Friday, December 11, 2009

Literary Interlude: A Bit of The Bard

...I am a Jew.
Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,
what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you
teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I
will better the instruction.

from Merchant of Venice, Act 3, sc.1

Developments yesterday brought to mind Shylock's speech and the long painful and ongoing struggle of the Jewish people. So to my Jewish friends and family I extend a heartfelt "Happy Holiday!"

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Of Tragedies and Travesties

In Cuba today, small numbers of dissidents attempted to mark International Human Rights Day with a demonstration as has been their custom these past few years. As in past years, they were confronted by government organized mobs whose sole purpose is to heckle and beat the hardy souls. This year a key figure, Dr. Darsi Ferrer, was absent having been earlier imprisoned- ostensibly for buying black market building materials. His wife fully intended to complete their yearly circuit of the park, running the gauntlet of taunts and blows. Apparently, her plans were short circuited by State Security. As of this writing, it is unknown whether this was just an instance of catch, threaten, and release or whether like her husband she is to be held under trumped up charges.

Even as this was goin' down we might say, the Pontiff in Rome was welcoming the new Cuban Ambassador to the Vatican and extolling the growing religious freedom in the country, advocating reconciliation with the United States and lamenting the embargo. Reading news reports was an exercise in dramatic irony.

Here's the movie version. The scene opens, picture like an Angels and Demons backdrop, all the pomp and regalia of mother church. The Holy Father approaches, greets the dignitary. Cut to the crumbling facade of a small home in Havana. A woman emerges, her clothing threadbare; a car swooops in; State Security operatives seize her despite protests, and drive away in a scene worthy of Z. Back at the Vatican, the Pope remarks on growing religious freedom in Cuba, sees an opening for reconciliation with the United States. Cut to the park in Havana, scenes of a handful of individuals attempting only to circuit the park once in order to mark Human Rights Day. There is jostling, haranguing, hitting as they are overwhelmed by the hundreds trucked in for the occasion.

As half a world away the prelate proffers his sympathy to the Cuban people for their suffering not because of the Stalinist dictatorship they have endured for half a century, not for the deprivation of their freedoms, not for the perpetual misery brought on by economic mismanagement; but for economic downturns, natural disasters, and even the embargo. The embargo on human rights goes unnoted. Back to the park in Havana, where the mob handlers have denied their stooges bathroom privileges, so needed are their acting abilities. Key in on the growing stain of menstrual blood on one of the "socialism or death" crowd. Fade that red into the red ecclesiastical sash of a prelate at the Vatican.
Whatcha think? Am I on to somethin'?

*I have taken much dramatic license, but the facts are just that- facts.