Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cuba Diaries: "Breathing Room" Cuba 4.3 (September 11, 2013)

Cuba Diaries

Breathing Room

Cuba 4.3 (4th Trip; 3rd Day)
September 11, 2013

Cindy Sheehan

Interestingly on 9/11, I am in a nation that remembers 9/11 as the day when the democratically elected, Socialist president of Chile Salvador Allende was violently removed from office and murdered ushering in the reign of terror of US backed tyrant, Pinochet.

It always seems that the US is on the wrong side of the people’s wishes. Besides trying to assassinate, or overthrow Fidel Castro dozens of times; actually did briefly overthrow Hugo Chavez in 2002; Zelaya in Honduras; tried to remove Rafael Correia in Ecuador; forced the plane of president Evo Morales of Venezuela down fearing that Edward Snowden was aboard; all the misadventures in the Middle East, beginning with Mossadegh in Iran which is really when the US slid down that slippery slope to ruin. I don’t have the time, or energy, to list it all.

In Cuba today, the delegates (which includes me) to the conference commemorating the 15th anniversary of when the Cuban Five were arrested, were bussed to Revolution Square to view the artwork of one of the Five, Antonio Guerrero, I am including photos of some of Tony’s work in this blog—all "snapshots" of his life in prison. One of the great beauties of the Cuban people, and the Cuban 5, especially, is that they have suffered so much hardship for the Revolution, but they respond with grace, with art, with doctors, with teachers, with engineers. Nothing the US does can break their spirits and the Empire doesn’t know how to deal with people that it cannot not break, or kill!

At the art exhibition one of the mothers of the Cuban Five (Rene), Irma,
Irma, by Toni Guerrero
asked me how I was enjoying my visit to Cuba. I had a response that surprised me. I said, “I am doing great, I can breathe.” Since my first time here, every time I return, it seems like I take deep breaths and relax a little when I walk off the plane and see a smiling face at the end of the ramp. The cares and oppression of the Empire gradually melt off of me. The air is clean here and it’s not so crowded that one doesn’t feel like her space is being constantly violated. I am not one of the only ones around me who knows the truth about the USA; in fact usually I am the last to know.

I had many great conversations with colleagues from all over the world, but they now live in Cuba.

I met Sean Clancy in Holguin a couple of years ago when I went there for another conference about the Five. Sean is Irish, if you couldn’t tell by his name, but he came to Cuba and fell in love with the island, its people and the Revolution and he now lives in a resort town called, Trinidad.

Sean is very, very smart with international politics, but of course more
Sean Clancy in Havana
with those of Latin America. He and I were talking about my most recent trip to Ireland back in 2011 when I addressed members of the Dail. Many of the Senators and Members of the lower body told me that they appreciate my work, but they always have to keep Ireland’s “special” relationship with the US in mind. They LOVE the USA.
When I told Sean this he said, “by Christ, if you want to look at how to ruin a revolution in 50 years, just look at Ireland.’

Sean is also very astute about US politics. I would say more so that 75% of the people who actually live in the country. I told him about my bike ride from California to Washington, DC and how I had undergone such an effort so I could take the temperature of as many people in as many places as I could. He asked me what I had found discovered.

I told Sean that I had found that most of the people we talked to were frightened and confused. In the US, for our entire lives, we are told, taught, and lied to that our only participation in US political/social life should be at the “ballot box.” If f we have a problem with an elected official, we are told that we should “vote the bum out.” If we are struggling with any kinds of problems from joblessness, homelessness, war, hunger, crime, or whatever, we are told on one hand that we should “go through proper channels” and on the other hand that “you can’t fight city hall.” Then when we step outside those false paradigms and do something about it like Occupy or Camp Casey, we are demonized as being “crazy,” or so outside the mainstream that nothing we say has validity even if we aren’t crazy. People in the US feel betrayed and befouled by the system. However, even though most people know in their gut that there is something wrong, they can’t diagnose it.

Sean said one of the most simple, yet profound things “off the cuff” that I rarely hear in casual conversation. He said, “Exactly! It’s like people walk around with an undiagnosed disease feeling really sick, but even the terms of the cure are poisoned in the US.” Of course, Sean was talking about community and the people’s solution of Socialism and revolution, but we can’t say those words in the US. The McCarthy hearings took care of one and the NSA spying on all of our communications takes care of the other.

The terms are so poisoned and now foreign to most of us in the US that the "right" will call Obama a "Socialist" and the "left" will call him a "hero." The terms are even poisoned internationally, because the Nobel Peace Prize Committee calls Obama a "Peace Laureate."

Well, I am not shy or afraid to say either one: SOCIALISM AND REVOLUTION! We are talking about a broad-based people’s struggle, not the elitist revolution of 1776 that actually changed nothing except the shapes of the colors on the flag. Revolution in the US must come in the form of community based solutions because the days of our pop-guns matching the advanced and deadly weaponry of the Empire passed many decades ago.

I also met a very petite and pretty Japanese woman who calls herself, Maggie. Maggie told me that she was on a tour of Cuba many years ago and she fell in love with their tour guide who was there translator. Her husband now teaches Japanese at Havana University. I thought that was a very romantic story. Maggie and I did pretty well communicating with each other despite my limited Spanish and non-existent Japanese and her limited English.

Maggie shared with me that in Japan she was an activist who had gone down to Okinawa many times to protest the US bases and she fought to raise awareness about nuclear contamination because her daughter died when she was nine from Leukemia. It’s such a sad time when the hearts of two mothers who have buried their children connect in a way that tragically, only they can know. It’s a sad time, but ones heart recognizes a sister in suffering and there is a stillness in that connection.

In the evening there was a dinner given in a magnificent, old colonial building with wonderful architecture and design.

The food was wonderful, but I had to pass my fish to Sean since I don’t eat anything with a face, or anything that comes out of anything with a face, but the rest was wonderful: Yummy potatoes, mixed vegetables and we started with a banana. The food is very simple, but prepared in a way that makes it extremely edible. I, myself, am not a fan of heavy sauces and cheeses anyway and I try to eat in Cuba even less than I eat in the US. I feel like I am taking someone else’s food away and the US has already taken so much from them.

After dinner, the delegation walked over to the nearby Karl Marx Theater where we were treated to singers, actors and dance companies performing for the commemoration of the arrest of the Five Heroes. The show was well rehearsed and very entertaining. Commandante Raul Castro was in attendance.

On the way home from the Theater to the hotel, I sat with Keith, an ex-pat from Australia. Keith is retired from the railroad in Australia with a “reasonable pension,” but he was sharing with me how Australia is following Europe and the States in cutting back social services and other human rights and traveling down the path to austerity. Only we the people in solidarity can stop the global assault from the 1%

Earlier in the day, I was chatting with Sean and I said that things are really, really getting bad in the States, and he said, “It’s not just the US.”

Of course I know that—but what other nation in the world sets ITSELF up as the shining beacon of hope, democracy and righteousness. It’s the hypocrisy of the ruling class jackasses that makes it so much worse globally.

So, the night after the long day of connections, I tossed and turned and turned and tossed and couldn’t get to sleep until after 3am. Jetlag caught up with me, I guess and tomorrow is a busy day.

Hasta la victoria, siempre!

Prison Shirt by Toni Guerrero

Toni's mother, Mirta

Toni's Prison Number

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