"One of the things I mentioned to President Bush and my blogging colleagues at last week's meeting was that, while I and the gentlemen and woman sitting at that meeting come from countries where despotism rules and human rights are systematically violated and where oppression is the order of the day, I, personally, was different. 'Unlike my blogging colleagues here, Mr. President,' I said, 'I was fortunate enough to have lived, and been raised in freedom.' My father, just a year or two younger than I am now brought this crying baby boy, his sobbing sister and their worried and terrified mother to ths country so that we would know true liberty. Not an easy thing, for a man with a family, midway through his life to uproot that family and leave the only country and people he'd ever known, and take that family to a country where everything is different. The mores, the culture, the language. To settle in a new country without any friends or family, with nothing but the proverbial shirts on their backs. I dont think I would have the strength, determination or perseverance to do the same." -- Val Prieto, "Freedom House," Babalú, December 17, 2008
The words in the title are from Yankee Doodle Dandy (1941), the amiable biopic of legendary Broadway showman and composer George Cohan, portrayed flawlessly by fellow Irishman James Cagney. In the movie Cohan is invited to the White House to receive a Gold Medal voted by Congress in recognition of his wartime services, which included composing the most popular song of World War I, "Over There."
Cohan relates his life's story from birth to a delighted Franklin Roosevelt, who has been a fan of Cohan's all his life. He concludes his narration 2 hours later with the words with which he used to close his act for 50 years: "My father thanks you, my mother thanks you, and I thank you."
Well, Val has remade the classic picture with himself as Cohan and Bush as FDR (a big stretch for them both). Val is under the delusion that he was summoned to the White House to receive the thanks of a grateful nation and entertain a weary president with the particulars of his storied career. He considers his family's struggle to succeed in this country as more important than the Cuban people's struggle to be free in their own country.
In fact, for Val, "Cuba" is his own family's story. No doubt it is a story of merit on many parts as most Cuban family sagas are; but is does not constitute the sum of our history as a people nor can its struggle for assimilation replace the Cuban people's struggle for survival. Martí said all there is to be said in these words: "Para Cuba que sufre, la primera palabra." He didn't say, "Para la familia que triunfa, la primera palabra." Val's trip to the White House was not about vindicating the rights of the Cuban people but consummating his journey as an American.
As we leave Val he's skipping down the stairs of the White House humming "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy" (another Cohan composition).