Saturday, February 16, 2008

Reflexiones of La Cubana de Sarasota: Part 1

Getting older isn't half bad. The worst is probably those late 30's when they start making newspaper print smaller and you can no longer pull out those gray hairs without leaving a bald spot, speaking of bald spots.... Once you make peace with the fact that you ain't never going to look like you once did and thought you always would, there's a lot to say for growing up.

One positive is that you start thinking about things. Death, for instance, used to be something that lurked in the dim, faraway future. Now, it becomes a distinct possibility, as you remember every one you ever knew who died prematurely and calculate that at best you are midway through life. Faced with the prospect of your own mortality and armed with the experience of decades of living, you tend to become philosophical.

All of this is prelude. I've always had difficulty reconciling the notion of a loving God with one who would consign the errant to eternal damnation a la Dante. What I have seen is that we in essence punish ourselves in life. Makes sense, if "the kingdom of God" is within us, why might not its counterpart also reside within the human bosom? Time and time again, I have seen people made miserable by their own failings, their own refusal or inability to see truth, their senseless repetition of strategies that have never worked. Eternal punishment, like that of Sisyphus, in Greek mythology often consists of just this sort of repetitive, fruitless action.

I was reminded of this as I read today's installment of the reflections. The American electoral process seems to have energized the blogger in chief, perhaps because it is a living repudiation of his life's work. I admit that when I first heard of his grave condition, I was elated. I, too, wanted to dance in the streets. But I also felt cheated. He would never pay for his many crimes. Over the months, however, I have come to see him as Hitler in his bunker, shortly before the end, the ruins of Berlin, unseen, around him.

Somewhere in an undisclosed location in Havana, there sits a frail old man, whose body has betrayed him. Reduced to irrelevancy, this wouldbe colossus, he sits and writes, surrounded by utter failure. His overweening pride, doubtless, leads him into all sorts of rationalizations, but he knows. Take the latest rumination. It demonstrates that he delves into the very sources of information he denies his people. Picture him, desperately trolling for some sort of vindication. Today, he finds it in material about the mismanagement of the American economy, even citing Alan Greenspan's book. Even as he goes through this exercise, he has to know that were the American economy to implode tomorrow, it has provided a decent life for the vast majority of its people for centuries, a feat that with all his imagined economic acumen and bullshit theory he was unable to approach, let alone equal, for a space of a single year. He has, in fact, presided over the descent of Cuba into the third world.

There is something pathetic in the way he seizes upon the criticism of the US, criticism which would be illegal if the situation were reversed. Here at the end of his life, his obsession with the US has become a monomania, perhaps because he senses that, except for the Missile Crisis, he has never been anything but an irritant to the Americans who have prospered, even as he has led his people to economic and spiritual ruin. It is no surprise then that the gypsy curse is "May you live a hundred years."

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