Today starts out as a good day because I get to thank an ordinary American for standing up for Cuban freedom. This, of course, makes him an extraordinary American. I actually thought once about starting a blog called The Righteous American where I would highlight every day something which an American did that showed empathy for Cubans here or on the island. I thought it would be a useful tonic against becoming jaded by everything which the U.S. government did to frustrate Cuban freedom or failed to do to stimulate it. The problem, of course, was finding a different American to honor every day. There are many Americans who consistently and tirelessly devote themselves to our cause, and though there is not praise enough to commend their efforts, I didn't want to belabor their uniqueness every day but hoped to find others less known but not less ardent in their support for Cuban freedom who deserved recognition for their unheralded acts. I am sure that if there were hundreds of hours in the day and I could stay awake for hundreds of hours on end I would be able to track down in the whole expanse of the U.S. at least one American each day who defended or assisted our brothers, or who spoke up for them when their own would not or even when their own disparaged them. Since we cannot make this a daily feature at RCAB much less devote an entire blog to these unsung heroes, we have decided to honor them here whenever the ocassion presents itself.
So today the Review of Cuban American Blogs bestows its first "Righteous American Award" on Bill Archer of Uniontown, Ohio. The award is presented in virtue of Mr. Archer's rebuke of Jeff Rusnak, soccer columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, who in "Cuba's Game in Tampa Was Ill-Advised Decision" (March 16, 2008), lamented that the Olympic soccer trials were held in Tampa and suggested more remote venues for thwarting would-be Cuban defectors and protecting them from the contagion of freedom ["Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of U.S.-Cuban relations knows that the first rule of scheduling anything to do with Cuba in this country is to place the visitors as far away from Miami as possible. The first reason is to avoid the protestations of Miami's Cuban community"].
Here is Mr. Archer's reply:
Hey, good thought: why not just hold the games in Nome or Bangor? Make those little rascals think twice about wanting to be free, eh?
Better yet, maybe CONCACAF could just provide some heavily armed paramilitaries to keep an eye on those pesky Cubans. That way, the lovely little tournament won't be marred by some guys who get stupid ideas about personal liberty.
Your post is insulting in so many ways it's astonishing. You're saying that CONCACAF is supposed to collude with brutal dictatorships by making it as hard as possible for their players to walk away.
Suppose we could get a "Brutal Dictatorship Supporter of the Year" medal out of this?
As Americans, we - or at least most of us - believe that "liberty" is the "inalienable right" of ALL men, whether Raul Castro agrees or not.
We don't refuse to hold events featuring Norwegians in Minnesota for fear the players will run off and move in with Uncle Sven. We don't schedule Japan in Texas to keep the players from getting comfortable with their surroundings.
Yet you think special consideration should be given to Cuba?
What's next for you? Helping the North Koreans keep track of their guys? Or maybe we should just arrest these Cubans and hand them back so this soccer tournament will be prettier.
What planet are you from? Hello?
In any case, the games with Cuba WERE played, the results were not much different from what they would have been otherwise (Cuba isn't a very good team, with or without those guys) and the game on Thursday where Cuba played a man down for 90 minutes was a compelling image of courage, tenacity, brotherhood and patriotism and a stirring reminder of the dignity and honor of sport.
Well, at least it was for everyone but you, who apparently felt that a full Cuban bench was much preferable to having seven players who are now free men.
Your column is ridiculous, poorly thought through and inane. You ought to be ashamed.
Some may take exception, I suppose, to Mr. Archer's assertion that the remaining Cuban soccer players were also heroes because they opted to play with one man down for 90 minutes. Yes, they showed great "courage and tenacity" because they were literally playing for their own lives. They were already marked men because of the defections of their teammates. It will be assumed by Havana that they knew about those defections and did not report them. This is probably true. They were no doubt asked to join the the other defectors and opted not to do so for personal reasons. But the "brotherhood and patriotism" which they showed was in not ratting out the defectors, even though doing so would have resulted in greater rewards for them than even winning an (improbable) Olympic medal. They vindicated the "honor and dignity of sport" by refusing to become enablers of a system which uses sport to degrade the honor and dignity of man. I am sure that every man on the Cuban soccer team who didn't defect played with a terrible sense of loss, the apprehension that they may have missed out on their one and only opportunity to be free. But they played as mice in a maze will run because there is nothing else for them to do.
The odd thing was that, unlike Mr. Archer who looks on all the Cuban athletes as heroes, there are Cuban exiles who choose to regard even the defectors as traitors. At first, Babalu supported the defecting soccer players. It even rebuked an ESPN columnist who essentially said the same things as the Sun-Sentinel's soccer editor and just as offensively. Henry even compelled the guy to retract his article (as if there were not dozens of anti-Cuban posts that Henry himself should retract). However, when the defectors refused to read Henry & Val's scripted remarks because they feared (with every good reason) that making such declarations would bring even greater reprisals on their families in Cuba, the Babalunians convened as a posse to anathematize the newcomers. It used to be that Castro was the one intent on dividing the Cuban family. He doesn't even have to bother anymore. It is the children of exiles who have taken the vanguard in erecting walls of misunderstanding and distrust between us. They do not remember that their parents also came to this country with outstretched hands because they had nothing but the clothes on their backs. The Cuban Miracle did not happen overnight. There were many in this country who helped us, first and foremost, Cubans who were already here. Regardless of political differences before or immediately after the triumph of the Revolution, Cubans united in common cause here because they understood that they had only one enemy now. Never were Cubans closer, never were they more united, never was the essential more real and the superfluous less important, never was cubanidad more palpable and ennobling, than in those first years of exile. What has happened to us since? Why do Cubans who have never felt Castro's lash across their backs berate and insult youths who have known no other way of life since birth? Why do those who escaped those horrors mock the wounds, physical and psychological, of those who endured them? Is compassion also now a casualty of the Revolution? Have we become sensible only to our own pain and indifferent to the pain of others? Well, many of us have. There is no denying it when many shamelessly attest to it.
So, here's to you, Mr. Archer, for feeling our pain when many of us simply cannot feel anything anymore. Thank you, most of all, for recognizing and affirming our humanity before a world too accustumed to our servitude to ever imagine that any other condition might be more agreeable to us or more worthy of us.