I was going to disregard Stuck on the Palmetto's skewered poll on the new Bay of Pigs Museum on Biscayne Bay. I think any idiot could see through it: "Should a Bay of Pigs Museum Be Built in Miami?" One would expect a "Yes" or "No" answer. But that would make it a fair poll, and pair polls are not the usage at SotP. The SotP poll has one "No" answer and two "Yes" answers intended to split the "Yes" vote. But wait: one of the "Yes" answers is actually a "No" in disguise: "Yes, but in a different location (than Biscayne Bay)," which is what both Rick and Alex want. When you skewer a poll like that you are certain to get the answer you want. I do it all the time — as a joke. But they are in deadly earnest.
Simply put: they object to the museum's proposed site because it is too choice a parcel of real estate to "waste" on a Bay of Pigs Museum. Yes, it is a radical idea to build a spectacular museum to commemorate an American defeat and betrayal, and such a clearcut and unequivocal betrayal and defeat. Both Castro and Kennedy's apologists (who are usually one and the same) certainly would wish it to be placed in some inconspicuous location, such as the present improvised museum occupies now, hidden away and forgotten except by the faithful, a metaphor for the thing itself. No, Little Havana is not the ideal location for the Bay of Pigs Museum. That would convey that it was just a "Cuban exile thing" which it absolutely was not. Nor is the Freedom Tower an appropriate locale for the museum, as Alex suggests. Why not, then, build the World War II Museum inside the Statue of Liberty? Because they convey two complimentary but distinct ideas: the Statue of Liberty and the Freedom Tower chronicle the immigrant/refugee experience in this country. The World War II Museum and the Bay of Pigs Museum commemorate the sacrifice made on the battlefield by men upholding the banner of liberty and civilization against the forces of tyranny and barbarism. There should be enough room on American soil for both a Statue of Liberty and a World War II Museum, just as there should be enough room in Miami for both a Freedom Tower and a Bay of Pigs Museum. Sadly, there has always existed a propensity among non-Cubans to marginalize and isolate our experience in this country as if it belonged only in some Cuban "ghetto" where everybody else could be immured from it.
Twenty years ago a veteran of the Bay of Pigs visited the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. He naturally looked for the exhibit on the Bay of Pigs, surely one of the seminal events in the Kennedy presidency. But guess what? There was no exhibit. Granted, it is rather difficult to accommodate the Bay of Pigs into a museum whose purpose is to deify the most disastrous president in U.S. history. More remarkably, no one before had seemed to mind or even notice its absence. The Cuban veteran asked specifically to see the Bay of Pigs flag which the survivors of the Brigade 2506 had presented to Kennedy at the Orange Bowl, where he had again lied to them when he promised that it would some day fly over a free Cuba. The flag, he was informed, was in storage, along with JFK's bubble gum that someone scrapped from his shoe and an empty box of his Cuban cigars (no, those were on display). It was then that the Brigade 2506 Association asked for the return of the flag, which the Kennedy Museum surrendered without regrets (glad, probably, to be rid of it). Of course, after their memory hole was exposed, the museum directors were obliged to find some corner of the Museum to remember Kennedy's fiasco.
Alex and others have visited the improvised museum and complained about the paucity of artifacts. Well, the survivors weren't allowed to take much out of Cuba except their skin and bones. However, 1200 men did not live and die without leaving some trace on this earth, and these mementos will be gathered for the new museum as will the oral testimony of the survivors. Their story will be told chiefly through photographs, as at most modern museums. But even if the only artifact in the new Bay of Pigs Museum were the flag spurned by the Kennedy Library then it would be worth building just to enshrine it till the day that it does fly over a free Cuba.
I do agree with Alex and others in one respect — scrap the garage. Build instead a Mausoleum for the veterans of the Bay of Pigs, where they can rest together till the day that their remains and their flag can be repatriated to a free Cuba.
The "Fiasco" that Wasn't a Fiasco
Arthur M. Schlesinger: The Devil in Mr. Kennedy