In 1928, Calvin Coolidge became the first and only U.S. president to make a state visit to Cuba, though several others travelled there before or after their terms. Perhaps I'll write about that some day. Right now, however, it is Coolidge's nickname which interests me -- "Silent Cal." He was called that because he had a habit of speaking no superfluous words, which almost makes him unique among politicians of his or any era. A lady once told Coolidge that she had made a bet that she could get him to say more than 2 words. Replied Coolidge: "You lose." On another occasion his wife, who had been unable to accompany him to church that Sunday, asked him what the subject of the minister's sermon was. "Sin," Coolidge answered. "What did he say about it?" she asked. "He was against it." But let's not get carried away with fascinating Coolidge; he is invoked here simply as a prop and precedent for someone far less interesting if ordinarily more loquacious. We mean, of course, "Silent Val" Prieto, whose parsimony with words is of recent vintage.
A week has now transpired since Val lurked the corridors of power on a day pass, and met and pow-wowed with the "Great White Father" as the chosen representative of our tribe: chosen for us, not by us. He promised on several occasions to inform his "constituents" of the results of his meeting but has to date said not one word about it. He did publish a photograph to document the preposterous scene and foster curiosity about it, which "Silent Val" does not seem disposed to satisfy. Supposedly, Val is still suffering from nervous exhaustion masquerading as a cold, and we can well imagine that such a melding of minds (as it were) between Bush and Val must have been trying on both master and hireling.
The absence of facts has resulted in much speculation about Val's participation at the Bloggers Summit, some perhaps frivolous but not on that account less instructive. Someone even suggested that Val threw his underwear at Bush during the meeting. This would, I suppose, be the opposite of throwing a shoe at him, though not less frightening in other respects. Taking this suggestion as a metaphor, I can think of no other reason that Val Prieto would be chosen as the sole representative of Cuba's international blogging community. At most, Val represents Babalú and its satellites, which is one of the least effulgent constellations in the Cuban blogosphere. Bush's snubbing of Yoani Sánchez, who, unlike other overseas participants, was not invited to appear via teleconference, was the only tangible news that emerged from that event. Her absence might be explained by her naive support for Obama, but, more likely, it seems that it was her lack of support for Bush's policies which led to her exclusion -- that is, the exclusion of the world's most famous and honored dissident blogger. Even more insulting to her was the fact that Val Prieto was chosen as her substitute. We are sure that Yoani would not have lowered the curtain of silence on those proceedings. Even if she were not physically present, she would have intuited more than Val could see with his own eyes. Because the tragedy is not that Val is silent, but that he is blind.