy). "Every day, children are lost, abused and shuffled around. Why then so much attention to the plight of one little girl?" she asks.
Before proceeding to answer the question which everybody already knows the answer to, she takes a detour to castigate the wealthy Cubas for making the state of Florida spend $250,000 on this case rather than just surrendering the girl so she can take her place in Fidel Castro's trophee case. Of course, the Cubas had nothing to do with the Florida Department of Children and Families' decision to challenge the fitness of the birth father or to spend whatever monies it saw fit to make their case. Joe Cubas has probably spent much more than that on his own legal team. But Menéndez can't pass up an opportunity to bash rich[er] right-wing Cubans, even those who are less rich today precisely because they put their principles ahead of money. The inference which Menéndez wants her readers to make is that rich Cubans control Miami and can make the local government do their bidding and even compel it to spend $250,000 on a custody case (which surely no poor Cuban child is worth to Menéndez).
While berating the DCF for "spending about $250,000 on behalf of the wealthy foster parents, Joe and Maria Cubas" [n.b. "on behalf of the wealthy foster parents," not the child) who want to keep her here" [that is, adopt her], Menéndez makes no remonstrance against the Castro regime for spending at least an equal amount of the Cuban people's scarcer resources to repatriate the girl.
"On the other side," she writes, "Ira Kurzban has assembled a high-powered team to make the case for the father, Rafael Izquierdo, who wants to take the girl back to Cuba." How nice of Ira! He "assembled the team," unasked and unbidden. Well, maybe Rafael Izquierdo phoned him from Cuba and retained his services. He never called his own daughter, but the simple guajiro was able to find Ira. No doubt Ira has plastered the island with his business cards; or, maybe, he doesn't have to, since one card is enough, the one kept in the Rolodex of the Ministry of the Interior. Well, but Ira is doing all this "pro bono." Yes, pro his bono.
Having clearly established by innuendo which side in the custody case she favors (the one that supposedly doesn't spend any money) Menéndez resumes her psychological musings:
"Enough therapists have gathered to convene a symposium.
We in newspapers and television have also made a huge deal of an otherwise ordinary case. Why? The obvious answer is Elian. Memories of that debacle are so fresh that court insiders refer to this case as Elian II.
But there is a deeper reason for the frenzy surrounding this little girl: The slender outline of her story is poignant short-hand for the larger story Cubans have been writing for half a century.
A "deeper reason" than "the obvious answer" (Elián)? This "deeper reason" is supposedly to be found "in the larger story that Cubans have been writing for half a century." OK, the "deeper reason" than "the obvious answer" is to be found in "the larger story." Knowing, as we do, that Menéndez has absolutely no knowledge of that "story" (history), we are not surprised when she fills the recesses with her patented psychological mumbo-jumbo:
From the beginning, one of the Revolution's great tragedies has been the thousands of families riven by ideology and separation. It's a trauma that has touched every exile family, regardless of politics.
Any of the therapists in residence in Cohen's courtroom can tell you that early traumas continue to mark us until they're fully addressed. Elian was, in its own way, a giant acting-out, a revisiting of all the resentment toward Fidel.
Eight years on, the case of this little girl seems similar, which explains the attention. But it's also different, which may help soothe the inevitable outcome.
Her great psychological insight: Cubans are traumatized and act like traumatized people. What has "traumatized" them? Being "riven by ideology and separation." Is this a phenomenon without an agent? Whose ideology were they "riven" by? Who caused the separation of thousands of Cuban families? And on a grammatical note, "riven" means separated. So she's saying that Cubans were "separated by separation." Again, who is the separator?
We will not get that answer from her.
When she does mention Fidel Castro, it is as the recipient of our "resentment" towards him. Poor man, so greatly resented for nothing that he did.
And how are traumatized Cuban exiles to address this resentment which they feel towards Fidel for apparently no reason?
You guessed it. By turning their backs on this little girl:
"Everyone may have an opinion about where the child belongs, but this time around, most people seem willing to keep it to themselves.
There have been no demonstrations, no public shouting matches, no prayer vigils. Why? The popular explanation is that exiles learned from the Elián embarrassment."
What was it exactly that Cuban exiles "learned" from the "Elián embarassment?" That they were right. Everything they said would happen to the boy happened to him in Cuba and worse than they could even have imagined. The "lesson" which Menéndez would have Cuban exiles learn is that they should never oppose the objectives of Fidel Castro. This will cure them of any residual trauma and resentment which they may feel towards him.
She seems to be implying (and will say later) that Cuban exiles have gained political maturity since the days of Elián. It is more likely that they have lost their blind faith in American democracy (which may be the one good thing that came out of the "Elián debacle"). And who is responsible for increasing their political maturity? Fidel Castro. He is responsible for the fact that no unseemly public emotions that might offend Menéndez's Anglo neighbors and judges have been seen in this case.
And how did a moribund Fidel accomplish this?
By refusing to involve himself in this case.
This case exists only because of Fidel Castro. It is his deathbed revenge on his #1 enemy. Not Posada Carriles, who never personally affected Castro's own interests; but Joe Cubas, who stole to freedom many of Fidel's prized slaves, the regime's gladiators who fight for the honor of Caesar and are lucky to escape with their own skins as a reward.
Menéndez also credits Judge Jeri B. Cohen and "to some extent" Joe and María Cubas for "shielding the girl from publicity." You see, the greeat evil here is publicity not propaganda. Who is going to protect this little girl from Castro's propaganda in Cuba? Who protected Elián? No one. Menéndez is not concerned about that. She candidly admits at this point in her article that she wants the girl returned to Cuba for the whole Elián treatment. That doesn't concern her. Publicity concerns her, that is, the free flow of information. The manipulation of information in Cuba, the state's monopoly on all media, does not concern her:
"Joe and Maria Cubas made many missteps. But in one important area, they did the right thing: It must have been tempting to drag the story of the cute little auburn-haired girl before the cameras.
It would have been easy to make an emotional plea directly to a community still easily manipulated through ancient hurts.
In refusing to do so, they have proved their love, for which no one can fault them. They've also helped move this community that much closer to maturity. For which we can all be grateful."
The "first misstep," of course, that Joe and María Cubas made was to challenge Castro. That is always the "first misstep," as far as Menéndez is concerned. As for "dragging the girl" before the cameras, it would obviously have been a worse offense than dragging her back to Cuba. At least she concedes that Cuban exiles are also capable of love. Usually, she credits them only with the capacity to hate (as she did earlier in this article). For her, the wounds and scars which Cubans bear, physical and psychological, are "ancient hurts" which should long ago have been forgotten. Only when Cuban exiles can forget those "ancient hurts," which are as fresh as the uncongealed blood on the faces of dissidents in Cuba, today as in every day for the last 48 years; only when they accept their own victimization and are "grateful" for it (as she is), will Cuban exiles move "closer to political maturity."
Where was Menéndez when the Jews needed her?