Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Anguish of a Cuban American Blogger

From the moment a Cuban American sits down to start a blog, he knows the task ahead is overwhelming, that he is a lone figure on the shore with a mouth full of pebbles trying to be heard above the waves. There is no hope of ever overcoming the roar of the ocean, only maybe for an instant, that moment between crests when the thin tones of his voice can be heard.

Then comes the daily work of writing, which sometimes comes easily, others not. And after a while, it's really the same story in a thousand different guises: the latest lipstick-besmirched pig trotted out by the regime, the ever present chorus of willing media voices informing the world of the trotting out of the beauteous pig, and the truth that it really is a porker behind the grease paint. I am impressed by those who have carried on year after year. It can be disheartening.

It is no more disheartening than to see the world of blogs devoted to Cuba where there is often too little exchange of ideas and too much clash of personalities, where one-upmanship often takes the place of enlightenment, where some prefer to assert their own superiority rather than instruct their more information challenged confreres. It is a world rife with mine fields, where the most innocent of comments or even lack of commentary can start a verbal conflagration. Who needs it?

Things in Cuba are changing, the media tells us. Tourist apartheid is ending, we are to believe. Cuba experts are running around calling Raul "a pragmatist." It is Cuban Americans who are being vilified, incredibly as far the websites of mainstream media, as "dead-end," "hard-line, intransigent exiles." Even a Castro favorite "the Miami Mafia" is flung around by former government officials and/or Cuba experts. A scurrilous cartoon depicting the forced deportation of that uppity bunch of Cuban Americans, allegedly former Batistianos, a group which, gasp, has the audacity to vote like millions of other Americans appears on the website of one of the most distinguished papers of record in the country. Why not just disappear, melt into the great American conglomerate where we function so easily?

On the Cuban front, things are not much better. Pockets of resistance are just that, little groups of dissidents pictured in front of a bed sheet, emblazoned with whatever organizational affiliation in spray paint. Either the overwhelming majority of Cubans are with the regime (not true), or they have been cowed by fear into the political equivalent of battered-wife syndrome. Not that I even begin to criticize. I, personally, cannot know what it is to live with fear, latent terror as a way of life. Rather my admiration for those who raise their voices is immense. On this side of the Atlantic, some would have it that we are out of touch with those on the island, that we and our efforts are resented. Why bother?

But then sometimes, reading reports from the island, comes the impassioned plea from some group or other to publicize their plight. And it becomes apparent that blogging has some effect. Just when you feel like Cassandra, a post or two makes its way to other American venues, and you remember the mission. It is not about bringing the regime down, would that blogging could. It is not about being liked or even agreeing with each other. Because somewhere along the line, while we were sleeping it seems, the worm turned. Might became right, and the victims became the villains. It's as if we woke one morning to hear the epithets and arguments of a brutal dictatorship coming not from the island but from politicians, experts, academics, and even, most alarmingly, large swaths of the American public. Our parents, grandparents, newer arrivals, all faced the language barrier. We have no such obstacle. With our God-given talents, whatever they are, and all the advantages paid for by earlier generations, we can do no less than tell the truth to our fellow citizens. No one else is going to do it.

Literary Critic Lionel Trilling once wrote that at the heart of any great work of literature was the difference between appearance and reality, that the reader wants to rail at Oedipus "...can't you see? Can't you see?" It is an observation that has meaning in this context. It is the mission of the Cuban American blogger to demand of the country and the world, "Can't you see? It's just a foul-smelling, bespattered, gussied up pig." Because in the end, nothing matters, not power, or personality, or even Pope. Nothing matters but the lives and freedom of those left behind. And Cuban Americans like their pigs on the table with a little mojito, not at the helm of government.


Anonymous said...

Wow, and bravo. The next time I'm disheartened and wondering "who needs it", I'll remember this. Thanks for the inspiration.

Rafael Martel said...

That's beautiful writing. I'll link it to my site right now. God Bless! Keep on writing!