Saturday, October 22, 2011

One Week at Home: Final Reflections

"She was beginning to understand that evil is not absolute, and that good is often an occasion more than a condition." ~Gilbert  Parker

I had hoped to come to some solid conclusions about life in Cuba after my brief visit.  I had hoped to sit down in the airport terminal in Miami and let it all pour onto the paper.  But draft after draft filled pages of messy, unorganized writing and unclear thoughts.

If I learned anything on this trip, it is that things are not black and white.  And while we often give lip service to this cliched adage,  nothing more so as my experiences last week has made it more clear.

When faced with different ideologies, we Americans, revolutionists and patriots at heart, tend to lean toward polarization--we feel that there must be a right way and a wrong way. We crave justice and justification. But I came away from Cuba with the new understanding that humanity is a leveling factor that simply defies ideology.  We are so quick to judge another country's downfalls without examining our own, and we are afraid of embracing and learning from successes that our enemies may have encountered along the way.

I recently received an angry three and half page typed letter from a Cuban exile who personally attacked me for my views posted on this blog, requesting that I "withdraw that fantasy drivel" that I have written.  At first, I began to compile research so I could write a rebuttal.  But then I went back through to reread my "drivel" and realized that we are reading through two different sets of eyes. We  are of different generations, different nationalities, and have different historical perspectives.  What I write as inquiry and wonder about a process and its results, he misperceives as awe and admiration for a gang of bloodthirsty thugs.  What he has determined as black and white for so many years now, I am now viewing as gray.

This is the very problem with policy and polarization.  Cuba has a bloody revolutionary past.  At the end, many left, frightened and having lost everything. Loved ones went missing.  Others saw their families settle into better situations,  experiencing greater equality.  Anything historical can be seen through two sets of eyes.  As Americans, we can admire our innovation and Western expansion of this great land and nation, while Native Americans may recall a time when 30,000 of their people were lost to combat and 80-90% of their population fell victim to smallpox.  It's all about perspective.

Cuba is fresh though.  Those who prospered and those who suffered are still alive, trying to make sense of a living history as Fidel Castro lay sick, and his 80 year old brother leads the country.  And the changes that are positive, like health care and education, feel outweighed at times by the documented human rights atrocities and limitations on freedom of speech.

Nothing is black and white.  Some situations elicit inconclusiveness.  But no situation eludes the necessity of inquiry and exploration.

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