#1116 – Dick Bernard: The Two Wolves…. A springtime reflection. And President Obama Visits Cuba.

I have always liked the oft-repeated story about the “wolves” within each of us: The Two Wolves. Which Wolf Do You Feed?
Sunday President Obama flew into Havana and is there through today. The predictable positioning takes place in the media and from the chattering political class: what he’s doing is wonderful; it is treasonous; it is too much, too soon; it is too little, too late….
You have to start somewhere.
From my perspective, “face to face” meetings of any sort are valuable in beginning or restoring relationships. They are an essential part of the process of developing, or renewing, understanding.
The longer, or more public, or broader the estrangement, the more difficult reconciliation is. The first steps are extraordinarily difficult.
In this case, the official U.S. policy since almost the beginning (1959) has been, for all intents and purposes, official hatred of an enemy.
That is why such a beginning is feared by those with a stake in having enemies to revile (It took quite awhile for the Hatfields and the McCoys to reconcile a bit, I hear. And that was just two families….)
First face-to-face meetings tend to be awkward – we all know that from personal experience.
Rachet this up to include a “no talk” policy between two countries, the U.S. and Cuba, over near 60 years, which is essentially the case with ourselves and Cuba. Almost no one knows what to say to/about each other, except to repeat the mantras of the past.**
I wish Cuba and the U.S. well.
We both have a great deal to gain.
For those interested, I offer a chapter of an old American college textbook I found at the farm which was published just after Castro came to power in 1959. I copied the chapter on Cuba, and it is here: Cuba’s History to 1963*001.
The last sentence of the Chapter on Cuba says it all: “Reflecting upon the sorry state of Cuba in 1960, the onlooker could say that two things are reasonably clear: Cuba was indeed overdue for a revolution, and revolutions are never mild and gentlemanly.”
Of course, proceedings after that revolution were not necessarily smooth.
For instance, I was a soldier in the U.S. Army during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and I know….
But 55 years of enmity is a great plenty, I would say. Kudos to the President!
This week was an awkward beginning, but it was a beginning. It takes time to build a relationship, and it has to begin somewhere. And I’m well satisfied with that.
from Alan, with permission: There is an commentary in the Star Tribune today in the editorial section from Bonnie Blodgett that I have answered:
I believe that 99.9% have no idea why the Castros threw our country out of theirs, but your article nailed it. The same mob that ran Las Vegas, and also earlier, until Tom Dewey stopped it, also ran the police and court system in New York City, and who knows where else. I have a book about a life of a man named Rothstein that you might want to read. He was very high in the mob, and even fixed a world series, which was made into a movie called 8 men out.
I was born in Hibbing and grew up in Nashwauk, MN. I had a cousin whose name was Vernon Stone, whose mother (my aunt) father (my uncle) and brother and two sisters lived in Hibbing, but Vernon didn’t live there. I never saw Vernon, and no member of the family seemed to mention him, including my father who was his uncle.
However, we were quite close to the family in Hibbing. I would guess that he was working in Vegas. Less than two years before the Castro revolution, either Life Magazine or Time Magazine did a story on Cuba that told that the mob had expanded the gambling casinos, etc. and opened up a “college” to teach the locals how to deal blackjack, etc. and who was the Professor of that “College” was none other than cousin Vernon. There is only one member of the original family, one of the sisters still living, and I will be asking her how old Vernon was when he died. He did escape from Cuba when the Castros took over and I am certain that he returned to Las Vegas. Vernon’s sister, Beattie, married a very nice man named Abe Zimmerman, and they had two children, Bob and David. The world knows my cousin, Bob.

* Source: “A History of Latin America from the Beginnings to the Present” by Hubert Herring, second edition, revised, 1963, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. “Cuba” is Chapter 26, pages 401-423.
To be clear, this is simply a chapter of an old textbook found in the detritus of an old farm. It is no more authoritative than any writing by anyone, any time. It is, however, a good basis for discussion among those with an interest in the topic of Cuba…and the United States.
** Some months ago two of us assembled the Archives of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP) for the Minnesota Historical Society. I elected to keep one file, labeled “Cuba Embargo 2006-2007”.
At the time, I was President of MAP, and then member Ev Kalambokidis, representing Vets for Peace, passionately moved the agenda of restoring positive relationships with Cuba. The initial objective was to get the U.S. to support a “yes” vote when a UN Resolution came up on the “necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” at the end of October, 2007.
Predictably, in 2007, the resolution passed, 184-4, with the four “no” votes, the U.S., Israel, Marshall and Palau Islands. (The most recent vote, in Dec. 2015, was 191-2, the U.S. still a “no”. The 2015 Resolutions are here Scroll down almost to the end to Resolution 42. It is very interesting reading.)
Back to 2006-07: Ev, a persistent guy, (who died Mar. 30, 2014), kept the fires burning. He kept after the issue. In March, 2007, he and I almost had an opportunity to testify to a Minnesota Senate Committee on the issue at the State Capitol (the committee meeting had to be cancelled for some reason).
But the correspondence in my file, March 28, 2007, reveals that the chair of the committee, along with others, were planning their own trip to Cuba. Even then, even Minnesota had business interests to explore with Cuba.
Change is a process; it takes time. In the case of Cuba and the U.S., change is happening.
I enjoy international topics, and often write my own impressions on international happenings.
Jan. 1, 2015, I posted a blog about the 70th anniversary of the United Nations here.. Much to my surprise, by the end of 2015 I had posted 55 commentaries about international issues. They are all linked at the post.
International related posts at this space since Jan. 1, 2016:
1. Jan. 22, 2016: Global Climate Issue
2. Feb. 14, 2016: Lynn Elling, Warrior for Peace
3. Feb. 29, 2016: The 3rd (12th) anniversary of the Haiti coup, Feb. 29, 2004.
4. Mar. 4, 2016: Green Card Voices
5. Mar. 6, 2016: Welcoming Refugees
6. Mar. 12, 2016: Canada PM Justin Trudeau visits the White House
7. Mar. 20, 2016. The 13th anniversary of the Iraq War.
8. Mar. 22, 2016 The Two Wolves…President Obama Visits Cuba

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