Saturday, March 8, 2008
The Good Samaritan of Words
Once again President George Bush has spoken out on behalf of Cuban freedom. No president has said more on the subject and done less. He is the Good Samaritan of Words. He stands before the prostrate body of our forlorn country and he griefs and commiserates and then moves on. And our country is left langushing on the road, waiting for the Good Samaritan of Deeds to appear.
A man's actions are his truest words and in all things pertaining to Cuba Bush has followed the course charted by his Democratic predecessor. With a stroke of his pen he could have put an end to the legal travesty and crime against humanity known as the "Wet Foot/Dry Foot Policy." Instead, he has upheld it longer than Clinton did. He has done nothing in seven years to alleviate the suffering of the Cuban people or increase the discomfort of their oppressors. This is wrong and he knows it is wrong and hence the words and empty gestures. They are not without effect and play to the sensibilities of certain Cuban-Americans (or "American-Cubans") who are impressed by the mere fact that the president of the United States deigns to notice them. Attention is nice. It makes us all feel important. But when all is said and said, the president's words do not diminish one iota the suffering of the Cuban people nor bring them one day closer to their liberation. His words about Cuba, like Barack Obama's words about everything, are meant to conceal the truth rather than confess it.
By the time he leaves office, I am sure that Mr. Bush will have held a Cuba-event in each and every room of the White House; perhaps even the Lincoln bedroom. This time the setting was the Theodore Roosevelt Room, and there the president stands in front of a portrait of the Rough Rider. Yes, that is certainly an historical personage who looms large in the history of both our countries. He was the star of the so-called "Spanish-American War," which cost the lives of 400 American soldiers and more than 300,000 Cubans. Still, our sacrifice did not merit mention (or maybe Cubans are included among the "Spanish"). Roosevelt and his countrymen did nothing to secure our independence from Spain, which was won in ten thousand battles fought by Cuban rebels and not in an amphibious landing made possible by them or in a silly charge up a hillock while Cuban troops were keeping the enemy at bay. Little did Cubans realize then that another enemy had supplanted the Spanish in Cuba. Then came American Occupation, the Platt Amendment and Guantánamo, all on Teddy Roosevelt's watch. Did I mention that TR named his dog "Cuba?"
There was all kinds of symbolism whirling around the Roosevelt Room when President Bush proclaimed the inalienable right of Cubans to be free.